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October 05, 2021

Inhofe Questions Nominees for Top Army, Air Force Positions About Priorities

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today questioned four nominees for top civilian leadership roles at the Departments of the Army and Air Force

Nominees included: Gabe Camarillo to be Under Secretary of the Army; Rachel Jacobson to be Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy, Installations and Environment; Alex Wagner to be Assistant Secretary for the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs; and Andrew Hunter to be Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

Inhofe: Well, first of all, let me thank Mr. Camarillo for the time you gave me in my office. It was very rewarding and we kind of look at — I don't know of anyone we've had as a witness who is more familiar and had more years’ experience in every aspect of the Army. What would you single out as — because I will be limited for time — but just one crisis — what is the most serious, among the most serious problems we have right now in our Army?

Camarillo: Thank you, Senator Inhofe, for that introduction. Certainly the Army faces a number of challenges, but top of mind for me if I'm confirmed, is to address the challenge of sexual assault in the Army and the Department of Defense writ large. As we've seen, this continues to be a problem. What the services and the department have attempted to do in response to this challenge clearly hasn't work as effectively as we would like, and I support what the department has issued in terms of the Independent Review Commission, and what the Secretary of the Army, Secretary Wormuth, has stated regarding changes made within the Army, particularly in response to what we saw at Fort Hood, to be able to begin to address this challenge differently. And if I'm confirmed, Senator, I would work with her to first and foremost work on ways to prevent this from happening at our installations and within our units, and certainly would partner with this committee as well.

Inhofe: Yeah, very good. And for Mr. Hunter, again, thanks for the time that you spent with me yesterday. I want to bring up my favorite subject, and that's the F-35, the most capable and cost-effective fighter available today. It hasn't been without problems. We watched the Autonomic Logistics Information System as an example, but there's no other aircraft available today that offers the capability of the F-35, and that's what we'll hear from, not all the smart guys at the top but also the ones who, the men and women who fly them. So, do you agree, Mr. Hunter, with Secretary Kendall that the best way to decrease operating costs of the F-35 is to buy more?

Hunter: Senator, the F-35 is an absolutely vital — in my view, an absolutely vital system for the nation, the challenges that we confront with peer competitors and particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. The cost of sustaining the F-35 has been something that has stressed the services, particularly the Air Force, which has the largest number of aircraft. And if confirmed, it is, it will be a top priority to work on lowering that cost. It is true that there are fixed costs associated with all of the Air Force's platforms and the more aircraft that you have, it does lower the operating cost per aircraft as you're able to spread fixed cost over a larger number of assets. I think there are other avenues that we can and should take to lower the sustainment cost for the F-35, and if confirmed, I look forward to working with this committee to that end.

Inhofe: Yeah, and for the record, why don't you give us a lot of information on that? There's not time to do that here, but that is very significant. And I'm saving one for Ms. Jacobson that is kind of unusual because of all of your extensive background and time that you've spent, you haven't had a lot of it in the military privatized housing end, and I think that makes you the perfect person to be doing what you're going to be doing, because we've been saturated with people with all the background and experience. I can remember when that first happened, I was assuming that the privatized housing problem that we had was only in my state of Oklahoma, and then I found out later on that it was, as we had our hearings we've had five hearings so far on this—and we know that this problem is a serious problem all throughout our system. So, with a coming from a background of not too much in the military privatized housing end of it, from looking from the outside looking in, what's your first effort going to be? Because I know you're going to be spending time — you've even said that in your opening statement.

Jacobson: Senator Inhofe, I believe that soldiers and families deserve to live with dignity in safe, affordable, high-quality housing that's free from hazards such as mold and lead paint. I very much appreciate the steps this Congress has taken to be proactive, to address this issue by holding those accountable for, by holding accountable those who are in charge in privatized housing, particularly the companies who provide that housing. If confirmed, I will make it a top priority to address conditions in housing and barracks, by the way, and I come from an enforcement background. While I don't have a specific background in privatized housing, I spent the majority of my career at the Department of Justice, enforcing environmental and other laws, and I'm going to bring that enforcement mentality to oversight of the privatized housing program so that we get it right if I'm confirmed.

Inhofe: And we'll be looking forward to that. Thank you.

Click here to watch Inhofe’s Q&A.

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