Norfolk Naval Station
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all for being here.
Q The first question is: big news about what the Trump administration wants with the future of the Harry S. Truman. We heard it; we’d like to hear it again from you. What does this mean? Does this mean that the Harry S. Truman serves out her entire life?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We are not retiring the USS Harry S. Truman. I spoke to President Trump this morning at the White House. I told him that there were budget discussions taking place over the future of this ship. We reflected on the incredible history and contributions, past and present, of the USS Truman. And President Trump told me to announce that we are not retiring the Truman. We’re going to keep this great ship in the fight for many years to come.
Q What has he said about the talk on Capitol Hill of doing that and also the Navy recommendation to do it? A lot of people have been scratching their heads — why would you retire her early?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the budget is always a deliberative process. People bring their best ideas forward. This is a President who committed our administration to rebuilding our military after years of budget cuts in the last administrations. Our first year was $700 billion, $716 [billion]. Now we’re requesting $750 billion — the largest military budget in the history of this country — and we’re asking our military to do more, to be more efficient, more effective, to modernize.
But as the President reflected with me this morning, when we think about the incredible contributions that this crew and Truman has made — the Truman has made throughout its more than 20 years sailing the seven seas of the world, he made the decision on the spot. He told me, “You need to head down to Norfolk and tell them we are not retiring the USS Truman.”
Q What do you think that means for Hampton Roads and why did you change your mind?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I — we reflected today — I mean, you think about the incredible accomplishment of our military in destroying the territory of the ISIS caliphate. The Truman had the most number of sorties in that confrontation. They literally brought ISIS to their knees and destroyed the territory of the caliphate that had once terrorized people not only across Syria, but across much of Iraq. That’s an extraordinary record of success: the northern deployment to the high north of the Harry Truman — the most northernmost deployment of any aircraft carrier in the United States Navy since the fall of the Berlin wall; and the way that this crew distinguished themselves in that operation and showed the support that we have for the security of the United States and all of our NATO Allies.
I think — you look at the storied history of this ship and you look at this outstanding crew today. The President wanted me to make it clear to them: As we continue to go forward, we continue to call on Congress to give our military the resources that we need to accomplish around the world in the defense of this country, the USS Truman stays.
Q Do you think aircraft carriers are the way of the future in terms of getting to 355?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, the President, when we were running for office, committed to a 350-ship Navy. And as I said today, with the budget requests that we’ve submitted, we are on track to have 355 Navy ships over the next decade, or more. And we’re committed to that. And the aircraft carrier will always be a vitally important platform for our Navy — the ability to project force anywhere in the world.
You know, this is actually my second trip to the USS Truman. I was here 16 years ago as a member of Congress. My wife and I came out as a part of a congressional delegation. We arrived on the deck of the ship literally days after the Truman had been released from major combat operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom. I saw then what we saw in the NATO deployment recently, what we saw in the battle against ISIS — is the USS Truman and all of our aircraft carriers play a vital role in our national defense, a vital role in securing the seven seas around the world, protecting America’s interests. And the carrier is here to stay.
Q Are you saying that you and the President made this decision about future of the Truman this morning? And did any other discussion with any other people — were they involved in this?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, it was the Commander-in-Chief’s decision. I informed him that I was coming to Norfolk today. He has asked me to express our strong and ongoing support to the men and women who serve in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. And as we talked about my trip today, I told him about some of the discussion about possibly retiring the USS Truman, and we talked about her record of success. And the President told me, “You go tell that crew that we are not retiring the Truman.”
Q What forces in Congress could block you from carrying that through?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, we’re talking about a $750 billion military budget. We are trying to bring this military back to the level that it needs to be after literally years of budget cuts. When we arrived in office (inaudible), there were actually branches of our service that had grounded aircraft because they weren’t getting spare parts. They were using some aircraft as spare parts to keep other aircraft in the air.
Those days are over. President Trump and I have no higher priority than our national defense. And that’s why we’ve seen this President work with the Congress to make historic investments in our national defense. And with that $750 billion budget, we’re going to take that case to Capitol Hill and we’re going to look for bipartisan support.
But the President knew I was coming to the deck of the Truman today, and he wanted to make sure everybody here knew that we are not retiring the USS Truman.
Q What are you willing to give up in the budget to pay for extending the Truman’s life?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, budgets are always about give and take. And we’re modernizing our forces; we’re making a broad range of commitments, including in new technologies and new platforms. But we’re very confident. We’re very confident that we’re going to keep the USS Truman sailing, even while we continue to make the kind of investments that will see to the safety and security of the American people.
Thank you all very much.