Armed services chairman to seek $640 billion in DOD spending

A portion of President Donald Trump's first proposed budget, focusing on the Department of Defense, and released by the Office of Management and Budget, is photographed in Washington, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. President Donald Trump is unveiling a $1.15 trillion budget, a far-reaching overhaul of federal government spending that slashes a dozen departments to finance a significant increase in the military and make a down payment on a U.S.-Mexico border wall. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said Thursday he’ll push to increase defense spending by $37 billion more than the Trump administration proposed to pay for more troops and new weapons.

Speaking to reporters, Rep. Mac Thornberry said he’ll seek $640 billion for the Defense Department in the 2018 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. His comments came a day after his GOP colleagues on the House Budget Committee agreed on a fiscal outline that would provide the military with about $20 billion less.

Thornberry said he’d be willing to agree to a lower number if he can be assured that future defense budgets will be stable and substantial enough for a U.S. military that’s been running at a high tempo for a decade and a half. The Texas Republican and other defense hawks have been pushing to repeal a law known as sequestration that strictly limits military spending and led to uncertainty over how much money the department will get each year.

“If I am going to agree to do less than I believe is necessary to fix the problems facing the military today, then the only way I could do that is if there is future stability, future funding, future predictability,” Thornberry said. “That’s a value to me.”

The chairman’s defense budget blueprint to be publicly released Monday also will include $65 billion for wartime ongoing military operations, bringing his proposed total to $705 billion — more than at any point during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His counterpart in the Senate, Armed Services chairman John McCain, also supports a core defense budget of $640 billion.

Thornberry’s plan will recommend a full 2.4 percent pay raise for U.S. service members, more spending for missile defense programs to help shield the homeland from a potential attack by North Korea, and additional troops for the Army, Navy and Air Force.