Sources: Mattis tells Hill Trump budget won’t fully rebuild military

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Mattis clarifies USS Carl Vinson confusion 01:00Story highlightsThe Trump administration is seeking $603 billion for the Pentagon in its budget requestRepublican defense hawks say the funding level is too low to rebuild the militaryWashington (CNN)Defense Secretary James Mattis has privately told Congress the Trump administration’s Pentagon budget request isn’t sufficient to cover the cost of rebuilding the military as President Donald Trump has vowed to do, four sources familiar with the conversations told CNN.

Trump has repeatedly said he would rebuild the military with a massive defense spending increase, but the funding planned for next year’s budget is less than what the Pentagon sought, according to sources with knowledge of the deliberations.Mattis is not publicly raising concerns about the $603 billion Pentagon budget plan, aligning himself with the White House’s decision, though it’s a stance that’s sparking frustration from some Republican defense hawks in Congress. But the Pentagon’s private assessment matches lawmakers’ public criticisms of Trump’s budget plan.”Mattis continues to express to members of the Armed Services Committees that he’s being thwarted getting his message out that $603 billion is insufficient to do what Trump has called for,” said a Republican lawmaker, who requested anonymity to speak candidly about internal deliberations.Trump has said he wants to boost the military by adding tens of thousands more Army soldiers, grow to a 350-ship Navy and add supply the Air Force with more fighter jets.Read More”Our military is building and is rapidly becoming stronger than ever before. Frankly, we have no choice!” Trump tweeted Sunday. The military, in fact, is still operating under spending levels approved by Congress while President Barack Obama was in office.RELATED: Pentagon begins review of nuclear weapons policyIn a statement, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Badger said, “We expect Congress will work with the administration to fund much of our additional (fiscal) 2017 budget request. The secretary and the service chiefs highlighted the readiness needs of the armed forces in their recent testimony. That has not changed.”While the White House has touted its $603 billion defense budget as a 10% increase of $54 billion, Republican defense hawks say the White House’s math doesn’t add up. They argue the defense budget is actually about 3% more than the $584 billion that the Obama administration was already planning for in 2018, and that it falls short of the $640 billion that Republicans like Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain of Arizona insist is needed for the military.In closed-door conversations with the defense committees, Mattis has been asked if the funding was sufficient for a rebuilding on that scale. The secretary has told lawmakers a rebuild is not possible, one of the sources said, with the increase only enough to dig out of the military’s readiness holes caused by budget constraints over the past several years.Politically, it’s difficult for Mattis to push for more funding in the Trump budget. The Pentagon was the only agency that received an increase in Trump’s budget plan, with all other agencies getting significant cuts that have been slammed by Democrats and some Republicans.Even as Republican lawmakers push for a higher defense budget, the Trump administration’s budget plan faces major hurdles — including lifting the 2011 budget caps for defense, which Democrats have long blocked so long as they don’t receive equal increases for domestic spending.There’s also some doubts the military really faces the readiness crisis Pentagon leaders have warned of, with former Obama Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale saying in February to be skeptical because the military services were putting their “worst foot forward.” RELATED: US official: With eye on North Korea, China puts bombers on ‘high alert’As the Trump administration prepared its budget outline in January and February, Mattis told the President the Pentagon needed funding at or near the levels that McCain and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas have called for.But the Pentagon chief was overruled by another member of Trump’s team, budget chief Mick Mulvaney, according to two sources familiar with the deliberations.Now head of the Office of Management and Budget, Mulvaney was a fiscal hawk in the House who often clashed with his Republican colleagues over his efforts targeting defense spending.After Mattis made his case to Trump, Mulvaney convinced the President that the budget should not add to the deficit, which was how the administration landed at the $603 billion number. In a statement, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Eric Badger said,

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