Jun 23, 2021
General Milley, Secretary Austin Full Testimony Transcript on 2022 Budget Request
Defense Secretary Austin, an General Mark Milley testifies before Congress on June 23, 2021 on 2022 budget requests. Read the transcript here.
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Mr. Smith: (08:45)
We will reconvene as soon as everyone can get back to their places here, which will take just a few seconds, and then we’ll start back up again. I will remind members at 2:00 the secretary has a hard stop. We’ll do our best to get as many people in between now and then, but we will stop at 2:00. All right. Believe we are reconvened, and with that, I will, if we can get someone to shut that door, then we will call on Mr. Norcross. Mr. Norcross, you’re recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Norcross: (09:27)
Thank you, chairman, and to Secretary Austin, General Milley, thank you for your service. Very much appreciate you coming by today. A number of issues that have been illuminated over the past year, particularly with the pandemic, is our industrial base. Certainly to all those who continue to work during the pandemic been incredibly helpful for us and our country to continue to move, but one thing it has done is really illuminate some of the problems that we’re having with our industrial base and the supply chain. As the chairman mentioned, we have the Task Force Critical Supply Chain that has pointed out a number of issues, whether semiconductors, rare-earth, propellants, explosives, but one of the things that was somewhat of a surprise to the committee was the workforce, and that goes hand in glove with the industrial base. What is the department doing or plan on doing for these supply chains to get more visibility so we don’t get caught shorthanded on some of the surprises that were put upon us during the pandemic?
Secretary Austin: (10:44)
Well, thank you, sir, and let me say up front that I absolutely agree with you that making sure that we have sound and protected supply chains is critical. Supply chain vulnerability winds up being a national security vulnerability. I certainly appreciate president’s leadership in this, as he has emphasized this over and over again. In this budget, you’ll see that we are investing $341 million to partner with US companies to make sure that we’re doing our part to boost defense industrial base activity and onshore some of the supply chain activities that have been offshored in the past.
Mr. Norcross: (11:42)
Thank you for that, because obviously, we have trusted partners that we care very much about, but I think we can move from 55% where we are incrementally and predictably so that that supply chain becomes more secure, and that brings me to my second question in particular about the navy’s longterm aircraft inventory plan. We have no, in this year’s president’s budget, the F/A-18E/F jets that have previously been focused on. The loss of a critical supply chain in those F-18s is very much in question, not only from what we need in terms of our tactical force, but the minimum sustaining rates. Can you talk about the issue with the F-18, why we are dropping back on that, and the problems it might cause?
Secretary Austin: (12:40)
What I can say, sir, is that we continue to invest in those capabilities and technologies that we think will be relevant in the future, and make sure that we have sufficient lifespan in those capabilities going forward, and it calls for us to make trade-offs. So as we invest in one type of aircraft or capability, we’ll have to either divest of some current capability, or not reinvest in that capability.
Mr. Norcross: (13:15)
No, incredibly important, but it’s also keeping that industrial base alive, which we all agree with that. With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back. Thank you.
Mr. Smith: (13:27)
Thank you. Dr. DesJarlais is recognized for five minutes.
Dr. DesJarlais: (13:31)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, General Milley and Secretary Austin, for your service. I’d like to start with General Milley. We know from Admiral Richard’s testimony before the committee that the United Kingdom has reached out and expressed concerns about the United States adopting a no-first-use or sole purpose policy. I’ve personally heard the same from the Polish ambassador. The French, Japanese, South Koreans have also expressed similar concerns about the US possibility changing its declaratory policy to no-first-use or sole purpose. Have you heard similar concerns from the allies that adopting a NFU or sole purpose policy would be destabilizing?
General Milley: (14:08)
I have frequently engaged with allies and partners of both Asia, Europe, all over the place, and that particular issue has not risen of a particular concern with respect to my counterparts that I’ve dealt with.
Dr. DesJarlais: (14:31)
In April, Admiral Richards further testified that the US adoption of a no-first-use policy would remove a level of ambiguity that has deterrence value, and that such a move would have a negative effect on the extended deterrence and assurance to our allies. Would you agree with his assessment?
General Milley: (14:47)
Yeah, absolutely. I think the president of the United States should always have as many options as possible, and that’s my position.
Dr. DesJarlais: (14:58)
He further told us that available evidence indicates that Russia and China will not view such a shift in US policy as credible. Do you agree with Admiral Richard on that as well?
General Milley: (15:08)
I’ve not talked to Admiral Richards on that specific point. I would have to get with the intel community to determine if their assessment was what the view of Russia and China would be on a declaration. But again, maximum options always available to the president is my position.
