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March 14, 2019

ICYMI: SASC Chairman Inhofe Questions Witnesses at SASC DOD Budget Posture Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned witnesses this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on the Department of Defense budget posture.

Witnesses included Patrick M. Shanahan, Acting Secretary of Defense; General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; and David Norquist, Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller).

Click to watch Sen. Inhofe’s remarks.


Inhofe: To kick it off, we talked about our blueprints that we are using, and I'd like to ask each witness a question about this. Secretary Shanahan, you've said that the Department of Defense would realign the resources in the budget to implement this program. Now in order to do that, can you quickly cover—run over any of the programs or systems or missions that have been either reduced or accelerated to accommodate this?

Shanahan: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would highlight in this—this year's budget three major structural changes in terms of being able to accelerate. The first is space. Space Force itself is intended to accelerate dramatically our capabilities to defend. Second, missiles. Probably the best characterization of that is our efforts on hypersonics. And third, a significant investment in cyber capabilities. When we think about reductions, I think the Army is the best illustration of that in their modernization plans as they look to make reductions across their portfolio to, I'll say about 100 different programs.

Inhofe: Okay, appreciate that. General Dunford, a similar question. The National Defense Strategy Commission listed several capability gaps vis-a-vis China and Russia, such as long-range fire additional air defense units and others that I mentioned in my overstatement. Which of these capability gaps do you think the 2020 budget addresses?

Dunford: Chairman, thank you. The budget actually addresses all the challenges you identified. And what I can assure you is that the National Defense Strategy really has been the basis for our prioritization for capability development. So we did careful analysis of China and Russia in particular. The capabilities developed over the last few years limit our ability to operate freely in the space, cyberspace, land, sea and air. And the capabilities that we have identified in this year's budget are really designed to allow us to project power when and where necessary to advance our interest in the context of that emerging threat for China and Russia.

Inhofe: All right, I appreciate that. Now I am concerned about one other area, and neither one of you is personally responsible for this, but I'm a little disturbed by the idea that we are going to be taking the USS Truman out of the system. And I wonder how this is going to work and just our sheer numbers. We have a law that says we have to maintain 11 carriers, and we would also look at this and realize that 10 would equal what is necessary to conduct a major war. How do we get to the number we're supposed to have if we don't follow through with the midlife of the Truman? Now recognizing that would take up to I think 2024, but nonetheless, it's going to take longer depending upon the two carrier buy that we are talking about, particularly of a vehicle that still—elevator still doesn't work and to carry the ordinance. So what's your thought about that? How are we going to, number one, comply with the law that we have? In fact, Mr. Norquist, this might be a good question for you because you're into these issues also. And still not follow through with our original plans with the Harry Truman. Anybody.

Shanahan: Why don't I lead off? First of all, I think the Truman decision represents some of the strategic choices we made in this year's budget. It was a very difficult decision for us. Carriers represent now, and in the future, critical force structure for the Navy. The Truman decision was made in concert. It was an integrated decision with our two carrier buy. Let me walk through the benefits of the decision and then potential off-ramps so that we don't find ourselves in a difficult situation. So the first is that with this decision of the two carrier buy and to not refuel the Truman, our lethality of our carriers and capability increases with the new carriers. The second is until mid-'20s we maintain the level of 11 carriers. The third is—and part of the calculus here was to maintain employment. In fact, with this decision we grow employment in the industrial base. We needed to make sure not only that our shipyards maintained their employment; there's actually growth, but also the supply chain. And the last is that the funds that we freed up for making these decisions are invested in the future force. The decision for two carriers saved $4 billion. Not refueling the Truman saves $3.4 billion over the FYDP.

Inhofe: Okay, yeah, we're going to run out of time, and I'm going to set the example of not allowing us to run out of time, but I still am not happy with the results of that. My mental numbers don't agree with that.

Click to watch Sen. Inhofe’s introduction.

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