Making America's Military Great Again
A look at Trump's budget proposal for the Armed Forces.
Donald Trump took the first step in making good on his promise to rejuvenate America’s military this week with the White House announcement of a $603 billion defense budget. The Daily Signal reports, “The White House characterized the defense bump as a 10 percent increase. Both the percentage increase and the $54 billion figure refer back to the 2011 Budget Control Act caps for fiscal year 2018, which is $549 billion.” Tallied another way, his plan, which Trump calls a “historic” increase in defense spending, amounts to a 3% rise over the $584 billion Barack Obama proposed for 2018, which the military is already planning on.
From one year to the next, it could be said that this increase in defense spending doesn’t seem like much, but the principles guiding the decision make a world of difference.
The spending increase, which Trump says will be offset by cuts elsewhere, such as foreign aid, is a welcome change to the Obama years. Over the tenure of the previous commander in chief (and we use that word advisedly), the American military was over-deployed, underfunded and generally disrespected. This mistreatment of our military at home led to a shakier American presence abroad, where word has gotten out to our enemies that the U.S. military power is weaker due to depleted resources. Our allies feel left behind.
Trump’s announcement came amidst dueling accusations that the U.S. is spending too much or not enough on the military. Those arguing against increased spending say defense budgets over the Obama years held steady to a 15-year norm of higher spending post-9/11. And the U.S. still spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined. This includes China, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Good. That’s the idea.
George Washington’s doctrine of achieving peace through strength, which was upheld by Ronald Reagan, and now Donald Trump, has kept this country going for over 225 years. America has historically been at its safest when its military is at its strongest. And the American military right now is not at its strongest. Despite the effort and valor of our Armed Forces personnel, every branch is experiencing historic lows in terms of troop strength and hardware. We currently field an active force roughly equal to the one in 1999 when the Army post-Cold War drawdown was halted.
And let’s also remember that our military’s equipment is getting dangerously old. Some of the battlefield systems we rely on have either reached or are way beyond their operational lifecycle.
The Bradley Fighting Vehicle and the M1 Abrams tank have been on the field since 1980, and the B-52 and B-2 bombers are 60 and 30 years old, respectively. Russia and China are now developing weapons systems that for the first time are on par with our own equipment. The average Air Force aircraft is 27 years old. We may still have the edge technologically, but we can’t continue to project American power effectively if our equipment is breaking down.
And that’s when our equipment is deployed at all. Obama finished his tenure with this head scratcher: For the first week of 2017, and for the first time since World War II, there were no American aircraft carriers deployed anywhere.
Trump must update and modernize our military, and he also must make sure that the increased spending is done wisely. Money spent on fancy architecture is better spent on men and materiel. Trump has said a lot about trimming the fat off the government bureaucracy. There is no better place to start than the Pentagon, which is infamous for its unnecessary and wasteful spending.
The military needs to grow and reestablish itself as the world’s preeminent fighting force. Some argue that the world still sees us this way, but the view is waning. Thanks to the feckless foreign policy and defense posture of our last president, America’s standing in the world is diminished, and it has made the world a more dangerous place. A stronger American military will change that for the better.