Donald Trump has promised to do away with the federal spending caps known as sequestration, rollbacks that have hit the Defense Department particularly hard. Now he has to figure out how to make that happen.

This will be an important story to watch in the year ahead, whether the next administration can work with Congress to find a solution to the much-reviled 2011 law that established the 10-year budget caps. The outcome will determine how much funding flexibility military leaders will have in years to come.

In recent years, Congress has passed a pair of short-term compromises to boost both defense and non-defense spending. But a long-term solution has remained elusive.

Military planners have said the caps severely hamper their ability to buy new equipment and prepare for future threats, and the five years remaining will further complicate their work.  

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said shortly after the election that he views undoing sequestration as an area where Trump and his critics can work together.

But President Barack Obama made similar attempts to work with Congress, only to become mired in the long-running political argument: Republicans want increases for defense programs only, and Democrats want the caps removed for both defense and non-defense programs.

How Trump handles those negotiations will set the tone for his relationship with skeptics on Capitol Hill, and it will dictate just how much money he'll have to deliver his ambitious military agenda.



Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com .