National security has been a major concern for the Trump Administration, but ultimately the FY 2018 budget will determine how much of his agenda the President is actually able to implement. With heavy funding for national security programs and an opportunity to rebuild our depleting military, House Budget Committee Chairwoman Diane Black's (R-Tenn.) budget proposal offers the money behind the security rhetoric Republicans have been promising.
While Black's budget cuts spending in most areas, the necessity to restructure and reinforce our military has led Black to call for an increase in defense spending.
The budget explains, "The Obama Administration left the world a more dangerous place, with military and diplomatic failures in every corner of the globe. We are at war with radical Islamic terrorists - a war the last administration refused to acknowledge, but a war nonetheless. President Trump has outlined a strategic vision to seek and destroy ISIS and address other foreign policy failures inherited from the previous administration. It is up to Congress to step up to the plate and provide the resources to make this strategy a success. We must take the fight to the enemy and provide for new, evolving threats."
Therefore, Black's budget invests $621.5 billion in base funding for the national defense budget, with an additional $75 billion immediately allocated to the global war on terror; a significant and necessary rise from the $548 billion invested in FY 2016.
Chairwoman Black hopes this will allow the U.S. military to modernize itself; currently, U.S. tank production has fallen to the lowest level in modern history. The National Interest's Loren Thompson wrote in July 2017, that with our military's current equipment, "The U.S. Army faces a crisis in heavy armor as it races to catch up with Russia after being distracted for many years by the global war on terror... In fact, the failure of America and its NATO allies to replace their aging armored vehicles has become an invitation to aggression."
While Russia is producing thousands of technologically advanced tanks which can "carry explosive reactive armor, active protection to intercept incoming antitank rounds, and a radar to enhance targeting of enemy forces", the United States is not producing any at all. Therefore, the increase in defense spending is a necessity.
For the purpose of modernization, President Trump's budget front loaded the total defense spending; instead, Black's budget distributes the money incrementally, although provides about $300 billion more in funds over the next 10 years.
Also in the interest of national security, Black has allocated funds to follow through on President Trump's promise to strengthen our border; the budget includes $1.6 billion in funding for a border wall and enhanced security to protect against domestic terrorism.
Black explains that, "Our budget provides significant resources to secure our border and protect the homeland. These resources will provide for a stronger defense against terrorists and others who wish to do harm to Americans and ensure that our Southern border is secure. Our budget also provides for investments in cyber-security and data protection, to strengthen our ability to detect and deter foreign attacks on our country's IT systems, and increase federal-private sector coordination to thwart malicious hackers and government-sponsored cyber-terrorism."
The additional funding for cyber security is appropriate, considering the President himself hosted a meeting in June regarding the high risk of a cyber-attack on our nation's energy grid, reinforcing the reality that our energy security is also a national security concern. Archaic infrastructure across our energy sector makes it a prime target for foreign attack; luckily, Black's budget also assists the Department of Energy in maintaining focus on these issues rather than the unsafe and unnecessary policies of the Obama Administration.
Black's budget also encourages the private sector to play a greater role in assisting the Department of Energy to update their aging infrastructure. To allow for this, Black cuts funding from President Obama's DOE Office Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, saving $2.1 billion to be used to research secure energy avenues.
It is clear defense spending and border protections are needed, and Republicans were elected to address the issues. Black lays out a plan to achieve both a balanced budget and our national security needs. With fiscal and military crisis stirring, passing a budget with these protections is key to meeting the promise of making American safe again.
Natalia Castro is a contributing editor at Americans for Limited Government.