The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday he advocates to bias resources towards sea, air, and space platforms for future defense needs.

“I don’t want to reveal my cards automatically in that regard but I probably already did – by saying we’re a maritime nation. We are, and the defense of the United States depends on airpower and seapower, primarily. It does. People can say what they want and argue what they want. That’s a reality. And I would throw space in there as well,” Army Gen. Mark Milley said during the virtual USNI Defense Forum Washington on Thursday.

Gen. Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill)

Milley said he sees future fights at the Department to shift resources, but thinks it is necessary.

“So I would advocate, and bias going forward, for heavy investment” sea, air, and space-focused platforms.

He emphasized nothing would be cut to zero but “this is a matter of balancing things. It’s a very, very difficult exercise. We’re going to have to go through it. It’s going to be very hard. It’s going to be ruthless. There’s going to be a lot of bloodletting and a lot of stuff left on the floor. But we’re going to have to do that in the coming years, no question about it.”

Milley noted he is an Army person and “at the end of the day, people live on the land and at the end of the day armies and Marines are decisive in that war involves your imposition of your political will through the use of organized violence over your opponent, and that’s going to happen on the land. And you’re not going to win from afar…you’re not going to achieve that through standoff weapons. That ain’t gonna happen.”

However, he said the fundamental defense of the U.S. and its ability to project military power forward and one major American way of war is via naval, air, and space power.

Milley noted those platforms tend to have long-lead times for acquisition and development, further highlighting the need for greater funding.

Earlier this year, former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper outlined the Battle Force 2045 plan for reaching up to 500 ships, including upward of 200 unmanned vessels, by 2045 (Defense Daily, Oct .6).

At the time, Esper said it had to work with real world budget constraints and the Navy will have to continue its Stem-to-Stern strategic review, which aims to save $8 billion per year and $40 billion over five years to redirect to other purposes like shipbuilding (Defense Daily, Feb. 19).

Esper said given the reform efforts by the Navy he agreed to move funding from across the DoD enterprise, including shifting funds via reform efforts from combatant command reviews, 4th estate reforms, and other initiatives.

Esper said overall this aimed to increase the Navy’s shipbuilding account to be 13 percent of the service topline budget numbers.

In October, Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite said the service was able to find $46 billion in savings and Esper had challenged him to accrue more savings to hold for shipbuilding in exchange for Esper matching his efforts from other funds (Defense Daily, Oct. 30).

At the time, Braithwaite said the Navy is focusing on line items with the greatest opportunity for 10 to 15 percent in savings redirected to shipbuilding. The Navy Secretary said he believed you can always take 15 percent of funding out of almost anything.