President Trump announced on Wednesday that the fiscal 2020 budget request for national defense will be $700 billion, a drop of $16 billion from the previous year but above the levels of the past few years.
"We know what the new budget is for the Defense Department; it will probably be $700 billion," Trump told reporters during a Cabinet meeting at which he asked his secretaries to cut their next budget submissions by 5 percent. "So, it was 700, 716, that's a very substantial number, but it's defense, it's very important, to us without defense, maybe the rest of it doesn't mean very much."
Trump was referring to the national defense budget levels for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. Those totals reflect funding above and beyond Pentagon spending and include money for nuclear activities in the Department of Energy. Actual appropriations for the Defense Department is $674 billion for fiscal 2019.
"If you know, it was at 520 a very short while ago, and the reason I brought it up to 700 and then 716 was to build new ships, we're building new incredible submarines, the finest in the world, most powerful in the world. Anywhere ever," Trump said. "We're doing things that we have never done on this scale. So, that included a lot of rebuilding of our military. Despite that, I am going to keep that at $700 billion, defense."
A budget plan of $700 billion, which would be a cut of 2.3 percent from the previous year, represents only a request to lawmakers. Appropriators in Congress actually fund the Pentagon and have the ability to raise budget levels. The fiscal 2020 budget will also run up against caps set by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
Trump said the new budget level comes as he's trying to rebuild the military.
"The last budget we had to go because of the military, we had to fix our military. Our military is in the process of being fixed, planes are being made, boat are being made, ships are being made, missiles, rockets, everything," Trump said. "Our nuclear is being brought to a level that nobody else can even imagine. Pray God we don't have to use it, that there will be nothing like what we have, there is nothing like what we have and that's why I did that."