President Donald Trump signed two national security-related executive actions on Friday while attending the swearing-in ceremony for Defense Secretary James Mattis, one relatively uncontroversial and another that has opponents bringing up the Holocaust.
One action is an executive memorandum focused on rebuilding the military, something Trump has frequently promised to do.
The other is an executive order aimed at stepping up screening measures for people entering the country from seven countries in the Middle East. Trump has repeatedly called on the government to implement "extreme vetting" with individuals entering the U.S. from terror-filled insecure regions.
Trump's memorandum requested Mattis to prepare a report within 60 days that would lay out ways the military could hit increased levels of readiness by 2019.
Trump also instructed Mattis to initiate a review of the country's nuclear posture to ensure that the nuclear arsenal is "modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready and appropriately tailored to deter 21st century threats and deter our allies."
Trump promised "a great rebuilding of the armed services" as he signed an executive action focused on beefing up the military.
The president said the action would provide for "new planes, new ships, new resources and new tools for our men and women in uniform."
Last fall during the campaign, Trump laid out his plan to increase the size of the military that included building toward a Navy of 350 ships, an Air Force with 1,200 fighter jets and a Marine Corps with 36 battalions.
Plans of that kind will have an eager audience on Capitol Hill, especially with Sen. John McCain, who has proposed increasing the defense topline to $640 billion for fiscal 2018. That's $54 billion more than what President Obama had forecast for the fiscal year, and $90 billion more than the fiscal 2017 defense budget.
Trump's second executive action set out stricter standards for screening immigrants from certain nations, a move he said would keep terrorists from entering the country.
It would also eventually prioritize refugees from minority religions in those nations, which many critics read as Christians but could apply to other sects as well.
Trump's executive order temporarily suspended immigration from "countries of particular concern," including Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days.
During that period, Trump asked Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and his top intelligence officials to review what kinds of information visa applicants would need to supply in order to ensure proper vetting.
The order also suspended the flow of Syrian refugees into the country indefinitely "until such time as I [President Donald J. Trump] have determined that sufficient changes have been made" to the vetting process.
"I'm establishing new vetting measures to keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States of America," Trump said. "We don't want them here. We want to ensure that we are not admitting into our country the very threats our soldiers are fighting overseas."
Trump said he hoped the new measures would prevent people who hate American values from entering the country, citing "the lessons of 9/11."
"We only want to admit those into our country who will support our country and love deeply our people," Trump said.
Despite his references to 9/11, none of the attackers came from seven countries from which immigration has been suspended. Those attackers were from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates, and immigration from those countries is not being suspended. The suspension also does not include Afghanistan, where U.S. forces are still fighting Taliban and al Qaeda.
The president also paid tribute to "the heroes who have lost their lives at the Pentagon," calling them "the best of us."
Trump's "extreme vetting" measures have been met with criticism from progressive and civil liberties groups that claim such policies could lead to profiling of and discrimination against Muslim immigrants.
"'Extreme vetting' is just a euphemism for discriminating against Muslims," American Civil Liberties Union executive director Anthony Romero said Friday.
"Identifying specific countries with Muslim majorities and carving out exceptions for minority religions flies in the face of the constitutional principle that bans the government from either favoring or discriminating against particular religions. Any effort to discriminate against Muslims and favor other religions runs afoul of the First Amendment."
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., went a step further.
"On this Holocaust Remembrance Day we are reminded why providing sanctuary to refugees is crucial—and what the consequences can be when we don't take in those fleeing atrocities," he said in a statement Friday.
"During the Holocaust, the United States turned away Jews and others seeking refuge. Some of those individuals were then murdered in the largest genocide the world has ever known. Today, most of all, we should heed the tragic lessons of our past."
Mark Hetfield, president of the refugee organization HIAS, was among many others who seconded that concern.
"President Donald Trump is commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day by slamming America's door on refugees. This is a ghastly repeat of the tragic mistake America made in 1921, when President Warren Harding signed the Emergency Quota Act, severely limiting the numbers of refugees and immigrants admitted to the country," he wrote in an op-ed.