December 4, 2018 / 3:42 PM / in 11 days

U.S. defense budget below $733 billion would increase risk: official

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon’s pick to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday that a budget below $733 billion for fiscal year 2020 would increase the risk to the military.

“Anything below $733 (billion) would increase risk and that risk would be manifested across the force,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We are in the process now, very carefully across the department, examining the details of what the nature of that risk would be,” he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump, faced with a budget deficit at a six-year high, has told his Cabinet to come up with proposals to cut spending by their agencies by 5 percent, but he suggested the military would be largely spared.

In October Trump was asked whether the Pentagon would need to meet the 5 percent target and he suggested it would largely get a pass.

“We know what the new budget is for the Defense Department. It will probably be $700 billion dollars,” Trump said. “It’s defense. It’s very important.”

In August, Trump signed a $716 billion defense policy bill. A reduction to $700 billion would mark a cut of under 3 percent. The Pentagon had been expecting to make a defense budget request of $733 billion for fiscal year 2020.

Trump on Monday said he would discuss military developments with his counterparts from China and Russia in the future, in the hopes of ending what he described as an arms race with the countries.

“I am certain that, at some time in the future, President Xi and I, together with President Putin of Russia, will start talking about a meaningful halt to what has become a major and uncontrollable Arms Race. The U.S. spent 716 Billion Dollars this year. Crazy!” Trump wrote in a tweet, the day after he returned from the Group of 20 meeting in Argentina.

Trump did not provide further details.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio

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