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Outlining a New National Defense Strategy with the US Secretary of Defense

January 19, 2018

US Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis

Outlining a new National Defense Strategy, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited the Johns Hopkins SAIS community to share key points of the report and take questions from students, alumni, and journalists in attendance.

Mattis emphasized that the primary focus of US national security is shifting to great power competition in contrast to the fight against terrorism which has dominated strategic development since the response to the 9/11 terror attacks. Mattis also called for restoring the nation's comparative military advantage, building a more lethal force, and strengthening traditional alliances while building new partnerships with other nations.

In terms of the challenges facing the Department of Defense, Mattis pointed to a difficult budgetary environment. "No strategy can long survive without stable, predictable funding," he said. "As hard as the last 16 years of fighting have been, no enemy has harmed the US military more than defense spending caps, sequestration, and debilitating continuing resolutions," Mattis added.

Responding to audience questions, Mattis stressed the vital link between the military and diplomatic corps, working in concert to achieve national interests. Asked to put the 'America First' philosophy into an alliance framework, Mattis found wisdom in the everyday advice of flight attendants: "In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, put your own mask on first before assisting others."

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