Mattis Breaks With Trump on Government Shutdown: 'Very Damaging to the Military'

From left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise R-La. Rep. Jim Banks R-Ind. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan R-Wis. speaking and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy R-Calif. right meet with reporters following a closed-door GOP strategy session at the Cap

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday heralded the two-year spending deal struck by Senate leaders, saying the military needs long-term funding to keep America safe.

When asked about the effects of a government shutdown on the military, Mattis said it would be "very damaging". "Our troops work tirelessly to accomplish every mission with increasingly inadequate and misaligned resources simply because Congress has not maintained regular order". Included among those crashes were 37 troop deaths.

One reporter asked Mattis if recent accidents at sea in the Pacific that killed USA sailors would be prevented if the military was fully funded.

Meanwhile, Russia and China have been investing heavily in their own military forces, including their nuclear weapons, putting a significant dent in the US military's advantage in battlefield capabilities, should it ever be drawn into conflict with those powers.

Mattis made the comment while testifying before the House Armed Services Committee on the recently released National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review.

Those strategies each call for increased funding to boost the size of the USA military and expand its training, but also to modernize infrastructure and conventional and nuclear weapons systems.

He emphasized Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran, and the continuing danger of Islamic terrorism, urging the Senate to pass defense measures the House has approved numerous times. That shutdown resulted in missed training for thousands of National Guardsmen and reservists and forced furloughs on thousands more Defense Department civilians.

In a world awash in change and with increasing threats, there is no room for complacency, Mattis said.

In congressional testimony here Tuesday, Mattis told Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) it was "correct" that the proposed low-yield submarine-launched warheads were a "bargaining chip" to bring Russian Federation to the negotiating table after its alleged violation of an important arms-control treaty that forbids certain nuclear cruise missiles. "Yet we all know that America can afford survival". "It is not lost on me that as I testify before you this morning, we are again on the verge of a government shutdown, or at best, another damaging continuing resolution".

The committee's ranking member, Adam Smith of Washington, said funding other federal agencies through continuing resolutions could hinder US national security in the same way that defense hawks argue funding the Pentagon through short-term measures weakens national defense. "Ryan said in January, 'our men and women in uniform are not bargaining chips'". "That support should not be conditioned on any other issue" such as spending on domestic programs. "And we can never forget that there is a real, human cost to failing to fully support them".

The bill to avoid another government shutdown at midnight Thursday faced uncertain prospects in the Senate but could set the stage for agreement on a modified resolution that might finally yield a budget agreement for fiscal 2018, according to Sen.

"To those who might suggest that we should accept a year-long continuing resolution, it would mean a return to the disastrous sequestration level of funding for the military", the defense secretary said.

Smith said he bristled at accusations that Democrats were responsible for the budget situation, calling Republican's proposed cuts to non-defense appropriations including education and infrastructure projects and shrinking State Department, Justice Department and Homeland Security Department budgets problematic.

Although Congress appeared to be moving towards another stopgap continuing resolution of uncertain duration, Mattis said the Defense Department was once again going through preparations for a possible shutdown at midnight Thursday. "Defense is incredibly important".

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