Donald Trump on Wednesday called for eliminating the sequester on defense spending and increasing military spending to boost troop levels and the number of ships and aircraft.
Trump said in a speech to the Union League of Philadelphia that he will ask Congress to reverse cuts to defense spending enacted under the 2013 budget sequester once he takes office and submit a new budget to rebuild the US military, which Trump described as unprepared to confront the threats the US faces.
Trump did not outline how large the increase in military spending would be or whether it will exceed pre-sequester funding levels, but vowed to seek to “fully offset” the increased spending levels through “common sense reforms that eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks.”
The sequester, which also slashed domestic spending, went into effect after Congress failed to reach a new budget agreement.
“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest. We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance,” Trump said as he lamented the cuts to defense spending, which he said is “on track to fall to its lowest level as a share of the economy.” The US spent more than $600 billion in defense spending in 2015.
Trump’s call for eliminating the sequester cuts to defense spending sits in stark contrast to his initial reaction to the sequester’s across-the-board cuts, which Trump downplayed weeks before they went into effect.
“It’s a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made. And I think, really, it’s being over-exaggerated,” Trump told Fox News in February 2013. “Frankly, this is a very minor amount of the cuts that have to be made, ultimately, and a lot of people are saying that.”
Hillary Clinton, Trump’s Democratic rival, also supports ending the sequester on military spending in addition to the sequester’s cuts to domestic spending.
“Here’s what we have to do — we can’t lose our military edge. That means giving the Pentagon the stable, predictable funding it needs to make smart investments,” she said last week at the American Legion in Cincinnati. “We cannot impose arbitrary limits on something as important as our military. That makes no sense at all. The sequester makes our country less secure. Let’s end it and get a budget deal that supports America’s military, our families and our country. And let’s make reform a priority, so that the Defense Department spends its budget on the right things.”
Trump also contrasted his vision of US foreign policy with Clinton’s record, accusing her of being “trigger happy and very unstable” and describing a Middle East that was more stable before her tenure as secretary of state.
While Trump and his advisers have argued that Clinton did not learn from the mistakes of the Iraq War — for which she voted as a senator — and drove the US into another blunder by arguing in favor of military intervention in Libya, Trump supported both of those military interventions.
Despite his words to the contrary on the campaign trail, Trump said he favored invading Iraq one month before Congress voted to authorize the use of military force and continued to praise the invasion in its first months. He also called on the US to intervene militarily in Libya to stem the worsening humanitarian situation in the country.