The news prompted 23 senators — Republicans
and Democrats — to fire off a letter to Mick Mulvaney,
Trump’s budget chief, warning that the cuts could make
it impossible for the Coast Guard to carry out its central missions, including responding to individual and
national emergencies. It would, in short, have “
catastrophic negative impacts” on the force, they wrote.
The lawmakers, who hail from coastal states, also
argued that the proposed cuts to the Coast Guard
directly contradict Trump’s own national security
agenda. And they took particular issue with any
proposals to disestablish the Maritime Safety and
Security Teams and the Maritime Security Response
Team, saying that would inhibit the Coast Guard’s
ability to conduct port security, anti-terrorism force
protection and maritime infrastructure protection
“The proposed reduction of the Coast Guard Budget
by 11. 8 percent would directly contradict the priorities
articulated by the Trump Administration, in particular
the President’s priorities regarding enhanced maritime
needs and desire to invest in our nation’s military,”
Trump’s plans to cut the State Department and U.S.
Agency for International Development, or USAID, budgets by some 37 percent also leaked before the release
of the skinny budget, and prompted a similar outcry
from lawmakers in both parties who pointed out the
critical role “soft power” plays in defeating terrorists.
“You’re not going to win the war without soft
power,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., recently told
reporters. “The ability to offer a hopeful life is what
you have to do to counter a glorious death offered by
Graham, who chairs the Appropriations state, for-
eign operations and related programs subcommittee
and is a vocal Armed Services Committee member,
is just one of several Republicans who immediately
opposed Trump’s plan before it even arrived on Capitol
Hill. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,
R-Ky., said he could not get onboard with cuts of that
size to foreign aid.
The skinny budget had not been released by press
time March 15.
Meanwhile, GOP defense hawks on Capitol Hill are
bemoaning the size of Trump’s defense increase, saying the military needs $640 billion next year, not the
$603 billion the administration has put on the table.
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain sug-
gested that Trump’s planned increases were hardly the
historic buildup he had billed it as. Rather, the Arizona
Republican stressed that it’s a “mere 3 percent” above
the fiscal 2018 levels initially proposed by the previous
“With a world on fire, America cannot secure
peace through strength with just 3 percent more than
President Obama’s budget,” McCain said. “We can and
must do better.”
But it will be hard to get to $640 billion or $603
billion for defense without a bipartisan agreement
to end or alter the caps on defense and non-defense
spending prescribed in the 2011 Budget Control Act.
Both figures are above the defense caps, and Democrats have repeatedly made it clear they will not approve
an increase for defense without a corresponding boost
in domestic spending. While Democrats control neither
chamber of Congress nor the White House, they have
enough votes in the Senate to block legislation.
Congress has been unable to come to a long-term
bipartisan agreement to eliminate the budget control
caps, but lawmakers have eased them a bit for both
defense and non-defense accounts over the years.
The dynamics on Capitol Hill and at the White House
are much different this year, however, so it’s unclear
how much room there is for another compromise for
fiscal 2018, and what that ultimately will mean for
One thing is clear, however: Trump set himself a
difficult political marker when he promised a military
buildup, including the 350-ship Navy.
As lawmakers start to consider the administration’s
spending proposals for next year, they still must tie up
loose ends on appropriations measures for the current
House and Senate appropriators signed off on a
$577.9 billion defense spending bill in March, and the
House quickly passed the compromise legislation. The
Senate had not taken up the bill by press time.
The bill includes $1.1 billion for 14 F/A-18E/F Super
Hornet fighters for the Navy, which are a dozen more
than the service requested for this year.
The add for the Super Hornet, a perennial favorite
on Capitol Hill, comes amid reports that 53 percent
of the service’s aircraft cannot fly due to aging jets,
delays to the F- 35 Lightning II joint strike fighter
program and a lengthy maintenance backlog.
The bill also sets aside $8.2 billion for 74 F- 35
fighter jets. The Pentagon had requested 63 of the
stealth fighters next year.
Lawmakers also were generous with shipbuilding,
providing $21.2 billion for 13 Navy ships, including an
additional amphibious transport dock ship, an extra
destroyer, one more littoral combat ship and a down
payment on a polar icebreaker for the Coast Guard.