US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is unveiling a plan for a major increase in defence spending as he works to convince sceptics in both parties that he is ready to lead the world’s most powerful military.
Mr Trump has struggled at times to demonstrate a command of foreign policy but his campaign team has said he will outline plans to “add substantially” to the nation’s arsenal of submarines, ships and combat troops.
I think my single greatest asset, of any assets I have, is my temperamentDonald Trump
His address comes hours before his national security acumen is tested at a “commander in chief” forum on TV network NBC that will also include Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
They will not be on the stage at the same time, but it could serve as a warm-up for their first debate, which is scheduled for 26 September.
The appearances mark an intense, two-day focus on national security by Mr Trump, who has offered tough rhetoric on the nation’s challenges abroad but few details.
“I think my single greatest asset, of any assets I have, is my temperament,” Mr Trump declared in North Carolina on Tuesday, fighting to undercut arguments that his erratic disposition is a major liability.
Mrs Clinton repeated just such an attack on Mr Trump’s ability to command America’s military while en route to an event in Florida.
She said: “They know they can count on me to be the kind of commander in chief who will protect our country and our troops, and they know they cannot count on Donald Trump. They view him as a danger and a risk.” .
Mr Trump was set to speak last night at the convention of New York’s Conservative Party, an event also expected to feature a heavy national security focus. And a late morning address at Philadelphia’s Union League will outline his plans to eliminate deep military cuts, known as the “sequester”, enacted when Congress failed to reach a budget compromise in 2011.
A Trump adviser said the Republican candidate would ensure the additional spending is fully paid for.
The adviser did not explain how, but suggested there would be no need for structural budget cuts to pay for the billions of additional military spending over ten years.
Beyond new spending on troops and naval assets, Mr Trump will also call for additions to sea-based missile defence.
Trying to emphasise his military support, Mr Trump’s campaign released a letter on Tuesday from 88 retired generals and admirals citing an urgent need for a “course correction” in America’s national security policy.
It was aimed at rebutting Mrs Clinton’s arguments that she would be best positioned to lead the military and reassuring Republicans who have openly worried that his provocative statements might undermine US alliances.
The military figures wrote: “We believe that such a change can only be made by someone who has not been deeply involved with, and substantially responsible for, the hollowing out of our military and the burgeoning threats facing our country around the world.
“For this reason, we support Donald Trump’s candidacy to be our next commander in chief.”
Mr Trump has promised to convene his military commanders soon after taking office with “a simple instruction” aimed at the Islamic State group. “They will have 30 days to submit to the Oval Office a plan for soundly and quickly defeating Isis,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Trump has said that Hillary Clinton’s handling of private emails disqualifies her to serve as president.
Mr Trump said “Clinton lied about her handling of confidential information.” Her conduct, he said, “is disqualifying”.
Late last week, the FBI published scores of pages summarising interviews with Mrs Clinton and her top aides from the recently closed criminal investigation into her use of a private email server in the basement of her New York home. She told the FBI she relied on her staff not to send emails containing classified information.
After a year-long investigation, the FBI said in July that it would not recommend charges be brought.