Trump’s Budget Plan Favors Military Spending, Guts Domestic Programs
By Julia Bergman
March 16, 2017
While much uncertainty surrounds President Donald Trump's first spending plan, which heavily favors military spending and proposes big cuts to domestic programs, Connecticut's defense industry stands to gain from the proposal.
The president on Thursday unveiled his 2018 budget request, which calls for $639 billion, or a 10 percent increase, in defense spending. Of that, $574 billion would go to the base budget, and $65 billion would go into the Overseas Contingency Operations account or so-called war fund.
As the budget document points out, the proposed increase in defense spending is greater than the entire defense budget of most countries and would be one of the largest-ever increases for the defense department in a single year. Trump is calling for a repeal of the automatic budget cuts under sequestration, but it's unlikely he will get enough Democratic votes in the Senate to do that.
It remains unclear how the increase in defense spending would shake out in Connecticut. In recent years, the state has been a big beneficiary of defense spending, receiving about $13 billion in defense contracts annually.
Known as the "skinny budget," Trump's proposal outlines topline numbers for federal agencies and departments but does not provide many specifics on how money would be spent. That will come in May when the Trump administration releases its full budget.
For now, Trump's proposal references an increase in the total number of Navy ships. He has called for a 350-ship Navy, including more submarines, but has said he wants to buy them for less money.
"I'm very optimistic about the Navy, the buildup of the Navy is obviously going to be good news for Connecticut, for Electric Boat and all of its suppliers in the state," said Bob Ross, executive director of Connecticut's Office of Military Affairs.
Electric Boat spokeswoman Liz Power said it would be "inappropriate" for the company to comment on the president's budget.
"This is the first step in a lengthy process and we can't speculate about how that process might conclude," Power wrote in an email.
EB and the Navy are already in discussions about the possibility of simultaneously building two, or even three, Virginia-class attack submarines and a Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. Those discussions follow a new demand for 66 attack submarines as part of a 355-ship proposal put out by the Navy in late 2016.
Both Ross and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said funding for submarine programs is well protected.
The federal government is currently operating on a continuing resolution, which runs out at the end of April. The temporary funding measure maintains funding for two Virginia-class submarines and includes an exception for $773.1 million in advanced procurement funding for the Columbia-class program. Congress must still find a way to fund the government for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year, which started on Oct. 1, 2016.
Meanwhile, Trump has proposed $30 billion in additional defense spending for fiscal year 2017. The proposal does not specifically mention funding for submarines but does ask for more Army Blackhawk helicopters, built by Sikorsky, and more Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
The supplemental spending exceeds sequestration limits and puts pressure on the Senate, which already has a full plate of spending bills to work through, to figure out how to deal with budget cuts before the federal government runs out money at the end of April, Courtney said.
Under the supplemental, an extra $25 billion would go into the 2017 defense department's base budget and $5 billion into the war fund. The added $25 billion to the base budget would require changing the budget caps for fiscal year 2017.
As for Trump's 2018 budget, the Coast Guard is notably absent from the proposal, which seeks a nearly 7 percent increase in funding for the Department of Homeland Security for immigration enforcement. The Coast Guard falls under DHS.
Leading up to the unveiling of Trump's budget proposal, several news reports and Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, of California, chairman of the congressional subcommittee that has oversight of the Coast Guard, referenced a proposal to cut $1.3 billion from the service's $9 billion budget to pay for other priorities within DHS, namely cracking down on illegal immigration.
"The proposed cut (to the Coast Guard) should cause all of us a lot of concern in Connecticut," said Bob Ross, executive director of Connecticut's Office of Military Affairs. "As a former Navy officer, in every ocean I sailed in, I worked with the Coast Guard. They do a lot that most Americans don't understand in terms of law enforcement all around the world."