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May 27, 2021

Inhofe Questions Key Nuclear Security, Special Operations Nominees at SASC Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today questioned witnesses at a committee hearing on the nominations of Jill Hruby, to be Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; Christopher Maier, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; Frank Rose, to be Principal Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration; and Deborah Rosenblum, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs.  

Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, I think all opening statements were great opening statements. I commend you on those statements. Ms. Hruby, last year we had major concerns with the Secretary of the DOE [Department of Energy] interfering with the work of the NNSA and putting our nuclear modernization programs at risk, even questioning what our role is in developing the budget and some other things, and it was not a workable thing. We had to — in fact I had to personally intervene with then-President Trump to get things pretty well straightened out. So we've got to have a clear understanding at DOE and OMB [the Office of Management and Budget] about the work of the Nuclear Weapons Council. I like the fact that you, and I told you this before, came right out with some of your priorities in stating what those priorities were: number one, ensuring the success of our weapons programs; two, updating obsolete infrastructure; and three, taking care of our people. And I agree with those priorities. Will you agree to keeping us informed as how you're coming along with your priorities?

Hruby: Yes, Senator, of course, I would be delighted to keep you informed, if confirmed.

Inhofe: I think also, Mr. Rose, do you find —how do you plan to support Ms. Hruby in executing these priorities, these three priorities?

Rose: Senator, I agree with all of her priorities, and I will do everything in my power to be a very good deputy, if confirmed.

Inhofe: That’s good. And Mr. Maier, I want to talk a little bit about what's happening in Africa right now. It's critical there for implementing our National Defense Strategy. China and Russia are on the rise. China's opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. A lot of people don't realize that — that's the first time they've done this, and now they're all the way as far south as southern part of Tanzania. They're active in there, as well as Russia, being on the rise and in that area. So right now there, ISIS and al Qaeda are on the increase as well. To deal with these threats, we only have 6,000 personnel, military personnel, on the entire continent. I was critical of the previous administration because we were talking about revamping and changing our priorities in different parts of the world. I really feel that we were understaffed; that's the only area where we're starting off understaffed. I'm not anticipating or expecting that you have had a chance to look at and evaluate the number of personnel and whether or not it's adequate, but any first thoughts in terms of where they are in that field?

Maier: Senator, thanks for the question, and I think Africa is a very important theater, as you say, for both things that special operations is focused on. Obviously 20 years or more of the counterterrorism fight, there's, as you mentioned, a number of ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliates there, but then it's also an arena for competition, as you referenced Djibouti, and I think my objective is confirmed is to very much look at where we're getting return on that investment and where we can combine some of those missions to get more benefit for the National Defense Strategy.

Inhofe: OK, well, I think one of the first things that I would like to have you do, and share with us, on what your impression is in terms of the adequacy of our resources in Africa. Would you do that?

Maier: I would, Senator, if confirmed, be glad to look at that as a first priority.

Inhofe: OK. Lastly, I think that there's going to be some of the members that are going to be talking to you, Ms. Rosenblum, about the issue of “No First Use” policy. There's some confusion as to where you are in some people's minds, and I'll give you one shot to state that before the rest of them get to you. Alright?

Rosenblum: Alright, thank you, Senator. I appreciate the opportunity to clarify my view on this. Given the strategic environment that we face, one that is absolutely challenging U.S. interests and those of our allies, I do not support a “No First Use” policy.

Inhofe: Thank you very much.

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

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