Mad Dog Memo: Hints at the cost of war

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis distributed an Oct. 5 memorandum to all personnel that said America’s military is on a wartime footing, but the Pentagon’s $639 billion budget represents only part of the money spent on destructive power and violence, which is augmented by other agencies such as the departments of Energy, Homeland Security, Justice (the Federal Bureau of Investigation), and State.

The Mattis memo also said the pursuit of global security and stability requires that the U.S. armed forces remain the world’s preeminent fighting force but the American public has little awareness of the immense costs of wars waged in our name, including an estimated 390,000 deaths or millions of refugees uprooted by conflicts.

A day before the Defense Secretary released his memo, four Army sergeants were killed by hostile forces in an African country most Americans could not locate on a map but where US taxpayers are funding construction of a $100 million Air Force base to be used for deployment of killer drones.

“As a member of the U.S. Department of Defense,” Mattis wrote, “you play a vital role in supporting the three million men and women — uniformed and civilian — who fight for our nation’s interests abroad.”

“We are a Department at war,” said Mattis, who named North Korea, Russia, China, Iran, and “terrorist groups that continue to murder innocents and threaten peace” as potential adversaries in “an increasingly complex global security situation.”

The topic of the memo was “Guidance from Secretary Jim Mattis” and he began by saying that the start of a new fiscal year is an opportunity for greater alignment across the department. 

Department at War

DoD’s military and civilians are sworn to protect and defend the Constitution and America’s people and its values, the secretary added, noting that America’s military reinforces traditional tools of diplomacy, ensuring that the president  and U.S. diplomats negotiate from a position of strength.

He specified North Korea, Russia, China and Iran, and, despite gains made against , .

“Pursuit of global security and stability requires our armed forces to remain the world’s preeminent fighting force,” Mattis continued, “and our department has three lines of effort to enable us to remain the world’s preeminent fighting force.”

Lines of Effort

The first part of the secretary’s three-pronged plan is to restore military readiness as the department builds a more lethal force.

“We will execute a multiyear plan to rapidly rebuild the warfighting readiness of the Joint Force, filling holes in capacity and lethality while preparing for sustained future investment,” Mattis wrote. Priorities include a safe and secure nuclear deterrent, fielding a decisive conventional force, and retaining irregular warfare as a core competency, he added.

The second line of effort is to strengthen alliances and attract new partners, the secretary wrote.

“Alliances and multinational partnerships provide avenues for peace, fostering conditions for economic growth with countries sharing the same vision,” he continued, adding that strong alliances temper the plans of those who would attack other nations or try to impose their will on the less powerful.

Among the allies, partners and coalitions, the secretary mentioned NATO, the Association of South East Asian Nations and the defeat-ISIS coalition, and others “who reinforce the safety and security that underpins peace and economic prosperity for all nations.”

The third line of effort involves bringing business reforms to DoD, he wrote.

“This line of effort instills budget discipline and effective resource management, develops a culture of rapid and meaningful innovation, streamlines requirements and acquisition processes, and promotes responsible risk takingand personal initiative,” Mattis added.

Specific reforms in progress, he wrote, include the congressionally mandated creation of a chief management officer, realignment of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics position and DoD’s first full-scope financial audit in fiscal year 2018.

“Others are forthcoming as we seek to modernize the defense travel system, protect our infrastructure and intellectual property, improve information technology business operations efficiency and implement real-cost accounting,” he added.

Sense of Urgency

“I expect you to pursue actively these three lines of effort,” Mattis wrote.

“Set disciplined goals, collaborate across components and model appropriate ethical behavior,” he added. “ … Use your force of personality to lead with a sense of urgency and purpose every day, so that we leave this department in even better shape for those that follow.”

Handwritten above his signature, Mattis added, “CHARGE!”

Mattis co-edited the book, Warriors & Citizens: American Views of Our Military, during his retirement that conjectured American society is becoming so divorced from the requirements for success on the battlefield that not only will citizens fail to understand our military, but they also will be unwilling to endure a force constituted to protect the nation’s interests.

With this memo, it appears that rather than building stronger bonds between the American military and its public, Mattis is intend on sustaining the emerging contemporary national security state, with its tens of thousands of “privateers”; its bloated Department of Homeland Security; its ill-maintained and difficult to dismantle trillion-dollar nuclear weapons arsenal; and its strange fascination with an unproven counterinsurgency doctrine.

Rachel Maddow’s Drift argues that we’ve drifted away from America’s original ideals to become a nation at peace with perpetual war, with all the financial and human costs that entails.

The Trump administration requested $639 billion for defense, up from $587 billion in President Barack Obama’s final defense budget request and surpassing ‘sequestration’ caps set in 2011.

The Defense Department spent the last seven years getting itself ready for its first-ever financial audit, which could reveal that the Pentagon has misspent or not accounted for anywhere from hundreds of billions to several trillion dollars.

Over the past decade, Americans watched in bafflement and rage as one institution after another – from Wall Street to Congress, the Catholic Church to corporate America, even Major League Baseball – imploded under the weight of corruption and incompetence.

With ‘Mad Dog Mattis’ approaching his role with the zeal of Dr. Strangelove, and taxpayers about to learn how much money is wasted in military adventures they cannot comprehend, another institution could be on rocky ground if the nation survives in the form of anything that resembles a democracy.

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