Mattis: U.S. Military Becoming ‘Stronger, More Lethal, More Agile’

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  • By Terri Moon Cronk
  • DoD News, Defense Media Activity

The Defense Department is making significant progress along its three strategic lines of effort outlined in the National Defense Strategy issued in January, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told reporters today.

Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford updated Pentagon reporters this morning.

The secretary praised the strong bipartisan support in Congress that resulted in the $717 billion budget authorization for 2019. “And our military continues to grow stronger, more lethal, more agile, and certainly more deployable than a year ago,” he said.

The Fiscal Year ‘2019 National Defense Authorization Act is named for the late Sen. John S. McCain, and it meets all of DoD’s critical needs, Mattis said.

“I cannot thank Congress without expressing my respect for [McCain] for his steadfast courage and his service and my deepest condolences to his family for the loss of a man who represented all of the ideals America stands for,” the secretary said.

McCain was a staunch supporter of the U.S. military, he said.

“Our nation has lost a great patriot, and our military lost one of our most ardent supporters,” Mattis said.

The chairman also praised the late senator from Arizona.

“[He] was a lifelong and tireless advocate for the men and women of the U.S. military,” Dunford said. “While we mourn Senator McCain’s passing, we’ll be eternally grateful for his distinguished service and his courageous example.”

Maintaining Military Readiness

Today, the United States is being challenged across the global stage, Mattis said.

“[We] are witnessing a world that is awash in change, and maintaining readiness in the face of looming threats is a responsibility that we owe the next generation,” the secretary said.

The Defense Department is working hard to meet those challenges, he said.

“We’re going to put our activities into a strategic framework that we have provided in the National Defense Strategy,” Mattis said of the three lines of effort: increasing lethality, strengthening alliances and building new partnerships internationally, and reforming how DoD does business to achieve the best use of taxpayers’ money.

“[We] have no room for complacency in any domain, the secretary said. “We recognize cyberspace and outer space as warfighting domains on par with air, land and sea. And these two domains … were made contested domains by the actions of others, so as a result we have elevated [U.S.] Cyber Command to full combatant command status and we have worked with Congress and the White House to define the evolving space problem that we confront.”

DoD is also putting into place the National Defense Authorization Act’s provision for a unified space command, in line with the president’s vision for a Space Force, while revising its vision for defending its assets in space and revising antiquated acquisition processes.

“We are working now with Congress on our way ahead with regard to needed legislation for a separate department,” Mattis said.

“We have released our Nuclear Posture Review, outlining the necessary steps we are taking to strengthen America’s nuclear deterrents so these weapons are never used, nuclear war being a war that cannot be won and must never be fought,” he said.

DoD, also has added new standards to improve deployability of its forces so they are ready to fight and win at any time across any domain, the secretary said.

Alliances, Partnerships

The No. 2 line of effort goal is to “improve consultation, cooperation and burden-sharing with alliances and partnerships so we can best deter … threats and competition, … because we are stronger alongside like-minded nations,” Mattis noted.

“Democracy is working, and we will be continuing to work with our friends from Ottawa to the southern tip of South America, for cooperation is critical for realizing the shared vision of democracy, prosperity and security,” he said.

The last NATO summit yielded tangible results with 29 partner nations, which are now spending more on defense in the organization, Mattis said “All recommitted to spending 2 percent of [gross domestic product] on defense by 2024,” he added.

The secretary said DoD also gained full commitment to what’s called the four 30s: 30 air squadrons, 30 naval ships and 30 combat battalions, all available to fight within 30 days. “That is a well-established and quantifiable goal now,” he said.

DoD Business Reform

The department’s No. 3 line of effort is reforming how it does business.

“We understand we cannot have lasting security for our country without solvency,” Mattis emphasized. “We are conducting the first audit in the department’s history and I want that audit to find problems. It’s the only way we will be able to craft effective solutions.”

That ensures that DoD upholds the trust Congress and the American people have placed in the department to spend their tax dollars wisely, he added.

DoD reform efforts have produced nearly $4 billion in savings in fiscal year 2018, which can be applied to more lethality, the secretary said. “We initiated the repeal of several hundred unnecessary regulations across the department, enhancing our efficiency and making it easier for industry to work with us and without compromising performance or accountability,” the secretary told reporters.

Mattis pointed out that DoD embraced and finalized the congressionally directed split between its acquisition and sustainment and research and engineering offices to ensure warfighters have the technology and equipment they need both on the battlefields of today and tomorrow.

The secretary said the bottom line is the “significant progress among the three lines of effort, and [that] our strategic framework is proving applicable across our far-flung department’s operations, and we will continue to drive results in the months and years ahead.”

(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, brief reporters at the Pentagon, Aug. 28, 2018. DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando