Citing increasing threats from China and Russia, the Pentagon is asking for a major boost in military spending for 2019, requesting Congress approve a budget of $686 billion — one of the largest in US history.
At the same time the Trump administration’s budget proposal included major cuts for international diplomacy and overseas aid.
Touting the proposal on Monday, President Donald Trump said the US military would be the strongest it has ever been, including “increasing arsenals of virtually every weapon.”
The Defense Department’s budget is $686 billion, an increase of $80 billion from 2017, which the Pentagon says is primarily aimed at countering Russia and China.
“Great power competition, not terrorism, has emerged as the central challenge to US security and prosperity,” Under Secretary Of Defense David L. Norquist told reporters Monday following the unveiling of the budget proposal.
“It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model-gaining veto authority over other nations’ economic, diplomatic, and security decisions,” the budget document says.
Beijing is “using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea.”
China “seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term,” the document says, but in the long term seeks to “achieve global preeminence” over the US.
The document follows confirmed reports of continued Chinese island building in the South China Sea, with facilities being constructed in the Spratly and Paracel islands and Scarborough Shoal. Just last week the office website of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) carried an article touting patrols of Su-35 fighter jets over the area.
The patrols of the long-range, twin-engine jets show the “PLA Air Force’s resolution to implement missions in the new era and firmly maintain national sovereignty and security and maritime interests,” the article quotes Wang Mingzhi, a professor with the Chinese PLA Air Force Command Academy, as saying.
The growth of China’s air force — on Friday, Beijing said its new J-20 stealth fighters, seen as a challenge to US F-22 and F-35 stealth jets, were now combat-ready — is consistent with broader efforts to enhance its military capabilities. Last year, China added state-of-the-art warships to its fleet and and formally opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti.