Trump's shock and awe 10 per cent hike in defence spending

By Shannon Pettypiece, Jennifer Jacobs

US President Donald Trump will propose boosting defence spending by US$54 billion ($75 billion) in his first budget plan and offset that by an equal amount cut from the rest of the government's discretionary budget, according to administration officials.

Most federal agencies other than those involved in security will see their budgets reduced to make room for 10 per cent higher spending on defence, said the officials.

The cuts won't affect automatic "entitlement"programmes such as Social Security and Medicare, which make up about two-thirds of the US$4 trillion federal budget. Trump has said he won't touch either programme.

In remarks to governors at the White House, Trump called his plan a "public safety budget" focused on increasing law enforcement and keeping out terrorists. He also promised that "we're going to start spending on infrastructure, big," without giving details.

The White House is sending budget targets to federal agencies today, a day before the President is set to deliver an address to a joint session of Congress in which he's expected to outline his priorities for the nation.

The Administration plans to have a fuller outline next month, and it's certain to come under intense criticism from Democrats and potentially some Republicans as favoured government programmes are slashed.

If Congress were to adopt Trump's plan it would mean that everything else government spends on discretionary programmes outside of national security - including medical research, veterans care, education, national parks, food and drug regulation - would have be cut on average by about 10 per cent, though some programmes might be cut more and some less.

The State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are targeted for cuts in particular.

The White House budget is mostly an opening bid in what could be a protracted process to set a federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Congress approved US$543 billion for non-defence discretionary funding for fiscal 2016 and US$607 billion for defence. Those totals currently are set to be reduced by 2018 under the budget sequester law, which Congress would have to amend in order to pass Trump's spending plans. That process would give Democrats, who've opposed cutting domestic programs an opening to thwart Trump's plans.

- Bloomberg

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