U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned General Mark Milley, nominated to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this morning at a SASC nomination hearing.
Inhofe: I’ve got three things I want to make sure we get out at the beginning of this meeting. First of all, I wish the entire country could read this article from The Economist. I know you and I have talked about it in the office, but in that article, it reports that China’s military spending rose by 83 percent in real terms between 2009 and 2018. At that same timeframe, between 2010 and 2015, our defense was actually cut just under 25 percent. Now think about that, we had a similar experience a few years ago, but not to this extreme.
We’ve seen the impact. As you’ve said before, before this committee last March as recently, our military advantage has eroded. And in some areas China has passed us up. You know, when you talk the American people, there’s always this assumption that America has the very best of everything—and this is pretty much true since World War II, but it’s not true anymore, and we’re pulling out of a, I call it, a slump. We have areas like hypersonics, the modern thing that we’re all in competition with, and there’s some doubt as to whether or not we’ve come as far as both China and Russia. We look at the advanced cruise missiles, and we look at some areas of our artificial intelligence. And our readiness was devastated as well. When you became Chief of Staff, only five percent of Army Brigades were at the highest level of readiness.
But now, we’ve improved a lot. We’re up to 50 percent—you might correct me if you think this is not accurate— but I think that is significant. It shows that if we with the help of President Trump’s full funding of defense, over 50 percent of Army Brigades are at the highest don’t get a budget, a budget that will support the growth that we have experienced in fiscal years ‘18 and ‘19, it would be pretty devastating. So I’d like to start with your sharing with us what would happen in your mind if we’re not able to get a budget deal, if we had to go into a CR [continuing resolution]?
Gen. Milley: Thank you, Chairman. I think the impact would be significant. I think a CR is, in the words of the NDS commission, they said the word “reckless.” I think a CR is a very significant negative impact on the training, manning, equipping, readiness and modernization of the U.S. military.
Inhofe: You know, we’ve stressed this, using our subcommittees with, they’re all chaired by ranking members and chairmen, the people up here, people with the real interest in these areas. Pointing out the areas that when you look at the entire Joint Force across air, land, sea, cyber, and space domains, what current capabilities and emerging technologies are you most concerned about relative to China and Russia?
Gen. Milley: Candidly, I think the number one for me, and the number one stated for the Department to Defense, is the modernization and recapitalization of the nation’s nuclear triad—I think that’s critical. Secondly, I would say is space. It’s a new domain of military operations. We have a considerable amount of both commercial and military capabilities in space that need to be protected and all the technologies that go with space. In addition to that, I would say that artificial intelligence and hypersonics, and there’s many, many other technologies, but those two are at the top of my list for putting modernization investment.
Inhofe: Back up to the triad, because there are some with the idea that there’s some unnecessary redundance. Would you respond to that observation that some people have made?
Gen. Milley: My view is that the triad has worked. I mean, there’s many reasons why there hasn’t been a great power war since 1945. Clearly one of them is nuclear deterrence, and part of that is the capability of the triad. Each leg of the triad gives you a different capability, so you got the bombers, the missiles and the subs. The subs are going to give you the assured second strike, and the missiles give you immediate reaction, and the bombers give you a manned controlled delivery system. So all three present different problem sets to any adversary or enemy, and I think it’s critically important to keep all three.
Inhofe: Great. The last thing I want to mention is we have a lot of vacancies right now. In fact, you and I went over that, from Secretary of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Chief Management Officer —the top 12 positions are vacant now. How much of a hardship is that going to place on you, and do you join most of us up here who feel we need to fill these positions?
Gen. Milley: I think it’s very important to fill the nominated positions and get them through the system as quickly as we can, properly vetted and confirmed. But having a confirmed person in place clearly helps out us in uniform and it also clearly delineates, you mentioned civilian control of the military, I think it reinforces that because the civilian oversight is of critical importance and they interface with Congress and other interagencies. So I think filling those positions is really important.
Inhofe: Thank you.