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May 11, 2021

Inhofe Challenges Top Pentagon Nominees to Commit to Adequate Budgets for Key Defense Objectives

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), lead Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today questioned President Biden’s nominees for top Department of Defense civilian leadership positions about the need to provide adequate resources to advance national security objectives. 

Nominees before the committee today included: Michael McCord, nominated to serve as Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); and Ronald Moultrie, nominated to serve as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security.



Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have one question for each one. I've already expressed my feelings about the two nominees and how fortunate we are that they're willing to do this, and they, I’m sure they will be confirmed. General Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, recently testified about China's growing military presence in Africa. China built its first overseas military base in Djibouti and is aggressively pursuing a naval base in the west coast of Africa, which General Townsend called in — using his quote — he said the number one global power competition concern. And I agree with that. I’m very familiar with the AFRICOM. I was somewhat instrumental in making that a reality back in 2007. In a way, though, I failed. We got AFRICOM. The continent of Africa used to be divided into, among three different [commands]. And so at least it's all under one [command] now, but we didn't — we never did adequately get the resources necessary, and now because it's become so much more important and the fact that China, you know — people don't realize, China is the first time, Djibouti is the first time, that they started an overseas operation. They've done everything else in their backyard always up to now, so it's kind of a big deal there, and so I've asked you — Mr. Moultrie, I'm going to ask you if you’ll try to do something I've failed to be able to do, and that is commit to me that you’ll take a close look at our intelligence capabilities in Africa and that you ensure that our efforts there get the attention and resources they need. Now, I know you'll get the cooperation of this committee, but it's got to be your responsibility to spend the time and the resources to encourage the administration to make that a reality. What are your feelings about that and are you willing to try to do that?

Moultrie: Senator, yes. China has been a challenge for a number of years, really a number of decades, as it pertains to Africa, and I closely followed that when I was the director of operations at National Security Agency. They have diplomatic, they have military and economic conditions. There are a lot of reasons to focus on Africa as you know, Senator. There are the ports that they have there. It's a mineral-rich continent that the Chinese see, and they're using all of their tools, techniques, cores and malign influence to actually try to move into that continent. I haven't been briefed on it, but I understand the challenge is there. I understand, I think, what Chinese have tried to do there. If confirmed, I'd work across the interagency — I'd also work with our partners and allies, because they're also focused in some ways on China — to ensure that we understand what the Chinese are doing and what their plans are, and that we'd be prepared to support the Secretary in deterring the Chinese challenge there, and providing support to our warfighters and commanders forward.

Inhofe: Specifically, though, in trying to get the resources from us that, again, we’ve failed to get done previously. That's a major concern that I have there. And lastly with Mr. McCord, first of all, you're very familiar with this committee, and we are very familiar with you, and we appreciate the fact that you're taking on this responsibility. It's particularly interesting that you are one of the 12 listed on this document, and I don't think even you believed the attention that this document would get when you first developed it. So one of the items in there that is pretty specific, and that is that the need for the 3-5 percent real growth events budget to effectively implement the National Defense Strategy, and I know that when Deputy Secretary Hicks was before this committee, she also was one of the authors of this, one of the 12 authors of this document, and she agreed that 3-5 percent real growth was really something that is really realistic today as it was in 2018. Do you agree with Secretary Hicks and her comments on the necessity of the resources in order to get the job done?

McCord: Yes, Senator. The Commission, as you said, found that that was an appropriate resource range for the for the National Defense Strategy that Secretary Mattis laid out, and, of course, if confirmed, my job would be to work with Secretary Austin as he undertakes his strategy review, and similarly, find the right resource level for his strategy.

Inhofe: Yeah, and I think that you found it, and so I appreciate that, your document and your efforts in it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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

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