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Trump to ask for $716 billion in defense spending in 2019 budget: U.S. officials

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to ask for $716 billion in defense spending in the 2019 budget he is to unveil next month, two U.S. officials said on Friday, representing a 7 percent increase over the 2018 budget.

The $716 billion would cover the Pentagon’s annual budget as well as spending on ongoing wars and the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The 2018 budget still has not passed through Congress, the U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity.

One of the officials said the request would closely follow the priorities unveiled by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Friday in the National Defense Strategy.

Mattis put countering China and Russia at the center of the new National Defense Strategy.

The Pentagon’s unclassified, 11-page version of the National Defense Strategy did not provide details on how the shift towards countering China and Russia would be carried out, but defense spending requests were expected to reflect that aim.

The U.S. military’s competitive edge has eroded “in every domain of warfare” Mattis said, partly because of inconsistent funding. Congress voted on Monday to end a three-day U.S. government shutdown, approving the latest short-term funding bill as Democrats accepted promises from Republicans for a broad debate later on the future of young illegal immigrants.

The Washington Post published the figures for the president’s budget request earlier on Friday afternoon.

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Mohammad Zargham; editing by David Alexander and Cynthia Osterman