U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned four Department of Defense nominees during their nomination hearing. The four nominees included Mr. Robert F. Behler to be Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Dr. Dean L. Winslow to be Assistant Secretary Of Defense for Health Affairs, Mr. Thomas B. Modly to be Under Secretary Of The Navy and Mr. James F. Geurts to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition.
Inhofe: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m going to ask you the same question I did last week when we had a comparable hearing. One of the problems we have and have had for quite some time is the public doesn’t understand the level of threat that we are facing in this country. I’ve been proud, recently, of the military—because I’ve been on this committee for about 23 years now—for the first time, coming forth, and being real square with the American people. We had the Army Vice Chief of Staff in a hearing before this committee, in February, talking about only one third of our BCT’s, one fourth of CAB’s and one half of the divisions were ready. Then, we had General Dunford say—this is a quote and this was just last month—‘If we don’t address this dynamic with sustained, sufficient and predictable funding over the course of several years, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive edge.’ I would like to ask each of the four of you—Do you agree with these two generals and would you be as forthright in your presentations as they are? Alright, I think I heard four.
Alright, Mr. Behler, this is a very serious question I’m going to ask you and I’d like to have a direct answer. What were you doing last Saturday afternoon?”
Mr. Behler replied: “I have to admit, sir, I was in front of a TV watching Oklahoma beat Oklahoma State in Bedlam and it was a good outcome.”
Inhofe replied: “… For my friends here, he is a graduate of Oklahoma University and he is the right guy, in my opinion, for this job that he is pursuing. The question I would ask you, when you are confirmed—in an extremely important position to help this committee—with the one issue that comes up more than anything else and that’s acquisition reform. Now, I can remember this, not only the years I have been in the Senate on this committee, but also eight years in the House. We have not had it to the satisfaction. I think your background is particularly suited to be addressing this. I’d ask that, when you are confirmed, to pay particular attention to a major system that is set to undergo a second round of OT and E early next year. That’s the Paladin Integrated Management or the PIM program which will fix some, but not all, of the obstacles … Are you familiar with the program? What are your thoughts about it?
Mr. Behler replied: “I am sir, I mean I am familiar with the program at the pedestrian level. I have not studied the actual acquisition strategy.”
Inhofe asked: “As you know, many of the weapons systems that the army is working on are upgrades to existing systems. A specific example was found in the PIM upgrade, because we have known issues with our breech mechanism. The same breech that is in the field today. So, I would say, is there a problem using some of the legacy parts with new systems?”
Mr. Behler replied: “There is sir. And, let me begin by saying, I appreciate your endorsement for this position. If confirmed, I will look in to testing these systems, because I’m sure the Paladin is not the only system that is being upgraded and still has lots of legacy problems. An airplane I flew, the U-2, was flown first in 1960, and it is still flies really bad, but we continue to upgrade and make it more and more effective. I think the way that we can make this more productive in testing is to test early, test often and test it both in a development sense and an operational sense simultaneously.”
Sen. Inhofe also questioned the other nominees about military readiness and prior experience.