Operationally and financially, the Defense Department has had a good year and Defense Secretary James N. Mattis urged the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee to build on this.
The secretary and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified in a closed hearing before the subcommittee today. DoD released the secretary’s opening statement.
Mattis highlighted the National Defense Strategy, noting the document provides “clear direction for America’s military to restore its competitive edge in an era of re-emerging long-term great power competition.”
Confronting Current, Future Threats
He also talked of the need for the nation to refurbish and modernize its nuclear deterrent to confront 21st century threats.
The secretary also spoke about operations in Iraq and Syria, where the “by, with and through” strategy has driven the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria from 98 percent of the territory it once held.
“In South Asia and Afghanistan, uncertainty in the region has been replaced by the certainty of the administration’s South Asia Strategy,” he said in his remarks.
Mattis thanked the House panel for its efforts to provide the funding needed to face the threats of this new age.
“Last month, … President Trump signed an omnibus spending bill that funds the government for the remainder of the fiscal year,” he said. “This law — along with the two-year budget agreement passed as part of February’s Bipartisan Budget Act — finally freed us from the inefficient and damaging continuing resolution funding process.”
The law provides predictable and sufficient funding needed to continue implementing the National Defense Strategy.
The fiscal year 2019 DoD budget requests the resources necessary to fulfill the department’s enduring mission to provide the combat-credible military forces needed to deter war and, if deterrence fails, to win in the event of conflict. A strong military provides the sinew behind diplomacy.
Lethal U.S. Military, Strong Alliances, Business Reform
Mattis described what needs to happen to restore America’s military edge: the military must be more lethal, the United States must work to strengthen alliances and build new partnerships and DoD must reform business practices for performance and affordability.
“All our department’s policies, expenditures, and training must contribute to the lethality of our military,” the secretary said. “We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s thinking, yesterday’s weapons or yesterday’s equipment.”
This must cover the gamut of conflict, he said. “The paradox of war is that an adversary will move against any perceived weakness, so we cannot adopt a single, preclusive form of warfare,” Mattis said. “We must be able to fight across the entire spectrum of combat.”
The budget also “will modestly increase end strength for the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps to restore readiness; adding 25,900 to the active and reserve force,” Mattis said.
The budget calls for a 2.6 percent pay increase for service members, and continues increased procurement of preferred and advanced munitions, a necessity due to ongoing operations in the Middle East and the need for war reserves.
The budget calls for 10 combat ships and eight support ships and funds production of 77 F-35 and 24 F/A-18 aircraft.
“This budget request funds systems to enhance communications and resiliency in space, addressing overhead persistent infrared capabilities; positioning, navigation, and timing; plus space-launch systems,” Mattis said.
The National Defense Strategy also prioritizes investing in technological innovation to increase lethality, he said. “Cyber, advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, miniaturization, additive manufacturing, directed energy, and hypersonics are the very technologies that we need to fight and win wars of the future,” Mattis said.
Alliances go to the bedrock of U.S. defense, Mattis said.
“In the past, I had the privilege of fighting many times in defense of the United States, but I never fought in a solely American formation; it was always alongside foreign troops,” the secretary said. “History proves that we are stronger when we stand united with others. Accordingly, our military will be designed, trained, and ready to fight alongside allies.”
Reforming business practices is a necessity, Mattis said. “We will continue to establish a culture of performance where results and accountability matter on every expenditure to gain full benefit from every single taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” he said.
“The department is transitioning to a culture of performance and affordability that operates at the speed of relevance,” Mattis continued. “We will prioritize speed of delivery, continuous adaptation and frequent modular upgrades.”
DoD’s management structure and processes are simply a means to an end, the secretary said. “If current structures inhibit our pursuit of lethality, I have directed service secretaries and agency heads to consolidate, eliminate or restructure to achieve their mission,” Mattis said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)