6:04 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And thank you all for being here tonight. And welcome back to the White House. In particular, I want to thank Secretary Mattis and General Dunford for their incredible leadership and service. I also want to thank General Kelly and General McMaster for joining us this evening, and for their dedication to this administration. They have been really spectacular and done a great job.
It’s wonderful to be with all of you again. As I said during our last meeting, my number-one priority as Commander-in-Chief is to keep our people safe and to empower you, our senior military leaders, to do what you do best. Nobody does it better than the people in this room, believe me.
We have many pressing national security issues facing our country. In addition to devastating national disasters, we have had some big natural disasters, and some of you know exactly because your people have done an incredible job, and I appreciate it.
But, recently, we have had challenges that we really should have taken care of a long time ago, like North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS, and the revisionist powers that threaten our interests all around the world. Tremendous progress has been made with respect to ISIS, and I guess the media is going to be finding out about that over the next short period of time.
It falls on the people in this room to defend the American people from these threats. I know we share a belief in putting the safety and the wellbeing of the American people first, and I look forward to hearing from you and your ideas. We’ll be going to dinner right after this, and we’ll be discussing it further. But I look very much forward to discussing certain things right now, and we have certain very critical areas that we will be discussing.
In North Korea, our goal is denuclearization. We cannot allow this dictatorship to threaten our nation or our allies with unimaginable loss of life. We will do what we must do to prevent that from happening. And it will be done, if necessary — believe me.
In addition, we must not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. The Iranian regime supports terrorism and exports violence, bloodshed, and chaos across the Middle East. That is why we must put an end to Iran’s continued aggression and nuclear ambitions. They have not lived up to the spirit of their agreement. And we will be discussing that tonight.
In Afghanistan, I’ve lifted restrictions and expanded authorities for commanders in the field. You know that very well, and everyone in this room is very happy that it’s been done finally. We’ve made more progress in our campaign to defeat ISIS in the last eight months than in many, many previous years, all combined.
I put my trust in you to execute our mission aggressively and effectively, and you are delivering. We’re ridding our world of terrorism and terrorists as much as it can be done. In all areas, I want to ensure that our armed forces have the funding, the readiness, and the force capacity to be successful. Our budget this year — as you know, well over $700 billion — is getting us back to the position we have to be. Almost never have we needed a great, powerful, strong, and brilliant military — and that’s where we are and that’s where we’re going, and going very rapidly.
Moving forward, I also expect you to provide me with a broad range of military options, when needed, at a much faster pace. I know that government bureaucracy is slow, but I am depending on you to overcome the obstacles of bureaucracy.
Finally, I want to thank each and every one of you for the immense personal sacrifices you and your family make on behalf of our great country. Your patriotism, selflessness, and courage are an inspiration to me and an inspiration to our entire nation.
I look forward to our discussion today, and I look especially forward to being with you and your spouses a little bit later, where we will have dinner but I know we’ll still be talking about what we all enjoy talking about. And perhaps our spouses have some better ideas than even we do — (laughter) — but I hope not. But I think that could be possible.
So again, thank you all for being here. We appreciate it very much. And thank you all very much.
Q Should bump stocks be banned?
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll be looking into that over the next short period of time. We’ll be looking into that over the next short period of time.
Q A decision on Iran, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: You’ll be hearing about Iran very shortly. Thank you.
6:10 P.M. EDT