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Mattis Puts Readiness First, Modernization Later In Budget


WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has laid out a measured and cautious spending plan that puts near-term readiness needs first in his first budget guidance memo. The memo, out this morning, largely defers major equipment modernization until2019 and limits increases in the size of the force to “the maximum responsible rate” (emphasis ours). So, while Trump may yet launch a Reaganesque build-up of the military, the memo makes clear that it won’t start right away. It’s also explicit that, alongside straight additions to the budget, there will be “efficiencies” and cuts.

Overall, much like Mattis’s public statements on everything from foreign allies to the F-35 fighter, the budget memo is less revolutionary and more consistent with Obama Administration policies than is President Trump’s fiery rhetoric. “I can envision (former Defense Secretary Ash) Carter signing the same memo, if he was given a higher top line,” said one Hill staffer. In particular, priorities such as “enhancing the lethality of the joint force against high-end competitors” — Pentagon jargon for China and Russia — align perfectly with Carter’s plans. What’s more, while Carter is gone, his deputy Bob Workremains, and the memo charges Work with the lead role in preparing both the Pentagon’s proposed amendments to the 2017 budget and its budget request for 2018.

Admittedly, Mattis’s memo includes no numbers. “The dollar figures are something OMB would establish/approve,” a Pentagon spokesperson confirmed to me this morning — and the Office of Management & Budget will presumably be headed by a hardcore fiscal hawk, Rep Mick Mulvaney. But the memo does set broad priorities and specific dates:


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