WASHINGTON — Vice President-elect Mike Pence said Tuesday President-elect Donald Trump will make rebuilding the military a top priority when he takes office, declaring to a cheering crowd at the Heritage Foundation, “the Obama era of weakening our national defense is over.”
“We’ve walked away from our commitment to be that arsenal of democracy in the world,” Pence said at the Heritage Foundation dinner held at the Trump hotel in D.C. He referred to what he called a hallowing out of the military under President Barack Obama.
Ticking off a list of stats to back up his assessment, such as a reduction in active duty forces, the smallest Navy since World War I, and the smallest standing Army since World War II, Pence said Trump would “rebuild” the military and “restore” the arsenal.
“I want to promise you the Obama era of weakening our national defense is over,” he said.
Pence also noted his son is a pilot in the Marine Corps, ticking off another stat. “The average age of aircraft is older than my son,” he said. “That’s about to change, everybody.”
His remarks on the military delivered the loudest applause of the address — not surprising given the Heritage Foundation’s assessment of the military as increasingly weak in recent years. In the Heritage Foundation’s 2017 Index of U.S. Military Strength, none of the four military branches received better than a “marginal” rating for an ability to protect American interests, and the Army received a “weak” rating.
The more than $600 billion defense budget and the military’s ability to fight a major war while handling its other missions worldwide is not enough, the editors of the index conclude. “Handling two major conflicts simultaneously — a distinct possibility, given the growing threats detailed elsewhere in the Index — is likely beyond the ability of the force given its current condition.”
Pence listed building up the military in a short list of priorities for Trump that also includes “fixing” the way veterans are cared for in the country, repealing and replacing Obamacare, cutting taxes, appointing Supreme Court justices that “uphold the Constitution” and repealing Obama’s executive orders on immigration.
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