Mattis: ‘Budgetary Confusion’ Eroding ‘Our Competitive Edge’
By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the international situation today “is the most complex and demanding” he has seen in his four decades of service, and he needs “a military fit for that purpose in these days of emerging challenges.”
But Mattis complained that that “our competitive edge over our potential adversaries” is eroding “due to budgetary confusion and budget caps,” and said he is “among the majority in this nation that believes we can afford survival.”
“I want the Congress back in the driver’s seat of budget decisions, not in the spectator’s seat,” he said, adding that he had “great confidence in Congress,” but no confidence in automatic budget restraints, a reference to the 2011 Budget Control Act that sets arbitrary limits on spending that have left the armed forces too small and working with aged equipment.
Addressing the Association of the U.S. Army’s exposition at the Washington Convention Center Oct. 9, Mattis cited the persistent threat of terrorists in the Middle East, “national borders changed by the force of arms,” a reference to Russia’s seizure of Crimea, and North Korean provocations “threatening regional stability and even global peace.”
Asked what the military could do about the threats from North Korea, Mattis said currently “it is a diplomatically-led, economic sanctions-buttressed effort to get North Korea off this path.” But because no one knows what the future may bring, the armed services must be ready “so we can have military options that our president can employ if needed.”
The military “must be so ready … that everybody in the world will want to deal with Secretary [Rex] Tillerson’s Department of State, not the Department of Defense,” he said.
“Everything we do must contribute to the increased lethality of our military. … We must never lose sight of the fact that we have no God-given right to victory on the battlefield.”
Mattis said the military must maintain a stable and effective nuclear deterrent “so those weapons are never used,” plus “a decisive conventional force” that can deter war “or end it decisively if conflict occurs,” and “an irregular capability, so we can fight across the spectrum of conflict.”
He said the department is pursing three lines of effort: to improve lethality, to strengthen existing international partnerships and build new ones and to “rebuild our business practices to make the best use of every dollar given to us.”
On that last issue, Mattis said the department is acting on the directive Congress put in last year’s defense authorization to split the undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics into two components that separate innovation from production.