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Budget Allows Forces to Restore Competitive Edge, DoD Leaders Tell House

The budget agreement hammered out in Congress will allow the U.S. military to restore its competitive edge during a time of renewed great power competition, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said today before the House Armed Services Committee. 

The secretary testified alongside Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and both men emphasized the budget agreement covering fiscal years 2018 and 2019 will give the department needed stability to implement the National Defense Strategy.

“The U.S. military has a competitive advantage over any potential adversary today,” Dunford said. “I am confident we can defend the homeland, meet our alliance commitments and prevail in any conflict.”

Three Lines of Effort

As DoD moves forward, it is pursuing three overarching lines of effort, Mattis said. The first is to build a more lethal force. The second is to strengthen alliances and build new ones, and third, the department will reform business practices for better performance and affordability.

Building a more lethal force is at the heart of everything the department does, the secretary said. “All our department’s policies, expenditures and training must contribute to the lethality of our military,” Mattis told the representatives. “We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s thinking, yesterday’s weapons or yesterday’s equipment.” 

Further, the United States cannot present any weaknesses, he said, as weakness draws attention and attacks. “The nation must field sufficient, capable forces to deter conflict, and if deterrence fails, we must win,” he said.

The budget request fully funds nuclear deterrence modernization. It modestly increases the end strength of the services to restore readiness. It funds an increase in the size of the Navy’s fleet and buys 77 F-35 and 24 F-18 aircraft. “This budget funds systems to enhance communications and resiliency in space,” Mattis said.

Cutting-edge research must continue to keep the military in the forefront, the secretary said. Cyber, advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomy, miniaturization, additive manufacturing, directed energy and hypersonics are among the technologies and processes that DoD will examine, the secretary said.

All this is done with a laser focus on increasing lethality, Mattis told the panel. “Those seeking to threaten America’s experiment in democracy should know if you challenge us it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

Importance of Alliances

Alliances and partnerships form the base of American influence and power, Mattis said. He noted that 74 nations and organizations are now participating in the campaign to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, and 41 are participating in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

The secretary said he insists that every dollar that comes to the department must be spent wisely on capabilities and capacities. The department has the right people in place and expects to finish the first departmentwide audit in the coming year, he added. “The department is transitioning to culture of performance and affordability that operates at the speed of relevance,” Mattis said. “We will prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation and frequent modular upgrades.”

Dunford discussed the emergence of Russia and China as challenges to the international order and accepted practices. But the nation also must meet the challenges of North Korea and Iran and the dangers posed by violent extremists in many parts of the world. 

All this requires the United States to invest in the full range of capabilities, he said, from those needed to deter a nuclear attack to those designed to deter Russia and China, to those needed to fight a guerilla war.

All this means America must maintain “a balanced inventory of ready, lethal and flexible forces that are relevant across a range of military operations,” the chairman said.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)