In an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, doubled down on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ claims that the United States Congress must provide immediate and consistent funding to the American military in order to counter the negative effects of years under uncertain budgets and sequestration.
According to the General, there will be “profound consequences for the military” in the near future “if the spending trajectory doesn’t change.” He went on to call on lawmakers to approve President Trump’s proposed budget that includes a slight bump in overall defense expenditures intended to help curb the gap created in military readiness caused by sixteen years of ongoing combat operations and dwindling funds.
“It will affect our nuclear deterrence, our conventional deterrence and our ability to respond if deterrence fails,” he said. “Alternatively, we can maintain our competitive advantage, with sustained sufficient and predictable funding. To that end, the [fiscal year 2018] budget is an essential step.”
James Mattis also testified before Congress on the subject, claiming that “no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration,” in his own testimony.
Dunford went further than simply calling on Congress to approve the 2018 budget, but also explained that in order to stay competitive with potential opponents in the global theater, the Defense Department needs “continued growth in the base budget of at least three percent above inflation.” Meaning the approved budget would need to be a baseline increase, with follow ups that allow for more money to be put towards improving and maintaining America’s defensive infrastructure.
Per the Chairman’s statement, the United States risks losing its ability to project power around the globe, which he explained should be considered, “arguably the most crucial military advantage the United States has.”
“From sending 2 million men to France in World War I, to invading Normandy in World War II, to landing at Inchon in the Korean War, or putting more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, the United States military knows how to get service members to the fight and then sustain them. It is something very few countries can do, and that alone has its own deterrent effect,” Dunford said.
However, because the United States has a long and storied history of being able to successfully place troops anywhere it deems necessary in the world, America’s competitors have been studying those methods and working to find ways to counter it as a strategic strength.
“From my perspective — really since the 1990s — China, Russia, other countries have studied U.S. capabilities from precision munitions to our ability to project power,” the chairman said. “We call it our center of gravity, our source of strength — the ability to project power when and where necessary to advance our interest, to meet our alliance commitments.”
Dunford went on to explain that it’s that ability to send troops anywhere in the world, and then support them logistically once they get there, that allows the American government to provide reassurance to its allies. That ability to offer support has proven invaluable in geopolitics, as it has served as a means to benefit diplomatic efforts the world over.
“Russia and China are investing in technologies to defeat that ability,” the chairman said. “These technologies include anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, electronic warfare capabilities and cyber capabilities.”
“All focus to prevent us from projecting power when and where necessary to accomplish our objective,” Dunford said.
The Chairman went on to explain how losing that projection ability would play into the strategy employed by Russian foreign policy – which has placed an emphasis on destabilizing NATO through sewing doubt about America’s commitment, or ability, to defend its allies in Eastern Europe. He went on to claim that China is and will continue to do the same in the Pacific.
“They want to keep us from being able to deploy forces into the area and to operate freely within the area,” he said.
“Unless we change the path we’re on, we’re going to be at a competitive disadvantage qualitatively.”
Image courtesy of the Defense Department