WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump today took his pitch for greatly expanding military spending south to Newport News, Va., and the deck of the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford, the first of a new class of aircraft carriers and one named for the only commander in chief to call Michigan home.
With Ford’s daughter, Susan Ford Bales — who has made more than a dozen trips to the vessel as one of its ceremonial hosts — introducing him, Trump praised the $13-billion carrier, calling it “a great looking ship” and saying he expects there will be more to come.
“The proud dignity of this ship is a fitting tribute to Gerald R. Ford, the man and the president,” said Trump, noting Ford’s service in the Navy. Ford, who also played football at the University of Michigan, represented the Grand Rapids area in Congress before being named Richard Nixon’s vice president following Spiro Agnew’s resignation. Ford became president when Nixon resigned in 1974.
While no details have been released, Trump told Congress in a speech Tuesday that he will press to lift caps on defense spending in order to add to the military. Media reports say he may ask for more than $50 billion in additional spending, potentially cutting other departments and programs to get it.
Trump promised a “major expansion of our entire naval fleet,” including adding more carriers — proposals that would cost billions that a Republican-led Congress would be asked to approve. He said the force expansion is needed to “project American power in distant lands.”
“Hopefully, it’s power we don’t have to use but if we do, they’re in big trouble,” Trump said, characterizing the Ford as “4 1/2 acres of combat power” unparalleled in the world and a “monument to American might.” Speaking at Newport News Shipbuilding, Trump donned a hat and a windbreaker commemorating the ship, which Ford Bales said could be delivered to the Navy this summer.
Trump added that by spending more on a military buildup, he will be able to negotiate better prices for ships, aircraft and other resources. He did not touch on the Ford’s own cost overruns or delays in being delivered. The Ford had originally been expected to cost $10 billion and be delivered by last March.
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