White House asks Congress for $5 billion now to ramp up ISIS fight

WASHINGTON — President Trump is asking Congress to provide an immediate $30 billion funding boost for the Pentagon, with $5 billion of it earmarked to quicken the pace of the fight against the Islamic State, according to documents released Thursday.

The rest of the cash for the remainder of this fiscal year is characterized as a downpayment on rebuilding the military by funding “critical budget shortfalls” for troops, training, weapons and building projects. The spending would be partially offset by $18 billion in cuts to other non-defense programs. The White House did not specify where those cuts should be made, asking Congress to make the reductions.

“It represents a critical first step in investing in a larger, more ready, and more capable military force,” Mick Mulvaney, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

The $5 billion of additional money to fight the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or ISIS, has four components: a $2 billion “flexible fund” that would allow the Pentagon to press the “new counter-ISIS strategy” that has yet to be announced; $1.4 billion for “urgent operational needs” that include “precision-guided” bombs and missiles, spy and surveillance capabilities and “countermeasures against ISIS’s lethal drone program.”

ISIS militants have fashioned drones into offensive weapons, although the military already has deployed technology to jam the guidance system of the unmanned aircraft.

The supplemental budget also beefs up spending for the war in Afghanistan by $1.1 billion. Army Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, told Congress last month he needs “a few thousand more troops” for the mission to train and advise local security forces. That request also includes additional funds to plan and design construction projects at the military’s detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Former president Barack Obama failed in his promise to close that prison, which houses dozens of detainees.

A major portion of the request, $13.1 billion, would buy more military hardware. On this year’s shopping list: Army Apache and Blackhawk helicopters, F-35 and F/18 fighter aircraft, drones, missile interceptors and more money to build a Navy destroyer.

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