Nat’l defense spending tops Pence’s remarks at Newport News Shipbuilding

The Navy's newest sub, the Indiana, was christened in front of Pence and a large crowd

WAVY/Joe Fisher

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — On the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency, Vice President Mike Pence delivered remarks at a christening of the Navy’s newest submarine, and talked about the administration’s commitment to bolstering the U.S. Military.

After nearly five years of construction at Newport News Shipbuilding, the Indiana’s christening puts the nearly $2 billion nuclear-powered warship one step closer to becoming battle ready.

“It’s really, really advanced; amazing technology,” said Jonathan Ferkins, a machinist mate. “It’s fun to be a part of … We are all super excited to get things going. For me, this is my first boat, so I am excited to see this actually get put in the water.”

Gallery: Navy christens the Indiana

For the shipbuilders, it’s the culmination of their hard work.

“It makes me proud to feel like I can be a part of protecting this country in my own small way,” said William Best, who started working on the Indiana in May.

Pence, who served as Indiana’s 50th governor, delivered the keynote address.

“[President Trump] sent me here today to this historic occasion as a sign to his deep commitment to the armed forces to the United States of America,” said Pence.

The vice president says the commitment is represented in the president’s plan to increase military spending by $54 billion in next year’s budget.

“Rest assured, President Trump will make the strongest fighting force in the world stronger still, for as history attests: when America is strong, the world is safe,” he said. “The USS Indiana will bear witness to this truth … For the USS Indiana signifies the enduring strength and leadership of the United States; a beacon of freedom in stormy and uncertain times.”

Diane Donald is the ship’s sponsor. She is a lifelong Navy spouse who has long served as a member of Submarine Force spouse organizations.

Donald’s husband, Retired Adm. Kirkland Donald is the former director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion.

“These ships are second to none; made in America by truly remarkable Americans,” said Mrs. Donald. “Thank you for a job well done on the Indiana.”

The ship will be put in the water for the first time in about two weeks.

It’ll then undergo rigorous testing before being delivered to the Navy and Naval Station Norfolk in February or March 2018.