Republican representatives and senators recently gathered together at a retreat in West Virginia to set the agenda for the year and strategize about the midterm elections. On Thursday, they were treated to a rare joint appearance by both Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
According to The Hill, Mattis informed the Republican lawmakers that he would be requesting approximately $716 billion in the 2019 budget, roughly $50 billion more than was requested for the 2018 defense budget.
“I’m not subtle,” Mattis said, “I need to make the military more lethal.”
“Some people think I’m supposed to be an equal-opportunity employer,” the secretary added, in what was described as a jab at those on the left who have demanded fiscal parity between military and domestic spending.
Mattis insisted that he needed an increase in funding — about 3 to 5 percent higher than inflation — so that he could simultaneously rebuild the readiness of our nation’s eroded ranks and capabilities, as well as realign the military with the new National Defense Strategy that shifts some of the focus away from international terrorism and back toward traditional powerful rivals like China and Russia.
He also spoke of the need for Congress to return to actual annual budgets instead of short-term stopgap measures like continuing resolutions as have been seen for nearly the past decade.
“I cannot maintain the U.S. military on CRs,” Mattis stated bluntly.
According to The Washington Free Beacon, Mattis also had an unmistakable message to any of our nation’s enemies and rivals that may be considering testing our resolve in defending our interests around the globe.
“Take us on and it will be your worst day and your longest day,” Mattis stated.
On a lighter note, it was also revealed at the retreat that Mattis and Tillerson have a good working relationship, and the quotable former general coined a new nickname for his State Department counterpart: Saint Rex of Texas.
According to the Washington Examiner, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry of Texas explained that the two secretaries spent about a half hour each explaining to the gathered Republicans what was going on in the world and what they needed to accomplish their goals.
“The secretaries were very clear in encouraging Congress to resolve the budget issues and to end continuing resolutions so they can manage their departments and, more importantly, the world knows we are functioning and can do whatever needs to be done to protect the national security of the United States,” Thornberry explained.
“We lost 23 service members to hostile actions in 2017. We lost four times more than that to training related accidents,” he stated, highlighting one of the consequences of the short-sighted stopgap measures. “This budget dysfunction has a human cost and our military is bearing the brunt of it.”
“The secretaries were very clear and direct about the imperative of getting a budget agreement in place so that we can end this series of CRs and threats of a shutdown,” added Thornberry, who pointed out that the most recent short-term CR expires on Feb. 8, and that Democrats again wanted to tie in a DACA fix for illegal immigrants to the unrelated budget battle.
While that type of ploy may have worked under the prior administration and the weak yes-man leadership the prior administration placed in charge of the military, the adults are back in charge now, and they are focused on the grim reality of the world around them, not political games and partisan squabbles.
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