Pentagon debuts boffo budget but a wall stands in its way of...

Pentagon debuts boffo budget but a wall stands in its way of applause

David Norquist, acting deputy defense secretary, begins a series of budget briefings at the Pentagon on Tuesday. (Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/DoD))

WASHINGTON — Biggest military pay raise in a decade!! Largest research budget in 70 years!! Largest ship-building request in 20 years!! Even a new ejection seat for fighters!!

Oh, and here and there, lots of military construction money to build a border wall. As ordered by the White House — and which dominated questions during most of the briefings.

As the Pentagon and the various services on Tuesday started guiding the media through the biggest military budget ever, the numbers showed the impact of the Trump administration on the consistent talking points.

Even the money once called a “slush fund” by the current acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney — the OCO, or Overseas Contingency Operations, fund — expands like a Pentagon observation blimp from World War I, from $69 billion to $165 billion.

The OCO is the unchecked fund to pay for wars overseas. Yet only $25.4 billion of that $165 billion goes to that purpose. The other money is for support and ammo and readiness that are “financed in the OCO budget due to the limits on the base budget defense resources under the budget caps in current law,” defense officials said Tuesday.

In other words, budget restrictions did not permit those higher amounts in the regular defense budget, thus the maneuver to seek funds in the uncapped special fund.

Then there is a $9.2 billion request for emergency money — also distinct from the formal Pentagon money coffers. That breaks down to $2 billion to repair damage to bases in Florida and North Carolina smacked by hurricanes Florence and Michael, $3.6 billion to build barriers — i.e., “the wall” — along the U.S.-Mexico border and another $3.6 billion to restore projects that had their money whisked way this year for the same wall project, defense officials told reporters Tuesday.

The $165 billion request for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund is the biggest since the $187 billion provided in fiscal 2008. That when the U.S. had 187,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan; today there are about 17,000 in those two countries.

Research and development gets a big boost in the budget request, coming in at $104.3 billion — the most sought by the Pentagon.

Other key areas include $14.1 billion for space system needs; $9.6 billion for enhanced offensive and defensive cyberspace operations; $2.6 billion in hypersonics research for Air Force prototypes and Navy- and Army-launched “Conventional Prompt Strike” missiles; $927 million for artificial intelligence and machine learning, and $1.3 billion toward “detail design and construction” contract for the first new Navy frigate.

In weapons areas, some key line items are $11.2 billion for 78 F-35 jets, six fewer than slated for 2019; $3 billion for continued development of the B-21 bomber, up from $2.2 billion for this year; $2.6 billion to start building the third and fourth aircraft carriers in the Gerald R. Ford-class program — even while the Navy said it would retire the Harry S. Truman carrier earlier than planned.

Of the $750 billion in total allocated for national security, $718 billion of that is designated for the Pentagon. Of the latter amount, $205.6 billion is for the Navy (including the Marine Corps), a $9.95 billion increase from this year; $204.8 billion to the Air Force, up $11.8 billion; $191.4 billion to the Army, up $12.5 billion, and $116.6 billion across the defense spectrum, $930 million.

By category, the breakout is $104.3 billion for research, development, test and evaluation; $155.8 billion for military personnel; $143.1 billion to procurement; $292.7 to operations and maintenance, and $22.5 billion goes to military construction and family housing.

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