President Donald Trump made a case for continued American military dominance and congressional support for his pending defense budget against the backdrop of the entrance of the world’s largest warship into service on Saturday.
In a speech during the commissioning ceremony of the next-generation aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), Trump proclaimed the ship would be a message of strength and deterrence while praising the crew and Newport News Shipbuilding shipbuilders in the ceremony in Ford’s hangar bay.
“American steel and American hands have constructed a 100,000-ton message to the world,” Trump said.
“American might is second to none and we’re getting bigger and better and stronger everyday in my administration. That I can tell you.”
Trump quoted the ship namesake President Gerald R. Ford’s position on military readiness and Ford’s belief that U.S. lack of preparation before World War II encouraged enemies to fight harder.
“In the future, Ford said, I felt the United States had to be strong. Never again could we allow our military to be anything but the absolute best,” Trump said.
“Now we need Congress to do its job and pass the budget that provides for a higher, stable and predictable funding levels for our military needs that you fighting men and women need – and that you will get. Believe me, President Trump. You will get it. Don’t worry about it but I wouldn’t mind a little hand so call that congressman and call that senator and make sure you get it.”
Congress has largely ignored the administration’s readiness focused budget with all the defense committees adding additional procurement into the proposal. Trump also called Congress to repeal the 2011 Budget Control Act that has put a cap on military spending.
“For years our government has subjected the military to unpredictable funding and a devastating defense sequester. You remember that? Sequester? Not good,” Trump said.
“This has led to deferred maintenance, a lack of investment in new equipment and technology and a shortfall in military readiness. In other words, it’s been a very, very bad period of time for our military.”
Trump shared the stage with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, acting Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson who also spoke briefly ahead of the president during the ceremony.
Stackley also evoked the legacy of Ford in how his tenure as president following the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon, “turned our ship of state safely to harbor and restored our trust in government.”
Ford presided over the 1975 commissioning of first-in-class nuclear carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) and Stackley quoted from Ford’s speech.
“As each of us looks upon this great ship, A single thought must seize our mind: That only the United States of America can make a machine like this,” Stackley quoted.
“Wherever she shows her flag she will be seen as we see her now, a solid symbol of United States strength, United States resolve. Made in America, manned by Americans.”
Both Mattis and Richardson did not use longer speeches that had been prepared for the ceremony and instead spoke largely extemporaneously, USNI News understands.
Mattis saved his less than five minutes of remarks largely to praise the legacy of President Ford and introduce Trump.
Richardson noted Ford, “will no longer be a shipbuilding project but be a warship and a crew” and would serve as a warning to American enemies.
“It’s not a day of celebration for everybody. Those in the world who wish to terrorize us here in the United States and abroad. Those who wish to challenge our shores planning for attacks. Those who may challenge our prosperity and our trade, those who challenge our values this is not a day of celebration,” he said.
“For them, this is their worst nightmare. They will lie awake at night wondering that one day they may appear on the target list of the USS Gerald R. Ford.”
Also on the podium were former Vice President Dick Cheney and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who served in the George W. Bush administration. The Ford program, which has been criticized for delays and cost overruns, was a product of the Rumsfeld transformational acquisition doctrine that called for transformational leaps in military technology in new military programs.
The $13 billion Ford features five brand new technologies – including a new radar, electromagnetic aircraft launchers and a new reactor design — that were developed specifically for the new class. The ship delivered to the Navy in June after a year-and-a-half delay.
Now in commission, Ford will continue testing and workups ahead of a planned first deployment in the early 2020s.