Pentagon chief James Mattis applauds spending deal: 'America can afford survival'

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.   Associated Press  Manish Swarup

The House Armed Services Committee hearing was about the nuclear arms race, which Mattis said poses a threat from potential adversaries China, Russia and rogue state North Korea.

"I regret that without sustained, predictable appropriations, my presence here today wastes your time, because no strategy can survive without the funding necessary to resource it. Yet we all know that America can afford survival".

The House approved a short-term spending bill Tuesday but changes were expected in the Senate. There is disagreement between the chambers over whether to fully fund the Defense Department at 2018 levels while leaving domestic agencies at 2017 levels. That re-emergence in "great power competition" is at the center of the two documents - the National Defense Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review - that Mattis and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were called to Capitol Hill to discuss Tuesday.

House Republicans' proposed funding would allow the Pentagon to achieve its goals for the remainder of the year, Mattis told the House committee's Republican chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry of Texas.

"I can not overstate the negative impact to our troops' and families' morale from all this budget uncertainty", Mattis said. "To advance the security of our nation, these troops are putting themselves in harm's way - in effect, signing a blank check payable to the American people with their lives", the secretary said. "They do so despite Congress' abdication of its constitutional responsibility to provide sufficient, stable funding".

"Add to existing story after last graf ending. provide stable funding".

The votes on the new short-term funding proposal are just weeks after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement January 19, kicking off a three-day partial government shutdown. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia.

Smith added the United States can not continue to operate on "wasteful continuing resolutions" and pushed lawmakers to find a way to eliminate sequestration and the mandatory budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Talk of a limited military strike on North Korea gained traction last week after it was reported that US President Donald Trump's initial pick for ambassador to Seoul was dropped over his objections to the so-called "bloody nose" strategy.

Kaine said, "That's a good thing and it looks like we're getting close and I'm not expecting to see any shutdown of government because both sides are talking".

Thornberry, who has argued previously for splitting defense spending from non-defense spending, made the case again in his opening remarks. He said the Armed Services deserve the best training and resources that the US has to offer, and anything less is morally wrong. "That support should not be conditioned on any other issue. Dialogue is incredibly important to deterrence", Smith said.

"We hear a lot from the military about what you don't have, about where we're not spending enough money, about the threats that we're not meeting", said Smith, the ranking Democrat on the panel.

"I always bristle a little bit when I hear, "How can we hold defense hostage to domestic local priorities, ' as if those domestic local priorities were some kind of luxury that we just engage in for fun and enjoyment and aren't really important. It's not the only important thing in keeping the peace".

The latest short-term spending plan expires at midnight Thursday.

Bordallo said while Guam appreciates the Pentagon's deployment of the land-based missile defense system to Guam - called the terminal high altitude area defense, or THAAD, system - she asked what other layers of missile defense systems are being provided or developed in defense of the island.

He said the deal to raise spending caps would ensure the Pentagon's ability to fill key positions with new recruits, maintain warships and modernize the military.

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