Despite tweeting just last week that a $716bn defense budget was ‘crazy’, US President Donald Trump has reportedly reversed course and instead committed to the highest budget in history.
Trump’s unexpected decision to agree to Defense Secretary James Mattis’ request and propose an increased budget, relayed to several media outlets by anonymous officials, appears to stem from a meeting last Tuesday between Trump, Mattis and the chairmen of the House and Senate Armed Services committees.
It appears to have had an effect, considering that the day before the meeting, Trump tweeted that spending $716bn on the military was “crazy” and a product of “a major and uncontrollable Arms Race” with China and Russia.
I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2018
“It’s 750. Secretary Mattis secured that over lunch with the president,” an administration official told Politico, who first released the information, although an official announcement is yet to be made.
It’s unclear what exactly changed Trump’s mind. He had been floating a 5% reduction in defense spending for 2020, from the originally proposed (and already record-breaking) $733bn to $700bn – but defense officials had told him on Friday that anything less was “a risk”, and could have “disastrous consequences”.
“The Department is committed to ensuring our military remains the most lethal force in the world. We are working with OMB (Office of Management and Budget) to determine the department’s topline number,” a Defense Department spokesman told CNN.
The historically unprecedented numbers further inflate the US’ already world-largest defense budget. Washington is spending as much as the next 7 countries combined, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Last year, defense was one of the few increases in a budget which saw cuts to the EPA, Health and Human Services and education departments, to name just a few.