The U.S. military is “depleted.” It urgently needs more planes, ships, troops and nuclear weapons, to ensure American predominance in the world.
Echoing concerns of many Republicans, Trump argues that the military is too small to accomplish its assigned missions. He would increase the size of the active-duty Army to 540,000. The current total is 475,000 soldiers, which is due to shrink to 460,000 by the end of the current budget year in September 2017. He also would put the Navy on track to increasing its active-duty fleet to 350 ships, compared to the current Navy plan of growing from today’s 272 ships to 308 sometime after 2020. He has not said how he would pay for these increases, other than calling for an audit of the Pentagon’s books and economizing in broad ways like “reducing duplicative bureaucracy.”
He has asserted that the U.S. military has fallen dangerously behind Russia in nuclear capability. This does not square with the facts, and Trump has demonstrated only a limited knowledge of U.S. nuclear weapons. The implication of his remarks is that he would endorse the Obama administration’s embrace of a complete modernization of the nuclear arsenal, and perhaps even accelerate it. He has suggested that the nuclear arms treaty negotiated by the Obama administration during Clinton’s tenure at the State Department, known as New START, has put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage.
He says he would work with Congress to repeal what Washington calls “sequestration,” or across-the-board budget cuts. Without that repeal, or other legislative action to stabilize the defense budget, Trump would have little or no room for the kinds of increased spending he has proposed. He has promised, for example, to invest unspecified amounts in a “serious” missile defense network to protect the United States from potential long-range missile strikes from North Korea and Iran.
He says his administration would “crush and destroy” the Islamic State group, arguing that his approach would be more aggressive and more effective than Obama’s. The outlines of his plan, however, are similar to what the Obama administration has been trying to do. Trump says he would pursue “international cooperation to cut off” the extremists’ funding, expand intelligence sharing with allies and partner nations, and use cyberwarfare to “disrupt and disable their propaganda and recruiting.”