PHILADELPHIA — Donald Trump on Wednesday proposed ending the sequester on defense spending and put forth a new edition of his brand of foreign policy.
The Republican nominee, who would be the first president of the modern era to not have military or government experience should he win, cast the foreign policy plans of Hillary Clinton as examples of her being “reckless,” “trigger happy,” and “very unstable. Trump also advocated growing America’s military with defense spending that a Trump campaign official tells NBC will likely be above pre-sequestration levels, which means spending would likely be above $550 billion.
“It is so depleted,” Trump said. “We will rebuild our military.”
In order to offset the cost of that new spending Trump said he will “eliminate government waste and budget gimmicks,” press Congress for “common sense reforms” and “protect hard-earned benefits for Americans.” The GOP nominee has consistently cited eliminating “waste, fraud, and abuse” as a way to trim overall costs – be it in his veterans reform policy, tax plan, and now in his plan to offset the cost of defense spending.
“President Obama and Hillary Clinton have also overseen deep cuts in our military, which only invite more aggression…from our adversaries,” Trump declared with sweeping rhetoric that described a world in chaos after the foreign policy decisions of the Obama administration. “Our adversaries are chomping at the bit.”
Trump also said that he would call upon NATO countries to “promptly pay their bills” and press those countries that are not putting 2% of their GDP towards defense to do so. “They understand it,” Trump said. “They can afford to do it.” That they’re not, Trump said, was a sign that these countries don’t respect America’s leadership or country.
He specifically called out Germany, Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to pay more the security America provides to them. Trump has previously called out these countries – who he called “economic behemoths” – for not paying their share for our security. “I think they’ll fully understand,” Trump assured.
Ahead of his appearance at Wednesday's NBC News' Commander-in-Chief forum, the New York businessman proposed a military defense budget that would include an active Army of about 540,000, a Marine corps of 36 battalions, a Navy with 350 surface ships and submarines, and an Air Force with fighter aircraft numbering at least 1,200. For all of these proposals, Trump outlined that current numbers were less than what he, conservative groups, and some military personnel, deemed necessary.
Despite outlining ways to trim costs of government inefficiencies, Trump did not say how much his plans would cost – thusly making it impossible to know if his proposed reforms to earn back billions would cover his proposal. But a campaign source tells NBC that spending can be expected to be above pre-sequestration levels and that efforts to trim bureaucracies will be contingent upon the Department of Defense’s needs.
Trump also pushed for investments in cyber security, explaining that one of his first steps upon taking office “will be asking the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and all relevant federal departments, to conduct a thorough review of United States cyber defenses and identify all vulnerabilities – in our power grid, our communications systems, and all vital infrastructures. I will then ask for a plan to immediately protect those vulnerabilities.” Simultaneously, Trump plans to “invest heavily in offensive cyber capabilities to disrupt our enemies, including terrorists who rely heavily on Internet communications.”
Never missing an opportunity to remind voters of Clinton’s use of a private server as Secretary of State and the investigation into her emails, Trump noted, “Hillary Clinton has taught us all how vulnerable we are to cyber hacking.”
Of his plan to defeat ISIS, Trump again said he would request a plan from his generals that would include military, cyber, financial, and ideological elements of warfare. Trump told a seated crowd gathered in the chandelier-adorned ballroom of the Union League of Philadelphia “Instead of an apology tour, I will proudly promote our system of government and our way of life as the best in the world – just like we did in our campaign against communism during the Cold War.”
Trump outlined what he would like these plans to include, but did not offer specifics about his own plan – which in the past he has described as existent but secret so as to be “unpredictable” to the enemy. In May of 2015, Trump told Fox News “I do know what to do and I would know how to bring ISIS to the table or, beyond that, defeat ISIS very quickly.” At the time he declined to give details because he didn’t want “the enemy to know what I’m doing.”
Trump rehashed some of the topics initially outlined at a national security speech over the summer. Contrasting his foreign policy with that of Clinton’s Trump painted himself as a commander in chief that would put America’s interests first and styling Clinton as “reckless” – both on the world stage and in regards to her emails.
Using her as a prime example for why America’s cybersecurity systems must be tested and strengthened, Trump said to laughter and applause, "Hillary Clinton has taught us all how vulnerable we are to cyber hacking. It’s probably the only thing we’ve learned from Hillary Clinton.”
In Trump’s contrast, his policies would serve America’s interests and refuse to employ strategies of regime change and nation building ."The current strategy of toppling regimes, with no plan for what to do the day after, only produces power vacuums that are filled by terrorists,” Trump said. "Gradual reform, not sudden and radical change, should be our guiding objective in that region.” The strong statements on this issue stand in contrast to Trump’s non-answer on Tuesday regarding if he would support regime change in Syria.