Mattis Issues Budget Guidance, Says 2017 Submission Will Rise

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis answers questions from reporters during a flight to South Korea., Feb. 1, 2017

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Washington, DC – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued budget directives yesterday aimed at addressing shortfalls in the department and building a more lethal joint force.

The budget directives have a quick trigger, with the first request — for an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 budget — due to the Office of Management and Budget by March 1. The budget request for fiscal 2018 is due May 1.

Mattis listed three goals: to improve warfighting readiness, to achieve program balance by addressing shortfalls, and to build “a larger, more capable, and more lethal joint force.”

Launches Strategy Effort

The guidance also launches the effort to devise the 2018 National Defense Strategy.

DoD is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which freezes spending at fiscal 2016 levels. Mattis’s guidance is aimed at strengthening the armed forces and making the nation more secure, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said.

“The secretary is committed to achieving maximum value from every taxpayer dollar spent on defense,” Davis said. “This process reforms our budget process to improve warfighting readiness, fill pressing shortfalls and build a larger and more lethal force while taking care of our service members and their families.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work will manage the review processes for the March and May submissions.

2017 Amendment

The immediate priority is the 2017 budget amendment. Mattis said in his memo that the amendment will address “urgent warfighting readiness shortfalls across the joint force” and new requirements that may be needed as the campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant accelerates.

The Obama administration prepared the 2017 submission, and the amendment is the Trump administration’s chance to put in its priorities. The budget request was for $582.7 billion. Congress has not passed the budget.

“The amendment may increase force structure in critical areas where doing so would have an immediate impact,” Mattis wrote. It also will contain a provision for DoD to shift funds from lower-priority programs. Mattis wrote that he anticipates a net increase over the 2017 topline budget request the previous administration put forward.

Rebuilding Readiness

The fiscal 2018 budget will continue efforts to balance the department, address programmatic shortfalls and rebuilding readiness. The budget request — again drawn up in part by the previous administration — will examine buying more critical munitions, funding facilities sustainment at a higher rate, building programs for promising advanced capability demonstrations, investing in critical enablers and growing force structure at the maximum responsible rate.

There is no mention in the document about sequestration, a provision of the Budget Control Act of 2011 that imposes across-the-board spending cuts if Congress and the White House cannot agree on more targeted cuts aimed at reducing the budget deficit. President Donald J. Trump has pledged to work with Congress to repeal that law.

The 2018 National Defense Strategy will contain a new force-sizing construct that will inform targets for force structure growth, Mattis wrote. “It will also determine an approach to enhancing the lethality of the joint force against high-end competitors and the effectiveness of our military against a broad spectrum of potential threats,” he added.

All of this must happen as the department looks to ways to spend taxpayers’ money more wisely and effectively, the secretary said.

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