| WASHINGTON, March 16
WASHINGTON, March 16 President Donald Trump is
asking Congress to give the Pentagon about $2 billion for a
"flexible" fund to use against Islamic State over the next six
months, as his administration weighs changes to the U.S.-led
campaign against the militant group.
Trump is also seeking to upgrade long-underfunded facilities
at the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay detention center in Cuba
that Trump's Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama,
unsuccessfully sought to close during his eight-year
"It doesn't seem like we are going to close it anytime
soon," John Roth, the acting Pentagon comptroller, told a
Pentagon news briefing, explaining the move.
The proposals were part of a $30 billion supplemental
request to Congress to add more money to the Pentagon's budget
during the government's ongoing fiscal year, which began under
the Obama administration and ends in September.
It includes plans to crank up U.S. funding for the fight
against Islamic State militants for items like high-tech bombs
and defenses against insurgents' drones, bringing overall
spending on the campaign to the highest level yet, the Pentagon
"This will likely be our largest request," Roth said.
One analyst called the $2 billion flexible spending request
a Pentagon "slush fund," and many lawmakers were expected to be
reluctant to loosen oversight over how the Pentagon spends
What Trump's additional funding might mean for America's
evolving war strategy against Islamic State in the coming months
was not immediately clear.
But the request comes as U.S.-backed forces in Iraq and
Syria are entering a critical phase in their campaign to retake
Islamic State's two biggest cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in
Syria. Trump's administration is weighing deployment of more
The heads of the top U.S. congressional committees that
oversee the Pentagon have criticized Trump's 2018 budget
request, saying even more money was needed.
"It is clear to virtually everyone that we have cut our
military too much and that it has suffered enormous damage,"
said Republican Representative Mac Thornberry, chairman of the
House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
Todd Harrison at the Center for Strategic and International
Studies think tank in Washington questioned whether Trump's
budget wish list could muster enough support among Democrats,
whose votes would be needed to sign off on the spending bills
given the slim Republican hold on the Senate.
MORE CASH FOR GUANTANAMO
Trump said during the election campaign that he not only
wanted to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention center open but
"load it up with some bad dudes."
Trump's $5.1 billion "overseas contingency operations"
request included a provision for $1.1 billion in additional
funds for a range of Pentagon projects, including "planning and
design of construction projects in support of Detention
Operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
The prison, which was opened by Republican President George
W. Bush to hold terrorism suspects captured overseas after the
Sept. 11, 2001, attacks came to symbolize harsh detention
practices that opened the United States to accusations of
Obama reduced the inmate population to 41, but fell short of
fulfilling his promise to close the jail.
The 2017 request would also hike spending for the broader
Defense Department over the next six months, with $24.9 billion
more sought to "readiness needs" after years of complaints over
congressionally imposed spending caps.
Lockheed Martin would be one of the biggest
beneficiaries of that proposal. Some $13.5 billion would be
spent on more military hardware, including five F-35 warplanes
as well as Army Blackhawk helicopters made by Sikorsky Aircraft,
a Lockheed subsidiary.
Trump also wants 12 interceptors for the THAAD missile
defense system. The United States is now deploying THAAD in
South Korea in response to North Korea's ballistic missile and
Boeing would also gain with $2.4 billion for an
additional 24 of its F/A-18 E/F jet fighters.
A further $7.2 billion would pay for things like military
training, cyber and intelligence capabilities and support for
(Additional reporting by Idrees Ali and Matt Spetalnick;
Editing by Peter Cooney)