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ICYMI: Cotton Questions Defense Secretary Mattis on the Budget Control Act and the Nuclear Posture Review

Written by Press Release

April 26, 2018

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Caroline Tabler<mailto:[email protected]> or James Arnold<mailto:[email protected]> (202) 224-2353 April 26, 2018
ICYMI: Cotton Questions Defense Secretary Mattis on the Budget Control Act and the Nuclear Posture Review
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Washington D.C. — This morning, Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) questioned Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during a Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing about the Budget Control Act, the Nuclear Posture Review, and other topics. Click here to watch the video in full. In addition, a full transcript of the Q&A can be found below.
Senator Cotton: Thank you, gentlemen, for your appearance here today and for your continued service to our country. Secretary Mattis, I want to return to a few points you made in your opening statement about the budget picture, both the budget levels and certainty. So this Congress passed a two-year budget a couple of months ago. We passed a spending bill that implemented the first year of that budget. That means we have one more year on that two-year budget to pass. How important is it to the Department of Defense that the Congress pass a DOD appropriations bill in a timely fashion this summer, as opposed to having a continuing resolution as we approach the end of this fiscal year on September 30th?
General Mattis: Senator Cotton, one of the ways we avoid the situation that Senator McCaskill just brought up is having a methodical approach to reviewing every dollar going out. Obviously, the narrower the window to spend the money, the increased workload during that period, so it’s critical. And I think that budget certainty also reverberates into American industry as we try to rearm the country with the modern capability. They cannot do that in their responsibility to their shareholders unless we give them that predictability.
Senator Cotton: Thank you. Well, since we have the topline number now for FY19, I hope that we’ll have the cooperation to pass a DOD appropriations bill this summer in a timely fashion rather than to see the filibusters that have occurred in the past. Looking out a little bit further, that two-year budget deal only lasts two years. We’re now less than 18 months away from FY 20, in which case the Budget Control Act caps and potential sequestration return. How important is it to the Department of Defense that we act now to eliminate the prospect hanging over your head that the BCA caps and sequestration may return in October of 2019?
General Mattis: Again, we need that predictability, sir, so that we can actually put a strategy into effect. It was noted in opening comments by the committee, if you don’t have a budget that reflects the strategy it doesn’t work. I like quantifying problems to the degree possible. If this were to go into effect, the first cut would be $85 billion in FY20. That means the strategy is not sustainable. The strategy is designed to protect America and our interests. I cannot provide you the same strategy. I would have to go back and rewrite it. There would be reductions in what we are able to do.
Senator Cotton: Thank you. I want to turn now to a question that Senator Reid raised about the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act and the specific point about a national-security waiver. As you mentioned that two specific countries, India and Vietnam, that have legacy Russian systems, they might face real challenges going “cold turkey” so to speak under CATSA. So you’re suggesting the national-security waiver as a way that this Congress can empower soon to be Secretary Pompeo to address the concerns that you have with those two countries, is that right?
General Mattis: That’s correct and there’s other countries. Indonesia, for example, is in the same situation trying to shift to more of our airplanes, our systems. But they’ve got to do something to keep their legacy military going.
Senator Cotton: How urgent is it that Congress pass that kind of waiver?
General Mattis: Sir, every day Russia is in a position basically to checkmate us with what they’re doing. It’s urgent.
Senator Cotton: Would you recommend that we try to do so in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act?
General Mattis: Absolutely.
Senator Cotton: And there’s only so many countries in the world and only so many of those use Russian legacy systems that are defense partners. Can, should we just have a list of countries that soon to be Secretary Pompeo might want to consider or is there a certain degree of criteria that we should use instead?
General Mattis: Sir, I would just put in a reporting requirement that we keep the Congress informed every time we exercise it. I would not make it where we have to come back to Congress in order to add to it. In the dynamics of today, issues can shift countries very, very quickly, Senator Cotton, as you know. And we want to move when we see the opportunity at the speed of relevance.
Senator Cotton: Thank you. I want to turn now to the Nuclear Posture Review and an exchange you and I had in a classified setting. Nothing classified about my question or your answer though, I simply want to have it on the record here. That Nuclear Posture Review did not include a no or foreswearing no-first-use doctrine, which we have never done in our nuclear history going back to 1945. It also advocates for a new sea-launched cruise missile which we had as recently as eight years ago for a low-yield sea-launched warhead. We have numerous low-yield warheads currently in our inventory. The bottom line, Secretary Mattis, is there any concept doctrine or capability in the new Nuclear Posture Review that is novel or inconsistent with 73 years of nuclear doctrine and practice for the United States.
General Mattis: No sir, it is a continuity of our nuclear-deterrent framework that you see, but it’s also an adaptation so that that deterrent is fit for anyone who thinks that they’ve created something that they could then give us the option of either surrender or suicide. We want to make certain the deterrent works against any attempted use of these weapons.
Senator Cotton: Thank you.
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