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Remarks by President Trump and Vice President Pence Announcing the Missile Defense Review

Status Report From: White House
Posted: Thursday, January 17, 2019

The Pentagon
Arlington, Virginia

11:25 A.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Acting Secretary Shanahan, Secretary Mark Esper, Secretary Wilson, distinguished members of Congress, members of the Joint Chiefs, the leadership of the Armed Forces of the United States, and to all of you who wear the uniform of the United States of America.  It is my honor to be with you here today at the Pentagon as our President unveils his vision for our renewed commitment to American missile defense.

As Commander-in-Chief, President Trump has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people.  And it's, frankly, the greatest honor of my life to serve as Vice President to a President who cares so deeply about the men and women of our Armed Forces and their families.

Today, along with all of you, our hearts and our prayers are with the families of the fallen American heroes who were lost in Syria yesterday, as well as those service members who were wounded.

We honor their service and we will honor the memory of the fallen.  And their families and our Armed Forces should know their sacrifice will only steel our resolve; that as we begin to bring our troops home, we will do so in a way that ensures that the remnants of ISIS will never be able to reestablish their evil and murderous caliphate.  (Applause.)

It's in that same spirit of resolve that we gather here today.  Since day one of this administration, President Trump has taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still.

Working with members of Congress in both parties, we're rebuilding our military, restoring the arsenal of democracy.  And last year, President Trump signed the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan, including the largest military pay raise in nearly a decade.  (Applause.)

At the President's direction, we released a National Security Strategy that puts America first, pursued the modernization of our nuclear arsenal.  And President Trump has taken decisive action to extend American dominance on land, at sea, in air, and in cyberspace, and even called for the establishment of a sixth branch of our Armed Forces to ensure American dominance in space.

In the last two years, our President has made great progress to provide for the common defense.  And today, by unveiling our new strategy for missile defense, President Trump will take another critical step to ensure the safety and security of the American people and our very way of life.

This President knows that the American people believe that America First begins with peace through strength.

So now it is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce your Commander-in-Chief, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Wow, that's really nice.  Thank you.  You're only doing that because I gave you the greatest and biggest budget in our history.  (Laughter.)  And I've now done it two times.  (Applause.)  And I hate to tell the rest of the world, but I'm about to do it three times.  So — (applause) — so that's the only reason you gave me such a nice welcome.

Thank you very much.  And thank you to Vice President Pence for that wonderful introduction.  It's an honor to be at the Pentagon with so many distinguished military leaders, and I especially want to recognize our Acting Defense Secretary, Patrick Shanahan.  He's been fantastic — wherever you may be, Patrick.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.

We were talking just as I came on.  I said, "Pat, I have to go now."  We're talking defense and we're also talking offense, you know?  We can't forget offense either, can we?  We have the finest weapons in the world, and we're ordering the finest weapons in the world.  That, you can be sure of.

We're here to present the results of my administration's Missile Defense Review.  Our goal is simple: to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States — anywhere, anytime, anyplace.

As we all know, the best way to keep America safe is to keep America strong.  And that's what we're doing.  Stronger than ever.

Joining us for today's presentation are great champions of missile defense in Congress: Senator Dan Sullivan, my friend.  Thank you, Dan, very much.  And Representative Mike Turner.  Thank you, Mike.  Thank you very much.

Also joining us from the Department of Defense are Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist.  David, thank you.  Secretary Mark Esper.  Secretary Heather Wilson.  Thank you.  Under Secretaries of Defense Michael Griffin, Ellen Lord, and John Rood.  General Paul Selva.  Thank you.  Thank you, General.  General Mark Milley.  Thank you, Mark.  Thank you.  Thank you.  And congratulations.  Very importantly, congratulations.  General Joseph Lengyel.  And General James McConville.  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you.

Before presenting the results of our Missile Defense Review, I want to take a moment to express my deepest condolences to the families of the brave American heroes who laid down their lives yesterday in selfless service to our nation.  These are great people.  Great, great people.  We will never forget their noble and immortal sacrifice.

This morning, I also would like to briefly address another matter of critical national security: the humanitarian and security crisis at our southern border.

Without a strong border, America is defenseless, vulnerable, and unprotected.  I also want to thank the military for helping us out during the big caravan period.  But now you have more caravans forming, and they're on their way up.  Thousands and thousands of people.  We don't know where they're from, who they are — nothing.

