President Trump officially welcomed new Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper to the Pentagon on Thursday and expressed “absolute confidence” that the U.S. military will grow more dominant under his leadership.
In an outdoor ceremony, the president praised Mr. Esper, a former Army secretary, Raytheon executive and Capitol Hill aide who was confirmed by the Senate Wednesday by a vote of 90 to 8. Mr. Esper is the first permanent Pentagon chief in more than six months.
“I have absolute confidence that Mark will ensure our incredible military is fully prepared to deter conflict and to defeat any foe,” the president said. “No enemy can match the awesome might of the American Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and the United States Marines.”
“Our military today is more powerful by far than ever before,” the president continued. “And three years ago, we could not have said that, could we, Mark? We’re giving our war fighters the tools they need to fight and win with overwhelming force after years and years of budget cuts. … We have more than made up for all of it.”
Mr. Esper, who took over in an acting capacity last month before being confirmed to the permanent post Wednesday, vowed that the armed forces will be ready to confront all challenges. He also promised to follow through on one of Mr. Trump’s top military initiatives — the creation of the U.S. Space Force.
“My Pentagon team is fully engaged … to create for the first time in 70 years a new branch of the armed forces, the United States Space Force,” he said.
Mr. Esper also praised the president for contributing to global security by convincing NATO allies to contribute more in defense spending.
“President Trump has called on other nations to do more, and they have responded,” Mr. Esper said. “By the end of 2020, our NATO allies will spend an additional $100 billion on defense, an unprecedented increase that will make the alliance stronger.”