By Dan Wasserbly, America’s Editor at IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly
While there are significant unknowns about what Trump’s policies will actually be, his campaign’s stated defense plans appear close to mainstream Republican ideas.
Trump’s defense plans would be costly and he did not specify a top line for the budget that he would seek.
Removing the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) would be required to raise the national defense budget, and this could be done given Republican’s upcoming control of both chambers of Congress and the White House.
Still, Republican control of the Senate is by a thin margin and it is not certain that lawmakers are committed to removing the BCA.
Trump said he would seek to build an active-duty army of around 540,000 soldiers, a marine corps based on 36 battalions, a navy of 350 surface ships and submarines, an air force of at least 1,200 fighter aircraft, and a “state of the art” missile defense system.
(Donald Trump Gives Speech On Military Preparedness – Part 2, courtesy of Fox News via Wake Up America and YouTube)
Specifically, he proposed missile defense plans start navy cruisers as “the foundation of our missile defense capabilities in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East”, and said modernizing “a significant portion” of those cruisers could cost around USD220 million each.
The navy has quietly opposed such recommendations.
Trump has been highly critical of US operations against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, but has not specified a new strategy or proposed clear changes to the operation.
The future US military presence in Iraq is up to Trump as well as the Iraqi government.
For now the total authorized US military personnel for Iraq is around 5,250 troops, plus hundreds more are understood to be operating there on a ‘rotational’ basis through temporary duty assignments, but the number has been steadily increasing since US forces returned to Iraq in August 2014.
Interestingly, the United States’ longest-running war, to which massive resources continue to be funneled, was almost completely ignored during the election by both candidates.
US forces in Afghanistan are drawing down to about 8,400 personnel and those will include a mix of troops dedicated to counter-terrorism or to advising local units, as well as a pool of support ‘enablers’.
(On July 6th, President Barack Obama announced the United States would keep 8,400 troops in Afghanistan, a revision of earlier plans to draw down U.S. forces in the nation to 5,500 by end of his administration. Courtesy of Bloomberg Politics and YouTube)
In July outgoing President Barack Obama announced plans to withdraw about 1,400 US troops from Afghanistan by next year – a far smaller reduction than was planned – for a force of about 8,400.
This was necessary given the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ (ANDSF’s) serious struggles to maintain security gains.
From a security standpoint, the current strategy appears aimed at buttressing a troubled ANDSF long enough to stalemate Taliban fighters into some sort of political settlement, while using ‘direct action’ missions to hit terrorists groups, particularly al Qaeda, in the country.
But again, continuing this strategy will be up to Trump.
About the Author
Mr. Daniel Wasserbly serves as Americas Editor for IHS Jane’s, managing coverage of the United States, as well as North and South America.
His areas of expertise include U.S. military equipment, U.S. defense budgeting, and missile defense.