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Here's the bill for Trump's military buildup plan

Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Party of New York Presidential Convention, September 7, 2016.
Mike Segar | Reuters
Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Party of New York Presidential Convention, September 7, 2016.

After five years of budget cuts and the drawdown from two wars, the U.S. Defense Department budget has shrunk by about 15 percent, according to the department's data.

Donald Trump wants to change that.

"I think under the leadership of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, the generals have been reduced to rubble. They have been reduced to a point that's embarrassing for our country," Trump said at NBC's Commander-in-Chief Forum in New York on Wednesday.

Trump has made a proposed buildup of the U.S. military a centerpiece of his wider agenda to "take back our country."

"I'm going to make our military so big, so powerful, so strong, that nobody — absolutely nobody — is gonna mess with us," Trump says in a video posted on his campaign website.

This week, Trump provided details on how he plans to boost defense spending and increase troop strength.

The plan includes raising the number of active Army troops from 475,000 to 540,000, raising the number of Marine battalions from 24 to 36, expanding the naval fleet from a planned 280 to 350 and adding more Air Force fighter aircraft to at least 1,200.

He has also said he'll modernize missile defense and cybersecurity, and ask his generals to present, within 30 days of taking office, a plan to defeat ISIS.

To pay for the expansion, Trump said he'll ask Congress to lift the so-called "sequester" spending caps that were enacted in the Budget Control Act of 2011. That would add roughly $450 billion to the federal deficit over the next decade, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

To offset that cost, Trump has pledged to find savings in other areas. Those include cutting spending that has not been formally authorized by a legislative committee. That would save about $150 billion, according to CRFB estimates.

He's also looking for savings on other government payments by boosting the collection of taxes that go unpaid each year and by cutting the federal workforce through attrition. Those measures would generate another $150 billion, the CRFB said.

And he wants to boost federal revenues by expanding U.S. energy production, but it's not clear how much money, if any, that would generate. The CRFB also noted that Trump has already earmarked those energy revenues to pay for a massive program to upgrade U.S. infrastructure.

"Ultimately, much more will need to be done to pay for his plan and begin putting the debt on a more sustainable long-term path," the group noted.

Democratic rival Hillary Clinton has proposed investment in military "innovation and capabilities that will allow us to prepare for and fight 21st-century threats," but she hasn't provided the level of spending detail that Trump spelled out this week.

She's also promised to "curb runaway cost growth" and "take care of our veterans and their families."

Clinton has said she would also move to end the caps on federal spending — for both defense and nondefense programs "in a balanced way," but hasn't given specific details.

Even if the federal budget caps remain, defense spending is projected to rise gradually through the rest of the decade, no matter who is elected.


And while military spending by U.S. military rivals such as Russia and China has risen over the last five years, the U.S. still outspends the rest of the world on defense, by far.

Overall global defense spending ramped up sharply in the 1990s and 2000s. But, largely due to U.S. cuts, total defense spending around the world has declined since 2010, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Though the U.S. spends the most in dollar terms, it is not the biggest spender when measured as a share of all government spending or as a share of gross domestic product, according to SIPRI.

Of the major military powers around the world, the U.S. in 2015 spent 9 percent of the federal budget on defense. That's a smaller share of overall government spending than Saudi Arabia (27 percent of spending), Russia (14 percent), Israel (13 percent) or South Korea (13 percent).

Measured as a share of the nation's economy, the U.S. is also not the biggest spender, devoting just 3 percent of gross domestic product to military spending. That's less than Saudi Arabia (14 percent of GDP), Israel (5 percent) and Russia (5 percent), according to SIPRI.