Trump Wants $54 Billion More for Defense — Here’s What That Money Could Buy

Photo by Getmilitaryphotos / Shutterstock.com

President Donald Trump is requesting a $54 billion increase in defense spending — a nearly 10 percent increase over the $582.7 billion budget former President Barack Obama proposed for the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2017.

The federal budget in 2016 was $4 trillion, so $54 billion would be just about 1.35 percent of the budget that year.

Nonetheless, the number is really too big to fully comprehend, so to make it more manageable, here’s what “We, the People,” might get for $54 billion in defense spending. For the sake of comparison, we’re going to throw in what we could do with that amount of money in non-defense spending, as well.

1. 570 F-35 Fighters

F-35
Staff Sgt. Darlene Seltmann / U.S. Air Force / Money Talks News

The F-35 Lighting II is the U.S. fighter jet of choice for the foreseeable future, replacing the stalwart F-16. Though its development was plagued by cost overruns and delays, the U.S. Marine Corps deployed its first squadron in July 2015, followed by the Air Force in August 2016. The base model — not the kind for short runways or aircraft carriers — is expected to cost about $94.6 million per plane, based on a lot that includes 55 jets for the United States and 35 for allied countries (which are paying for their own planes) to be delivered in 2018.

The U.S. plans to buy 2,457 of the planes.

2. Fund NASA for 2.7 years

Tony Gray / NASA / Money Talks News

NASA’s budget for 2017 was $19.5 billion, less than half of 1 percent of the federal budget. In an unrelated tip, if you want ring tones that no one else will have (save for people reading this story) go here.

3. 12 Zumwalt-class destroyers

U.S. Navy photo/ Money Talks News

The U.S. Navy’s newest class of vessel, the Zumwalt-class destroyer, looks a bit like it’s from the future, or maybe from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. The Navy was initially going to order 24 of the ships, but due to development cost overruns the order has been reduced to three ships at about $4.24 billion each.

Alternatively, the $54 billion could be applied to purchasing ammunition for one of the Zumwalt’s super high-tech guns. At a cost of $800,000 per shell, we could buy 67,500 of those.

4. Fund the National Park Service for 12.5 years

Damon Joyce / NPS /Money Talks News

This estimate is based on the fiscal year 2017 budget request of $4.3 billion, a figure that includes $3.1 billion in discretionary spending and $1.2 billion in mandatory spending.

5. Buy 1,500 years worth of Army ammo

U.S. Army photo / Money Talks News

The 5.56 mm round is most commonly used in the M-16 rifles, M-4 carbines and M-249 machine guns. According to U.S. Army budget documents, they cost $34.9 million in 2015, a figure that includes the standard ammunition used in training and combat, along with tracer rounds, test rounds and other types. The purchase is meant to procure ammunition to be used that year, along with some extra to maintain a war stockpile. At that rate of purchase, $54 billion worth would last 1,547 years. (Of course, that doesn’t account for the bullets used by other branches of the military.)

6. Prop up the U.S. Postal Service for a decade

Peter Titmuss / Shutterstock.com

Fewer and fewer people are sending mail, and the U.S. Postal Service is bleeding money. (The Postal Service relies on sale of postage, products and services — not tax dollars — to fund its operations.) At the current rate of loss — about $5.6 billion last year — $54 billion would be enough to keep the doors open for 9.6 years. That would not get people to start sending letters again, however.

7. Pay for just over half of a new ICBM system

Everett Historical / Shutterstock.com

We stopped building new nuclear weapons in the 1990’s, but the various branches of the military (mostly Air Force and Navy) continue to refurbish the existing stockpile. Designing and building a replacement for our roughly 450 aging Minuteman III missiles (land-based ICBMs that date to the 1970s) was recently reported to cost about $100 billion (it’s not clear over how long a period).

8. Fund the National Endowment for the Arts for 360 years

Jazz band
Nicky Burton Photo / Shutterstock.com

The NEA, an independent federal agency that funds arts education and projects that extend the arts to communities across the country, was appropriated $147.9 million in 2016.

9. 20 Virginia-class submarines

U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat / Money Talks News

The Virginia-class attack submarine was developed after the end of the Cold War, when military minds decided the Seawolf-class would be too expensive going forward. The pair of subs expected to be purchased this year will run about $2.7 billion each. There are 24 active of a planned 48, and they could remain in service as long as 2070.

10. A stack of $1 bills 3,666 miles high

Andy Dean Photography / Shutterstock.com

The really big rubber band to hold it all together would cost extra, but a stack of 54 billion $1 bills would be about 3,666 miles high. The International Space Station has an orbital height of about 205 miles. Geostationary satellites orbit at about 22,000 miles high, so it would be well below that. The moon is 238,855 miles away, so our money pile would only reach about 1.5 percent of the way there.

11. Buy 6,067 M1A2 Abrams tanks

Staff Sgt. Steve Cushman / U.S. Marine Corps / Money Talks News

Costs on this one are a bit difficult to pin down. In fiscal year 1999, they ran about $6.2 million apiece, so inflation-adjusted numbers would put the cost of one at $8.9 million each now. The military keeps buying and refurbishing these tanks, in part to keep the sole U.S. tank factory operating. As a consequence, the military has far more of these vehicles than needed.

12. Pay college tuition for 2.7 million students for a year

Tyler Olson / Shutterstock.com

The College Board estimates that the average tuition (undergraduate, public, in-state), fees, room and board for the 2016-17 school year was a bit more than $20,000. As of 2014, there were 17.3 million students enrolled in undergraduate programs in the United States. The years don’t match, but it gives us a ballpark figure that suggests the money would cover a bit more than 15 percent of students.

13. Buy 2,700 Predator drone packages

U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson / Money Talks News

These drones, according to the Air Force, come in units of four for $20 million, which includes the four drones with sensors, a ground control station and satellite link. The missiles it shoots are extra. There are currently 150 in service.

14. Fund 6.4 percent of needed U.S. road work

Vadim Ratnikov / Shutterstock.com

The American Society of Civil Engineers, in its 2017 report card, estimates the United States needs to come up with $836 billion to take care of a backlog of highway projects, including repairs to existing roads and bridges, as well expansion in some places. A $54 billion infusion could take care of a tidy chunk of the rebuilding and repair.

15. Salary for 2.8 million enlistees

Getmilitaryphotos / Shutterstock.com

The base pay for an E-1 (a private or airman or seaman who quite possibly walked out high school and into the recruiting office) is $19,198 per year. The various branches pay the same rate. We used the base pay for this, but that number doesn’t include things like a housing allowance, food allowance and medical care, which can make the total compensation package come closer to $40,000 per year.

16. 62 percent of Bill Gates’ stuff

JStone / Shutterstock.com

Bill Gates tops Forbes list of the world’s richest people with a net worth of $86.9 billion. The increased defense funding Trump is asking for would still leave Gates with a cool $32.9 billion, let’s hope he could manage on that.

17. Four Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers

Photographer’s Mate Airman Rob Gaston / U.S. Navy / Money Talks News

The first of the nuclear-powered Ford-class aircraft “supercarriers” is supposed to launch this year and has run up a cost of $12.9 billion. However, the Navy expects that future ships in the class — there are two currently planned — will each cost less. The cost, of course, doesn’t include the aircraft it will carry.

18. Mexican border wall, with change

Inked Pixels / Shutterstock.com

The true cost of Trump’s long-promised wall at the Mexican border is difficult to estimate. It depends on just what materials are used and its length. The secretary of the Homeland Security Department recently said it was unlikely it would be a true wall from “sea to shining sea.” Estimates for the wall have varied widely, from as low as $10 billion to as high as $49 billion. Either way, the $54 billion for defense spending would be more than enough to build the wall. Maybe use those extra few billion for some nice decorations.

19. About half of our missile defense system

U.S. Missile Defense Agency / Money Talks News

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency spent about $100 million on missile defense between 2002-2014, and was planning to spend $7 billion per year more, through this year, according to the Council on Foreign Relations. This is a system being designed to protect us from large-scale attacks by Russia or China.

20. Feed 4 million people for 3.5 years

Sayan Puangkham / Shutterstock.com

The USDA estimates that feeding a family of four (with one child between the ages of 6 and 8, the other from age 9 to 11) costs, according to the most liberal estimate, an average of $1,272.80 per month. So the $54 billion could feed one family of four for more than 42 million months. Or feed 1 million families of four for 42.4 months, or 3.5 years. Of course, once that older kid hits puberty, he’ll probably start eating like a horse and throw off the numbers.

21. Buy 20 million suits of body armor

Tech. Sgt. William Greer / U.S. Air Force / Money Talks News

The U.S. Army’s Improved Outer Tactical Vest is the current body armor of choice, though a new version of it may be deployed by 2020. The full suit cost the army about $2,600-$2,700 in 2007, depending on size. Currently they retail for $2,700 to about $4,000, again depending on size. At the Army price, we could buy about 20 million.

22. Fund welfare block grants for more than 3 years

money
Martin Prague / Shutterstock.com

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (sometimes known as welfare, though the name changed 20-odd years ago) provided $17.3 billion in block grants to the states in 2016.

23. Provide 1.35 million combat-trained dogs

Staff Sgt. Stacy L. Pearsall / U.S. Air Force / Money Talks News

The military has been training dogs for use in combat since World War I. Their most common use now is as bomb sniffing dogs, but the canines might take on other roles as well. Training a dog can cost up to $40,000, and the animals “retire” from service when they reach 8 or 9 years old.

24. Pour a shot of Pappy Van Winkle for every American, and then some

Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery / Money Talks News

The 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon is an American classic beloved by bourbon connoisseurs. If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle, they can easily run $2,500 each, almost 10 times the distillery’s suggested cost. For $54 billion we could buy 21.6 million bottles of Pappy Van Winkle. At about 17 pours of 1.5 ounce shots per bottle, we would get a bit more than 367 million drinks. With about 318 million people in the country, every man woman and child in America could have a drink. Even then, there would be some 50 million shots left over, so we can share with the neighbors.

How would you allot $54 billion in the coming year? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live
5 Reasons You Should Work for as Long as You Live

These benefits might make you think twice about retirement.

7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement
7 Reasons to Carry Mortgage Debt Into Retirement

It often makes financial sense to not pay off your mortgage before retiring.

Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer
Marooned at Home? Earn Some Cash Playing on Your Computer

Earn cash by reading emails, taking surveys, playing games, shopping and signing up for offers through this website.

15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home
15 Free Streaming Services to Watch While Stuck at Home

These free movie streaming sites offer thousands of movies and TV shows, including recent releases and beloved classics. If you love free movies, online sites are where you need to look for the best list of features that are just one easy click away.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.