Tuesday 28 February 2017

Donald Trump Orders £43 Billion Worth Of Budgets To Boost Defence Spending

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is ordering a $54billion surge in defence spending at the expense of environmental and foreign aid agencies as he tries to make good on the populist programme that propelled him to the White House.

The budget outlines were being sent to departments on Monday and offer a chance to define the new president’s priorities after a first month in which he has been bold on rhetoric but weak on detail.

He has a further opportunity to reset his presidency after a chaotic first month with a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday evening.

During a meeting with state governors at the White House, Mr Trump described the blueprint as a budget for public safety and national security.

“It will include an historic increase in defence spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it,” he said.

Although full details of the draft budget have not yet been made public, an official from the Office of Management and Budget briefed reporters that it included an almost ten per cent increase on the $600billion defence budget.

It will leave expensive federal welfare programmes such as Social Security and Medicare in place, despite Republican calls for reform.

Instead the money will be found from a significant reduction in foreign aid along with cuts at most domestic agencies, said the official. Earlier reports suggested the Environment Protection Agency would bear the brunt.

That sets up a showdown with Democratic opponents in Congress and the possibility of a government shutdown.

Agencies will have the chance to negotiate changes before the 2018 budget is published in March.

However, Mr Trump previewed his plans last week in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference.

“We're also putting in a massive budget request for our beloved military. And we will be substantially upgrading all of our military, all of our military, offensive, defensive, everything. Bigger and better and stronger than ever before,” he said.

Critics question whether there is any need for a big increase in Pentagon spending when the military budget already stands at $600billion a year – more than any other country.

But Mr Trump made rebuilding the armed forces a central part of his campaign. On the stump, he called for 90,000 more soldiers, 100 more air force jets and a 350-ship Navy (an increase on the 274 currently), as part of a build-up that would signal to the world that the US was no longer a soft touch.

He has also promised to return the US “to the top of the pack” on nuclear weapons.

An official told Reuters that the request for the Pentagon included more money for shipbuilding, military aircraft and “a more robust presence in key international waterways and choke-points” such as the Strait of Hormuz and South China Sea.

At the same time, administration figures said federal benefits programmes were safe from cuts, in keeping with Mr Trump’s campaign promises to protect Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Scott Mnuchin, Treasury Secretary, told Fox News: “We are not touching those now. So don’t expect to see that as part of this budget, OK.”

Observers said the result of protecting benefits for Mr Trump’s political base was likely to come at the cost of a growing deficit.

Stuart Rothenberg, a political analyst, said it was difficult to see how a president who had promised tax cuts could balance the books.

“Big defence spending and lower corporate tax rates and lower individual tax rates - they’re probably not going to be able to offset the lower income and the higher spending with these small, programmatic cuts,” he said.

Opponents said extra defence spending would brings cuts that would hurt ordinary Americans.

Chuck Schumer, who leads Democrats in the Senate, said: “A cut this steep almost certainly means cuts to agencies that protect consumers from Wall Street excess and protect clean air and water.”



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