Friday, April 27, 2018

Mattis Highlights Efforts to Restore Military, Fight Tomorrow’s Wars

By Lisa Ferdinando, DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON -- The United States has a clear way forward with the 2018 National Defense Strategy to restore the military’s competitive edge in an era of re-emerging long-term great power competition, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Mattis, who spoke in a hearing on the Defense Department’s budget, highlighted the three priorities of the defense strategy: build a more lethal force, strengthen alliances and build new partnerships, and reform the department’s business practices for performance and affordability.

“The strategy is the guidepost for all our actions, including this year's strategy-driven budget request, driving meaningful reform to establish an enduring culture of performance, affordability and agility,” Mattis said.

The National Defense Strategy, framed within President Donald J. Trump’s National Security Strategy, supports a strong and lethal military, the secretary said. A lethal military enhances the persuasiveness of U.S. diplomats, allowing them to negotiate from a position of strength, he added.

“All our department’s policies, expenditures, and training must contribute to the lethality of our military,” he said. “We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s thinking, yesterday’s weapons or yesterday’s equipment.”

Mattis appeared before the committee with Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and David L. Norquist, the Defense Department’s comptroller and chief financial officer.

Military Successes

Mattis highlighted progress, including in Afghanistan and with the global effort to defeat Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists. Uncertainty in South Asia has been “replaced by the certainty of the administration’s South Asia strategy,” he said.

“Concurrently in the Middle East, we have dramatically reduced ISIS’ physical caliphate,” he said, with a “coordinated, whole-of-government approach that works by, with, and through our allies and partners to crush ISIS’ claim of invincibility and deny them a geographic haven from which to plot murder.”

Budget Supports Defense Priorities

The defense strategy prioritizes investing in technological innovation to increase lethality and fight and win the wars of the future, Mattis said. He highlighted those areas as cyber, advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, miniaturization, additive manufacturing, directed energy and hypersonics.

Mattis commended lawmakers for their support of the department, saying current funding ends the uncertainty surrounding short-term “inefficient and damaging” continuing resolutions and prioritizes spending for key areas.

The secretary noted “predictable and sufficient funding” from the fiscal year 2018 budget and the two-year budget agreement passed as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act, which Trump signed into law in February.

The budget, according to Mattis, supports the defense strategy in building a more lethal force by restoring current and future readiness, modernizing nuclear deterrent forces and their command and control systems, building for the future by improving military's technological competitive edge, and reforming the department's business processes to establish a culture of performance and affordability.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request

The fiscal year 2019 budget request seeks the resources necessary to provide the combat-credible military forces needed to deter war and, if deterrence fails, to win in any conflict, Mattis said. It also funds the three overarching priorities of the defense strategy, and fully funds modernizing the nation’s nuclear deterrent delivery systems.

Future defense secretaries will inherit a military equipped and ready for the wars of tomorrow, he pointed out.

“Those seeking to threaten America’s experiment in democracy should know: if you challenge us, it will be your longest and worst day,” he said.

Colombian President Visits, Thanks Southcom for its Support

MIAMI -- Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos visited U.S. Southern Command here April 25 to thank the command’s personnel for their steadfast support to his country’s security efforts.

During the visit, Santos presented Southcom with his country’s Orden de San Carlos (Order of San Carlos) Medal for the command’s unwavering support for Colombia’s peace and security throughout the years.

The Colombian government established the decoration in 1954 to recognize civilian and military recipients of Colombian and foreign nationality for “distinguished service to the nation, especially in the area of international relations.”

U.S.-Colombian Partnership

Santos praised the strong cooperation and joint efforts between Colombia and the U.S., particularly through Southcom. Colombia is and will remain the strongest U.S. strategic partner in the region, he said.

Santos’ administration has implemented a national strategy aimed at ending more than 50 years of internal conflict, disrupting transnational criminal groups operating within its borders, and improving the safety and quality of life of its people.

The Colombian president reached a landmark peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Plan Colombia, and now Peace Colombia, were crafted by Colombia’s democratic leaders, carried out by its security forces and financed primarily by its citizens with assistance from democratic and defense partners like the U.S.

