Trump pledges to build up military in first address to service members


President Trump delivered his first remarks to service members as commander in chief Monday, vowing to bolster the military while also touting his election win and throwing jabs at the media.

Trump visited U.S. Central Command and Special Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Fla., his first trip as president. Prior to his speech, Trump received a briefing from leaders of both commands and ate lunch with troops. 

He entered to a standing ovation of about 300 men and women in uniform, according to pool reports.

{mosads}“Today we deliver a message in one very unified voice to these forces of death and destruction: American and its allies will defeat you,” Trump said. “We’ll defeat them.”

Trump kicked off his speech by touting the support he received from service members during the campaign.

“We had a wonderful election, didn’t we? And I saw those numbers, and you like me and I like you,” Trump said. 

He also pledged to get the troops new equipment.

“We’re going to be loading it up with beautiful new planes and beautiful new equipment,” he said of MacDill. “You’ve been lacking equipment. We’re going to load it up.”

Trump has ordered Defense Secretary James Mattis to conduct a “readiness review” to guide the military’s budget requests, and Mattis has started by ordering the Pentagon to prepare a supplemental request for this fiscal year by March 1 and a budget for fiscal 2018 by May 1. 

Trump will need Congress to authorize and appropriate funding for any military buildup.

Trump’s 12-minute speech touched on a variety of other topics: his assertion that NATO members should spend more on their own defense, his personal intervention on the costs of the F-35 fighter jet program, his election upset, and his feud with the media.

At one point, Trump rattled off a series of strikes carried out by “radical Islamic terrorists,” including 9/11 and the attack in Nice, France — throwing in an accusation that the media is burying news of such incidents despite wall-to-wall coverage. 

“It’s gotten to a point where it’s not even being reported,” he told a group of senior commanders. “And, in many cases, the very, very dishonest press doesn’t want to report it.” 

Trump took credit for Lockheed Martin’s announcement Friday that the next batch of 90 F-35 jets will cost $728 million less than the previous batch. Defense analysts have said the price was already coming down without Trump’s intervention.

“I have already saved more than $700 million when I got involved in the negotiation on the F-35,” he said.


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