Mattis Warns of Consequences for Military if Congress Doesn't Pass Defense Budget

February 7, 2018

Secretary of Defense James Mattis said Wednesday that the military will be severely impaired if Congress continues funding the Pentagon through continuing resolutions and does not approve a two-year defense budget.

Mattis, who was on Capitol Hill earlier this week briefing lawmakers on the Trump administration's recently released National Defense Strategy, appeared at the White House press briefing to give a brief statement and answer questions. He primarily focused on how budgetary uncertainty has devastated the military.

"Two days from now, I will visit our nation's first security force assistance brigade at Fort Benning as they prepare to deploy to Afghanistan," Mattis said. "To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm's way, in effect, signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives."

"Our military has been operating under debilitating continuing resolutions for more than 1,000 days during the last decade," Mattis continued, adding that, in an increasingly dangerous world, failure to implement or fund the 2018 National Defense Strategy could leave the U.S. with a force "that could dominate the last war, yet be irrelevant to tomorrow's security."

"We need Congress to lift the defense spending caps and support a two-year budget agreement for our military," Mattis told reporters. "America can afford survival."

The Pentagon chief added that, while the American people expect their military to protect them, those not in uniform have a duty to support members of the armed forces.

"We expect the men and women of our military to be faithful in their service, even when going in harm's way. We have a duty to remain faithful to them," Mattis said.

He then detailed how the military will be affected this year without a budget.

"Absent a budget this year, America's military will not be able to provide pay for our troops by the end of the year. We will not be able to recruit the 15,000 Army soldiers and 4,000 Air Force airmen required to fill critical manning shortfalls," Mattis said. "We would not be able to maintain our ships at sea with the proper balance between operations and time for training and maintenance; we would have to ground aircraft due to a lack of maintenance and spare parts, degrading our pilots' proficiency; we would deplete the ammunition, training, and manpower required to deter war; and we would delay contracts for vital acquisition programs necessary to modernize our force."

"I cannot overstate the negative impact to our troops and families' morale from all this budget uncertainty," Mattis said.

When asked about the effects of a government shutdown on the military, Mattis said it would be "very damaging."

One reporter asked Mattis if recent accidents at sea in the Pacific that killed U.S. sailors would be prevented if the military was fully funded.

"You can count on us. We'll earn your trust on this. We will spend the money wisely," Mattis said.

Mattis' press conference came on the same day that the Senate unveiled a bipartisan, two-year budget deal. The plan still needs to pass the House, which passed a stopgap bill Tuesday to prevent another government shutdown.