Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Wednesday unveiled a plan to strengthen the U.S. military by boosting the size of the services and their fleets of ships and aircraft, expanding missile and cyber defenses, and forcing NATO allies to pay more for security.
"We will rebuild our military," he said in a speech to enthusiastic supporters in Philadelphia.
Trump's national security-themed speech came several hours before he was scheduled to attend a veterans forum with his opponent Hillary Clinton in New York City.
While the candidate again echoed former President Ronald Reagan when he called for "peace through strength," his remarks also included more specific details of his plans to increase the size of the armed forces. The proposals, however, would likely cost tens of billions of additional defense dollars, at a minimum, and would face significant hurdles in Congress.
Trump called for increasing the size of the Army to about 540,000 active-duty soldiers, the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, the Navy to 350 surface ships and submarines, and the Air Force to at least 1,200 fighter aircraft.
By comparison, the Pentagon's $583 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1, requests funding for 460,000 active soldiers, 24 Marine infantry battalions, 287 naval ships and roughly 1,170 fighter aircraft (excluding A-10 ground attack aircraft) -- all for the active component. The figures don't take into account additional troops and equipment for the Guard and Reserve.
Trump also said he would seek to develop "a state-of-the-art missile defense system" and "to modernize our nation's naval cruisers to provide ballistic missile defense capabilities."
He pledged to ask generals to present a plan "within 30 days" of taking office to "defeat and destroy" militants affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS; vowed to "enforce all laws related to the handling of classified information;" and review U.S. cyber defenses to identify vulnerabilities in the power grid, communications systems and vital infrastructure.
In a departure from previous remarks, Trump said he would ask Congress to "fully eliminate" defense spending caps known as sequestration.
The reductions account for about half of the $1.2 trillion in decade-long spending caps mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act designed to curb the federal budget deficit. While Congress has agreed to partially undo some of those reductions, they remain on the books until 2021.
Trump has previously signaled support for sequestration.
"It's a very small percentage of the cuts that should be made, and I think, really, it's being over exaggerated," Trump told Fox News in a February 2013 interview, Politico has reported.
Trump reiterated his demand that NATO members spend more on defense and "promptly pay their bills, which many are not now doing."
"Only five NATO countries, including the U.S., are currently meeting their minimum requirement to spend 2 percent of [gross domestic product] on defense," he said. "They understand. They know they have to do it."
Trump has previously questioned the automatic defense of NATO states unless they contribute more funding to defense. The comments have caused a stir on both sides of the Atlantic, but especially among Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania -- the three Baltic states in Eastern Europe near Russia.
In his speech Wednesday, Trump made a point to say the demand holds for allies not only in Europe but also Asia. "I will be respectfully asking countries such as Germany, Japan, South Korea, to pay more for the tremendous security we provide them," he said. "They're economic behemoths. They're tremendously successful countries. But we're subsidizing them for billions and billions of dollars. I think they'll understand."
Trump touted his recent endorsement by 88 retired generals, admirals and defense officials. "I'm proud to have the support of war-fighting generals, active-duty military and top experts who know how to win endless wars ... like the one we're in now that just never, ever ends, our longest war," he said.
The candidate also again attacked Clinton for what he said were her failed policies as secretary of state in such countries as Iraq, Libya and Syria. He also criticized her for failing to use the term "radical Islamic terrorism" to describe the threat. "Unless you're going to say the words, you're never going to solve the problem," he said.
But his arguably sharpest attack came when he called Clinton "reckless" for putting emails on a server that enemies could hack. "Hillary Clinton has taught us, really, how vulnerable we are in cyber hacking," he said. "It's probably our only thing that we've learned from Hillary Clinton."
While FBI Director James Comey said Clinton's use of a private email system to send classified messages was "extremely careless," he said she didn't intend to mishandle and exploit the information and thus concluded she shouldn't be prosecuted.
-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.