WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan contradicted his commander-in-chief Thursday, saying the Pentagon does not plan to charge allies the entire costs plus 50 percent of maintaining U.S. troops on their soil.
Asked by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) if such a scheme would risk “driving our allies away from us,” Shanahan said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee: “We won’t do cost plus 50 percent.”
He said the plan, first reported by Bloomberg, was “erroneous” reporting. The report said the White House was considering the cost-plus-50 idea as one of several ways to have allies increase their share of costs.
“We’re not going to run a business, and we’re not going to run a charity. The important part is that people pay their fair share — and payment comes in lots of different forms. It can be contributions, like in Afghanistan,” Shanahan said. “But at the end of the day, people need to carry their fair share, and not everyone can contribute, but it is not about cost plus 50 percent.”
As a candidate and as president, President Donald Trump has insisted that allies pay what he calls their fair share of military costs. The Trump administration has been successful in securing pledges from NATO nations to spend at least 2 percent of their budgets on military needs.
The U.S. and South Korea recently reached agreement that will have Seoul pay for 93 percent of the $10.9 billion cost for Camp Humphrey. That is the new central base for U.S. forces on the Korean peninsula.
In regard to troops on the U.S.-Mexico border, Shanahan said that between 30 and 40 percent of the active forces “will be departing in the next month or so when they are completing their work there.”
About 4,000 active-duty troop and 2,000 reserve troops are supporting operations at the U.S.-Mexico border, Gen. Joe Dunford, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told committee members Thursday.