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How the defense budget falls short of strategic demands

USS Gerald R. Ford, a Naval aircraft carrier
The USS Gerald R. Ford, the first in a new class of U.S. aircraft carriers. Photo: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ridge Leoni / U.S. Navy via Getty Images

Secretary Mattis’s National Defense Strategy targets readiness, lethality and reforms to better counter great power competition from China and Russia. Yet President Trump’s budget calls for only a 2% annual increase in defense spending — enough to dig the Pentagon out of its current hole, but not enough to pursue the pivot envisioned in Mattis’s NDS or the rebuild touted by Trump on the campaign trail.

Here’s where some of those promises stand:

  • Grow the Army rapidly (the budget adds just 4,000 active duty soldiers)
  • Build a 350-ship Navy (now projected to take until the 2050s)
  • Increase the size of the combat Air Force (two active fighter squadrons will be established in 2019, but one Guard squadron will disbanded)

Although Mattis has said that the spending requests for 2018 and 2019 will restore the U.S. “to a position of primacy,” that remains an open question. The long-term growth projected of 2-3% per year, is a far cry from the 3-5% real annual growth he has previously called for to sustain the health of the force.

In fact, the Pentagon’s five-year budget plan shows inflation-only adjustments, with virtually zero real growth. The budget actually loses ground over time due to inflationgiven that CBO projects it will be 2% annually, so we may see negative real growth for the rest of Trump’s tenure.

Why it matters: Given the deteriorating international situation, the likely outlook for U.S. defense spending dims the prospects for Mattis’s long-term strategic goals — and for the military's ability to catch up after years of atrophy.

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Khorri Atkinson 2 hours ago
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Gen Z's next battleground: lowering the voting age

Students walking out on the 19th anniversary of Columbine
Tens of thousands participate in the March for Our Lives Rally. Photo: Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. is on the verge of becoming the first major U.S. city to allow people as young as 16 to vote in local and federal elections, including for president — under a proposal that has gotten support from a majority of the District’s council and the mayor.

Why it matters: Lowering the voting age to 16 from 18 is a direct attempt to capitalize on the post-millennial generation’s brewing political activism and power that have been radically heightened by the country’s increasingly polarized climate.

Michael Sykes 2 hours ago
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Juiciest excerpts from new book on Hillary Clinton campaign

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton making her concession speech. Photo: Jewel Samad/AFP via Getty Images

Amy Chozik's new book "Chasing Hillary" is already making news around town with new details about Hillary Clinton's campaign falling under the microscope in the days before its release.

Quote"I knew it. I knew this would happen to me ... They were never going to let me be president."
— Hillary Clinton, per a quote from the book.