McCain Proposes Plan To Completely Reverse Obama’s Defense Sequester

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U.S. Senators John McCain, Arizona; Saxy Chambliss, Georgia; and Lindsey Graham, South Carolina; tour the Kirkuk Police Academy in northeastern Iraq as part of a congressional delegation. The senators visited military leaders in the region as part of a fact-finding mission, Nov. 23, 2007.
DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Margaret Nelson

Sen. John McCain’s relationship with the president-elect got off to a rocky start, but now the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman seems to be warming up to the idea of a Trump presidency. Or, at least, he sees an opportunity to capitalize on it. On Jan. 16, McCain called for a $430 billion boost to the defense budget over the next five years that would, in theory, reverse the defense sequester put into effect by the Obama administration.


In a 33-page white paper, “Restoring American Power,” McCain argues that the U.S. military has atrophied over the past eight years, and that it is no longer capable of effectively combating terrorism or deterring — and, if necessary, waging war against — our nation’s more conventional adversaries, like Russia, North Korea, and China.

“Reversing this budget-driven damage to our military must be a top priority for national leaders,” McCain said. “President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to ‘fully eliminate the defense sequester’ and ‘submit a new budget to rebuild our military.’ This cannot happen soon enough. The damage that has been done to our military over the past eight years will not be reversed in one year.”

The $430 billion, which would be spent in $85 billion annual increments, would be dispersed across the armed forces.

If McCain’s plan was implemented, the size of the Army would increase to over 500,000 active-duty soldiers by 2022, while the Marine Corps would grow at a pace of 3,000 additional Marines per year over the next five years. The plan also calls for 81 ships to be added to the Navy fleet, and proposes purchasing 73 additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters for the Air Force. (These are just a few of the highlights of the proposed plan. It can be read in full here.)  

“Let’s be clear: the United States military is still the greatest fighting force in the world,” McCain wrote in an August 2016 op-ed for Task & Purpose. “But these arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration are crippling force modernization, undercutting training and putting the lives of American service members at greater risk. This is all happening as the threats around the world — and to the homeland — are growing.”

Related: The shrinking military budget is killing our readiness >>

However, as Defense News notes, McCain and Trump don’t see completely eye-to-eye when it comes to the role America’s military should play in the world. Although Trump has vowed to defeat terrorism, he’s long been critical of boots-on-the-ground intervention abroad (i.e., the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan). McCain, on the other hand, remains firmly committed to combating terrorism and deterring our nation’s enemies through the conventional strategies the American military has relied upon since the end of the Second World War.

“When reconsidering global force posture, one option should clearly be off the table: a large-scale reduction in forward-stationed or forward-deployed forces that the United States relies upon around the world,” McCain said. “We have run this experiment over the past eight years: The United States withdrew forces in Europe and the Middle East, and the resulting vacuum was filled with chaos, the malign influence of our adversaries, and threats to our nation.”

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Both sides appeared to be close to reaching an agreement in September until the Taliban took credit for an attack that killed Army Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. That prompted President Donald Trump to angrily cancel a planned summit with the Taliban that had been scheduled to take place at Camp David, Maryland, on Sept. 8.

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