We need strong borders.  We need strong barriers and walls.  Nothing else is going to work.  Everyone knows it.  Everybody is saying it now.  It's just a question of time.  This should have been done many years ago.  It should have been done by other — really, by other Presidents, and it wasn't, just like many of the other things we're doing that could have been done many years ago, whether it's our negotiations with North Korea, moving the embassy to Jerusalem.  So many things were supposed to have been done many years ago, and they weren't.  But we're doing them.  A wall has to be built.

We need security at our southern border.  Drugs flow in.  Tremendous percentages of the drugs coming into our country come from the southern border.  We're not going to allow it to happen.  And that is why our Homeland Security professionals have asked Congress for a steel barrier between the ports of entry; to fund more agents, beds, medical supplies, and technology; and to close the ridiculous and dangerous immigration loopholes that no country in the world has but us.

The federal government remains shut down because Congressional Democrats refuse to approve border security.  We're going to have border security.  It's going to be tight.  It's going to be strong.  We're going to let people into our country gladly, but they're going to come in legally.  That includes for the farmers who need help and for others.  But we are going to have powerful, strong border security.

While many Democrats in the House and Senate would like to make a deal, Speaker Pelosi will not let them negotiate.  The Party has been hijacked by the open borders fringe within the Party.  The radical left becoming the radical Democrats.  Hopefully, Democrat lawmakers will step forward to do what is right for our country.  And what's right for our country is border security at the strongest level.  Stop human hijacking.  Stop drugs.  Stop gangs.  Stop criminals.  That's what we're going to do.  That was my pledge, and that's what we're going to do.

We're gathered together to outline the steps that we must take to upgrade and modernize America's missile defense.  So important.  In a time of rapidly evolving threats, we must be certain that our defensive capabilities are unrivaled and unmatched anywhere in the world.

All over, foreign adversaries, competitors, and rogue regimes are steadily enhancing their missile arsenals.  All over.  Their arsenals are getting bigger and stronger.  And we're getting bigger and stronger, in every way.  They're increasing their lethal strike capabilities, and they're focused on developing long-range missiles that could reach targets within the United States.

As President, my first duty is the defense of our country.  First duty: the defense of our country.  And defense has many different definitions and covers a lot of territory.  I will accept nothing less for our nation than the most effective, cutting-edge missile defense systems.  We have the best anywhere in the world.  It's not even close.

Our new strategy calls for six major changes in missile defense policy:

First, we will prioritize the defense of the American people above all else.  Our review calls for 20 new ground-based interceptors at Fort Greely, Alaska, and new radars and sensors to immediately detect foreign missiles launched against our great nation.
We are committed to establishing a missile defense program that can shield every city in the United States.  And we will never negotiate away our right to do this.

Second, we will focus on developing new technology, not just investing more money into existing systems.  The world is changing, and we're going to change much faster than the rest of the world.

This past Tuesday, the Iranian regime tested a "space launch vehicle" — which failed — that will provide Iran with critical information — if it didn't fail — that they could use to pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability, and a capability, actually, of reaching the United States.  We're not going to have that happen.

The United States cannot simply build more of the same, or make only incremental improvements.  What we've done to Iran since I've become President is rather miraculous.  I ended the horrible, weak Iran Nuclear Deal.  And I will tell you, Iran is a much different country today than it was two years ago.  It's not the same and it won't be the same.  And I do believe they want to talk.

It is not enough to merely keep pace with our adversaries; we must outpace them at every single turn.  We must pursue the advanced technology and research to guarantee that the United States is always several steps ahead of those who would do us harm.
Third, we will protect the American people from all types of missile attacks.  In the past, the United States lacked a comprehensive strategy for missile defense that extended beyond ballistic missiles.

Under our plan, that will change.  The U.S. will now adjust its posture to also defend against any missile strikes, including cruise and hypersonic missiles.  And we are, by the way, very advanced also on hypersonic technology and missiles.  We will always be at the forefront of everything.

Fourth, we will recognize that space is a new warfighting domain, with the Space Force leading the way.

My upcoming budget will invest in a space-based missile defense layer.  It's new technology.  It's ultimately going to be a very, very big part of our defense and, obviously, of our offense.  The system will be monitored, and we will terminate any missile launches from hostile powers, or even from powers that make a mistake.  It won't happen.  Regardless of the missile type or the geographic origins of the attack, we will ensure that enemy missiles find no sanctuary on Earth or in the skies above.

