WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday will repeat his promises to “rebuild our military” and defeat terrorism around the globe, with specific reprimands directed at North Korea for aggressive military moves in recent months.
Senior White House officials said the speech, which has a theme of “building a safe, strong and proud America,” will also include a message of “returning to clarity about our friends and adversaries” as the United States looks to bolster foreign alliances to counter national security threats.
While much of the speech will focus on economic issues — officials said job creation, trade imbalances and celebrating the recent Congress-passed tax reform measures will be major topics — the inclusion of defense policy follows tradition of including military priorities in the address to the nation.
The presidential guest list for the event has not yet been announced, but Trump is expected to include several military members among the invitees in an effort to underscore his defense remarks.
White House officials would not comment on rumors that the president is readying a new executive order to reverse former President Barack Obama’s directives to close the military prison at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Nor would they say what other countries may be called out for hostile actions on the world stage, although they did confirm North Korea won’t be the only one.
In last year’s speech to Congress (which was not officially a State of the Union address), Trump also emphasized his plans to boost military spending and readiness. Among his promises was a pledge that “our military will be given the resources its brave warriors so richly deserve.”
Since then, negotiations on the defense budget — and the rest of the federal spending plan — have been stalled on Capitol Hill. Lawmakers face a Feb. 8 deadline to pass either a full-year spending bill or a fifth short-term funding package to prevent another government shutdown.
Last year’s speech also included Trump highlighting Carryn Owens, the widow of Navy SEAL Senior Chief William “Ryan” Owens, who was killed during an anti-terrorism mission in Yemen. The moment drew both praise from supporters for highlighting the grieving family and criticism for obscuring problems with that assault.
White House officials said the president will also emphasize themes of bipartisanship and opportunity in the speech, but also serve as “a reminder of all of his accomplishments” in his first year in office.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.