Trump orders 'great rebuilding' of US military

Donald Trump predicted that Congress will "be very happy to see" the White House's new spending request for the military.
Donald Trump predicted that Congress will "be very happy to see" the White House's new spending request for the military.PHOTO: EPA

WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States President Donald Trump signed an order Friday (Jan 28) to begin what he called a "great rebuilding" of the US armed services, promising new aircraft, naval ships and more resources for the military.

"Our military strength will be questioned by no one, but neither will our dedication to peace. We do want peace," Trump said in a ceremony at the Pentagon.

Trump predicted that Congress, which sets the expenditures for the government, will "be very happy to see" the White House's new spending request for the military.

Trump made clear during last year's presidential campaign and in recent weeks that he wants to enlarge the ranks of the military services and expand its fleets of aircraft and ships.

For example, he said he envisioned a naval fleet of 350 vessels, up from the navy's current 274 and more than its 310 vessel target.

And Trump excluded the military from a hiring freeze across the rest of the government that he ordered just after being inaugurated president on Jan 20.

He is also expected to order his new defence secretary, James Mattis, to intensify operations against the ISIS group in Iraq and Syria with more US soldiers and military hardware like artillery and attack helicopters.

Another expected move is to review and the strengthen the country's ability to defend itself against cyberattacks and to conduct offensive cyberattacks itself.

The order Trump signed on Friday was less specific, calling for a sweeping 30-day readiness review of the US military, with the aim of preparing new budget requests to improve readiness.

But he has also pressured the Pentagon to cut costs on some of its most expensive programs.

Earlier, Mattis ordered financial reviews of the costs of two major defence programs - the US$400 billion (S$572.6 billion) F-35 fighter jet project and the US$4 billion development of a new Air Force One presidential jet. Trump had complained that both were too costly.

The Pentagon needs to find ways "to significantly reduce the cost" of the F-35 program, Mattis said, even weighing the competitiveness of the rival F-18.

The F-35 is built by Lockheed Martin, while the F-18 is built by Boeing.

Trump signed the new order at a ceremonial swearing-in of Mattis as defence secretary, lavishing praise on the retired Marine general.

"Secretary Mattis has devoted his life to serving his country. He is a man of honour, a man of devotion, and a man of total action. He likes action," Trump said.