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  1. Military

Trump seeks 11 percent SOCom budget increase

President Donald Trump's proposed military budget includes a nearly 11 percent spending increase for U.S. Special Operations Command headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base.

The measure, if approved by Congress, would bump up the command's budget by 10.9 percent, from a total of $12.3 billion in Fiscal Year 2018 to $13.6 billion, according to Navy Lt. Phillip Chitty, a SOCom spokesman. The proposed budget includes a $9.1 billion base and an additional $4.6 billion in war funding.

SOCom is responsible for fielding trained and equipped Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Green Berets, Delta Force, Marine Raiders and Air Force commandos while providing billions of dollars a year in special operations-specific good and services.

One of the largest proposed increases is in SOCom's procurement budget, which would jump nearly 40 percent to $3.1 billion.

The request, however, would see a 6.5 percent decrease in the amount of money spent on research, development, testing and evaluation, to $602 million. The President's proposal also calls for a 45 percent cut in military construction, to $357 million.

In it's rollout of the proposed $686 billion Defense Department budget, Pentagon officials say it allows SOCom to focus on "delivering innovative, low-cost, small footprint solutions" to "achieve the nation's current and future security objectives."

In addition to providing forces for the use of commanders like Army Gen. Joseph Votel of U.S. Central Command, also headquartered at MacDill, SOCom is responsible for coordinating actions against violent extremist organizations and countering weapons of mass destruction.

While SOCom's overall readiness is healthy, according to the budget document, there have been concerns. The command's efforts to sustain counterterrorism, including training, advising and assisting missions, and a crisis response capability, have reduced efforts to modernize the force.

The FY 2019 budget request will allow Special Operations Forces to "improve its technological superiority and revitalize essential recapitalization and modernization programs," according to the budget document introduced Monday.

Another long-standing concern for SOCom has been an unyielding demand for commandos, which has lead to a great strain on the force of nearly 70,000.

To deal with that, the Pentagon is working to maintain a healthier deployment rate, including recruiting and retaining highly skilled personnel to assist.

The proposed budget also continues the command's investment in several critical mission areas — intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft, precision strike and specialized air mobility, largely in the form of new model C-130 gunships and transports and CV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft.

Contact Howard Altman at haltman@tampabay.com or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.

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