President Trump approved the Pentagon request of Congress for a $750 billion defense budget in 2020, an administration official confirmed to Breitbart News.
Trump had previously asked all government agencies to cut five percent from their budgets for 2020, which would have brought the Pentagon’s figure to $700 billion.
However, Trump’s decision came after he met with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-OK), and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX) last Tuesday.
The $750 billion request includes the entire national security budget, including defense-related items in the Department of Energy and overseas contingency operations (OCO), the budget for war-related funds, the official said. Politico first reported the decision on Sunday.
The $750 billion is a top line figure and is more than the Pentagon was planning to request. The Pentagon was preparing a budget request of $733 billion. It also began preparing a $700 budget, after the president said he wanted every agency to cut five percent.
But Pentagon officials had planned to push back against the $700 billion figure, which would represent a reversal of increasing defense budgets under Trump. The defense budgets under Trump in 2018 and 2019 was $700 billion and $716 billion respectively.
Defense officials argue that the money is necessary to restore readiness to a military that was overstretched by repeated deployments over two decades of war. They also argue the money is needed to stay ahead of China and Russia, who are eroding the U.S. military advantage.
The Pentagon is due to submit its budget request, in consultation with the Office of Budget and Management, to Congress by a February 1st deadline.
One hitch in obtaining a $750 billion budget in 2020 is Democrats taking the House in January. Democrats have typically argued for increases in domestic spending versus defense spending, or for simultaneous increases. Congress also has to agree to lift defense spending caps imposed under the 2011 Budget Control Act.
A former defense official told Politico the $750 billion figure is a negotiating tactic, to make sure Democrats do not push for a budget less than $733 billion.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Todd Harrison said if Democrats succeed in demanding an equal increase in the non-defense budget, it could be the largest increase in the spending caps since 2011.
“This would put the defense budget at a level that is $101B above the budget caps for 2020, and if Democrats succeed in demanding an equal increase in the non-defense budget as the price of compromise, then it would be the largest increase in the spending caps since the Budget Control Act was enacted in 2011,” he told Breitbart News in an email statement.
Harrison said the move is also an “abrupt flip flop” for Trump, who was just last week lamenting the $716 billion figure for 2019. However, Mattis has been known to change the president’s mind on issues he deems important.
Inhofe, in his first speech as Armed Services Committee Chairman last Thursday, also went to bat for a higher defense budget and indicated he was optimistic about working with Democrats.
“There’s no strategic rationale for any cut” to the defense budget, he said at the National Defense University. “I think we’re going to see, even though Democrats have control of the House, when it gets down to defending America, we’re going to be much closer together.”
The $750 billion figure dwarfs the amount that Republicans could get for border protection.
As Breitbart News has previously reported, Democrats are looking to recreate a deal made earlier this year in an omnibus spending bill of $1.6 billion for border security measures that do not actually fund the building of a border wall.