President Donald Trump’s strongest supporters and toughest critics each have acknowledged that 100 days is a brief window to assess the commander in chief.
But that hasn’t stopped the White House from promoting several lists of accomplishments during the first few months of Trump’s term in office, including a host of military moves. The administration insists his defense actions signal the kind of leader he’ll be for at least the next 1,360 days.
In a statement released Tuesday, administration officials said Trump so far “has taken bold action to restore prosperity, keep Americans safe and secure, and hold government accountable.” It noted that “with a focus on rebuilding the military, ending illegal immigration, and restoring confidence in our economy, the president is keeping his promises to the American people.”
However, not all of the touted achievements are clear-cut wins. Officials have highlighted some extensions of the previous administration’s policies as their own successes, while listing future promises among already completed actions.
What the White House sees as Trump’s most important military moves so far:
SYRIA MISSILE STRIKES
In an interview with The Associated Press on April 24, Trump characterized as “great responsibility” his decision to attack a Syrian airfield in response to a chemical weapons attack. It illustrated to him the difference between managing a company and a country.
“This is risk that’s involved, because if the missile goes off and goes in a city or goes in a civilian area … every decision is much harder than you’d normally make,” he told AP. “This is involving death and life and so many things.”
White House officials have framed the April 6 attack as a restoration of America’s leadership on the world stage, the kind of bold action needed to push back against dangerous regimes and too often lacking during President Barack Obama’s tenure.
But reaction on Capitol Hill was mixed. While most Republicans and some Democrats supported the strike, lawmakers from both parties lamented the lack of a clearer strategy for the region. And several have questioned whether Trump will require congressional authority for similar military moves in the future.
In remarks the evening of the attack, Trump called the decision one of “vital national security interest.” White House officials have left open the possibility of additional strikes in the future.
THE F-35 RENEGOTIATION
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump boasted about his negotiation prowess and said he would bring that business expertise with him to the Oval Office.
He claimed his first victory in that area in March, when Pentagon officials announced the latest purchase of F-35 fighters. Administration officials have repeatedly said that Trump’s discussions with Lockheed Martin executives saved Americans at least $700 million on the new batch aircraft.
Lockheed Martin representatives have not pushed back on those figures, but the savings appear to be in line with cost reductions announced by military officials late last year, before Trump got involved.
Still, those criticisms have not dissuaded Trump from using the program as an example of promised reforms and savings.
“If I can do that … the aircraft carriers, billions of dollars, the Gerald Ford, billions and billions over budget,” he told AP. “That won’t happen.”
$54 BILLION DEFENSE FUNDING BOOST
White House officials are also trumpeting Trump’s “advocacy” for a $54 billion defense budget increase as an important step to rebuild the military, even if that plan is still far from reality.
An outline of the plussed-up security spending would follow through on the president’s campaign promises to add significant military end strength and equipment.
So far, the plan has gotten mostly positive reviews from Republicans on Capitol Hill, even if a handful of prominent party leaders like House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, say it doesn’t go far enough.
Promising the money and getting Congress to approve it are two vastly different things, however. Lawmakers have barely discussed the fiscal 2018 federal spending plan so far, instead scrambling this week for ideas to keep the government open until at least the fall.
Democrats have promised a fierce fight over Trump’s budget plan, saying that other domestic needs and international assistance programs can’t be sacrificed to pay for the defense build up. Lawmakers will spend most of the summer debating whether a compromise can be reached.
Trump has repeatedly promised that he will “empower our military to fight,” a shot at what he and conservatives saw as the last administration’s micromanagement of defense operations overseas.
Pentagon officials said there have not been any significant changes to the rules of engagement for troops in foreign combat zones, but the White House has hinted at more autonomy within that framework for local commanders.
For example, when asked about the use of a massive new bomb in an assault on Islamic State positions in Afghanistan, Trump indicated the order did not originate from the White House.
“What I do is I authorize my military,” he said. “We have the greatest military in the world, and they’ve done the job, as usual. We have given them total authorization, and that’s what they’re doing.”
Trump has also stated that he has restored the military’s morale and pride, saying in the AP interview that “they were not proud at all” during Obama’s tenure. But administration officials have offered no data to back up those claims.
MISSING ISIS PLAN
One conspicuous absent item from the White House accomplishment lists is any mention of the fight against ISIS. During the presidential campaign, he promised a quick defeat of the terrorist group, accusing the previous administration of using too light a hand in the fight.
He has promised both a more forceful plan of attack but also no major increases in U.S. troops on the ground in the region.
Trump ordered a full review of the fight in Syria and Iraq at the start of his presidency, but has been tight-lipped about the results. He has repeatedly said he is reluctant to talk publicly about military strategy, out of fear it will give valuable intelligence to America’s enemies.
In his interview with AP, Trump said he has “a very strong plan” but also said “I don’t talk about it … and the generals don’t talk about it.”
But Trump has also lamented that he has not received enough credit for advances in the fight in recent months, saying that troops have enjoyed “tremendous success” since he took office. Pentagon officials have been calmer in their assessments, detailing continued progress in the ongoing fight over the last several months.