If you want to avoid war, prepare for it. That’s what Secretary of Defense James Mattis argued before Congress on Monday while trying to secure new defense spending in the upcoming budget.
The head of the Pentagon and former Marine Corps general did not hold back when describing the need for stable and sufficient defense spending in his written statement for the House Committee on Armed Services.
Mattis referenced Henry Kissinger in his statement, quoting the former secretary of state as saying: we are “faced with two problems: first, how to reduce regional chaos; second, how to create a coherent world order based on agreed-upon principles that are necessary for the operation of the entire system.”
Mattis noted that Kissinger’s generation learned they must prevent “hostile states” from achieving dominance.
“And they understood that while there is no way to guarantee peace, the surest way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one,” said Mattis.
In order to achieve that goal, Mattis said President Donald Trump has requested a $639.1 billion “topline” for the fiscal year 2018 budget, $64.6 billion of which will go towards Overseas Contingency Operations.
The budget request is $52 billion over the cap placed by the National Defense Budget Control Act, passed and signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2011.
The Fiscal Year 2018 budget has five priorities: “restoring and improving warfighter readiness, increasing capacity and lethality, reforming how the Department does business, keeping faith with Service members and their families, and supporting Overseas Contingency Operations.”
Readiness has been a major priority for the armed forces. Military leaders have warned that each of their respective services are suffering from readiness shortfalls, mostly due to a lack of funding. The Army is low on manpower, the Navy is struggling to maintain ships and aircraft, the Marine Corps is undermanned, under-trained and poorly equipped, and the Air Force is small and aging, the vice Joint Chiefs of Staff warned the committee in February.
Mattis noted that sustained warfare abroad has contributed to the readiness problem. Combined with a lack of funding, the forces have been stretched to their limits.
“I am keenly aware members of this committee understand the responsibility each of us has to ensuring our military is ready to fight today and in the future,” said Mattis’s statement. “I need your help to inform your fellow members of Congress about the reality facing our military — and the need for Congress as a whole to pass a budget on time.”
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