U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC hearing to review the findings and recommendation of the report by the Commission on the National Defense Strategy. Witnesses included Ambassador Eric S. Edelman and Admiral Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), co-chairs of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy.
As prepared for delivery:
The meeting will come to order.
I want to thank the members of the Commission, especially the co-chairs who are witnesses here today, for what they put together. I’ve had the occasion to be involved in different analyses of our comparative strengths, our threats. Since eight years in the House Armed Services Committee and 24 years in the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have not seen anything like this before. To see the blatant honesty, straight-forward approach to the problems that are out there. Something that, quite frankly, most of the American people are not aware of.
Their bipartisan report makes clear that our nation confronts stark choices. It says “The United States confronts a grave crisis of national security and national defense. The primary duty of the federal government is defending the American people, American territory, and American interests abroad.”
The report goes on to say “the strategic landscape is growing steadily more threatening.” Combined with the fact that “America’s long-standing military advantages have diminished”, we are now in the national security crisis predicted by both the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review Panel and 2014 National Defense Panel.
To address our present national security crisis, and restore America’s eroding military advantage, we must fully resource and implement the National Defense Strategy. If we fail to do so, we must be prepared to endure the American casualties, and even possible defeat, in wars that could have been avoided.
In particular, I am troubled by the commission’s unequivocal assessment that our Defense Strategy is not adequately resourced—that we are ‘very near the point of ‘strategic insolvency.’
The Commission report is unambiguous: America’s fiscal problems must not be solved on the backs of our troops. Deep reductions in defense spending by previous Administrations have had a huge effect. The problems we have had—between the two Fiscal Years of 2010 and 2015, we have had a dramatic reduction in terms of constant dollars. I’ll read from the report:
“… constant-dollar defense spending (in estimated 2018 dollars) fell from $794 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 to $586 billion in FY2015, according to U.S. government statistics. In percentage terms, this constituted the fastest drawdown since the years following the Korean War.”
The National Defense Strategy is a blueprint to address the world as it is now. And the Commission’s report is a blueprint to implement the National Defense Strategy.
The report points out that the country’s strategic margin for victory has become distressingly small.
Sending our men and women into harm’s way without the training, equipment, and resources they need to succeed is morally irresponsible—and that happened. We know that when we sent our troops in the brigade combat teams, only 30 percent of them could actually be deployed. Our army aviation brigades—only 25 percent could be deployed. We saw what happened in the maintenance of our F-18s that our marines were flying. We were not adequately resourcing the equipment, maintaining the equipment and modernizing the equipment.
The Commission advises that we have a need for extraordinary urgency in addressing the crisis of national defense and I agree. I am personally very proud of the commission’s courage to identify the threat and the urgent needs.