President Trump is keeping his pledge to rebuild the American military — and his proposed defense budget for the next fiscal year proves it.
The White House is requesting a $740.5 billion defense budget for Fiscal Year 2021, which is about $2 billion higher than last year, and includes a sizable 3 percent pay raise for our men and women in uniform.
That pay raise would be among the largest in recent history, nearly matching the 3.1 percent salary increase included in President Trump’s FY 2020 defense budget. By contrast, military pay increases were negligible under Barack Obama, hovering between 1 and 2 percent for the final six years of his presidency. In fact, last year’s raise was almost twice as large as the average throughout Obama’s entire presidency.
Those who volunteer to serve in America’s Armed Forces make tremendous sacrifices for our country, such as enduring prolonged separations from their families while selflessly risking injury or death. In many cases, soldiers put off the start of their civilian careers in order to serve, reducing their lifetime earning potential. Starting pay is nonetheless shockingly low for enlisted men and women, with those in the lowest pay grade earning a meager $20,000 per year — below the federal poverty line for a family of three. No U.S. soldier should ever have to rely on food stamps to feed their families, as thousands did during the Obama administration, and President Trump is making sure they won’t have to.
In addition to the pay bump, the new budget also allocates $28.9 billion for nuclear modernization and $19.8 billion for nuclear security, an increase of nearly 20 percent for two critical functions that are often overlooked by Congress. While many Democrats argue that we should unilaterally draw down our nuclear stockpile in the hope that other countries will follow suit, President Trump recognizes that America’s nuclear weapons are actually a force for peace and stability in the world. Unless we develop a way to stop nuclear proliferation, the U.S. will always need to maintain a deterrent capability against would-be nuclear bullies.
That’s why spending money updating and modernizing our nuclear arsenal is such a wise investment. Keeping our existing weapons and delivery systems up-to-date and in serviceable condition will prevent the need to replace them in the future, and everybody should be able to agree that enhanced nuclear security is a worthwhile use of taxpayer dollars.
The President’s budget also includes $20 billion for missile defense and $18 billion to expand our military capabilities in space — investments that will make it possible for the U.S. to maintain a strategic advantage over our adversaries in all theaters of warfare. The same is true of the funding set aside in the budget for research into artificial intelligence, microelectronics, and hypersonic technology, which are pegged to receive a combined total of $6 billion.
Military strength and operational readiness serve as a powerful force for peace in the world. History has repeatedly shown that when other countries respect America’s military might, we can accomplish our foreign policy objectives through diplomatic means. It’s only when our military is undermanned, under-equipped, and under-funded that our enemies force war upon us.
As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump promised to rebuild America’s depleted military, take care of our soldiers and veterans, and increase investment in defense research and innovation.
“History shows that when America is not prepared is when the danger is greatest,” the President said in 2016, adding that his administration would “deter, avoid, and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military dominance.”
President Trump’s FY 2021 defense budget proves that he remains fully committed to this meaningful and impactful policy.
Brett Velicovich is a U.S. Army veteran and author of “Drone Warrior: An Elite Soldier’s Inside Account of the Hunt for America’s Most Dangerous Enemies”