End the defense sequester

“As soon as I take office I will ask Congress to fully eliminate the defense sequester and will submit a new budget to rebuild our military. It is so depleted. We will rebuild our military.”

PolitiFact is tracking the promises of President Donald Trump. See them all at


White House budget requests funding to end defense sequester

President Donald Trump's first official budget calls for ending the defense sequester and increasing military spending — but he needs Congress to sign off on the plan in order to keep his promise.

Several years ago, Congress set up automatic spending cuts, known as "sequestration," amid failing negotiations among lawmakers and Barack Obama's administration over the federal debt limit and government spending. About half of the cuts hit defense.

The Trump administration's fiscal year 2018 budget, released May 23, bypasses current caps on spending and requests $639 billion for defense programs, a $54 billion increase from current levels.

The budget says that the world has become more dangerous since sequestration began in 2013, yet the military has become smaller and less prepared.

"The president's budget ends this depletion and begins to rebuild the U.S. Armed Forces, laying the groundwork for a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force consistent with a new national defense strategy," the document says.

The White House Office of Management and Budget says the funds could pay for 56,400 more soldiers or dozens of new fighter aircraft and ships.

But the White House budget is just a proposal. Congress alone has the power to appropriate funds.

That said, the document reflects Trump's priorities, including ending the defense sequester. Until Congress decides whether it will grant Trump's request, this promise remains In the Works.


White House Office of Management and Budget, "A New Foundation For American Greatness Fiscal Year 2018," May 23, 2017

Trump's proposed budget would blast through defense spending caps

President Donald Trump has proposed a significant increase in defense spending as he promised on the campaign trail -- though fully keeping his promise will depend on what Congress does to implement his vision.

Here's the backstory: In 2011, the federal government was nearing its legal debt limit, which meant that Congress had to authorize a higher level for borrowing. House Republicans insisted that spending cuts be passed alongside an increase to the debt limit. However, the negotiations fell apart, and Republicans and Democrats came to a less ambitious debt-limit agreement, enacted as the Budget Control Act of 2011.

As an incentive to find further cuts, the law included an unusual budget threat: It set up automatic, across-the-board cuts, with half of those cuts hitting defense, if Congress couldn't agree on more cuts. These automatic cuts were known as "sequestration," or the "sequester." While the framework was intended to force action rather than set policy, it ended up going into effect after the two sides could not reach an agreement, and it has been in place ever since.

Trump's budget proposal "repeals the defense sequestration" by restoring $52 billion to the Defense Department, as well as $2 billion to other national defense programs outside defense. That works out to a $54 billion total increase above the budget cap.

"This increase alone exceeds the entire defense budget of most countries, and would be one of the largest one-year (Defense Department) increases in American history," the budget proposal said.

"He said he would ask, and he did," said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "Of course, nothing is done until legislation is passed."

Trump has taken a significant step in fulfilling this promise by proposing the elimination of the budget caps on defense, and by proposing a funding increase well beyond current levels. But most presidential budget proposals face intense scrutiny by lawmakers, who hold the key to their enactment. We rate this promise In the Works.


Office of Management and Budget, fiscal year 2018 presidential budget proposal, accessed March 27, 2017

Email interview with Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, March 24, 2017

Email interview with Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 24, 2017