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President Donald Trump visited Newport News Shipbuilding Thursday with a message of military might.
Hours before the Commander-in-Chief arrived, hundreds of sailors and shipbuilders were packed inside a hangar bay of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford awaiting Trump’s address.
The sounds of classic rock music were interrupted by bouts of applause and cheers as Trump exited Marine One onto the deck of the Ford. Accompanied by Susan Ford Bales, daughter of President Gerald R. Ford, and dressed in a green flight jacket Trump entered the hanger to country artist Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA.”
“I’m privileged to stand here today with the incredible men and women of the United States Navy,” Trump began to a chorus of cheers. “American sailors are the best war-fighting sailors anywhere in the world.”
Outside the shipyard, Williamsburg residents Suzanne Stern and Mike Hatfield, stood with a group of about 20 protesters.
Hatfield, a retired Navy captain and member of the activist group Indivisible, called Trump a risk to the nation’s safety.
“I’m very concerned that Trump is the biggest threat to national security that we now face,” he said. “More so than ISIS or even Russia.”
Stern said she was most concerned with Russia’s interference in last November’s election, adding she believes Trump and his campaign could be directly attributable to Russian interference in the election.
“I think Trump’s campaign worked with them to do so,” she said.
Beverly Long, a former civilian Navy worker at Newport News Shipbuilding and Trump supporter, said she’s not concerned with allegations tying the president and his administration to Russian meddling in the election.
“That doesn’t concern me,” Long said. “Because they need to get proof. As far as I’m concerned, they need to have the proof. I’m not someone to talk about somebody until I really know what they’re all about.”
She added she wishes people would give Trump the benefit of the doubt and believes the president will make good on his campaign promises if given the time.
“I just think they need to give him a chance,” Long said. “I mean he’s new at it, and he’s worked harder than any other president that I know of.”
Earthy Thompson, a Newport News Shipbuilding employee for 10 years, said he’s optimistic about the next four years due to the talk of increased federal funding for ship building.
“The fact that a president is here’s exciting,” Thompson said. “I’m not a big Trump fan, but I like to see the good in everybody. And, he seems like he’s going to bring a lot of money into the industry, and that’s good for me.”
Trump’s visit to Newport News comes on the heels of the release of the president’s budgetary priorities — and military spending is at the top.
“I asked Congress to eliminate the defense sequester and to support my request for a great rebuilding of the United States military and the United States Navy,” Trump said Thursday.
Newport News Shipbuilding, which is controlled by Huntington Ingalls Industries, is responsible for the design, construction, overhaul and repair of more than 800 ships for the U.S. Navy and commercial customers, according to the company’s website.
NNS is also the nation’s sole designer, builder and refueler of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and one of only two shipyards capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines, the website states.
On Monday, the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the fiscal 2018 budget would include $603 billion in defense spending and $462 billion in domestic funding.
The proposed defense total is a $54 billion increase above the Budget Control Act spending caps for defense, an expansion Mulvaney called one of the “largest increases in history.” The president said he intends to focus federal spending on national security, including boosts to the military, local law enforcement and the Border Patrol, according to POLITICO.
“This great rebuilding effort will create many jobs in Virginia and all across America,” Trump told the crowd of shipbuilders and sailors Thursday. “It will also spur new technology and new innovation. America has always been the country that boldly leads the world into the future — and my budget will ensure we do so and continue to do exactly that.”
Andrew Harris contributed reporting.
WYDaily archives were used in this story.