Craig McKinley spent about half hour breaking down the new national defense strategy at a luncheon Wednesday in Jacksonville where he used examples from the past to better explain some of the most important issues the United States military is facing.
The retired Air Force four-star general took time to elaborate on several of the topics U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis talked about last week at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.
He said the things Mattis said Friday should not be ignored, and after lunch McKinley talked about what he personally thinks is the most pressing issue domestically.
“I’d like to see Congress find a way to create a budgetary environment so our service chiefs can execute a strategy that can support the president of the United States,” McKinley said.
China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and terrorists throughout the world are the biggest concerns outside U.S. borders, he said, and they should all be watched closely.
Mattis said the country is facing a power competition that is now the primary focus of national security. He said just making plans to survive is not enough, and more preparations need to be made in case the country needs to defend itself.
McKinley pointed out that some people in the room might remember what it was like after Word War II when the nation was in constant fear that another similar conflict could erupt.
Survival was an issue back then, McKinley said, so that’s the reason we have some of the advanced nuclear capabilities that we have today.
He explained that Mattis was trying to make people realize Russia is redeveloping similar capabilities. McKinley said the Chinese are copying everything the Americans are doing, and they have the type of economy that could be dangerous to the United States down the road.
Another topic McKinley touched on was technology. He said it was always a huge advantage the United States had over other countries because America would create advanced systems that others couldn’t compete with and were very expensive to copy.
McKinley said America needs to continue to develop advanced technological weaponry, but that development needs to happen quicker and on a more affordable level.
Mattis has traveled the world since becoming secretary, and McKinley said there’s a very important reason for that.
“Parts of the world are starting to wonder if the United States is really going to be there for them if they need us, and that’s a bad thing to happen,” McKinley said.
He said Mattis is doing his best to reassure the country’s traditional allies in every part of the globe, but those allies are becoming more and more important in the Pacific realm.
Afterward McKinley said Northeast Florida is still as relevant as ever in the military landscape despite missing out on a squadron of F-35 fighters at Jacksonville’s Air National Guard.
“When the time is right and there are more assets available, Jacksonville will receive a new modern aircraft,” he said.
He also pointed to Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Mayport Naval Station as two installations that are pioneering the future of aviation. Both bases have been chosen as important locations for the Navy’s drone program, McKinley said, and that is the future of air combat.
The luncheon at the Ramada Jacksonville Hotel & Conference Center was sponsored by four area defense associations — Women in Defense First Coast Chapter, Society of American Military Engineers, National Industrial Defense Association First Coast Chapter and National Contract Managers Association.
McKinley encouraged everyone in the room to write to their political delegations to let them know how important it is to continue budgeting sufficient military funds.
He said Mattis outlined a logical plan last week, and it will take the citizens working together to make sure that plan is put into place.
Joe Daraskevich: (904) 359-4308