Trump to ask for US$716 billion in defense spending in 2019 budget: US officials

US President Donald Trump waves before boarding the Air Force One at Zurich Airport in Zurich on Jan 26, 2018, after attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.
US President Donald Trump waves before boarding the Air Force One at Zurich Airport in Zurich on Jan 26, 2018, after attending the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump is expected to ask for US$716 billion (S$936 billion) in defense spending in the 2019 budget he is to unveil next month, two US officials said on Friday (Jan 26), representing a 7 per cent increase over the 2018 budget.

The US$716 billion would cover the Pentagon's annual budget as well as spending on ongoing wars and the maintenance of the US nuclear arsenal. The 2018 budget still has not passed through Congress, the US officials said on condition of anonymity.

One of the officials said the request would closely follow the priorities unveiled by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday in the National Defense Strategy.

Mattis put countering China and Russia at the center of the new National Defense Strategy.

The Pentagon's unclassified, 11-page version of the National Defense Strategy did not provide details on how the shift towards countering China and Russia would be carried out, but defense spending requests were expected to reflect that aim.

The US military's competitive edge has eroded "in every domain of warfare" Mattis said, partly because of inconsistent funding.

Congress voted on Monday (Jan 22) to end a three-day US government shutdown, approving the latest short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted promises from Republicans for a broad debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

The Washington Post published the figures for the president's budget request earlier on Friday afternoon.