Mattis Outlines Plan to Attack Readiness Shortfalls

Defense Secretary James Mattis has outlined his “initial guidance” for strengthening the US military through the budget process. The Jan. 31 memorandum to senior Defense Department leaders comes days after President Donald Trump ordered Mattis to conduct a “readiness review” and to work with the director of the Office of Management and Budget to develop a Fiscal 2017 budget amendment to boost military readiness. Mattis’ plan includes three phases, the first of which are “intermediate objectives:” “improve warfighting readiness, achieve program balance by addressing pressing shortfalls, [and] build a larger, more capable, and more lethal force.”

To address the “serious readiness challenges,” DOD will create an amendment to the Fiscal 2017 budget request that addresses urgent needs, as well as “new requirements driven by acceleration of the campaign against ISIS,” states the memo. To pay for the needed increases in force structure, DOD will decrease funding in lower priority areas. The deputy defense security will oversee that effort as well as an expedited Fiscal 2018 budget review, with the intention of “balancing the program, addressing pressing programmatic shortfalls, while continuing to rebuild readiness.” This could include the procurement of more munitions—the Air Force has repeatedly discussed the need to refill the dwindling stockpile—boosting funding for facility sustainment, and focusing on advanced capability demonstrations. Mattis noted the Fiscal 2018 President Budget would be presented to OMB no later than May 1.

Under the third phase, DOD will begin work on a new national defense strategy. That strategy will “include a new force sizing construct, which will inform our targets for force structure growth. It will also determine an approach to enhancing the lethality of the joint force against high-end competitors and the effectiveness of our military against a broad spectrum of potential threats.