Trump promised his audience that “immediately after taking office [on 20 January 2017] I will asky my generals to present to me a plan within 30 days to defeat and destroy ISIS,” adding that “this will require military warfare but also cyberwarfare, financial warfare and ideological warfare.” But he gave no details.
Trump said he would ask for a rise in the US defence budget. “We want to deter, avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength,” he said on 7 September, adding that “we have the greatest people in the world, we have to give them the greatest equipment.” But this is not necessarily good news for defence multinationals. As our Aviation Week colleague Michael Bruno, a defence economist, explains: “Perhaps a quarter or a third of primes are international. If Trump steps back on exports and free trade these companies will lose revenue or will have to adapt their business model…It is the multinational and industrial groups that are more at risk, whilst the service oriented ones concentrated on the American military could be better off.“
In the second part of his speech Trump moved onto ground that has frequently proven treacherous for him in the past: that of figures and verifiable facts, his own being frequently somewhere in the realm of fantasy. He announced that he wanted an army of 540,000, a rise from the 479,000 today (the correct figure is 490,326), the “smallest army“, he claimed, since 1940 ignoring the fact that comparing today’s high-tech army with yesterday’s is like comparing apples with broccoli! And then he declared that the defence budget has dropped under Obama. In fact, the US defence budget (excluding veteran and war costs) was at an historic high of $528.2bn in 2011 (and not $554bn in 2010 as claimed by Trump), before dropping to $495.5bn in 2013 but has risen ever since to reach $521.7bn in 2016 and $523.9bn in 2017 (figures are from the US Department of Defence).
Trump said he would request the budget from Congress “to rebuild our military” but in the same breath announced that “military bureaucracy will have to be trimmed down“! An announcement that may worry the Pentagon’s thousands of employees.
[The third and final part will be published on Monday]