During Monday evening testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared that he was "shocked" by the US military's lack of combat preparedness, according to Stripes.com.
Mattis was called before the panel of lawmakers to answer questions regarding the 2018 fiscal year US military budget submitted by US President Donald Trump.
Trump and his advisers have requested $639 billion to fund ongoing Pentagon operations around the globe, including an extra $65 billion to sustain current armed conflicts. Republicans on Capitol Hill do not think that figure is high enough, and are demanding an $30 billion on top of it for 2018.
Mattis, a Trump appointee, placed the blame on Congress for what he considers to be an unprepared American fighting force, observing that short-term budget measures and a current law that limits military spending are placing US troops at risk.
The US military chief had harsh words for politicians on both sides of the political aisle, noting that Congress has "sidelined itself from its active constitutional oversight role," as it has "blocked new programs, prevented service growth, stalled industry initiative and placed troops at greater risk," according to Stripes.com.
Lawmakers were also treated to Mattis's thoughts regarding the ramped-up weapons posturing of North Korea, remarking that Pyongyang, "a clear and present danger to all," was actively engaged in the "continued pursuit of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them [which] has increased in pace and scope."
Stepping back from advocating an attack on Pyongyang, Mattis stated that an armed conflict with the increasingly isolated country would be "very, very serious."
Alongside Mattis, Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated to the panel that although a war with North Korea would have casualties "unlike anything we've seen," the US and its allies would be assured of victory.
Mattis, insisting that current US military methods and practices are not working, vowed to streamline Pentagon operations around the world, and called for the support of Capitol Hill.
"Congress as a whole has met the present challenge with lassitude, not leadership," the military leader declared.