Home » Budget Industry » McCain: Where’s the Strategy? Mattis: ‘We’re Working It’


McCain: Where’s the Strategy? Mattis: ‘We’re Working It’

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis shakes hands with Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, before hearing on the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington D.C., June 13, 2017. DoD Photo

Spearheaded by Chairman Sen. John McCain, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee pressed the Pentagon’s top leadership why it had yet to produce a new national security strategy to inform the budget six months into the Trump administration.

The Arizona Republican said the single year budget the Department of Defense offered to Congress didn’t contain the context and long-range thinking that the House and the Senate needed to make sound decisions.

“We’re moving forward with the authorization with appropriation and without a strategy it makes our job ten times harder,” McCain told Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
“And it’s now six months and members of this committee, typically Senator Reed and I, but everybody we want a strategy. And, I don’t think that’s a hell of a lot to ask.”

In response, Mattis told the panel the complexity of global threats is taking longer to sort though.

“We have entered a strategy free time and we are scrambling to put it together, but anyone who thinks a strategy — an integrated, interagency, whole of government strategy can be done rapidly is probably someone who hasn’t dealt with it,” he said.
“It is — according to Dr. [Henry] Kissinger — the most complex series of threats that he has ever seen in his lifetime and he’s a master of dealing with kinds of issues. We’re working it.”

On Afghanistan, Mattis said, “We’re not winning right now” and promised to brief the committee by mid-July on the details of the administration’s plans for continued support of the Afghan government.

The danger of pulling out of Afghanistan even after 17 years of fighting there, Mattis said, was “we’ve seen what came out of these ungoverned space” there following the civil war. The result was a Taliban triumph and safe havens for al Qaeda to launch the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. He described Afghanistan then as “a center for international terrorism” and could be again.

As to what defines winning in Afghanistan, Mattis defined it as the Kabul government through its security forces being able to control the violence. The United States and allies will be helping it train the forces and provide high-end support, especially aviation, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. He said the largest ethnic group the Pashtun’s through their Loya jirga [popular assembly] supports the United States involvement in assisting the Kabul government in the struggle. The same support is found in opinion polling results among Afghans that were not conducted by the United States, Mattis added.

The fighting in Afghanistan has entered “an era of frequent skirmishing.” Earlier, Mattis said, “Right now, I believe the enemy is surging” hoping to build on its successes in the past year.

When asked about news reports about Russian attempting to hack into 39 states election data, Mattis said, “It’s worse” than that.

Dunford said the Pentagon “now talks about all domains” and expects it to be integrated into strategy and operations. He said the department is not only looking at defensive measures but “being able to take the fight to the enemy” if a cyber attack is launched against the United States. That “doesn’t mean the response has to be limited to cyberspace.”

Both said there should be consequences for Russia or any other nation or non-state actor for using cyber to attack United States infrastructure, including its electoral process. “This sort of misbehavior has to have consequences,” Mattis said.

Mattis acknowledged there are vulnerabilities in the United States to cyber attack that are being reviewed and addressed.

Dunford said overall, “I believe we have a competitive advantage over any adversary” now and probably for the next five years. What is needed is a commitment from Congress to passing a budget annually, rather than relying on Continuing Resolutions with all their restrictions to keep the government operating. He added budgets and five-year projections provide predictability to modernize the force and introduce needed new systems. He and Mattis called for defense spending to rise to five percent above the rate of inflation. The request for Fiscal Year 2018 calls for spending about three percent above the projected rate of inflation.

At the same time, the impact of the Budget Control Act puts hard limits on Pentagon and other federal discretionary spending. Sen. Jack Reed, (D-R.I.) and ranking member, said, “The budget that is submitted will not work” because it is more than $50 billion above the caps.

McCain and others noted during the hearing that Congress has to lift the caps, but so far Capitol Hill has not reached a comprehensive budget agreement on how to do that even for the FY 2017 request.

When asked about the impact of a blockade of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states, Dunford said air operations against the Islamic State in Syria and continuing and United States naval forces continue to transit the waters without harassment. The United States maintains a large air base in Qatar and elements of Central Command’s forward headquarters.

“We have friends in the region who have problems,” Mattis said, referring to Qatar’s support of the Muslim Brotherhood, its diplomatic exchanges with the Taliban and possible ties to al Qaeda. “Our policy is to try to reduce the problems” because “there are a lot of passions at play here.”

  • John Tomlin

    What a crock! All Trumpy’s cabinet members are too busy trying to cover for him as he parades down the path of stupidity and ignorance.

    • muzzleloader

      Troll alert!

      • John Tomlin

        No troll here, you pathetic little peckerwood.

    • Gen. Buck Turgidson

      Get lost puke

      • John Tomlin

        Looks like you’re lacking Purity of Essence lamebrain. Why are you nazis so afraid od using your real names? Can’t take it, I guess.

        • seamarshal

          I bet you were never in the military, right, lefty. If so, give us some details. You’re just a left wing obstructionist with a big mouth. Go out and join a riot somewhere.

          • John Tomlin

            Sorry to disappoint you butt head but I was a medic in the US Air Force and worked as a civilian for the Navy for 24 years and a Joint Defense Agency (TS/SCI) for ten. And, by the way, I am right-handed, you doofus.

          • seamarshal

            Why don’t you put your left sided brain where the sun doesn’t shine! No matter what you were, you’re still lefty. Maybe you’re the one that is Putin’s water boy!

    • seamarshal

      Said like a real Hillary left wing puke!

      • John Tomlin

        Pathetic, pitiful little peckerwood.

        • seamarshal

          That’s right lefty use the same language your left wing friends use. Your leftest commie friends in Congress aren’t doing much to solve their created problems (Obama care for just one) they just obstruct progress and blame Trump. Lets see, 8 years ago it was Bush. Follows a pattern right lefty.

          • John Tomlin

            You sound like a very sick person. Have you taken your medication recently?

  • gtman87

    We need to give SECDEF Mattis and his team time to sort out the incredible mess that was inherited from Obama and his feckless team. I believe Sen. McCain is taking his self-made “maverick” status too seriously & becoming a major, unnecessary obstruction to Trump’s agenda.

    • gtman87 Pls humor this old man and explain the Presidents agenda. You appear to be the only one willing to even acknowledge the existence of any well thought out plan.

  • Gen. Buck Turgidson

    Send old Mc back to where he belongs

  • Like most in this administration worth half their weight in salt Mattis is overloaded with duties and responsibilities not to mention time wasted on defending the President.

  • seamarshal

    McCain has been a has been for several years. I use to think he was pretty good. Now, I just despise him as a back stabbing old fool that looks at what he can take to make himself look good. He needs to get out of the Senate. As for the non Trump fans, just you wait!

    • old guy

      I campaigned for him, as one of his his WW2 reps. He has changed markedly since then. I do not know the cause.

      • seamarshal

        I agree. He was good but he went liberal and then left wing. I really didn’t care that he opposed Trump and then at the last minute when he thought Trump had a chance to win he supported him. His office doesn’t do much for vets as well.