Since 2000, the U.S. invested significant funding to support Colombia’s security efforts, including military assistance from Southcom, which changed over time as Colombia’s internal security improved and its requests for assistance from the command decreased.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addresses members of U.S. Southern Command during a visit to the organization’s headquarters in Miami.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos addresses members of U.S. Southern Command during a visit to the organization’s headquarters in Miami, April 25, 2018. Santos visited Southcom to thank its personnel and present the command with the Orden of San Carlos (Order of San Carlos) Medal for its unwavering support for Colombia’s peace and security. U.S. Southern Command photo by Jose Ruiz

In August, while testifying before a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee, William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, who served as U.S. ambassador to Colombia from 2007-2010, summarized how Colombia’s strategies have improved its security climate.

“In 2016, Colombia had its lowest reported homicide rate in 40 years,” Brownfield told the committee.

The world witnessed one of the country’s security successes July 2, 2008, when Santos was Colombia’s defense minister. On that date, the Colombian armed forces carried out a daring rescue of more than a dozen hostages kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group, among them three U.S. citizens. The FARC held the three U.S. defense contractors captive for 1,967 days, after an aerial mission the former hostages were conducting to help Colombian security forces detect cocaine crops ended when their aircraft crash-landed in an area controlled by their captors.

Santos last visited Southcom in 2007, after assuming duties as defense minister, to discuss U.S.-Colombia defense cooperation, Southcom support for Colombia’s security strategies and bilateral cooperation to secure the safe rescue or release of the three U.S. citizens held hostage by the FARC.

Helping Colombia Fight Drug Cartels, Insurgents

Colombia launched Plan Colombia, the U.S. initiative to help Colombia battle drug cartels and insurgent groups, almost two decades ago. Southcom provided assistance to Colombia’s armed forces during Plan Colombia included equipment, training and information sharing.

Over time, U.S. military assistance to Colombia has transitioned based on requests, with the earliest assistance aimed at bolstering critical operational capabilities, such as combat lifesaver and joint planning skills. More recent assistance has included training for Colombian military instructors who’ll support demining missions or support for Colombian military helicopter units seeking to improve their fleet logistics and sustainment capacity."

Southcom is one of the nation’s six geographically-focused unified commands with responsibility for U.S. military operations in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.

Military Children: Strong, Resilient, Adaptable Individuals

By Air Force Airman 1st Class Valentina Viglianco, 11th Wing

JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. -- April is designated as the Month of the Military Child and is a time to honor the sacrifices of the more than 1.7 million children of military members serving in the U.S. and overseas.

“Military children go through different challenges than civilian children,” said retired Air Force Master Sgt. Jose Cerna, a parent of two military children. “With today’s operations tempo of the military and all the deployments military members have to go through, the children have to stay behind and have to be strong without their parent[s].”

Jose’s oldest child, Melissa Cerna, 17, is a student at Joint Base Andrews’ feeder school Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. She said she remembers the obstacles she faced during her father’s time in the military.

Father’s Deployment, Multiple Moves

“It was a challenge for me being a military child because I had to stay emotionally tough,” Melissa said. “When I was in third grade I experienced my dad being deployed for six months. This was a time of great sadness because I missed his presence. While my dad was deployed it made me realize how important his physical and emotional contributions were to the family.”

Melissa said her experience of repeated deployments of a parent and multiple moves in a school year have taught her resiliency.

“Through these challenges, it made me stronger as a person and more adaptable,” she said. “While my dad was deployed, I had to step up to the plate and be strong for my younger brother and help my mom out more. I would be extra positive for my brother by letting him know that dad will be back home soon, and I would help make dinners with my mom.”

Children like Melissa may be the younger members of the military community, but many sons and daughters are big supporters of their military families.

‘My Children Cared About My Job’

“Melissa has always been interested in my career in the military,” Jose said. “Every day she and her brother would meet me at the door and ask me about my day. It was very special to know that my children cared about my job.”

Jose served 25 years in the Air Force as an electrical power production craftsman. His career took his children to Dyess Air Force Base in Texas, Incirlik Air Base in Turkey and here.

“When I was younger, I would put his uniform on,” Melissa said of her father. “Growing up, I always thought I wanted to be just like him.”

She said her father is a big role model in her life and a big influence. She even joined her school’s Air Force Junior ROTC and said she wants to follow in her father’s footsteps and fight for freedom just like he did.

“I feel very proud that she wants to follow my footsteps in the Air Force, but even more proud that she wants to be a commissioned officer,” Jose said. “Whether she is enlisted or an officer, I will be very proud of her because I know she is a resilient military child who will work hard for her goals.”