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​Vice President Mike Pence delivers a surprise address at AFA's Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md., on Sept. 18. Staff photo by Mike Tsukamoto.

Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed the Trump administration’s commitment to defense investment and Air Force modernization in an impromptu speech at AFA’s Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Tuesday.

“I’m proud to say that, as the proud father of a Marine Corps pilot, that I serve alongside a president who recently signed the largest increase in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan,” he told a standing-room audience during the surprise speech, which followed remarks by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein.

 

​​Vice President Mike Pence delivers a suprise speech at AFA's 2018 Air, Space & Cyber Conference in National Harbor, Md. Video by AFA.

Pence boasted that President Donald Trump “authorized the purchase of 48 new” F-35 Lightning II fighters, fully funded the B-21 Raider long-range strike bomber program, and invested “in new resources to develop a new light-attack aircraft and upgrade the A-10 Warthog,” among other achievements.

“We’re making a commitment to our national defense, and we’re gonna make sure you have the best equipment on Earth,” he said.

His speech coincided with the service’s 71st anniversary, for which he extended “best birthday wishes” on his and Trump’s behalf.

In praising the Air Force Association’s 100-year track record of advocating for airpower--even before it was properly founded as a standalone military branch--Pence promised the administration would keep looking out for airmen and collaborating with AFA leaders.

“I promise you that this is an administration that’ll continue to work very closely on behalf of each and every one of you who wear the uniform of the Air Force and serve in our national defense, and we’ll continue to work very closely with the leadership of this great organization,” he said.

Pence also expressed pride in “American companies and American workers” and underscored the administration’s dedication to supporting US-owned business, in line with its commitment to “America First” policies.

“We’re getting them busier than ever before, aren’t we Secretary?” he asked Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, who introduced him minutes before. “We really and truly are.”​