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Trump Signs Bill to Provide $700 Billion for the Pentagon, Maybe

Michael Rainey

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the signing ceremony of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the military, at the White House in Washington D.C., U.S. December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act on Tuesday, establishing Pentagon spending levels and priorities for the 2018 fiscal year, which began October 1. Passed by Congress in November, the bill allocates $700 billion for defense spending, with $634 billion for the base budget and $66 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund, used for the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. The bill provides $26 billion more than the White House requested in its 2018 budget proposal.

Among its many provisions, the bill includes instructions for a 2.4 percent pay raise for service members, the addition of 20,000 troops to the armed services and the acquisition of new military equipment, including $10 billion for 90 F-35 fighters.

The bill does not, however, make the money start flowing to the Pentagon, since funding is provided in separate legislation. And securing the full amount will be an issue this year, since the Budget Control Act of 2011 imposes caps on federal spending, with Pentagon funding limited to $549 billion in 2018. Lawmakers must agree on deal to break through the spending caps, and Democrats insist that higher spending for defense must be matched by higher spending on domestic programs, a move some Republican defense hawks are resisting. This could all come to a head soon as Congress turns its focus to the 2018 budget later this month, once the tax bill is settled.

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