National Security

Trump Welcomes Defense Secretary: ‘Our First Priority Is Always the Safety and Sovereignty’ of America

President jokes Esper’s 90-8 confirmation has him ‘worried’

President Donald Trump welcomed new Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to the Pentagon Thursday with a speech emphasizing U.S. sovereignty through military might.

"The sight of American warriors brings solace into the hearts of our friends and strikes fear into the hearts of our enemies. Our military today is more powerful, by far, than ever before."

Esper was sworn in Wednesday and was treated to a ceremony with full honors Thursday, along with an address by the commander in chief. After thanks and introductions, Trump articulated a vision for the Department of Defense under Esper that would continue policies in place under former Secretary James Mattis and during the interim period.

"Under this administration, we have faced the challenge of our time with clear eyes, fresh determination," Trump said. "Our first priority is always the safety and sovereignty of our nation and our citizens."

"After years and years of budget cuts, and all the things that they've been doing, to set us back with our military, we have more than made up for all of it," he said. "We are building new tanks and ships and submarines and planes and missile systems, to ensure that our warriors operate with unrivaled capability in conflict. Any battlefield will be a battlefield on which we win."

He went on to talk about geopolitical rivals and how they are much more respectful of America because his adminstration has "unmatched confidence, purpose, and resolve."

"Right now they respect us more than they have in many, many years. It's only going to get more so," he said.

Trump also joked that he might need to be "worried" because Esper’s confirmation was overwhelmingly bipartisan.

"You got 90, right? Can you believe this?" Trump said, asking how many votes Esper received in the Senate. "Ninety to eight, right? I don't know, I haven't heard that sound in a long time, Mark. Now I'm worried."

Trump celebrated the work on two key national security issues: Protecting the southern border and dealing with ISIS. He specifically thanked Mexico and its president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for helping in the effort to deal with the border crisis.

"We vowed to do what it takes to protect our homeland, to safeguard our people from the threat of radical Islamic terrorism, and to preserve American freedom," Trump said.