Future Budget to Stress Lethality over Force End Strength: Mattis

Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks about the National Defense Review, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks about the National Defense Review, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The $1.4 trillion going to the military over the next two years will be directed more to building the lethality and capabilities of the force rather than the services' end strengths in an effort to establish dominance, according to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

"I am very confident that what the Congress has now done, and the president is going to allocate to us in the budget, is what we need to bring us back to a position of primacy" among the world's militaries, Mattis said Sunday aboard his plane while traveling to Europe for a week of security meetings.

"We will be standing up some new elements -- cyber is one example. And we will be recruiting more mechanics in the Air Force and recruiting more soldiers and sailors," he said.

In addition, "we'll be buying more stuff" to bolster depleted inventories, particularly munitions, Mattis said ahead of the release Monday of the Defense Department's overview of the fiscal 2019 budget request, and the individual requests of the services.

However, the end result of the massive infusion of money will be a military that's "not a lot bigger, organizationally. It's built more to address the changing forms of warfare and to bring the current capabilities up," he said.

Last week, Congress finally moved past a string of continuing resolutions and partial government shutdowns to pass a two-year budget deal that gave the DoD $700 billion for fiscal 2018 and $716 billion for fiscal 2019.

"It will be a larger nut initially" for the military, Mattis said of the two-year deal, but the agreement worked out by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump also raised the prospect that Congress could return at the end of fiscal 2019 to the budget caps of the sequester process.

Mattis called passage of the budget "quite an achievement" for the president, although Trump during the campaign and his first months in office had repeatedly plugged for major increases in the end strengths of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

The fiscal 2019 budget proposal was informed by the National Security Strategy, released in December by the White House, and the National Defense Strategy, shaped by Mattis and outlined last month.

The NDS says the U.S. will shift from focusing on counter-terrorism to a great power competition with China and Russia.

"We were in on the ground floor" of the process of putting together the overall budget, Mattis said. "We saw different graphs, we went in with our inputs and all, at the same time we were putting together our National Defense Strategy.

"Our budgeteers were getting constant guidance as the National Security Strategy [and] National Defense Strategy were put together. So this all feeds into the longer-term view that's already couched inside the defense strategy," he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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