The United States has a clear way forward with the 2018 National Defense Strategy to restore the military’s competitive edge in an era of re-emerging long-term great power competition, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee April 26.
Mattis, who spoke in a hearing on the Defense Department’s budget, highlighted the three priorities of the defense strategy: build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and build new partnerships, and reform the department’s business practices for performance and affordability.
“The strategy is the guidepost for all our actions, including this year’s strategy-driven budget request, driving meaningful reform to establish an enduring culture of performance, affordability and agility,” Mattis said.
The National Defense Strategy, framed within President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Strategy, supports a strong and lethal military, the secretary said. A lethal military enhances the persuasiveness of U.S. diplomats, allowing them to negotiate from a position of strength, he added.
“All our department’s policies, expenditures, and training must contribute to the lethality of our military,” he said. “We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s thinking, yesterday’s weapons or yesterday’s equipment.”
Mattis appeared before the committee with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and David L. Norquist, the Defense Department’s comptroller and chief financial officer.
Mattis highlighted progress, including in Afghanistan and with the global effort to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists. Uncertainty in South Asia has been “replaced by the certainty of the administration’s South Asia strategy,” he said.
“Concurrently in the Middle East, we have dramatically reduced ISIS’ physical caliphate,” he said, with a “coordinated, whole-of-government approach that works by, with, and through our allies and partners to crush ISIS’ claim of invincibility and deny them a geographic haven from which to plot murder.”
Budget supports defense priorities
The defense strategy prioritizes investing in technological innovation to increase lethality and fight and win the wars of the future, Mattis said. He highlighted those areas as cyber, advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, miniaturization, additive manufacturing, directed energy and hypersonics.
Mattis commended lawmakers for their support of the department, saying current funding ends the uncertainty surrounding short-term “inefficient and damaging” continuing resolutions and prioritizes spending for key areas.
The secretary noted “predictable and sufficient funding” from the fiscal year 2018 budget and the two-year budget agreement passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which Trump signed into law in February.
The budget, according to Mattis, supports the defense strategy in building a more lethal force by restoring current and future readiness, modernizing nuclear deterrent forces and their command and control systems, building for the future by improving military’s technological competitive edge, and reforming the department’s business processes to establish a culture of performance and affordability.
Fiscal year 2019 budget request
The fiscal year 2019 budget request seeks the resources necessary to provide the combat-credible military forces needed to deter war and, if deterrence fails, to win in any conflict, Mattis said. It also funds the three overarching priorities of the defense strategy, and fully funds modernizing the nation’s nuclear deterrent delivery systems.
Future defense secretaries will inherit a military equipped and ready for the wars of tomorrow, he pointed out.
“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.