Secretary of Defense James Mattis appeared before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday to convey his views on military readiness and how congressional actions including failure to pass regular budgets is sapping the Pentagon’s ability to procure and develop weapons in a timely manner.
Excerpts of his statements are below.
To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm’s way, in effect signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives. They do so despite Congress’ abrogation of its Constitutional responsibility to provide stable funding. Our military has been operating under debilitating continuing resolutions for more than 1,000 days during the past decade. These men and women hold the line for America while lacking this most fundamental Congressional support, a predictable budget
Congress mandated this National Defense Strategy—the first one in a decade—then shut down the government the day of its release. Today, we are again operating under a disruptive continuing resolution. It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown or, at best, another damaging continuing resolution….
I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it. We all know America can afford survival.
“Weakness is the Surest Path to Conflict”: An Overstreched and Under-Resourced Military
Our military remains capable, but our competitive edge has eroded in every domain of warfare—air, land, sea, space, and cyber. Under frequent continuing resolutions and sequester’s budget caps, our advantages continue to shrink. The combination of rapidly changing technology, the negative impact on military readiness resulting from the longest continuous stretch of combat in our nation’s history, and insufficient funding have created an overstretched and under-resourced military.
During last week’s State of the Union address, President Trump said “weakness is the surest path to conflict.” To those who might suggest that we should accept a year-long continuing resolution, it would mean a return to the disastrous sequestration level of funding for the military….
Impact of Congressional Inaction: A force “Irrelevant to Tomorrow’s Security”
Failure to modernize our military risks leaving us with a force that could dominate the last war but be irrelevant to tomorrow’s security. We need Congress to lift the defense spending caps and support a budget for our military.
Let me be clear: as hard as the last 16 years of war have been, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of the U.S. military than the combined impact of the Budget Control Act’s defense spending caps, worsened by operating in 10 of the last 11 years under continuing resolutions of varied and unpredictable duration.
For too long we have asked our military to carry-on stoically with a “success at any cost” attitude. Our troops work tirelessly to accomplish every mission with increasingly inadequate and misaligned resources simply because the Congress has not maintained regular order. 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. As Speaker Ryan said in January, “our men and women in uniform are not bargaining chips.”
As Chairman Thornberry said in January, “If Congress does not come together to find a way to fund this strategy, Secretary Mattis must explicitly inform Congress and the American people of the consequences of failure…”
Additionally, should you stumble into a yearlong continuing resolution, your military will:
- not be able to provide pay for our troops by the end of the fiscal year,
- not recruit the 15,000 Army Soldiers and 4,000 Air Force Airmen required to fill critical manning shortfalls,
- not maintain our ships at sea with the proper balance between operations and time in port for maintenance,
- ground aircraft due to 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….
To carry out the strategy you rightly directed we develop, we need you to pass a budget now. If we are to sustain our military’s primacy, we need budget predictability. I know many want to avoid additional spending, but Congress must take action now to ensure our military lethality is sufficient to defend our way of life, preserve the prosperity our country enjoys, 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.