ICYMI: SASC Chairman Inhofe Questions Secretary of the Army, Air Force Nominees at Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned for Barbara Barrett to be Secretary of the Air Force and Ryan McCarthy to be Secretary of the Army at a SASC nomination hearing today.

Click here to watch Sen. Inhofe’s remarks.

Inhofe: Ms. Barret during my opening comments, I talked a little bit about our launch capabilities. I regret that while we were light years ahead, but trough the previous administration, we lost that edge. And we now have China, I’m very much concerned about what they’re doing. They just keep rolling on, keep rolling on—they’re developing technology that takes us a lot longer. We have a different system. They give ‘em a gun and go kill somebody, but that’s not our system. So I would first of all ask you if you agree with the most recent National Security Space Launch acquisition efforts within the Air Force—and the Senate focus on “staying the course” on the Launch Services Procurement as it is aligned today. 

Barrett: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. You don’t get to space without effective space launch. Fortunately, in the recent past, we’ve developed not just a military and government capability but commercial capability as well. We still need to have government capability, and I’m fully supportive of continuation of that capability through the military—the United States Air Force. 

Inhofe: And also the fact that we stay on course in terms of our timing, because any delay is going to put them that much further ahead. Do you agree with that? Is that one of your top priorities? 

Barrett: Absolutely. Absolutely, Senator. 

Inhofe: I want to mention one other thing, too. We know that the Air Force has talked about needing 72 fighter aircraft. Well, when we came out with the 60 F-35s and, of course, the F-15s. The main problem we had at that time was the manufacturer, the contractor, didn’t have any capacity to get up any higher than that. That’s kind of a moving target right now—we’re not sure where that is. But we have another situation, and that’s with the F-35s that are out there. Any that we would get right now would be block three and yet block four would be coming next year. What’s your feeling on the situation today as to where we are and where some of these problems affect our acquisition?  

Barrett: Well, Senator, while I’m on the outside and don’t have inside knowledge about it, from the briefings I’ve received, the F-35 is our future and we need it. We need it, and we need it sustainably. So getting more of the F-35s has been something the Air Force has been working hard to do, and, if confirmed, I would look to continue that push to enhance the F-35. 

Inhofe: Ms. Barrett, I remember, because I was here at the time, we had the F-22 debate, and the numbers we were supposed to have—and they dropped down. And I see, I don’t want that to happen again. We certainly should have learned by that time. 

Secretary McCarthy, you know the job. You’ve been the Under Secretary for how long? 

McCarthy: 25 months, sir.  

Inhofe: So you know some of the problems that are out there. We were not able to meet our recruitment goals this last time. Looking at what we’re trying to do right now, one of the problems we have right now is we have the best economy arguably in my lifetime. So that’s your competition out there. How do you overcome that and are you going to be able to meet your goals? And if not what’s the fallback position? 

McCarthy: To your point, Chairman, we missed on the active goal by 6,500 in FY18, so Secretary Esper and General Milley, we kind of sat down as family and said we have to make a change. So we changed the strategy to focus on 22 cities across the continental United States because we needed a larger sample size, we needed to get greater penetration into demographics where we started to trail. And to your point, with 3.6 percent unemployment, there’s never been a benchmark like that for us to face since 1969, and that was an all-draftee military. So unique setting, and we’re competing quite frankly with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps too. They’re competitors—friends if you will— but we all are competing against essentially the same pool. We’ve gotten out on the road. Army leadership’s meeting with mayors, superintendents of schools, parks and recreation directors, getting civic leaders to help us. We changed our marketing strategy. We’re putting more funding and effort into digital marketing. We’ve made a dramatic change. And also looking at our voice. With over 150 different operational specialties, there’s vast opportunity for Americans to get an opportunity to get technical skills, money for education and truly get out of it an environment where they can reach the middle class. We often say in the Army that it is the escalator to the middle class. So changing the message was the key in communicating with the country. 

Inhofe: And I would anticipate that back when you were initially trying to meet those goals, we didn’t anticipate having the economy that we have to do. 

McCarthy: We make those targets well over a year in advance, Chairman, so we had to make the adjustment. It’s hard because we still need to grow. 66 percent of combatant commander’ requirements are the Army worldwide, so we have to continue to grow while demand remains so high.

Inhofe: Thank you.

Click here to watch Sen. Inhofe’s opening remarks.