In his first State of the Union address, President Trump praised members of the military while calling for an increased defense budget in the face of another government shutdown. The continuing resolution passed last month only funded the military, and other government operations through February 8, a deadline that is fast approaching.
As predicted by Washington insiders, President Trump used the speech to talk about the looming threats around the world from Iran and North Korea and to urge lawmakers to end defense spending caps, known as sequestration and to “fully fund” the defense budget in order to meet those threats.
“Around the world, we face rogue regimes, terrorist groups, and rivals like China and Russia that challenge our interests, our economy, and our values,” Trump said in the address. “In confronting these dangers, we know that weakness is the surest path to conflict, and unmatched power is the surest means of our defense.”
“Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation,” the President told lawmakers. “I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.”
Touted as one of the largest defense budgets in American history, the $700 billion package has yet to be full-year funded, causing the military, and the rest of the government to operate on its fourth continuing resolution since Oct. 1 when the fiscal year began. Sticking points within each party, and partisan politics, have already caused one 3-day shutdown, and it is hoped that a deal can be reached before a second shutdown within a month occurs.
“I hear positive things about coming to a deal, but any number of factors can muck it up,” Lauren Fish, a defense strategies research associate for the Center for a New American Security said. “If politics takes priority again as we approach the Feb. 8 CR deadline and parties stake out extreme views, keeping the government open could be a challenge again, which increases theatrics and hampers negotiations.”
This comes just days before the 2019 Defense budget due to be released and has set tongues wagging with its estimated $716 billion price tag.
While defense officials are happy with the increased spending proposals, and it points to the favorable influence held by Secretary Mattis within the White House, there are some asking the question “where is the money going to come from for all this?”
“How are we going to pay for all of this?” Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonpartisan budget watchdog group asked. “Those decisions still need to be informed by the research available.”
Ryan said in an election year she expects Republicans to show more fiscal responsibility.
Both the 2018 and 2019 defense spending plans face congressionally mandated budget caps: The 2018 $700 billion plan faces a $549 billion limit, and the 2019 plan faces a $562 billion limit. Both spending plans will require special legislative action to be able to surpass these caps, and as we’ve seen in recent weeks, it could be an uphill battle.
President Trump lauded military members, both present at the speech and those watching around the world, as examples of American Heroes, “defending hope, pride, and the American way.” In a jab at lawmakers bogged down in partisan politics, he told Congress that the sacrifices of service members and their families should serve as a reminder to them.
“They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family,” he said. “They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. They are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics and Marines.”
“Our task is to respect them, to listen to them, to serve them, to protect them, and to always be worthy of them,” he added.