Good morning Legionnaires and veterans advocates, today is Wednesday, February 6, 2019 which is Lame Duck Day, National Frozen Yogurt Day, Pay-a-Compliment Day and Ronald Reagan Day.
This Day in History:
- On this day in 1952, after a long illness, King George VI of Great Britain and Northern Ireland dies in his sleep at the royal estate at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, the oldest of the king’s two daughters and next in line to succeed him, was in Kenya at the time of her father’s death; she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953, at age 27.
- 1820: The first organized immigration of freed slaves to Africa from the United States departs New York harbor on a journey to Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa. The immigration was largely the work of the American Colonization Society, a U.S. organization founded in 1816 by Robert Finley to return freed American slaves to Africa. However, the expedition was also partially funded by the U.S. Congress, which in 1819 had appropriated $100,000 to be used in returning displaced Africans, illegally brought to the United States after the abolishment of the slave trade in 1808, to Africa.
- Just three days after U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s speech of February 3, 1917—in which he broke diplomatic relations with Germany and warned that war would follow if American interests at sea were again assaulted—a German submarine torpedoes and sinks the Anchor Line passenger steamer California off the Irish coast.
- 1778: During the American War for Independence, representatives from the United States and France sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce and the Treaty of Alliance in Paris. The Treaty of Amity and Commerce recognized the United States as an independent nation and encouraged trade between France and the America, while the Treaty of Alliance provided for a military alliance against Great Britain, stipulating that the absolute independence of the United States be recognized as a condition for peace and that France would be permitted to conquer the British West Indies.
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
- Defense News: ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars’ — Trump touts troop drawdowns in State of the Union
- Defense One: Lawmakers Tell Pentagon: Revise and Resubmit Your Climate-Change Report
- Foreign Policy: Syrian Kurdish Leader Asks U.S. to Save Her People From ‘Catastrophe’
- Stripes: Army secretary seeks to help families through fewer moves, spouse job opportunities
- Stripes: Lawmakers issue bipartisan call for more transparency from VA
- Defense News: Budget for fiscal 2020 expected to be released March 12
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Defense News: ‘Great nations do not fight endless wars’ — Trump touts troop drawdowns in State of the Union
By: Leo Shane III and Joe Gould 8 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump made the case for drawing down the number of American troops fighting overseas and boosting up those deployed along the southern U.S. border in his annual State of the Union address Tuesday night.
Among pleas for bipartisan unity on national issues and attacks on political foes for opposing his policy priorities, the commander in chief promised a national audience that troops in the Middle East and Afghanistan will be returning home soon.
“Our brave troops have now been fighting in the Middle East for almost 19 years,” he said. “In Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 7,000 American heroes have given their lives. More than 52,000 Americans have been badly wounded. We have spent more than $7 trillion in the Middle East.
“As a candidate for president, I loudly pledged a new approach. Great nations do not fight endless wars,” he said to bipartisan applause.
Trump, who made the nation’s economic progress a centerpiece of his speech, said that progress could be stymied by “foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations” — a barb for House Democrats expected to delve into his campaign’s ties to Russia and other topics.
The speech came just hours after the Senate approved a Middle East policy bill that, in part, urged Trump not to precipitously withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The bill language on the two wars was authored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and passed with a broad bipartisan support, 77-23.
Earlier in the day, McConnell acknowledged the Trump administration has overseen “huge progress in the fight against Islamic State group militants,” but threats remain. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called the withdrawal from Syria without the ISIS’ defeat another of Trump’s “broken promises.”
But Trump in his address insisted that coalition forces “have liberated virtually all of that territory from the grip of these bloodthirsty monsters,” echoing his recent comments declaring victory in the Syria fight.
“Now, as we work with our allies to destroy the remnants of ISIS, it is time to give our brave warriors in Syria a warm welcome home,” he said.
In Afghanistan — where U.S. officials have begun negotiations with Taliban remnants on a permanent cease fire — Trump said that “the hour has come to at least try for peace” and said he expects more troop reductions in the near future.
About 2,000 troops are currently stationed in and around Syria and another 16,000 in Afghanistan. Defense Department leaders have claimed progress in both areas over the last year, but repeatedly warned in congressional testimony that too rapid a withdrawal could lead to regional instability.
One area seeing a troop increase is the controversial southern border deployment. About 2,300 active-duty troops are currently deployed across several states in support roles with the Department of Homeland Security, providing construction, logistics and intelligence services.
Democrats in Congress have blasted that mission as militarizing the national immigration debate. But the president, who has been battling with lawmakers over more than $5 billion for his proposed border wall project, insisted in his address the military presence is needed because of the grave security threat facing America.
“As we speak, large, organized caravans are on the march to the United States … I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our southern border to prepare for the tremendous onslaught,” he said.
“This is a moral issue. The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security, and financial well‑being of all Americans.”
On defense spending, Trump said his administration had “begun to fully rebuild the United States military,” with $700 billion for fiscal 2018 and $716 billion for fiscal 2019. He reiterated that he has pressured foreign allies to increase their defense spending because “the United States was being treated very unfairly by NATO.”
The commander in chief made no mention of plans for a $750 billion defense budget proposal for fiscal 2020 or — with Washington mired in fiscal 2019 budget negotiations — what the path might be for a bipartisan compromise for next year.
He also claimed the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Intermediate Forces Treaty with Russia as a victory, suggesting he might negotiate a new agreement that includes China.
“Or perhaps we can’t, in which case, we will outspend and out-innovate all others by far,” Trump said.
On North Korea, Trump claimed his bold bilateral peace initiative had averted war. The U.S. president plans to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un again in late February.
“If I had not been elected President of the United States, we would right now, in my opinion, be in a major war with North Korea,” he said, to a smattering of applause. “Much work remains to be done, but my relationship with Kim Jong Un is a good one.”
Trump made only a passing mention of veterans policy in the speech, but invoked the memory of World War II troops as a charge to lawmakers to set aside political differences for the good of the country. Three veterans from the war were among the president’s guests at the event.
“We must choose whether we will squander our inheritance or whether we will proudly declare that we are Americans,” he said. “We do the incredible. We defy the impossible. We conquer the unknown …
“No matter the trials we face, no matter the challenges to come, we must go forward together.”
That message of unity will be put to a test in coming days. Trump and Democratic lawmakers must reach a compromise on border wall funding by Feb. 15 or risk another government shutdown similar to the month-long one which stretched from late December to late January.
Defense One: Lawmakers Tell Pentagon: Revise and Resubmit Your Climate-Change Report
The Pentagon’s latest climate-change report was so bad that it didn’t even meet legal requirements, say House lawmakers who on Wednesday ordered the military to redo the document by April 1.
The report “lacks key deliverables,” according to the Jan. 25 letter from House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif. released last week.
The Pentagon’s 2019 climate report opens with the line: “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations.”
But the report goes downhill from there, said David Titley, the Navy meteorologist-turned-Penn State professor.
“The highlight of the report was the first sentence of the opening paragraph where it did clearly state that climate change was one of the risks the DOD needs to be concerned about,” Titley said. “That’s about as good as I can say.”
The report, “Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” released four weeks late on Jan. 16, was required by the Langevin Amendment, part of the 2018 Defense Authorization Act.
Spearheaded by Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., the bill ordered the Pentagon to list the top 10 military installations most vulnerable to climate change, mitigations needed to maintain resiliency, and the potential effects on DOD missions.
Titley, a former Oceanographer of the Navy who now teaches Pennsylvania State University, said he would have awarded DOD between a C- and a D+. “If you assign a 1,500-word essay, sometimes students will just put down 1,500 words. It doesn’t mean they answered the question,” he said.
Langevin and Smith, who serve on the House Armed Services Committee, blasted the report soon after its release.
“It is unacceptable that the Department has ignored the clear instructions provided by law, and it is unacceptable that our service members and readiness will suffer as a result,” Langevin said in a statement.
John Conger, a former DOD deputy comptroller who now directs the Center for Climate and Security, said the assignment was clear, and had been written to help DOD address the issues climate change presented.
