SIMI VALLEY, Calif. — The chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees on Friday implored President Donald Trump to boost defense spending plans in fiscal 2020 over already announced targets, arguing the lower funding levels will undermine recent improvements in military readiness.
In a Wall Street Journal editorial titled “Don’t cut military spending, Mr. President,” Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Calif., and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., say that a smaller defense budget won’t have a major impact on fixing the national deficit but will have a crippling effect on military equipment purchases and end strength.
“Our top priority is the troops,” the pair wrote. “Any cut in the defense budget would be a senseless step backward.”
The editorial comes just hours before Thornberry and other defense lawmakers are scheduled to speak here at the Reagan National Defense Forum, where the military budget will be a major topic of debate.
Tightened fiscal belts could be on the horizon.
In October, Trump announced he would require all federal agencies to submit budget proposals for fiscal 2020 at a level 5 percent lower than this year, in an effort to shrink government spending.
He later said the Defense Department would be spared from that precise requirement but would aim for a funding level of $700 billion next year, well below the $733 billion mark defense planners had been anticipating. Since then, Inhofe and others have begun lobbying the White House to aim for the higher figure instead of his announced proposal.
Friday’s editorial is the most public step in that effort so far. The pair call the $700 billion level “dangerous” and say military leaders will likely need to slash recruitment and training priorities in order to meet that goal.
“We cannot and should not balance the budget on the backs of America’s troops,” they wrote. “This is the time to follow through on the progress of the past two years and give our troops the sustained, predictable funding they deserve.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe lays out his priorities for the next Congress — but accomplishing them won't be so simple.
Inhofe is in line to retain his chairmanship spot next year, but Thornberry will shift to ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee as Democrats take the majority in that chamber starting in January.
Current committee ranking member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., has said he expects the next defense budget to be closer to Trump’s $700 billion figure than the $733 billion target, and has argued that funding the military has to be better balanced with other domestic priorities and diplomatic resources.