Vice President Mike Pence told newly commissioned Navy and Marine Corps officers at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, that the era of defense budget cuts and shortages is over.
Pence thanked the academy's Class of 2017 for volunteering to be officers in America's armed forces at a dangerous time. He told them that he and President Donald J. Trump "will always have your backs."
But he went further, saying that the budget cuts that caused readiness holes in the military are done.
"To the families who are gathered here today and all these rising officers, I say President Donald Trump and I will not rest, we will not relent, until we rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy and ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have all the resources that you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe," he said. "That is our pledge to each of you."
More than 1,000 New Officers
A total of 1,053 men and women graduated and received their military commissions. They join a joint force in harm's way in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, and which patrols the sea lanes and airspace that keeps enemies at bay and allies reassured.
Pence touted recent budget developments as examples of his promise. "Earlier this month, President Trump signed a $21 billion increase in funding for our armed forces, the largest investment in military readiness in nearly a decade," the vice president said. "And earlier this week, in his very first budget, your commander in chief laid out one of the largest increases in defense spending since the days of President Ronald Reagan.
"Let me be clear: The era of budget cuts of the armed forces of the United States is over"," the vice president said.
VIDEO | 01:08
Vice President Addresses Naval Academy Graduates
The president's fiscal year 2018 budget request, which must be passed by Congress to take effect, calls for an increase of $54 billion for the Defense Department.
"President Trump is working with the Congress to make the strongest fighting force in history stronger still," he said. "With renewed American strength, your commander in chief is once again reaffirming America's role as leader of the free world."
A Long Line of Patriots
Pence told the graduates that they take their place at the end of a long line of patriots who have defended the nation, and that people in many parts of the world owe their freedom to the United States Navy and Marine Corps.
"Here at the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, these stands are emblazoned top to bottom with the names of lands and seas that were consecrated by the sacrifice of the American sailor and Marine," he said. "I see Belleau Wood, where the Marines charged the enemy six times, won the day, to defend the freedom of Western Europe."
He noted the World War II Battle of the Atlantic and a string of victories in the Pacific: Coral Sea, Midway, Leyte Gulf.
"I see Incheon in Korea and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam," he said. "I see Iraq and Afghanistan, where to this very day, at this very hour, your brothers and sisters in arms stand strong and courageous in defense of liberty in the global war on terror. Between the places engraved on these stands, I see all that the Navy and Marine Corps have done – and continue to do day in and day out to foster peace and prosperity on the seven seas, to defend the defenseless in distant lands, to keep the shores of America safe from all who would dare threaten us."
VIDEO | 01:20
Pence Gives Advice to Naval Academy Graduates Going Forward
Instruments of Policy and Power
The new officers will become instruments of American policy and power, Pence said, serving around the world protecting American lives, interests and American allies.
"You prevent the outbreak of major war and uphold peace and security around the globe," he said. "You keep open pathways of prosperity -- from the Straits of Hormuz to the South China Sea, where just yesterday one of our mighty ships conducted freedom-of-navigation operations, reminding the world what American leadership looks like. That's also what the Navy does."
And the new officers will be called upon to lead, Pence said.
"Always remember that you follow in the wake of heroes who have done just that," he added. "You can banish any doubt by thinking of those who have gone before, and the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us today -- not just in the stands, but beyond."
The new officers will never have to wonder if they have made a difference, Pence said. "Your lives will make a world of difference and do a world of good," he told them.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)