President Donald Trump, flanked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky. and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis., hosts a meeting with House and Senate leadership, Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump to push Pentagon upgrade aboard US aircraft carrier

March 02, 2017 - 3:56 am

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is planning to meet with sailors and shipbuilders on an aircraft carrier in Virginia as he promotes his plans for a major buildup of the nation's military.

Trump is traveling Thursday to Newport News to deliver a speech aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford, a $12.9 billion warship that is expected to be commissioned this year after cost overruns and delays. He also is meeting with the carrier's builder.

A draft budget plan released earlier this week by the White House would add $54 billion to the Pentagon's projected budget, a 10 percent increase.

"To keep America safe, we must provide the men and women of the United States military with the tools they need to prevent war — if they must — they have to fight and they only have to win," Trump said in his address to Congress on Tuesday night.

Trump, in his 2016 campaign, repeatedly pledged to rebuild what he called the nation's "depleted" military and told supporters at Regent University in Virginia Beach in October that the region's naval installations would be "right at the center of the action with the building of new ships."

He often argued that the U.S. military was too small to accomplish its missions and pledged to put the Navy on track to increase its active-duty fleet to 350 ships, compared to the current Navy plan of growing from 272 ships to 308 sometime after 2020.

The USS Gerald R. Ford, located at Newport News Shipbuilding, will be the first of the Navy's next generation of aircraft carriers and is expected to accommodate some 2,600 sailors.

Trump's speech to a joint session of Congress, his first as president, included his past calls for repealing the "defense sequester," or across-the-board budget cuts instituted by Congress. He will need the repeal to achieve the kinds of increased defense spending that he is seeking.

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