Taking Oath, Trump Pledges to Rebuild 'Depleted' Military
President Donald Trump pledged Friday that as the new commander in chief he will rebuild a "depleted" military and eradicate "radical Islamic terrorism."
After taking the oath of office from Chief Justice John Roberts, Trump delivered a 16-minute address from the West Front of the Capitol that revisited the "America first" and "Make America Great" themes of the election campaign.
"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military," he said. "We've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own.
"But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future," said Trump, who argued during the campaign for major boosts in defense spending and an end to the cost-cutting sequester process in Congress.
With a strengthened military, "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
In the process, "We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we are protected by God," Trump said.
"It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag," he said.
Trump took up his duty under the preamble of the Constitution to "provide for the common defense" with the guidance of Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis, a retired Marine general whose last post was as head of U.S. Central Command.
Immediately after the inauguration, Trump signed a waiver to permit Mattis to serve as Secretary of Defense to get around the law barring members of the military from taking the post until seven years after retirement. The Senate subsequently confirmed Mattis with a near-unanimous 98-1 vote.
Trump has named another retired flag officer, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to serve as his White House National Security Advisor.
During the transition, both Flynn and Mattis gave views that appeared to be at odds with those of Trump on Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NATO alliance, which Trump called "obsolete" earlier this week in a joint interview with the London Times and the German publication Bild.
In a speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace last week, Flynn called for strengthening existing U.S. alliances. Trump has indicated that he would seek to cooperate with Putin, but Mattis in his Senate confirmation hearing warned against trusting Putin and backed current efforts aimed at bolstering NATO. However, Mattis also said that Trump has shown himself to be open to hearing opposing viewpoints.
When Trump took the oath of office, the nation received a new Commander-in Chief unlike any before him. At age 70, Trump was the oldest president to be sworn in -- Ronald Reagan was 69.
According to White House historians, Trump, a real estate developer, also became the first Commander-in-Chief without any experience in public service, either in the military or the government. Trump received draft deferments during the Vietnam war.
Trump immediately began assuming his new military responsibilities. During the course of day, a card was activated that will always be on his person to give him access to the "football," the suitcase carried by an Air Force aide with the codes for the nation's nuclear triad and more than 4,000 nuclear warheads.
As President, Trump will preside over the largest government agency in the Defense Department, with 1.3 million in the active duty military, another 800,000 in the Reserves and National Guard, and more than 740,000 in the Pentagon civilian workforce.
He will also inherit a military that has been at war since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks – President Obama was the only Commander-in-Chief to have served two full terms with the nation at war.
As soon as Trump was sworn-in, the White House website was overhauled to reflect his views on a range of topics from "Bringing Back Jobs and Growth" to "Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community."
Under the heading "Making Our Military Strong Again," the policy statement said that "the Trump administration will rebuild our military and do everything it can to make sure our veterans get the care they deserve."
"Our military needs every asset at its disposal to defend America," the statement said. "We cannot allow other nations to surpass our military capability. The Trump administration will pursue the highest level of military readiness."
"President Trump will end the defense sequester and submit a new budget to Congress outlining a plan to rebuild our military," the statement said. "We will provide our military leaders with the means to plan for our future defense needs."
In addition, the new administration will bolster anti-missile defenses. "We will also develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea," the statement said.
The new administration made some of its most far-reaching commitments on veterans' care. "We will get our veterans the care they need wherever and whenever they need it," the statement said, reflecting Trump’s campaign pledges to afford veterans more access to private care.
"There should be no more long drives. No more wait lists or scheduling backlogs. No more excessive red tape. Just the care and support our veterans have earned through sacrifice and service to our country," the statement said.
"The Trump administration will transform the Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the needs of 21st century service members and of our female veterans. Our reforms will begin with firing the corrupt and incompetent VA executives who let our veterans down," the statement said.
Inaugurations traditionally come with messages of the need to bring the nation together in the common cause of peace and prosperity, but there were signs Friday that the bitterness of the long election campaign will linger.
In his final Tweet as a private citizen, Trump said "It all begins today! THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES-THE WORK BEGINS."
In his final Tweet as President, Obama said "Yes we can. Yes we did. Thank you for being a part of the last eight years."
Underneath the Tweet was a photo of Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hand-in-hand with Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and civil rights icon, as they re-enacted in 2015 the civil rights walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. Lewis last week questioned the "legitimacy" of Trump’s presidency.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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