“I think Congress was looking for specific analysis that would help them prioritize resources and then try and look at where to direct investments and resilience,” Conger said. “This report is less helpful in doing that than they intended it to be.”
In the report, which DOD said cost $329,000 to produce, Pentagon officials looked at whether 79 bases were currently experiencing or might in the future experience five natural phenomena: recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost. It also described efforts to mitigate threats, listing studies commissioned on wildfire risk in 2014 in sensors that determine subsurface ice levels at northern bases.
But critics said the report left out a lot of required elements. For example, it mentions Tyndall Air Force Base, which was decimated by Hurricane Michael in 2018, but does not evaluate its climate risk. The 79 bases include no overseas bases, nor any that belong to the Marine Corps. Most striking to Conger was the absence of the list of the top 10 most vulnerable installations, a list specifically requested in the amendment.
“Even if they thought it would be too difficult to do, they don’t explain why they didn’t answer the question,” he said. “There are gaps.”
Titley said some of the information presented in the report is inaccurate. For example, it says the Naval Observatory was at current and future risk of drought. “I was at the Naval Observatory during the time they talk about this. I do not recall any drought,” he said. “There were no operational impacts on the Naval Observatory.”
“When you read things like these, I think it’s really unfortunate, because I think the DOD diminishes credibility with the Congress when they put things like that in the report,” he said.
Conger said there was a kernel of hope in that the report indicates that DOD leaders are not among the climate-change deniers elsewhere in the U.S. government.
DOD is “paying attention to climate change,” Conger said. “They have been for multiple administrations, Republican and Democratic, well before the Obama administration. They have been consistent in their belief that climate change is a thing they have to pay attention to and deal with…That is reflected in this report.”
Pentagon leaders have prepared several previous climate reports, both on their own initiative and at the behest of Congress. In 2014, DOD issued theClimate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which Conger said is still used as a framework for DOD’s response to climate change. The following year, Congress formally requested a review of climate risks to each combatant command, which DOD met with a reportthat asserted that climate change is “a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk.” In January 2018, DOD conducted an “initial look” at which global installations were most threatened by climate change through a Screening Level Vulnerability Assessment Survey. The report concluded that such a survey was best used to identify which sites merited further assessment, and was just a “first step” in mitigating climate threats to DOD missions.
Foreign Policy: Syrian Kurdish Leader Asks U.S. to Save Her People From ‘Catastrophe’
As Assad consolidates power, Kurds want autonomy in northeastern Syria.
By Lara Seligman
| February 5, 2019, 2:29 PM
When Ilham Ahmed was 20 years old, her parents locked her at home in Afrin, Syria, to prevent her from joining the country’s budding feminist movement.
Their efforts were in vain. Ahmed “broke the siege,” as she describes it, and in the 1990s became an advocate for women’s rights at the University of Aleppo, where she studied Arabic literature.
“They gave up,” she said in an interview in Washington, speaking through an interpreter.
These days, she’s waging a broader fight. As the co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Council—the political arm of the U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that are responsible for liberating much of northeastern Syria from the Islamic State—Ahmed is today one of the most powerful women in Syria. She is currently in Washington to lobby U.S. lawmakers and administration officials—including the president himself—for a coordinated withdrawal from the country that would secure the fate of the besieged Syrian Kurds.
At stake is not just the future of the Kurds but all Syrians, as President Bashar al-Assad stamps out the vestiges of an eight-year rebellion and attempts to restore his absolute power across the country. Assad, who slaughtered thousands of his own people, is expected to let Tehran cement its foothold in Syria, where conservative hard-liners are already quietly exerting influence—replacing local Sunni mosques with new Shiite religious centers and shrines and offering young, unemployed residents competitive salaries to join the Iranian militia.
“It is catastrophe,” Ahmed said.
Even before President Donald Trump announced in December 2018 that U.S. troops would withdraw from Syria, the Syrian Kurds were already facing an existential crisis. Turkey, which views the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists, has repeatedly threatened to launch a full-scale military offensive. Meanwhile, the Assad regime, which has largely defeated the rebel uprising that launched the 2011 civil war, is trying to wrest back control of northeastern Syria, where the SDF, backed by a U.S.-led coalition, has been fighting the Islamic State. The force is also constantly fending off attacks by Iran and Iranian proxy forces.
