At a hearing of the United States Senate Committee on Armed Services on Thursday, several key witnesses spoke about the objectives of the U.S. military into 2019 based on the approved budget and various perceived threats on a global scale.
The first witness was the Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis. He noted that the budget was strategy-driven, address initiatives that streamline several areas within the Defense Department and to strengthen traditional alliances, build a more lethal force, and reform the Department’s business practices.
“As General Washington said during his first State of the Union address, ‘to be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace,’ and a lethal military arm will enhance our diplomat’s persuasiveness,” said Mattis.
He also noted that several countries present challenges to the global situation. Russia is modernizing its range of nuclear systems and China appears to be following suit. Iran’s nuclear ambitions also remain an issue, as the JCPOA remains up in the air with the May 12 deadline looming.
“Given the range of potential adversaries, their capabilities and strategic objectives, the review calls for a nuclear deterrent fit for its time – a tailored and diverse set of nuclear deterrent capabilities that provides a flexible, tailored approach to deterring one or more potential adversaries,” said Mattis.
During his testimony, he also updated the committee on various current issues. One was Syria, where he noted that the attacks on April 13 approved by President Trump were not an escalation of the ongoing Syrian conflict or the U.S. role in that conflict.
The committee also heard from General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He noted that “Iran continues to project a malign influence and threaten freedom of navigation in the Middle East. They are also modernizing their space, cyber, missile, and conventional maritime capabilities, which pose a direct threat to our allies and our interests in the region.”
One of the areas that Dunford touched on is cyberspace, where the U.S. has dealt with multiple cyberattacks and security remains a high priority.
“Although China and Russia remain the greatest threats to U.S. security, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist organizations have all increased their capabilities and are aggressively conducting malicious activities in cyberspace. Most of these occur below the threshold of open warfare, but they are injurious nonetheless, and their implications for armed conflict are clear,” said Dunford.
The testimony at the hearing showed that for now, the objectives of the U.S. military and defense are being funded, but it is also clear that the global threats will continue to dominate the defense strategy of the U.S. well into the future.