Yet Trump’s record tells a different story. All three of his hand-picked defense secretaries had ties to the defense industry: Jim Mattis was a member of the General Dynamics Board of Directors, Pat Shahan was an executive with Boeing, and Mark Arizon was Raytheon’s top lobbyer. Mattis also returned to his board position shortly after leaving the Pentagon, showing the revolving door between the industry and the Department of Defense.
According to an analysis of the Project on Government Oversight, about half of senior Defense Department officials are associated with military contractors.
But beyond personnel choice, Trump has made military hardware purchases, public displays and overseas sales a key priority of his administration.
He has announced two defense budgets, blown past $ 700 billion, and is preparing to sign a third. The bill Trump signed in 2018 was the largest budget the Pentagon had ever seen, only to top it the following year.
He approved more than $ 55.6 billion in foreign arms sales in FY 2018, his first fiscal year in office, compared to $ 33.6 billion in foreign military sales in fiscal year 2016, the final year of the Obama administration.
What Trump considers a defense industrial base is “pure fantasy,” National Security Action, a liberal advocacy group made up of former Obama administration employees, said Tuesday. “Trump has consistently prioritized the financial interests of America’s defense contractors – and in doing so, turned our values and long-term interests into collateral damage.”
Trump’s Monday comments have created a “false narrative”, said Byron Callan, an analyst at Capital Alpha Partners. He pointed out not only the amount of defense spending in Trump’s administration, but also his repeated attempts to display military equipment during national ceremonies.
“It’s oddly inconsistent,” Colon said, pointing to Trump’s affinity for military parades and flyovers.
In a new book by former family friend Stephanie Winston Walkoff, Trump has stated that he wanted his inauguration to look more like Pyongyang than in Washington.
“I want a tank and a helicopter. Make it like North Korea, ”he said, according to the author.
Beyond the parade, Trump also regularly speaks of military equipment, fighter planes, ships and ground vehicles as backgrounds. The F-35 is a standard part of his rally speeches. He regularizes arms sales when meeting with foreign leaders. He also increased military spending during the White House Easter Egg Roll last year.
And industry insiders who spoke to POLITICO say they don’t expect them to make changes even after Trump’s comments on Monday.
“They really have a long history of advancing the defense industry and bragging about big defense budgets and talking about F-35s and rockets and things like that, so I don’t think anyone thinks That there is a lot of reality behind it. An industry official told POLITICO, speaking on the background, to discuss a sensitive topic.
Investors also had no confidence in the president’s latest remarks. “I didn’t get a call on this from anyone who’s like, ‘Oh my God, Byron, should I sell all my defense shares?” Kallan said. “I found it a strange statement. It makes no sense, but I could flip it 180 degrees in a week. “
A top general pushed back indirectly, against the president’s comments on Tuesday. Army Chief General James McCoville announced his direct response to Trump’s comments, defending military leaders, saying that those in uniform are not thinking about the earnings of defense contractors when it was decided to send troops to war Was.
“Many of these leaders have sons and daughters who have gone to war or may be at war. So I can assure the American people that senior leaders would only recommend sending troops to war when necessary in national security, or as a last resort, “McConville said Tuesday during an event organized by Defense One Said. I feel very strong about it. “
The pushback from McCoville was the latest sign of tension between Trump and the military, referring to the Atlantic’s unnamed sources as “sucker” and “loser” to wounded and dead soldiers by the president in the coming days. The administration denied Trump said that of any kind; Other news outlets have confirmed elements of the story.
The White House on Tuesday doubled Trump’s military spending outlook, although White House Chief Mark Meadows said Trump was not attacking a special secretary or civil secretary.
“This president is consistent about one thing: If we are going to send our sons and daughters abroad to fight on our behalf, then they are not going to lobby something here in Washington, DC, just because they are a Suggesting a new defense contract, Meadows told reporters outside the White House that he needed to stay a minute longer than going abroad.
Trump has made an aggressive push to sell weapons abroad. In 2017, he took credit for selling $ 110 billion worth of weapons for the deal, although several deals were made under Obama. Trump avoided jobs created by the deal, which would particularly benefit major crimes such as Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, former White House spokesman Sean Spicer said in a 2017 briefing.
Trump allowed Saudi Arabia to continue arms sales even after the assassination of Washington Post contributor Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. In an interview at the time, Trump said that if the US does not sell to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia will buy its weapons with China.
Trump does not offer opportunities to avoid military equipment, and has brought up the subject in odd times in the past. He praised the “invisible” F-35 during a 2017 thanksgiving speech to members of the Coastguard, a service that does not operate a fighter jet. In a 2017 trip to Boeing’s South Carolina facility for the unveiling of the 787 Dreamliner aircraft, he closed his remarks by saying “God bless”.
Under his chairmanship, Trump noted some key events he felt are bad deals for the Department of Defense, including claiming savings due to his personal involvement in negotiations on the F-35 and the Air Force One. Tom Spohr, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation, pointed to these actions as evidence that Trump is unfazed to challenge the industrial base and cut costs for the nation. He said the president has a “hot and cold relationship” with the industry, where he retreats to certain events, while some maintain close ties with the defense CEO.
Mandy Smithberger, director of the project’s Defense Information Center at the Government Oversight, praised Trump for being an F-35 and Gerald R. The US should be involved in decades of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But he has not seen her taking action to reduce spending levels or reduce her rhetoric on weapons.
“He is raising critical criticisms, but I haven’t seen much,” he said.
Lara Seligman and Brian Bender contributed to this report.