Then came Trump’s abrupt announcement, which prompted the resignation of two of the Kurds’ biggest allies in Washington: Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the coalition to defeat the Islamic State. The decision caught the Kurds by surprise and undermined their attempts to broker a favorable political solution with the Assad regime for control over northeastern Syria, Ahmed said.
“Of course this changed the political process,” Ahmed said. Sensing weakness, the group’s many adversaries have seized the opportunity to escalate their threats, she said.
“This is why we always say it is very important to reach a political deal before the United States completely withdraws.”
It has already empowered Russia and Iran while undermining the Kurds.
Ultimately, the Kurds are striving for an outcome to the civil war that would allow them to remain part of Syria but not under Assad’s control—“self-administration,” Ahmed said. The group wants the Assad regime to both acknowledge the administration of northeastern Syria and make fundamental changes to the Syrian Constitution, including establishing a parliamentary system where local governments are represented. The new constitution must also include gender equality; religious, ethnic, and cultural freedom; and “the right to be different,” Ahmed said.
“We refuse being under Assad if they keep the same state,” she stressed.
Ahmed called on the United States to secure a “safe zone” for the Kurds before fully withdrawing but flatly rejected a proposed plan for Turkey to enforce the zone. The idea of a buffer zone stretching 20 miles from the Turkish border into northeastern Syria was first floated by Trump in a Jan. 13 tweet, in which he also threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it attacked the Kurds.
Aaron Stein, the director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, noted that the Syrian Kurds have a unique style of governance predicated on gender equality. At the local level, each male leader must have a female counterpart. He said the Syrian regime had “a different way of doing business.”
However, Stein cautioned that “democracy gets thrown around a lot… just because they have male and female co-chairs doesn’t make them small-d democratic in the way we would think about it.”
Dana Stroul, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, noted that the Kurdish group, which is affiliated with the U.S.-designated terrorist group the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, has faced accusations of not governing “inclusively” in some liberated areas, for example alienating the Sunni Arab population. She also pointed out allegations of human rights violations in the refugee camps the group manages.
Stein noted that the group is pushing its own agenda: convincing the United States to stay in Syria.
“They don’t like rivals, and they are intent on ensuring that their vision is the dominant one in areas that they control,” Stein said. Ahmed is “quite cleverly trying to use issues that do matter to them but also matter to a Western audience to try and convince the Americans to stay.”
Ahmed fears that Turkish control of the border would lead Kurdish border communities such as Kobani to suffer the same fate as her hometown, Afrin, which last year was plundered by Turkish-backed troops. The Turkish occupation allowed jihadis to take control of the town, requiring women to cover their hair and imposing other restrictions. Ahmed said the residents and relief organizations are prevented from reaching the area. Meanwhile, the Assad regime is conscripting refugees against their will into the Syrian army.
“This is an example of a Turkish ‘safe zone,’” she said.
Another option is for the Assad regime to enforce the safe zone, but Ahmed said the Kurds would agree to that proposal only if there were a satisfactory “political agreement” in place.
Ideally, the United States or an international coalition would enforce the buffer zone, Ahmed said, but she is not overly optimistic for this outcome. The Trump administration is reportedly trying to assemble a coalition of Western nations, including the United Kingdom, France, and Australia, to do the job, but not a single country has yet agreed to the proposal.
One incentive for Western nations to help establish the safe zone, Ahmed said, is that Syrian refugees, many of whom have fled to Europe and other parts of the Middle East, could then safely return home.
During her trip to Washington, Ahmed said she met with senior leaders at the National Security Council, the State Department, the Defense Department, and on Capitol Hill. While “we have a little bit of hope,” there are still many issues to work through, she noted. She declined to provide details of the discussions.
The SDF is also trying to figure out what to do with the more than 800 foreign Islamic State fighters whom it is holding from dozens of countries around the world. Ahmed said the prisoners are treated humanely and are even allowed lawyer visits, but so far there are no signs their countries of origin will take them back.
