Photo credit: U.S. Navy

In a 33-page document blasting former President Barack Obama’s “damage” to the military, Arizona Senator John McCain is calling for $430 billion in additional spending to the defense budget over the next five years. That figure would be more than $100 billion over the current budget cap that the 2011 Budget Control Act allows.

McCain’s recommendations call for a $640 billion defense budget for 2018, including nuclear activities in the Department of Energy, which is $54 billion more than Obama budgeted. Basically, he wants to bloat an existing budget that is already bigger than the next eight nations’ defense spending combined, and one that critics have blasted as wasting as $125 billion in bureaucratic spending, according to The Washington Post. Americans are generally split over defense spending; one third of Americans want more spending while another third believes less is needed, according to Gallop.

McCain’s justification for boosting the armed forces pulls no punches in blaming the outgoing president (and his former opponent), according to the report:

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This deterioration of America’s global position has accelerated in recent years, in part, because the Obama administration’s defense strategy was built on a series of flawed assumptions. It assumed the United States could pull back from the Middle East and contain the threat of violent Islamist extremism. It assumed that “strategic patience” toward North Korea would improve conditions for negotiations and not exacerbate the threat. It assumed that a nuclear deal with Iran would moderate its regional ambitions and malign behavior. It assumed that U.S.-Russia relations could be “reset” into a partnership and that American forces in Europe could be reduced. It assumed that a minimal “rebalance” of efforts could deter China from using its rising power to coerce American partners and revise the regional order. And it assumed with the Budget Control Act of 2011 that defense spending could be cut significantly for a decade.

As such, McCain recommends that that the military should purchase:

  • 58 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and 16 more EA-18G Growlers
  • As many F-35Cs as possible, which is what the Navy is trying to do anyway
  • As many as 300 low cost, light attack fighters, even though he doesn’t specifically state what kinds those should be. Maybe propeller-powered Super Tucanos?
  • 18,000 more Marines, though he doesn’t go into much detail about why so many more are needed
  • A new bomber to replace the “geriatric” B-52, even though the B-52s are doing fine and are expected to serve well into the 2040s

McCain also wants to grow the Marine Corps from 182,000 to 200,00 by 2022, which would require at least 3,000 men and women per year. For the Army, he recommends adding 8,000 soldiers per year through 2022. The Air Force? McCain wants 20,000 more personnel over the next five years.

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When it comes to nuclear forces, McCain wants to maintain the New START treaty: 400 ICBMs, 240 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) on 12 nuclear submarines, and 60 strategic bombers. His plan includes replacing the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine with the USS Columbia. Also on the list is replaying the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM) with the Long Range Stand-off missile (LRSO) for the bomber force.

The increases stated here will largely be attributed to Russia and China. Moscow has been modernizing its nuclear arsenal as of late. And China has been growing its military capabilities in the South China Sea, as Foxtrot Alpha previously reported. Throughout his paper, McCain stressed that both nations pose national security risks to the United States and he is correct.

The major snag in his request will be repealing the Budget Control Act, which he primarily blames for a dearth in defense spending, though the BCA was a direct result of his own party’s action, after one of the many times they threatened not to raise the debt ceiling unless they got their way. He’ll also face opposition from the Democrats, and they may actually have a legitimate argument. As Lawrence J. Korb, who served as assistant secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan wrote in The Hill, no amount of money can buy you “perfect security” and he believes the current budget is more than enough if spent properly.

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Even so, Korb did say McCain’s recommendations bring up some “good points”, such as:

First, the Navy should develop a high-low mix of air craft carriers by building smaller conventionally powered carriers, not simply continuing to only build $15 billion nuclear powered Ford class super carriers. Second, the Air Force needs to reduce the total number of F-35s that it plans to buy from its projected level of 1,732, which McCain correctly claims is unrealistic.

Third, the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), or war fighting budget—half of which funds items having nothing to do with the wars in the Middle East or in Afghanistan—should be shifted into the regular budget when the Budget Control Act is repealed. Fourth, the senator proposes stopping production of the poorly conceived and managed Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) at 28, as opposed to the Navy’s goal of 52.

With President Trump’s vows to strengthen America’s Armed Forces and Republicans controlling both chambers of Congress, McCain may get exactly what he asks for—and then some.