CHN: White House to Ask for Additional Funding for Defense and Border Wall

The Department of Defense is preparing to ask Congress for additional funding for the current fiscal year. According to reports from CQ and others, the request for additional money is expected to be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget soon; the OMB would then submit the supplemental request to Congress by or shortly after March 1. The exact amount of money that will be requested isn’t known yet, but calls for anywhere from $18 billion to $40 billion have been heard around Capitol Hill. The Pentagon already received $8 billion in additional funding in the Continuing Resolution passed last fall, while most programs received flat funding.

Advocates are opposed to giving additional money to the Pentagon. This is particularly true in light of a recent Washington Post article that found that the Pentagon buried an internal study showing $125 billion in administrative waste because it was afraid Congress would use the findings to cut the defense budget.

Looking ahead, some Republicans in Congress, including Sen. John McCain, are calling for a FY18 base defense budget, excluding war costs, of $640 billion. This is more than $91 billion above the amount permitted by current law. A white paper released by Sen. McCain (R-AZ) last month also calls for an additional $60 billion in FY18 for the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations fund, a fund that is supposed to be used for overseas operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan but has been routinely used by the Pentagon to increase its spending without technically violating the spending caps. In addition, Sen. McCain calls for “sustained growth for years thereafter” for the base defense budget, leading to a base defense budget of $720 billion by FY21 (under current law, the FY21 cap is $590 billion), with another $60 billion for OCO in each year through FY22.

If the Pentagon does get more funding for the current fiscal year and beyond, advocates will push Democrats in Congress to insist on maintaining the principle of parity, or providing equal relief from sequestration cuts for defense and non-defense programs. Whether or not Democrats will hold firm on this principle is unknown.

It has been rumored that the request for additional Pentagon money for FY17 will be framed as an emergency need, meaning it does not have to be paid for with offsetting cuts. However, the conservative House Freedom Caucus is rumored to be demanding that it be paid for with cuts to other non-defense programs.

If Democrats do insist on parity, it is possible that Republicans could argue that providing funding for the wall President Trump wants to build along the southern border satisfies that criteria, since it would be considered non-defense spending. President Trump is expected to submit a request to Congress soon for funding to begin construction. Advocates are concerned that some Republicans may try to ensure the wall is paid for with cuts to human needs programs. According to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report, the wall will cost $21.6 billion, but it is unknown how much President Trump will ask for at this time. The National Priorities Project responded to news of the HHS report with a list of six things the U.S. could do with that money instead of building a wall, including providing Medicaid for 6 million people, doubling federal aid to public K-12 schools, or resettling hundreds of thousands of refugees through 2030.

For more information, see this blog post from CHN.

Budget and Appropriations
military spending