The Trump administration’s wish list for fiscal year 2019 — a “messaging document” to Congress, as described by Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney — proposes boosts in counterterrorism funding while reflecting a strategic shift in focus over at the Defense Department.
The budget request provides an increase of $148 million for the FBI “to continue to carry out its important dual missions of enforcing the nation’s laws and protecting national security,” states the White House. This includes a proposed cost-sharing agreement between the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security for the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center at Fort Detrick, Md.
The National Security Division at the Justice Department, which is instrumental in obtaining FISA authorizations and counterterrorism collaboration with the National Security Branch of the FBI, the Intelligence Community and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, would receive $5 million more than its 2017 funding level “to continue expanding coordination between the federal intelligence communities to combat terrorism.”
The administration is seeking $46 billion in discretionary appropriations for DHS, which amounts to a $3.4 billion or 8 percent increase from 2017 funding, with heavy investments in border security.
The State Department, long a target for funding cuts under the Trump administration, is on the chopping block in the FY2019 proposal, which wants to slash diplomatic and foreign aid spending by 29 percent.
The White House noted in their budget summary that State and USAID support “the global strategy to defeat ISIS and other terrorist organizations, in coordination with the Global Coalition working to defeat ISIS as well as other partner countries.”
“The budget provides targeted assistance to address sources of regional instability and support partner country efforts to re-establish security and stability within their borders,” the document adds. Among that is a request for $80 million in Foreign Military Financing assistance to enhance Pakistan’s counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capabilities if Islamabad meets certain conditions.
In Kuwait a week ago for a ministerial meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asked about the potential effect of the proposed cuts, including slashing the National Endowment for Democracy by two-thirds.
“I think the Trump administration and the OMB takes a different view of being more disciplined about how we budget and how we request funds, and ensure that we’re able to deploy those funds in a very productive way, and deploy them quickly. I don’t think the American people want their tax dollars tied up, sitting idly because we’re unable to fully execute programs,” Tillerson said. “So we’re confident that we have the resources we need to execute against the president’s foreign policy objectives.”
Tillerson noted that the global coalition “has made outstanding progress, but the fight is not over” as “ISIS’s so-called caliphate in Iraq and Syria has crumbled, but ISIS remains a very determined enemy and is not yet defeated.”
“We remain committed to destroying ISIS wherever it may be, denying its ability to recruit, move foreign terrorist fighters, transfer funds, and spread their false propaganda across the internet and other social media vehicles,” he added.
When it comes to trying to cut off the cash flow, the Treasury Department would get $12.3 billion in base discretionary resources for domestic programs, a $392 million or 3 percent decrease from the 2017 enacted level, while prioritizing “resources to combat terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and other forms of illicit finance.” FinCEN’s funding would be increased by $3 million and the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) would see a $36 million boost.
The White House doesn’t mention the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which in October revealed that the amount appropriated by Congress for the National Intelligence Program in fiscal year 2017 was $54.6 billion, including overseas contingency operations. “Beyond the disclosure of the NIP top-line figure, there will be no other disclosures of currently classified NIP budget information because such disclosures could harm national security,” ODNI said.
Pentagon officials last week noted some counterterrorism allocations, while stressing that the National Defense Strategy declares “interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”
The Army’s 2019 OCO budget request totals $33.7 billion, including military personnel, operations and maintenance, research and development and acquisition, and supports Operation Freedom’s Sentinel battling ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan, Operation Spartan Shield monitoring Middle East threats from Kuwait, and Operation Inherent Resolve fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The OCO request also supports the European Deterrence Initiative and global counterterrorism operations.
The budget proposal allocates $5.2 billion for the Afghan Security Forces fund and $1.4 billion for counter-ISIS training and equipping.
“This budget request funds ongoing counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations around the globe,” said Army budget director Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain. “It also funds counterterrorism and counter-insurgency training, ensuring the competencies mastered over the past decade and a half of fighting are sustained.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Brian Luther noted in a separate press conference that the Navy-Marine Corps procurement budget request “provides for munitions such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance systems and Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System rockets used to combat ISIS, five-inch 54 [caliber] rounds for cruisers and destroyers, and 155-millimeter precision-guided artillery used by the Marine Corps.”
“The current NDS states interstate strategic competition and not terrorism is now the primary concern in U.S. national security, and directs departments to build a lethal joint force sufficient to sustain American influence and ensure favorable balances of power that safeguard the free and open international order,” Luther said. “…Long-term strategic competition is the principle priority for the department, and require increases in sustained investment.”
The NDS cites China, Russia and North Korea as strategic competitors, while acknowledging that “despite the defeat of ISIS’s physical caliphate, threats to stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the innocent and threaten peace more broadly.”