WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said Thursday that the Trump administration is not looking to impose a new structure on allied nations that would charge those countries the cost of housing U.S. troops inside their borders, plus an extra 50 percent surcharge.
Asked by Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, about whether the plan, first reported as under consideration by Bloomberg, would risk “driving our allies away from us,” Shanahan insisted that the reporting was “erroneous.”
“Senator, we won’t do cost-plus 50 percent,” Shanahan said, in what was his most energized comment of the hearing up to that point. He then outlined his view on getting allies to contribute more to defense.
“We’re not going to run a business, and we’re not going to run a charity. The important part is that people pay their fair share — and payment comes in lots of different forms. It can be contributions, like in Afghanistan,” Shanahan said. “But at the end of the day, people need to carry their fair share, and not everyone can contribute, but it is not about cost-plus 50 percent.”
Shanahan’s comments come as he has been in daily contact with NATO members to try to bolster alliance numbers in Afghanistan and Syria, per an administration official.
The news will likely come as a relief to allied nations, particularly South Korea, Japan and Germany, which reportedly were the big three targets for such a policy.
However, Shanahan’s comments do not seem to rule out some sort of new cost-sharing demands from the administration to countries that host American forces, and the Bloomberg report did say the cost-plus 50 percent plan was only one of several options that was under consideration. Since the early days of his election campaign, President Donald Trump has made it a major issue to get other nations to pay more for defense.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.