“Nobody is asking about them, even their family members,” she said.
Robert Palladino, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, on Monday commended the SDF’s continued efforts to return the foreign fighters to their countries of origin and called on these nations to repatriate and prosecute their citizens.
“Despite the liberation of ISIS-held territory in Iraq and Syria, ISIS remains a significant terrorist threat, and collective action is imperative to address this shared international security challenge,” Palladino said, using an acronym for the Islamic State.
Stripes: Army secretary seeks to help families through fewer moves, spouse job opportunities
By COREY DICKSTEIN | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 5, 2019
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army wants to stabilize family life for soldiers by moving them less often and improving access to jobs for their working spouses, the service’s top civilian said Tuesday.
Army Secretary Mark Esper told a crowd of soldiers and their family members that he was crafting a variety of new policies that he believes would bolster families, at least in part to improve the attractiveness of remaining in the service for a long time.
Those proposed initiatives include lengthening soldiers’ home station tours at most installations outside the United States, quickening the pace for hiring spouses to Army civilian jobs and reimbursing spouses for fees incurred to update professional licenses in new locations.
Esper said those policies would address some of the concerns soldiers and family members have raised during his visits to installations across the globe through his first 15 months in office.
“We’re turning common themes into actions [and] ideas into directives to really help improve the welfare of our soldiers and our families,” he said during a family forum hosted by the Association of the United States Army at its headquarters in Arlington, Va.
About 53 percent of soldiers are married and 43 percent have children, according to the Army.
In order to retain soldiers, the service must take care of those family members, Esper said. It’s an issue the Army and the other military services have long struggled with — especially with spousal employment.
A new report from the National Military Spouse Network released Monday found military spouse unemployment was increasing, including a 28 percent military spouse unemployment rate in 2017. In addition, more than half of working military spouses were underemployed. The same study found 77 percent of military spouses reported their career had been negatively impacted because of their status as a servicemember’s spouse.
“Choosing the life of a military spouse has, in turn, generally meant that the spouse must give up career aspirations of their own in lieu of their servicemember’s,” the report stated.
Esper said some of his initiatives should help curb those problems.
He proposed standardizing the typical amount of time that soldiers spend in their assignments across the United States and elsewhere to 36 months. Tours outside the continental United States are typically about 24 months.
More so, Esper wants soldiers to understand they do not necessarily have to move locations to be promoted or improve their careers. At least in part, he wants to stabilize families by encouraging soldiers to seek new assignments at their current locations, if they are pleased with their home life.
“So, it’s OK to stay in one place for an extended period of time … as long as you are performing your role and it is value added to the Army,” Esper said. “Particularly if a spouse has a great job, doubly so if the kids are in great schools and are happy — we want as much as possible to reduce [permanent change of station] turmoil.”
For soldiers who must move, Esper said he is working to improve hiring practices for jobs on Army installations and to streamline the process for spouses in careers such as accounting, law, medicine and teaching who must recertify their credentials in their new location.
He said he is working to install a new policy that would reimburse Army spouses for the fees they pay for their credentials in their new location. Esper also said he is pressuring Congress to adopt new legislation to simplify and standardize that credentialing process.
Another barrier to spousal employment, Esper said, is the Army’s lengthy hiring process. It takes the Army more than 120 days on average to hire for on-post civilian jobs. Esper said he aims in the next two years to reduce that process to 60 days at the most, which would increase the attractiveness of installation jobs, often filled by Army spouses.
“We have to do a better job at spousal hiring and civilian hiring for those jobs locating on installations we provide,” he said. “There’s no reason why someone should have to wait 100-plus days to get a job. Nobody is going to wait … or another opportunity is going to come or its time to [move] again.”
By NIKKI WENTLING | Stars and Stripes | Published: February 4, 2019
WASHINGTON — Republicans and Democrats in Congress asked Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie on Monday to work with them more closely and openly as the agency implements sweeping reforms in coming months.
In a letter, leaders of the veterans affairs and appropriations committees urged Wilkie for a “more collaborative relationship with Congress in the near-term.” Since he was confirmed in July, Wilkie’s team at the VA has provided briefings that were “somewhat limited in scope and details,” they wrote.
