By Ayesha Rascoe
NEWPORT NEWS, Va., March 2 (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday he wants a U.S. military buildup of more ships and planes to “project American power in distant lands,” making his case for a proposed $54 billion increase in defense spending that has U.S. lawmakers squabbling.
Wearing an olive military jacket and hat aboard a new aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, in Newport News, Virginia, Trump said he wanted the U.S. military to have the finest equipment in the world.
Trump this week proposed a $54 billion increase over last year in defense spending, boosting the Pentagon budget to $603 billion, and said he wanted to launch the biggest military buildup in American history to make up for what he called a depleted armed forces.
Some Republican lawmakers want more money for defense and others, along with Democrats, are opposed to his option for offsetting the cost of the buildup in the U.S. budget. He would cut foreign aid and other non-defense programs by $54 billion.
Trump said he would like to get the U.S. Navy back up to having 12 aircraft carriers. The Navy currently has 10.
“I just spoke with Navy and industry leaders and have discussed my plans to undertake a major expansion of our entire Navy fleet, including the 12 (aircraft)-carrier Navy we need,” Trump said, receiving applause.
“We also need more aircraft, modernized capabilities and greater force levels,” he said. “Additionally, we must vastly improve our cyber capabilities.”
There are questions about how the increase in the budget will be spread across the different service branches and which weapons programs will get priority.
During the campaign, Trump said he would increase the Army’s troop strength and increase the number of ships in the Navy to 350 from about 275 ships. The timeline and the exact cost of the buildup is unclear.
Trump said the Navy will “soon be the largest it’s been.”
The U.S. Navy peaked at 6,768 ships in 1945 at the end of World War Two and by 1990 it still had 570 ships, even though the ships now are more advanced and capable.
“We are going to have very soon the finest equipment in the world,” he said. “We will give our military the tools you need to prevent war and, if required, to fight war and only do one thing. You know what that is? Win. Win.”
Trump said the Gerald R. Ford and other new ships “project American power in distant lands.”
“Hopefully, it’s power we don’t have to use. But if we do, they’re in big, big trouble,” he said. (Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)
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