While the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review align with the president’s National Security Strategy, no strategy can survive without the necessary stable, predictable funding, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said in a Capitol Hill hearing today.
“Failure to modernize our military risks leaving us with a force that could dominate the last war, but be irrelevant to tomorrow’s security,” the secretary, appearing with the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, told the House Armed Services Committee.
Mattis also urged legislators “to lift the defense spending caps and support a budget for our military of $700 billion for fiscal year 2018 and $716 billion for the next fiscal year.”
Budget Uncertainty Harms Readiness
The Budget Control Act and continuing resolutions have negatively impacted military readiness, Mattis said.
“As hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done as much to harm to the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating for 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration,” the secretary said. “The Budget Control Act was purposefully designed to be so injurious that it would force Congress to pass necessary budgets — it was never intended to be the solution.”
For too long, the United States has asked its military to carry on stoically with a success-at-any-cost attitude, Mattis said, adding that U.S. troops work tirelessly to accomplish every mission with increasingly inadequate and misaligned resources, “simply because Congress has not maintained regular order.”
He added, “The fact that our volunteer military has performed so well is a credit to their dedication and professionalism. We expect the men and women of our military to be faithful in their service, even when going in harm’s way. We must also remain faithful to them.”
The consequences of not providing a budget “are clear,” the secretary said.
“Even though we are protecting ongoing operations from continuing resolution disruptions, each increment of funding in support of our partners in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria requires a 15-day Congressional notification,” Mattis said. “My commanders in the field write to me for help in getting timely and predictable funds for their efforts as they work to execute our strategy against the enemy in the field.”
Additionally, Mattis told the committee, should Congress enter into a yearlong continuing resolution, America’s military will:
— Not be able to provide pay for troops by the end of the fiscal year;
— Not recruit the 15,000 soldiers and 4,000 airmen required to fill critical manning shortfalls; and
— Not maintain ships at sea with the proper balance between operations and time in port for maintenance.
Mattis said continuing negative budget circumstances would also:
— Ground aircraft because of a lack of maintenance and spare parts;
— Deplete the ammunition, training and manpower required to deter war; and
— Delay contracts for vital acquisition programs necessary to modernize the force.
“Further, I cannot overstate the impact to our troops’ morale from all this uncertainty,” the secretary said.
Mattis said he knows that in time of a major war, Congress will provide the military with what it needs.
“But money at the time of crisis fails to deter war, and Congress knows the military would at that point have no time to prepare, because it takes months and years to produce the munitions, training, and readiness required to fight well,” he said.
“To carry out the strategy you rightfully directed we develop, we need you to pass a budget now,” the secretary said.
“If we are to sustain our military’s primacy, we need budget predictability,” Mattis said. “Congress must take action now to ensure our military’s lethality is sufficient to defend our way of life, preserve the promise of prosperity, and pass on the freedoms we enjoy to the next generation. I ask that you not let disagreements on domestic policy continue to hold our nation’s defense hostage.”
Nuclear weapons pose the only existential military threat to the nation, Selva said.
“Therefore, there is no higher priority for the joint force than fielding all of the components of an effective nuclear deterrent to deter potential adversaries from nuclear attack on any scale,” he said.
“It is important to note the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review both make the assumption that the military will receive timely, predictable and sufficient funding to execute these strategies,” the vice chairman said.
Selva added, “As General Mattis has emphasized, we in uniform appreciate the support of this committee and the Congress, and we trust the Congress will provide the funding needed to turn these strategies into reality.