U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned David Norquist, nominated to be Deputy Secretary of Defense, this morning at a SASC nomination hearing:
Inhofe: First of all, one of my priorities as chairman of this committee, and I think of the whole committee, it goes without saying—we’ve talked about this over and over again is to use this [the National Defense Strategy Commission report] as the blueprint, what this is all about and what we have been doing. In fact, it was your predecessor, the former Deputy Secretary Shanahan who played a leading role in putting this together. Now I think you put it best—and this is your quote you took out of this document in describing the position you’ll be occupying—that is, “the Deputy frames critical decisions for the Secretary of Defense on future programs and capabilities.” Now in crafting the departments fiscal year 2021 budget request, you’ll have to make recommendations as to tradeoffs between competing—competition, competing credibilities, competing capabilities. What you do to view these capabilities— there is a capability gap between us and China and Russia. I’d like to have you address this and what you plan to do to correct this gap.
Norquist: Certainly, Mr. Chairman. I think the key areas where this gap is most noticeable is in certain new technologies like hypersonics, artificial intelligence and cyber threats. And so one of the challenges that’s facing the Department is even as we maintain readiness and the right force structure size is to ensure that we are investing in those cutting-edge technologies—that not only are just advances to warfare, but may change dramatically the way warfare is fought—which requires and emphasis on experimentation and study so we’re positioned to win the next war not just the last one.
Inhofe: The Defense Strategy Commission, which was a bipartisan commission—there were 12 experts, 12 Democrats, 12 Republicans, all of them recognized as experts—they put all of this together and did a good job. It states, “DOD lacks the analytical ability, expertise, and processes to link objectives to operational concepts to programs and resources.” The Commission recommended that DOD—and this is a quote from that—“must rebuild decision support capability to ensure that the Secretary and Deputy Secretary can make hard decisions grounded in serious analysis, particularly as they consider the warfighting return on investments.” Now do you agree with this finding of recommendations and how do you plan to address these concerns.
Norquist: I do share their concerns, and in fact when we submitted the 2020 budget, we added $32 million precisely to address the challenges and analytical capabilities. When you look at what we’re trying to do with new warfighting doctrine, new technologies, that puts a premium on the analytical capability to test, experiment and study those to make sure we’re making the right investments.
Inhofe: That’s good. Lastly, a lot of people don’t understand why it’s significant that we have a two-year budget. Would you describe that in your own words?
Norquist: Absolutely. First, the agreement does right by the men and women in uniform, and it’s more than the level of funding. The challenges that are created when you have CRs, threats of sequestration, the instability – this agreement puts us in the possibility of avoiding a CR, avoiding sequestration and having two years of planning. So if you think of a unit that’s preparing to do training, they don’t know how much money they have for the year under a CR, so they potentially cut back training with the understanding that maybe they’ll get more money or less next year. But they’ll never get October back. So whatever training they miss is a permanent loss. There are similar disruptions—and I can dive in furthers if others want to talk about it—to depots, equipment, training, but it’s incredibly valuable to the men and women of the military and to our future capabilities to have this stability.