“As we begin a new Congress, we expect regular, detailed briefings to continue and that you will take a collaborative approach that maximizes transparency and demonstrates your intent that Congress be a full and true partner in implementation of these critical laws and initiatives,” the letter reads.
It was signed by Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., Jon Tester, D-Mont., John Boozman, R-Ark., Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Reps. Mark Takano, D-Calif., Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and John Carter, R-Texas.
In response to the letter, VA Press Secretary Curt Cashour said the VA was “more transparent than ever before.”
In fiscal year 2018, the agency participated in 71 congressional hearings, a 20 percent increase from fiscal year 2017, Cashour said. He added the VA conducted more than 1,302 briefings, a 54 percent increase from the previous year.
“We welcome congressional oversight, and Secretary Wilkie’s cooperative relationship with lawmakers has helped VA achieve more substantive reforms than at any other time in decades,” Cashour said.
He also said the VA would respond directly to the lawmakers’ letter.
The letter was the latest in a series of calls from lawmakers for more transparency from the VA, though previous pleadings were made largely by Democrats.
Last week, after the VA publicly announced proposed rules to expand veterans’ access to private doctors, lawmakers and veterans organizations complained about little forewarning or information about the proposals. The draft rules are part of the VA Mission Act, a major VA reform law scheduled to take effect in June that the lawmakers said would “fundamentally transform the delivery of veterans’ health care.”
In addition to the new law, the VA is also undertaking a multibillion-dollar project to overhaul its electronic health records, as well as improve its claims appeals process and extend benefits to more veteran caregivers.
Late last year, the VA faced a host of technology problems as it implemented congressionally mandated changes to its GI Bill. The deadline to implement the reforms has been extended to later in 2019.
“With all of the reforms underway simultaneously, it is vital for the VA to share information openly – even pre-decisional information – so that we can work together and have a common understanding of the impact of the changes, including costs, and are able to assess the impact any changes will have on other parts of VA,” the lawmakers wrote.
A Senate Committee on Appropriations subpanel, led by Boozman, was scheduled to hold an oversight hearing Tuesday on the electronic health record project. Takano, chairman of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, promised a hearing in the “imminent future” about the VA’s proposals for the Mission Act.
Defense News: Budget for fiscal 2020 expected to be released March 12
By:Aaron Mehta 10 hours ago
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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration expects to deliver its fiscal year 2020 budget on March 12, a six-week delay from the planned initial release date.
Three sources, speaking on background because there has been no formal announcement from OMB, confirmed the March 12 target for the budget rollout. Although no dollar amount has been announced, the budget is expected to be in the range of $750 billion.
However, it is possible that date could slide should the government shut down once again, which could begin as soon as Feb. 16 should a new agreement not be reached between Congress and the White House.
News of the potential March 12 date was first reported by National Defense Magazine.
While the administration’s FY20 request will be the Pentagon’s first delivered under acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, it is expected to be very similar to what would have come from former secretary Jim Mattis. Shanahan has said he intends to keep pushing priorities along the lines of the National Defense Strategy.
The Pentagon’s budget figure has seesawed dramatically over the last three months. The department had been planning for most of the year to a $733 billion defense top-line figure, until the moment at an October Cabinet meeting when President Donald Trump announced the figure would be $700 billion.
That number, delivered close to the planned budget finalization date of Dec. 1, sent planners into a frenzyas they attempted to develop a pair of budget offerings matched to both levels. The situation changed again when, following a meeting with Mattis and congressional defense leaders, Trump reportedly boosted the budget to $750 billion.
However, throughout December and early January, the department was stuck in an awkward place, unsure of exactly what its budget topline would be. Finally, on Jan. 9, acting deputy secretary of defense David Norquist confirmed the Pentagon had locked in its final figure to work with.
Trump, for his part, did hint that the figure will be closer to the higher reported number, telling an audience at the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Reviewrollout “I gave you the greatest and biggest budget in our history. And I’ve now done it two times. And I hate to tell the rest of the world, but I’m about to do it three times.”
Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report