Readiness, ISIS Fight Come First for Mattis in Rebuilding Military
Defense Secretary James Mattis put readiness and "accelerating" the campaign against ISIS at the top of his wish list in his first budget guidance to the force on complying with President Donald Trump's executive order to rebuild the military.
Mattis said Wednesday there are three priorities in order of importance: Improve warfighting readiness; address pressing shortfalls; and "build a larger, more capable and more lethal joint force."
Achieving those goals will require more money for the military than was requested in the fiscal 2017 budget by former President Barack Obama, Mattis said.
To jump-start the process, Mattis said he has ordered a proposed amendment to the fiscal 2017 budget. He did not go into details but said in a memorandum that the amendment would "address urgent warfighting readiness shortfalls and new requirements driven by acceleration of the campaign against ISIS."
Mattis said the amendment might include immediate requests for more troops and possible cuts to lower-priority programs, but overall would add up to a "net increase over the FY2017 topline requested by the previous administration."
He said drawing up the amendment and beginning negotiations with Congress will be the job of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, a holdover from the Obama administration who has said he is staying on temporarily at the request of Mattis, and with the approval of the Trump administration.
Mattis said the proposed amendment will be submitted to the White House Office of Management and Budget no later than March 1. He also put Work in charge of putting together the department's fiscal 2018 budget request by May 1, indicating that Work may be staying on longer than anticipated.
"Through all of these budget and program actions and strategy reviews, we cannot lose sight of the imperative to keep faith with our service members and their families," Mattis said. "We will ensure that we are caring for those charged with defending the nation and its interests."
Mattis' proposed amendment and fiscal 2018 budget request are expected to get strong support from Congress. The chairmen of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees -- Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and Rep. Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican -- have both called for boosting military spending and lifting the budget caps known as sequestration.
With Mattis at his side at the Pentagon last Friday, Trump signed an executive order and memorandum to Mattis and the director of OMB titled "Rebuilding the U.S. Armed Forces."
Trump ordered a 30-day readiness review and also ordered that a "plan of action" be submitted within 60 days.
The president said the plan of action should address "insufficient maintenance, delays in acquiring parts, access to training ranges, and combatant command operational demands."
The plan should also include "funding needed for consumables [fuel, ammunition], manpower shortfalls, depot maintenance capacity, and time needed to plan, coordinate, and execute readiness and training activities," Trump said.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.
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