Suggestions, but Little Detail

Both leading presidential candidates are expected to increase defense spending, though neither has detailed their plans, a group of budget experts agreed during a panel discussion Monday. During the event hosted by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said her organization has considered how the candidates’ various proposals would affect the national debt and “on the area of defense, there just isn’t the specificity at all to be able to figure out what would happen to the budget under either” a Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton administration. She noted that Trump has said defense spending needs to be increased, but that waste needs to be removed. Clinton, she said, has said she wants the sequester to be removed as long as it’s paid for. But neither has presented an actual plan, MacGuineas said. “There are a lot of important differences between those two candidates. I’m not sure this is one of them,” Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution senior fellow who moderated the panel and noted he supported Clinton, said. “I don’t know that there is any great specificity in either candidate’s defense platform. I think both would like to argue that they’re improving the military.” O’Hanlon said he expects both candidates to spend “a bit more” and increase the size of the military, but noted his expectations were “just a guess because, as you know, this campaign is not producing quite as many specifics on every policy issue as we sometimes get.” Former Pentagon comptroller Robert Hale, now a Booz Allen Hamilton fellow, said he expects defense spending would be similar under either candidate and that he expects a slight increase from current levels due to current threats.