SPEAKING in the White House Rose Garden in May, Donald Trump described the $19.9bn increase in defence spending for 2017 (agreed upon seven months late after much wrangling) as “massive and badly needed”. It would soon be followed, he promised, by further boosts to the Pentagon’s funding. “We’re going to have the finest equipment of all types—whether it’s aeroplanes, or ships or equipment in general—that we’ve ever had in the history of our country,” he said. Mr Trump has promised to expand the navy from 275 ships to 350, the army from 476,000 active-duty soldiers to 540,000 and to give the air force hundreds of additional fighter jets.

As Jim Mattis, the defence secretary, and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, went in to fight for next year’s defence budget before a clutch of congressional committees, a different picture emerged. The president’s budget request for fiscal 2018, which begins in October, has been pitched at $603bn (with a base…Continue reading

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