Mattis: A Strong Military Is Crucial To Effective Diplomacy

An effective diplomacy must be backed up by a strong military, according to Secretary of Defense James Mattis.

In order to ensure the U.S. can negotiate from a position of strength, Congress must be willing to invest in the military, Mattis told the Senate Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Wednesday. He requested an additional $30 billion be allotted to military spending for fiscal year 2017 in order to ensure the military is operating effectively.

“Our military must ensure that the president and our diplomats always negotiate from a position of strength,” said Mattis in his written testimony. “Global threats require a global response applying the full weight of our own and our allies’ power, allies which are also increasing their defense outlays.”

Mattis argued that while diplomacy is important, it is the military which is the ultimate U.S. bargaining chip.

“Diplomatic solutions will remain our preferred options, but we cannot deny the role of our military in setting the conditions for diplomatic progress: military deterrence is only credible if the military strength is sufficiently formidable that allies can confidently align with us in tempering adversaries’ designs.”

The secretary pointed to Russia and China’s malign influence on the economic, diplomatic and security decisions of their respective neighboring countries. He added that terrorist groups threaten stability in many regions, including the U.S., and that North Korea’s “reckless rhetoric and provocative actions” continue to jeopardize national security, despite United Nations sanctions.

Mattis’s request for additional funding for fiscal year 2017 comes just days after the White House released its budget proposal for 2018. The Trump administration claimed that the proposal increases defense spending by 10 percent (approximately $54 billion), however, that number is based on unfounded estimations from 2011. The increase may actually represent a 3 percent increase, when based on the number former President Barack Obama said he would have liked to have seen last year.

Mattis said that he based the request on a “realistic appreciation” on what was needed to “fight and win on the battlefield.” He added that while the $30 billion is necessary, it is only enough to fill current gaps, and not enough to improve capabilities in the future.

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