Trump's Congress speech to focus on economy, defence

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump was yesterday working on the final touches of an address to Congress today that will focus on economic opportunity and national security, administration officials said.

The officials, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, said Mr Trump's speech will offer a vision of where the President wants to take the country, as well as an early accounting of campaign promises he has already delivered on through executive actions, such as the United States' withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

They declined to say whether he would offer more concrete proposals on major goals, such as rebuilding US infrastructure, rewriting the tax code and replacing the Obamacare health plan.

Ahead of the address, the White House offered a glimpse of his upcoming Budget, which would seek to boost defence spending by US$54 billion (S$75.8 billion) - an increase of about 10 per cent.

Officials said on Monday that the defence hike would be financed partly by cuts to the State Department, Environmental Protection Agency and other non-defence programmes.

But more than 120 retired admirals and generals urged Mr Trump not to slash spending on diplomacy and development aid, CNN reported.

Retired General David Petraeus, a former Central Intelligence Agency director, and retired Admiral James Stavridis, a former Nato supreme allied commander, are among those who pressed Mr Trump not to make good on his repeated threats to implement major cuts in those areas.

State Department funding is "critical to keeping America safe", CNN quoted the military brass as saying in their letter to congressional leaders, two Cabinet officials and Mr Trump's national security adviser.

Mr Trump on Monday acknowledged that his immigration goals may not have been communicated effectively, saying, "Maybe it's my fault", and added he may use his speech to Congress to address the poor messaging in his month-old administration.

The Republican President gave himself a "C or a C+" on communication in an interview with the Fox & Friends television programme. "In terms of achievement, I think I'd give myself an A. Because I think I've done great things. But I don't think I have - I and my people - I don't think we've explained it well enough to the American public," he said in the interview, taped on Monday for broadcast yesterday.

"I think I get an A in terms of what I've actually done, but in terms of messaging, I'd give myself a C or a C+," he said.

BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Trump's Congress speech to focus on economy, defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe