In pre-negotiation move, Trump asks Pentagon to raise budget request after meeting with Mattis and lawmakers

President Donald Trump ordered an increase for next year’s defense budget request to $750 billion.

The decision, contrary to his previous plan to trim defense spending, followed a meeting last week with Defense Secretary James Mattis and the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas and Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Politico reported.

(Image: DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr)

The president used the word “crazy” to describe the Defense Department budget of $716 billion in a tweet last week ahead of the meeting with Mattis and the lawmakers.

The initial Department of Defense budget plan of $733 billion for 2020 faced proposed cuts as the administration sought to trim costs and reduce the deficit with a five percent cut to the Pentagon, cutting the defense spending budget from $716 billion for 2019 to $700 billion in 2020. But that all changed after Trump’s meeting with Mattis.

“It’s 750. Secretary Mattis secured that over lunch with the president,” an administration official told Politico following the meeting last Tuesday. “That’s the top line.”

“The President fully supports the National Defense Strategy and continuing to rebuild the military,” an administration official told CNN.  “With the help of Sen. Inhofe and Chairman Thornberry, President Trump agreed to $750 billion topline.”

According to Politico:

Trump suggested the new $750 billion number during the Tuesday meeting as a “negotiating tactic” to ensure that Democratic opposition does not push the eventual defense budget below the $733 billion that Mattis, Inhofe and Thornberry were pursuing, said the second source, a former administration official with knowledge of the meeting and the current budget negotiations.

 

“There was a discussion with POTUS about how to get $733 billion, and POTUS suggested that if the position is $733 billion, then we should submit a budget at $750 billion as a negotiating tactic,” a source told Politico. “That said, the president changes his mind constantly.”

As there has not yet been any official announcement of the $750 billion budget, the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget are reportedly moving ahead with the $733 billion proposal.

“The Department is committed to ensuring our military remains the most lethal force in the world. We are working with OMB to determine the department’s topline number,” Defense Department spokesman, Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, said in a statement.

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Frieda Powers

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