President Trump is asking Congress to increase military spending by $54 billion in 2017, a 10% increase. He wants to pay for it with cuts to other federal agencies. The last President to ask for a military increase this staggering was Ronald Reagan at the height of the Cold War when Soviet and American tanks faced off across the iron curtain.
Reagan was able to make a case for the greatest military build-up since World War 2. Not everyone was sold, but he convinced enough to get Congress to give him the money. Donald Trump has not even tried to justify the increase he wants. The Department of Defense isn’t asking for it. It’s not even clear what they would spend it on. Paying our soldiers more? I’m all for that. Let’s shut down several hundred million dollars worth of defense programs mandated by Congress that the military says it doesn’t need or want (these are called boondoggles, look it up), and shift that money toward better pay for our soldiers. But let’s not throw tens of billions of dollars at the military with no idea why we need it and what we are going to do with it.
Today, the US spends more on our military than the next eight nations combined. No other military in the world even comes close to matching our military capabilities. Our nearest competitor is China, whose military budget is one third as much as ours. Given that the massive military build-up Trump is asking for will come at the expense of other, non-military programs, it seems to me that the President owes the American people an explanation as to why we need it. If he can make the case, fine. If not, Congress should refuse to spend $54 billion on making the most powerful military the world has ever seen even more powerful.
Unless, of course, our President plans on starting some wars. In which case I hope Congress asks a whole other set of questions.