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Trump White House proposes 'historic increase' in defense spending

The White House has said it wants to beef up defense spending by a massive $54 billion (51 billion euros). Under Trump's budget blueprint, the increase would be offset by cuts in foreign aid and domestic programs.

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Trump to propose 10pct hike in military spending

US President Donald Trump is seeking a "historic" increase in defense spending, but Democrats and Republicans in Congress who must pass the budget both oppose the proposal.

The budget plan would increase Pentagon spending by 10 percent to $603 billion, to be offset by $54 billion cut in domestic programs and foreign aid, White House officials said.

"We're going to do more with less and make the government lean and accountable to the people," Trump told a group of governors at the White House on Monday. "We can do so much more with the money we spend." 

"We're going to start spending on infrastructure big. It's not like we have a choice - our highways, our bridges are unsafe, our tunnels," Trump added.

The blueprint came ahead of Trump's first address to Congress on Tuesday, when he is expecting to hit on the economic themes of his campaign.  

The Environmental Protection Agency, State Department and foreign aid would be on the chopping block, according to officials familiar with the budget proposal, set to be unveiled in more detail in March.   

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Trump delivers patriotic speech at CPAC

"Most federal agencies will see a reduction as a result" of the off-set, an official said speaking on anonymity, adding there will be a "large reduction in foreign aid."

About 1 percent of the US budget goes to aid and cutting it entirely wouldn't come close to off-setting the increased defense bill.

"It is a fairly small part of the discretionary budget, but it is still consistent with what the president said," White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said.

"It is a true America first budget. It will show the president is keeping his promises and will do exactly what he said he was going to do," Mulvaney said. "It prioritizes rebuilding our military, including restoring our nuclear capabilities, protecting the nation and securing the border, enforcing the laws currently on the books, taking care of vets and increasing school choice."

Around a sixth of the budget is spent on defense, an amount equivalent to the defense budget of the next seven countries combined. But defense accounts for slightly more than half of discretionary spending.

About 60 percent of the budget goes towards mandatory spending, mostly for social security and Medicare, both of which Trump has vowed not to touch.

Democrats, Republicans raise objections

Democrats, who have the power to block the budget, immediately went on the offensive.

"It is clear from this budget blueprint that President Trump fully intends to break his promises to working families by taking a meat ax to programs that benefit the middle class," Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said.

The proposal also received a cool response from some Republicans. Senator John McCain, a defense hawk, questioned the significance of the White House numbers, which are just 3 percent over projections for fiscal year 2018.  

"President Trump intends to submit a defense budget that is a mere 3 percent above President (Barack) Obama’s defense budget, which has left our military underfunded, undersized, and unready to confront threats to our national security," said McCain, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Republican Representative Mike Simpson, a member of the Appropriations Committee, suggested cuts to domestic programs won't gain support.

"There's a lot of members that have a lot of interest in a lot of these programs," Simpson said. "There's more to our government than just defense."

Fiscal conservatives are likely to be unhappy with the budget proposal, which will not address the country's yawning budget deficit. 

The budget blueprint is likely to face significant changes up to when the full budget submission is released in May.  The 2018 fiscal year starts on October 1. 

cw/kms (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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