American Secretary of Defense James Mattis did not mince words with Congress on Monday as he testified before the House Armed Services Committee about President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 defense spending proposal.  According to the storied Marine General turned SECDEF, things have grown progressively worse for the men and women in uniform fighting in a multitude of conflicts in recent years.

“For all the heartache caused by the loss of our troops during these wars, no enemy in the field has done more to harm the readiness of our military than sequestration,” Mattis told lawmakers.

The budget requested by the president for 2018 calls for a $639.1 billion topline, which breaks down into $574.5 billion for the Defense Department’s traditional budgetary requirements and $64.6 set aside for overseas contingency operations.

The Defense Secretary was direct in who he felt was to blame for what he called a “shocking” state of the U.S. military’s  lack of readiness for combat.  Mattis was tasked with assessing the military infrastructure of the United States in terms of its preparation for a large-scale conflict with a near-peer adversary like those potentially found in the likes of Russia or China – and he blames Congress for allowing America’s military to stagnate and even weaken throughout recent years of partisan bickering and ineffectual budgetary posturing.

“We need bipartisan support for this budget request. In the past, by failing to pass a budget on time or eliminate the threat of sequestration, Congress sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role,” the secretary told the committee.

“Continuing resolutions coupled with sequestration blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk. Despite the tremendous efforts of this committee, Congress as a whole has met the present challenge with lassitude, not leadership.”

Mattis went on to remind the House Armed Services Committee that he isn’t the first Defense Secretary to speak to how these budgetary restraints have harmed American military readiness.  Previous secretaries, Mattis contended, warned Congress of the “erosion of capabilities sequestration would bring.”

It’s only thanks to the efforts of the men and women in America’s military, Mattis explained, that the problems aren’t even worse.