US President Donald Trump says he will make a massive budget request for one of the “greatest military build-ups in American history” in a feisty, campaign-style speech extolling robust nationalism to eager conservative activists.
Trump used remarks on Friday to the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), an organisation that gave him one of his first platforms in his improbable journey to the US presidency, to defend his unabashed “America first” policies.
Ahead of a nationally televised speech to the US Congress on Tuesday, Trump outlined plans for strengthening the US military, already the world’s most powerful fighting force, and other initiatives, though he again offered few specifics.
He said he would aim to substantially upgrade the military in both offensive and defensive capabilities, with a massive spending request that would make the country’s defence “bigger and better and stronger than ever before.”
“And, hopefully, we’ll never have to use it, but nobody is going to mess with us. Nobody. It will be one of the greatest military build-ups in American history,” Trump said.
With appeals to people on welfare to go to work and pledges to follow through on his vow to build a wall on the US-Mexican border, Trump drew rounds of applause from the large gathering of conservatives, many of them wearing hats emblazoned with the president’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”
His speech was heavy on the nationalist overtones from his campaign last year, focusing on promises to boost US economic growth by retooling international trade deals, rolling back regulations and boosting energy production,
Trump is looking to put behind him a rocky first month in office. An executive order he signed aimed at banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries became embroiled in the courts and he had to fire his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, for Russian contacts before Trump took office.
With the federal budget still running a deficit, Trump will have to square his request for a military build-up with his plans to cut taxes for most Americans and for corporations. During his speech, he complained about spending caps that were put in place on the defence budget dating back to 2011.Trump also heaped criticism on what he called purveyors of “fake news,” seeking to clarify a recent tweet in which he said some in the US news media should be considered an “enemy of the people.”
“I’m against the people that make up stories and make up sources. They shouldn’t be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody’s name. Let their name be out there,” Trump said. “Let there be no more sources.”
Trump has repeatedly chosen to make news media criticism a focus of his public remarks since taking office on January 20.
Trump addressed the third day of the CPAC gathering, which has addressed how to fulfill long-held Republican goals to revamp the tax code, roll back regulations on business and repeal former Democratic President Barack Obama’s healthcare law.