Nuclear Modernization, Cyber Security Top Trump Defense Priorities

Transition teams shifts rhetoric from radical Islam to radical ideologies

Donald Trump,Melania Turmp,Mitch McConnell

Donald Trump and his wife Melania walk with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell / AP

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President-elect Donald Trump's national security priorities are modernizing the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal and securing critical infrastructure from cyber attacks.

According to Greatagain.gov, the presidential transition website opened Thursday, Trump also appears to have shifted rhetoric on terrorism. During the campaign, Trump loudly proclaimed radical Islam to be the key driver of terrorism. The transition website, however, refers only to "radical ideologies" as the inspiration behind the long-term threat of terrorism.

Trump criticized the Obama administration during the campaign for its failure to use the term radical Islam in countering Muslim terrorism by the Islamic State and other groups.

"America’s stature in the world is determined by its values, prosperity and might," the national security section of the website states, in the first public preview of Trump administration policies.

"Donald Trump understands how a strong, prosperous economy underwrites military might, and how a strong, robust military secures our way of life and the fruits of our economy."

Security threats cannot be resolved "unless we define the problem in a way that American resources and instruments of power can be applied against them," the website says.

Trump was elected Tuesday in a stunning upset victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. On Thursday, he met at the White House with President Obama. Both men have been highly critical of each other during the campaign.

The New York real estate developer and business mogul has little foreign policy experience. His foreign policy views were outlined as a variation of isolationist "America First" policies.

Trump advisers also have stated that Trump plans to rebuild the U.S. military under Reagan-style policies known as "peace through strength."

On nuclear arms, the new website states that the Trump administration "recognizes the uniquely catastrophic threats posed by nuclear weapons and cyber attacks."

"Mr. Trump will ensure our strategic nuclear triad is modernized to ensure it continues to be an effective deterrent, and his administration will review and minimize our nation’s infrastructure vulnerabilities to cyber threats," the website states.

Russia and China are aggressively building up their nuclear arsenals with new weapons and delivery system.

By contrast, the U.S. nuclear arsenal has been sharply reduced under Obama administration arms control policies. Aging weapons, missiles, submarines, and bombers also are in need of modernization to maintain nuclear deterrence against foreign strategic threats.

Cyber attacks were a major issue during the campaign, with intelligence and security leaders issuing statements blaming Russian government hackers for intrusions into the emails of political figures and institutions. The anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks and the website DCLeaks.com were identified as conduits for information stolen by Russian hackers.

Disclosures from the hacked email account of Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta produced numerous news stories, many of them critical of Clinton and her aides.

China was blamed for the massive theft of U.S. government records from the Office of Personnel Management, including 22 million records of government workers.

The Obama administration took no action in response to either the Chinese or Russian cyber attacks.

The Trump transition website stated that the use of military force would be more closely linked to American national interests.

"Mr. Trump will be a strong commander-in-chief befitting our American men and women in uniform, and ensure their sacrifices will only be made in operations that safeguard the interests of the American people and our allies, and that their service will be honored as they enter the ranks of veterans," the website said.

The White House earlier this week would not comment on Obama's past statement that Trump was unfit to be president and should not have control over U.S. nuclear forces.

One of the first tasks of incoming presidents is to take control of U.S. nuclear commands, carried wherever the president travels in a portable communications system known as the nuclear "football."

The transition team, currently headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, currently is operating in two floors of an office building on Pennsylvania Avenue close to the White House.

Sources close to the transition team say political battles have broken out between conservative and moderates over key presidential appointments.

Candidates for key posts include former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.) for secretary of state. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R., Ala.) and former Bush administration security adviser Stephen Hadley are said to be in the running for the post of secretary of defense. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn is said to be a candidate for director of national intelligence. Former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani could be picked for attorney general.

The transition team also launched a Twitter feed, @transition2017. One tweet asked for contributions: "How do you want to make America great? We want to hear from you. Tell us your story or share your idea here: http://bit.ly/2fUxwsX"

Domestically, Trump priorities outlined by the transition team include building a wall on the southern U.S. border and ending "catch-and-release" policies toward illegal immigrants.

Funding for cities that do not enforce federal immigration laws will be cut and "unconstitutional" executive orders will be rescinded, according to a 10-point plan.

Another priority for the new administration will be to work with Congress to repeal the Obama administration's Affordable Care Act health care program.

"It is clear to any objective observer that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has resulted in rapidly rising premiums and deductibles, narrow networks, and health insurance, has not been a success," the transition team site says.