President Donald Trump's administration has drafted an executive order that would call for two separate reviews to determine how much to bolster the U.S. military. The order sets benchmarks for increased defense spending that Trump had promised on the campaign trail.
On Jan. 27, reporters obtained a draft of a Trump executive order mandating increased funding for the U.S. military, including upgrading its nuclear arsenal, strengthening cyber and and missile defense capabilities, and increasing the amount of troops in the Army. The order also called for cutting military projects that are deemed low-priority but did not specify what programs were on the chopping block, The Washington Post reports.
If signed by Trump, the order would call for two parallel reviews of military readiness. The first would be headed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis to determine how to bolster U.S. capability against the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations as well as operations carried out against competitors such as China or Russia.
The second review would compel the Pentagon and the Office of Management and Budget to form a budget amendment to increase military spending within 2017.
During the presidential campaign, Trump outlined an ambitious plan to increase military spending. Among the benchmarks were growing the amount of Army soldiers to 540,000, growing the Navy fleet to 350 ships, and growing the number of Air Force fighter jets to 1,200. Independent experts believe that these increases could result in up to $90 billion being added to the budget per year.
On Jan. 26, Trump asserted that he believed military growth should take precedence over balancing out the federal budget, a longtime priority of fiscal conservatives.
"So a balanced budget is fine," Trump told Fox News. "But sometimes you have to fuel the well in order to really get the economy going. And we have to take care of our military. Our military is more important than a balanced budget ... I want a balanced budget eventually. But I want to have a strong military."
The Trump administration's agenda to dramatically increase defense spending has cast an awkward light on the president's nominee to lead the OMB, Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina.
Renowned as a deficit hawk, Mulvaney has previously championed cuts to defense spending. He was in favor of the 2013 sequestration that imposed cuts on military spending during the Obama administration. If confirmed, Mulvaney would have control of how the executive office's budget is implemented, Politico reports.
"The battle lines are drawn," defense analyst Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute said. "No one should underestimate the deep ideological commitment Mulvaney has to cutting defense."
On Jan. 24, Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona expressed skepticism that Mulvaney would uphold Trump's military spending agenda during his confirmation hearing. Mulvaney asserted that he and Trump were "absolutely in lockstep."