President Trump’s plan to raise military spending for the coming fiscal year by $54 billion, or nearly 10 percent, won’t strengthen America’s security, and might, in fact, undermine it. To pay for this unjustified increase, Mr. Trump reportedly plans to cut spending on other agencies, most notably the State Department and foreign aid, whose contribution to American security is at least as important as more armaments and troops.
Slashing support for diplomacy would leave the government with fewer tools to prevent conflict. For that very reason, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates argued vigorously for increases in the State Department budget and the foreign aid account. Jim Mattis, the new defense secretary, should do the same. Foreign aid amounts to about 1 percent of federal spending, or $42.4 billion, much of it for American-made weaponry.
The $600 billion yearly Pentagon budget is certainly not too low, given the drawdown of troops fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Trump should be asking himself not how to heave more billions at the Pentagon but how to make sure it is spending its existing budget wisely.
The United States already spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined, and maintains the most advanced fighting force in the world. For nearly a decade after Sept. 11, the Pentagon had a virtual blank check, receiving an 11 percent increase in 2002 and a 10 percent increase in 2008, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies. President Barack Obama’s proposed increase for the 2018 fiscal year, at 6 percent, was already excessive, and now Mr. Trump has gone significantly higher.
While he argued in a speech on Friday for making “one of the greatest military buildups in American…