President Obama's $4.1 trillion budget proposal for next year was met with derision and distrust from Republicans on Capitol Hill, several of whom promised to work toward a bigger pay raise for troops and more money for the military.
The budget request calls for $582.7 billion in defense spending in fiscal 2017 and includes a 1.6 percent pay raise for all troops, a decrease of about 20,000 soldiers and sailors, and $49.2 billion to fund continued operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East.
Total spending roughly matches the terms of a budget deal reached by the White House and Congress last fall, with about $59 billion outside the base defense budget in the temporary overseas contingency fund.
But Republican leaders are accusing the president of ignoring the spirit of that deal and treating the $59 billion mark as a cap for the contingency funds instead of a baseline.
House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, is asking for up to $23 billion more to cover new operations in Iraq and Syria and other overseas threats.
"I am disappointed that this request does not adhere to the budget agreement made just last fall," he said in a statement. "I hoped (last year's) agreement would provide some budget stability and begin to rebuild our military. Unfortunately, this administration continues to play budgetary games with our country's security and diminishes what credibility it had left."
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was furious that administration officials didn't adjust defense spending upward in light of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State group and terrorist-inspired attacks in Paris and California.
"We'll have a huge fight," he predicted. "We just had attacks on the United States of America, and there will be more. Only this president and secretary of defense could think we're doing business as usual."
McCain also said he would look into the proposed pay raise for troops, but he hadn't received enough information on the request to back the figure. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., and head of the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee, said he is upset by the 1.6 percent proposal.
"My most immediate priority is to sound the alarm to my colleagues in the House that we need to do everything we can to ensure our men and women in uniform get a full pay raise," he said in a statement. "Our troops and their families are making great sacrifices for our country and we should not be nickel and diming them on pay and benefits."
The 1.6 percent raise in basic pay would be slightly above the 1.3 percent troops received this year but falls a half percentage point below the 2.1 percent estimated rise in private-sector pay.
If approved, it would be the fourth consecutive year of pay raises below private-sector growth. Outside advocates have labeled those lower pay raises as effectively pay cuts, because they diminish the purchasing power of military families.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called the budget proposal "empty political posturing" and said it "reflects a lack of serious thought from this administration on how to overcome the biggest challenges of our time while making the government live within its means."
In comments after the budget release, Obama dismissed those broad criticisms and said his proposal "strengthens our national security by increasing defense spending." The fiscal 2016 defense budget totaled about $580 billion.
Lawmakers will spend the next eight months before the start of fiscal 2017 offering their revisions to Obama's proposals, in hopes of passing a compromise budget bill.
Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.