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December 05, 2019

Inhofe Questions Witnesses at Armed Services Committee Hearing on National Defense Strategy

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, questioned witnesses this morning at a SASC hearing on strategic threats, ongoing challenges and implementation of the National Defense Strategy. Witnesses included the Honorable John C. Rood, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and Lieutenant General David W. Allvin, Director for Strategy, Plans and Policy, Joint Staff.

 


 

Inhofe: Thank you both. In my opening remarks, I referred to the 14,000 [troops the Department of Defense was reported to be sending to Iran] in what I believe was an erroneous article in a newspaper. Do you want to clarify that for us, Secretary Rood?

Rood: Yes, Senator, that is an erroneous item. First, we are observing Iran’s behavior with concern. As you know, in recent months, they’ve conducted some attacks on shipping, on the Saudi oil facilities and on an American UAV. We continue to see threat reporting that concerns us as well. We have deployed 14,000 troops over the last six months, many of those on ships and airbases and other things in the region. The secretary and others, we’re continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture. But we haven’t made a decision to deploy an additional 14,000 troops.

Inhofe: OK, that’s clarification. We got a lot of calls on that, and I appreciate that.

To both of you, we know that some of the missions will have to be scaled back and some programs will be cut. But they need to be the right missions and the right programs. We don’t want a repeat of the past where we cut programs like the F-22, and ever since then we knew that we made a mistake. And we gave up our long-range artillery only to realize our mistake years later. Can you give us specific examples of missions or programs that DOD has already scaled back or are planning to scale back in the future?

Rood: Well, Senator, as you know we are investing additional resources in new areas of investment.  I highlighted some of those in my prepared, my written testimony, things like hypersonics. artificial intelligence, directed energy. There are some older legacy systems where the department has made decisions, the services have made decisions not to pursue them. For example, last year in the budget request, the Navy chose to move forward with new aircraft and retire older ones, F-18, F/A-18 C and D models as an example. The Navy made a decision not to move forward with additional Nimitz-class and instead look to the future—Nimitz-class carriers, I should say. And there are other examples like that in the Army and Air Force where decisions were made for older legacy systems to purchase fewer of them or phase them out in favor of newer capabilities for the future.

Inhofe: You know this is a little off subject, but it’s closely related. When I look at our general, I recall the time you were commander of Altus Air Force Base, and right down the road at Fort Sill, we were undergoing all kinds of problems at that time. The Crusader, I’ll never forget when that - we were all prepared and ready to go and “oh, it’s going to be good,” we spent $2 billion—wham, it was axed. Then the future combat system came up—same thing. In fact, you were there at the time, not that you had anything to do with it because you were next door, but nonetheless that was $20 billion. And that’s the kind of thing we have to make sure doesn’t happen again. Hopefully we learned our lesson. 

We can’t keep up business as usual with our competitors, especially China because of the threats of changing so quickly. For example, few predicted the spread of China’s overseas military presence, starting in Djibouti. Prior to that, most of the activity began within the city limits of China, and this is where everything was starting. It was Djibouti the first time they started such an effort in a foreign country. Now that has spread all the way down as far as south as Tanzania and other places. And then you skip over and you see what they are doing at the same time in the South China Sea. We had a group of us, some of us up at this dais, that were over there observing when they first started all their building of the islands and these things. You have to wonder where they come up with all these resources? How can they continue to do this all over? A lot of times, people who are averse to supporting a strong defense will come up, and they’ll talk about how China and Russia together don’t spend half of what we spend over here. But the biggest expense as we well know is our end strength—it’s our people. After last week’s hearing on how we’re taking so much of a concern over our people, they don’t have that problem. They give them the guns and say, “go out and kill people.” Anyway, that’s something this is of a great concern, and I know that you are concentrating your efforts there, and that’s justly where you should be doing that. Thank you for that.

Click here to watch Inhofe’s opening remarks.


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