Trump Defense Budget Too Small? Part 2

The New York Analysis of Policy and Government concludes its review of criticism of the President’s 2018 defense budget proposal.

As this report was being prepared, Spacewar reports, a Chinese naval fleet is steaming towards the Baltic Sea to participate in joint exercises with Russia, with the show of force to take place after US President Donald Trump visits NATO ally Poland next month…Russia and China have taken turns hosting the exercises, dubbed “Joint Sea”, since 2012…[the Chinese news agency] Xinhua said … that this year’s drills aim ‘to consolidate and advance the Sino-Russian comprehensive strategic partnership of coordination, and deepen friendly and practical cooperation between the two militaries…The exercises, it added, will also ‘improve coordination between the two navies on joint defence operations at sea…Previous year’s drills have also been held in politically sensitive areas. Last year, the exercises took place in the contested South China Sea, where Beijing’s construction of artificial islands in waters claimed by its neighbours has drawn criticism from the US and other nations which say the project threatens freedom of navigation through the region.”

America also faces threats from within its own hemisphere greater than at any time since the end of the Cold War, and, some would argue, even higher than that era.  Russia’s navy again is docking ships in Cuba. Moscow has emplaced military equipment in Nicaragua. China and Russia have military-to-military contacts with some nations in the Caribbean, Central America, and South America. China operates “civilian” bases on both sides of the Panama Canal.  Terrorist cells operate in conjunction with Mexican drug cartels.

For all of these reasons, keen observers of U.S. national security issues believe that the additional funds called for in President Trump’s budget request are inadequate.

An analysis by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) states that “To confront rising threats in Eastern Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East, America needs to adopt a three-theater force-sizing construct. It noted that:

“President Trump’s defense budget would repair, not rebuild, the military. Worse, it lacks the investments necessary to allow a robust rebuilding effort to begin a year from now. The request represents a more muscular status quo at best.

“This budget continues a favored Washington tradition of investing in the immediate and long term while shortchanging the next three to 15 years. This “barbell” investment strategy emphasizes the conflicts of today and the wars of the distant future, while discounting the long bar of the medium term, wherein most strategic and military risk lies.

“President Trump’s overall federal spending blueprint suggests that balancing the budget ranks above rebuilding the military in the administration’s list of priorities…”

Bloomberg News reports that President Trump’s first full-year military budget would delay increases in major weapons systems while committing additional funds into troop readiness and precision munitions, including additional Tomahawk cruise missiles. Readiness, including training, maintenance and resupply of needed munitions was significantly and adversely affected during the Obama Administration.”

The diminished and increasingly challenged U.S. Navy will have to wait another year before the President fulfills his campaign pledge to increase its size from the current 276 vessels to 350. In 1990, the Navy operated almost 600 ships.

According to Bloomberg, The biggest difference in the Trump budget from Obama’s approach is increased funding for the Army to add 26,000 active-duty troops to keep force levels at 476,000, as directed by Congress this year, instead of dropping to 450,000 as had been planned.

Abroad, Trump’s controversial drive to push NATO members to increase their moribund defense spending has had success. In 2017, twenty-five Allies will increase defense spending in real terms, according to NATO.

Even non-NATO nations within Europe have awakened to the vastly increased threat from Putin. Sweden, according to RT, will upgrade its air defense system. “Russian missile systems stationed in the nearby exclave of Kaliningrad make this a necessity. US-made Patriot systems are among the options for the major overhaul.” The Swedish government has also re-introduced conscription, noting “The security environment in Europe and in Sweden’s vicinity has deteriorated and the all-volunteer recruitment hasn’t provided the Armed Forces with enough trained personnel. The re-activating of the conscription is needed for military readiness.”