3 False Claims From Trump’s Naval Academy Speech
Posted May 25, 2018 4:20 p.m. EDT
In a commencement speech on Friday, President Donald Trump told graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, that the military had received “no money” before him and that troops had just received their first pay raise in 10 years.
WHAT WAS SAID
“We have ended the disastrous defense sequester. No money for the military, those days are over.”
Technically, Trump did not repeal the defense sequester, which refers to limits placed on military spending enacted in 2011. Congress effectively erased mandated caps in February, but that doesn’t mean that the military received “no money” at all before then.
In 2011, in response to a debt ceiling crisis, lawmakers reached a bipartisan agreement to reduce deficits by at least $2.1 trillion over the next decade. In addition to limits on domestic spending, limits were placed on the Pentagon’s base budget, but not its wartime spending.
Congress increased spending caps by $32 billion in 2013 and $40 billion in 2015, referred to by budget watchers as “partial sequester relief.” In February, the cap was blown off entirely, when Trump signed a budget deal that raised it by $165 billion over two years. Effectively, that ended the sequester without repealing the original law.
From 2012 to 2017, the Pentagon’s annual budget had decreased as a percent of the economy. But it still hovered around $600 billion — a far cry from “no money” at all.
U.S. military spending has consistently outstripped the rest of the world’s. In fact, it has been higher than the next seven to 11 countries combined since 2012, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
WHAT WAS SAID
“Very soon, you’re going to have 355 beautiful ships — 355. That’s almost a couple hundred more ships.”
In 2016, the U.S. Navy had 275 active ships in its fleet. Trump’s plans to increase that number to 355 would amount to just 80 more.
His claim that the Navy would have a larger fleet “very soon” is also inaccurate. In a February news conference, Rear Adm. Brian Luther estimated that the Navy expected to reach 326 ships by the 2023 fiscal year and 355 by the 2050s — decades after Trump’s potential second term in office.
WHAT WAS SAID
“We just got you a big pay raise, first time in 10 years.”
Troops have received a pay raise every year for the past 10 years, and nearly every year since 1945. In the past decade, the increases have ranged from 1 percent in 2014 and 2015 to 3.9 percent in 2009.
The last time the military did not receive a pay raise was in 1983. And that was because the raise became effective at the start of the 1984 calendar year, rather than the fiscal year, which started in October 1983, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Military pay increases are, by law, tied to the employment cost index, which measures private-sector wages — although the president or Congress can ask for more or less.
Congress enacted a pay increase of 2.4 percent in 2018, and 2.1 percent in 2017 — though Trump’s budgets requested lower figures. The White House requested a 2.9 pay raise for 2019. That legislation passed the House, and the Senate is working on its version.
— Sources: Congressional Research Service, the Navy, the Pentagon, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute