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‘We will rebuild our military,’ Trump says

President-elect+Donald+Trump+speaks+to+supporters+aboard+the+USS+Iowa+battleship+in+Los+Angeles+on+Sept.+15.+%28Robert+Gauthier%2FLos+Angeles+Times%2FTNS%29
President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters aboard the USS Iowa battleship in Los Angeles on Sept. 15. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters aboard the USS Iowa battleship in Los Angeles on Sept. 15. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

President-elect Donald Trump speaks to supporters aboard the USS Iowa battleship in Los Angeles on Sept. 15. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

By Noah Bierman | Tribune Washington Bureau

PHILADELPHIA — Donald Trump detailed a proposal Wednesday to restore hundreds of billions of dollars in military budget cuts if he is elected president, but it is unclear whether his plans to pay for it would cover the full cost.

Trump has long called the state of the military a “disaster,” blaming President Barack Obama for neglect. Trump, who delivered his military plan during a speech at Philadelphia’s august Union Club, is wading into a budget debate that has at times consumed Obama’s second term.

“It is so depleted,” Trump said, describing a Navy that has fewer ships, an Air Force that uses old planes, and other changes in the structure of the military. “We will rebuild our military.”

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Trump also renewed a broader attack he has made on Hillary Clinton, calling her legacy as secretary of state one of failure.

“Everywhere she got involved, things got worse,” he said. Trump tried to flip the argument that Clinton has made about his temperament, asserting that she, not he, is the one who is unprepared to lead the nation’s military. He emphasized that his plan would enforce cybersecurity, pointing directly to Clinton’s private email server as evidence that she also cannot be trusted to protect the country from cyberthreats.

“She’s trigger-happy and very unstable,” he asserted.

Trump described his overarching philosophy as “peace through strength,” a mantra used by many leaders, including President Ronald Reagan, to describe using the threat of a robust military to deter attacks from enemies.

Obama too has repeatedly called on Congress to end the mandatory federal spending cuts that were imposed as part of a last-resort deficit deal in 2011 that was intended to be so unpalatable to Republicans and Democrats alike that they would never be enacted.

But the so-called sequestration cuts — $1 trillion worth of deep reductions over the decade, hitting almost every aspect of government — took effect in 2013 after lawmakers failed to reach a compromise to avert them.

Republicans in Congress have supported ending the military portion of the cuts, but have failed to strike a permanent deal with Obama because they do not want to also end other cuts in domestic spending, as Obama has demanded.

If Trump wins and keeps a Republican Congress, he could accomplish the goal without restoring other domestic spending cuts. But it would add about $500 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years unless other cuts are made, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a watchdog think tank.

Trump said Wednesday that he would pay for the new spending through a combination of collection of unpaid taxes, attrition in federal government jobs, and by halting funding for expired laws.

Trump’s plan would also put an added priority on cyberdefense and missile defense, and would ask generals to submit a plan within his first 30 days in office to defeat Islamic State extremists, something the military has been working on for years.

Though current and former commanders agree that sending thousands more troops to Iraq may hasten the Islamic State’s defeat there, many worry that its long-term effects would not be in the U.S.’s best interest.

The Obama administration, which is in close contact with battlefield commanders, hopes that if Iraqi forces are able to defeat the militant group, they will be less reliant upon the U.S. to fight against future insurgents.

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