House Chairman Calls Trump’s ‘Cost Plus 50’ Idea for Troops ‘Monumentally Stupid’

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s interest in forcing allies to pay the full cost of hosting American troops -- plus a 50 percent bonus -- is a “monumentally stupid approach,” the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said.

“Are we truly saying to our allies that we want you now to pay the cost plus 50 percent of our presence?” Representative Adam Smith, a Democrat from Washington state, said at a committee hearing on Wednesday. “Just for the record, I think that would be a monumentally stupid approach.”

House Chairman Calls Trump’s ‘Cost Plus 50’ Idea for Troops ‘Monumentally Stupid’

Under White House direction, the administration has been drawing up demands that Germany, Japan and eventually any other country hosting U.S. troops pay the full price of American soldiers deployed on their soil plus 50 percent or more for the privilege of hosting them, according to a dozen administration officials and people briefed on the matter. In some cases, nations hosting American forces could be asked to pay five to six times as much as they do now under the “Cost Plus 50” formula.

Trump has privately championed the idea for months. His insistence on it almost derailed recent talks with South Korea over the status of 28,000 U.S. troops in the country when he overruled his negotiators with a note to National Security Adviser John Bolton saying, “We want cost plus 50.”

Smith said “our troops are present in these other countries primarily for our benefit, or at least for mutual benefit” and “if we start pushing our allies away, I think that is a huge mistake.”

The “Cost Plus 50” idea also has drawn Republican criticism. “It would be absolutely devastating,” Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who heads the House Republican Conference and serves on the Armed Services Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Asked about the idea at the House hearing, Kathryn Wheelbarger, acting assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, said “it is not a conversation we’ve had in my portfolio at all.”

She said she understood that the “rhetoric came from conversations from the Pacific.”

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