The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plans to release President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 budget request on February 12. This budget request is the first that will have been prepared entirely during the current administration, so it should accurately reflect this administration’s world view and priorities.
Reports indicate that the administration will request $716 billion for national defense, or about 7 percent more than it requested for fiscal year 2018. We do not yet know exactly how much of this $716 billion the Department of Defense will receive, but if historical trends hold, about $30 billion will go to non-DoD national defense requirements (e.g., nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy), leaving about $685 to $690 billion for the Department of Defense.
Two percent of that increase covers only inflation, and another two percent covers the expected cost growth exceeding inflation in maintenance and personnel accounts. Taking these considerations into account, DoD should be left with about $20 billion in new money to apply to its chosen priorities.
If the budget deal currently circulating on Capitol Hill becomes law the Department of Defense will get a significant increase in its budget—the most significant increase we've seen since the early days of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But real question is, how will the department spend it? The new National Defense Strategy gives us some clues. The strategy’s prioritization of strategic competition with China and Russia means that we should see an emphasis in the budget on investing in advanced capabilities, rather than solely increasing the size of the force.
Similarly, the strategy’s language on force employment suggests a recalibration in favor of preserving readiness at the expense of some presence activities that are not focused on improving the military's ability to deter or respond to conflict.
CNAS will explore these questions and more, releasing new analysis every few days throughout the rest of February and early March on different aspects of the president’s budget request. We will provide an overview of the administration's request the week that OMB releases the budget, followed by analyses dedicated to each military department and the defense-wide request.
We will conclude by looking at how well the request supports the strategy and compare the past several years of requests against the final appropriation from Congress. Check CNAS.org/PB19 often for updates, or sign up here to have fresh analysis delivered to your inbox as it becomes available.