This is the direction that I'm heading.  We have some very bad players out there, and we're a good player but we can be far worse than anybody, if need be.  I've always known — and I've watched and I've seen — the stronger you are, the less you will need, whatever that strength may be.

Fifth, we will remove bureaucratic obstacles to dramatically speed up the acquisition and deployment of the new technology.

And sixth, we will insist on fair burden sharing with our allies.
I've made it clear we are protecting many, many wealthy, wealthy, wealthy, wealthy countries.  One country, they said, has an unsustainable cash flow.  In other words, they make so much money they don't know what to do with it.  I said, "Send it our way."  (Laughter.)  "We're protecting you.  Send it our way."

We protect all of these wealthy countries, which I'm very honored to do, but many of them are so wealthy they can easily pay us the cost of this protection.

So you'll see big changes taking place.  And we've had great talks with countries.  Friendly talks.  One of them said, "Mr. President, yes, we will work with you.  But for 30 years, nobody has ever asked."  I said, "Now we're asking."  It took a long time.  I said, "Now we're asking."  And that allows us to spend much more money than these incredible budgets, where it's just money going out and not coming back.

So, wealthy, wealthy countries that we're protecting are all under notice and all cooperating very nicely.  I would say they probably liked other Presidents more than me, but that's okay.  I don't blame them.  I would too.  (Laughter.)  There was a recent poll in Europe.  The original poll, when I first ran, I was one of the most popular people in the world.  And now they said, "He's not popular in Europe."  I shouldn't be — because I'm asking them to step up.  You have countries paying less than 1 percent in NATO.

Last year, I raised $44 billion more by saying, "I'm sorry, you have to step up."  The year before that, my first year — so I was just getting started — I raised $24 billion with one meeting.  And until that, it was just going down.  It was going down.  For 15 years, it was just going down, the numbers going into NATO.  And this year we'll also have a good year.  They're starting to step up.  Very unfair when Germany pays 1 percent and we're paying 4.3 percent of a much larger GDP.

We cannot be the fools for others.  We cannot be.  We don't want to be called that.  And I will tell you, for many years, behind your backs, that's what they were saying.  So there's a big difference.  We're going to be with NATO 100 percent.  But as I told the countries, you have to step up.  You have to pay minimum numbers, actually.  The numbers should be much higher.  They set a 2 percent goal.  Very few pay that.  But they should be much higher than that.  If you look at what we pay, it's massively higher than that.

So we have very good relationships, but countries are now stepping up, and they can well afford to.

In furtherance of this goal, our plan directs the Department of Defense to prioritize the sale of American missile defense and technology to our allies and to our partners.  We want them to be able to defend.  And they're willing to pay for the finest missiles in the world.  They've already done that.  They're stepping up like nobody has ever seen before, actually.
We will also leverage our network of partnerships to share early warning and tracking information, and detect missile launches as early as possible.

Today marks the beginning of a new era in our missile defense program.  For too long, we have been held back by self-imposed limits while foreign competitors grow and they advance more than we have over the years.  Part of the reason is we spend so much money on so many other places.  Now that's changing.  We're helping and we're able to spend money on technology and new defense, and far beyond defense systems.  So those days are history.

Our strategy is grounded in one overriding objective: to detect and destroy every type of missile attack against any American target, whether before or after launch.

When it comes to defending America, we will not take any chances.  We will only take action.

There is no substitute for American military might.  But when I took office — you know it better than anybody in the world — our military was very tired.  It was very depleted.  I won't even tell you the things that some of our great generals were telling me.  And now it's being rebuilt at a rapid rate and, very shortly, will be more powerful than ever before.  And that's the way it has to be.

And as I said, the more powerful it is, the less likely it is that we'll ever have to use it.  But it will soon be more powerful than ever before.

Today, we reaffirm that a strong America remains the best way to prevent conflict, promote peace, preserve freedom, and protect our great people.  Together, we unite behind a noble mission: to shield our country with the greatest missile defense systems anywhere on the face of the Earth.

I want to thank you again to the men and women of the American Armed Forces.  Special, special people.  And the citizens of our country know that and acknowledge that, far more so than you would ever know.  We have the greatest military at any time soon in the history of the world.

I want to just finish my saying I appreciate your service.  You're incredible people.  God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)
END                11:49 A.M. EST

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