Dr. DesJarlais: (15:26)
Okay, so not to beat a dead horse, but in short, the US declaring a sole purpose or NFU policy would be destabilizing, alienate allies, undermine our extended deterrence guarantees and would have no impact on Russia or China’s calculus. General Milley, given all this, what’s your best military advice as to whether the US should adopt an NFU or sole purpose nuclear declaratory policy?
General Milley: (15:50)
My view, you’re asking for my personal best military advice, is to maintain all options available to the president of the United States at all times, so I would not recommend making a declaration of no-first-use. It is a topic for which I think would take away an option for the president. Always maintain options for the president.
Dr. DesJarlais: (16:10)
Okay. Thank you, General Milley. Secretary Austin, same question to you. Given the corrosive impact that such a change in policy would have on our alliances and extended deterrence guarantees as well as the minimal impact on Russia and China’s nuclear calculus, what is your best military advice on change in nuclear declaration policy, or no-first-use, or sole purpose?
Secretary Austin: (16:35)
You know, I absolutely agree with the chairman that our goal is to provide as many credible options to the president as possible, and I would also say though that this is a policy issue, and one that the administration will sort through, sort out going forward, as it does its strategic reviews in the future.
Dr. DesJarlais: (17:01)
Okay, and Secretary Austin, a shift in topics. I would like you to provide … You can have the rest of my time to describe why it is so critical that Congress work to quickly reimburse the National Guard for the over $500 million spent on its mission here at the Capitol earlier this year, and what impact on readiness could result if these funds are not returned in a timely manner?
Secretary Austin: (17:25)
So I’ll just make a brief comment, and the chairman might want to comment on this as well. I think you’ve heard me say before that if we don’t resource the Guard, what’ll happen is it’ll begin to erode readiness. It will disallow them to conduct their training in accordance with the schedules that they should be on, and so this is very, very important to us. I would encourage and ask for your help in providing those resources.
Dr. DesJarlais: (17:56)
General Milley: (17:57)
I would add to that, congressman, I would ditto what secretary just said. $500 million in the grand scheme of a $715 billion budget may not seem like a lot, but to the National Guard that is a lot. Reimbursing them for their efforts, their great efforts, and this is also a year in which the Guard’s been doing COVID, they’re overseas. There’s a very high OPTEMPO in the Guard, so that $500 million is very important. Would like to see it reimbursed for the National Guard in order to maintain their training and their standards.
Dr. DesJarlais: (18:26)
Okay, duly noted. Thanks to you both. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Gallego: (18:30)
Thank you, representative. Secretary Austin, earlier this year we discussed our shared interest for strong, consistent civilian oversight of the armed forces. As chairman of the Intelligence Special Operations Subcommittee, I appreciate your commitment to ensure civilian leadership for our special operation forces with the restructuring of the ASD(SO/LIC) to include resourcing and staffing the office consistent with its oversight responsibilities. Can you please highlight the steps you, alongside Deputy Secretary Hicks, are taking to increase civilian oversight of the soft community to ensure an agile and lethal force ready for strategic competition, particularly in regards to acquisition and diversity?
Secretary Austin: (19:06)
Thank you. You may have heard say earlier that there’s a direct reporting chain now to link to me, and that secretary will sit in on all of my key leader meetings, report to me routinely on the ongoing efforts in the department, and we’ll discuss, we’ll be cited on those service-like requirements and needs for the special operations community.
Mr. Gallego: (19:39)
Thank you, secretary. More than 18 months ago, nine combatant commanders articulated an immediate need for intelligence community to help combat the provocative actions of China and Russia in the public domain, the director of national intelligence establishing a malign foreign influence response center that will lead coordination and integration of intelligence related to foreign malign influence. What changes are you directing within the department to help address this urgent requirement?
Secretary Austin: (20:03)
We’ve had, the chairman and I, have had … First of all, I do believe that it is an important issue. All of the combatant commanders have identified a need for resourcing to address this issue. As we’ve talked for the combatant commanders, we want to make sure that we’re synchronized in our efforts, and that we’re putting the resources in the right place, so this is a thing that we’re getting our arms around a little bit better, but I would say up front that we will resource the combatant commanders based upon their request, but we want to make sure that we’re using those dollars to get best value, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to.
Mr. Gallego: (20:46)
Thank you, secretary. For over 20 years, the soft community has been focused on antiterrorism operations and permissive environments, but the growing threat posed by China and Russia underscore the need to pivot our focus to the great power competition. Can you expand on how this budget proposal addresses the need to refocus special operations to combat near-peer adversaries?
Secretary Austin: (21:07)
Well, I think you’ve seen the special operations forces … First of all, they have incredible capability across a spectrum of activity. Whereas we’ve been focused on transnational terrorism to a greater extent in the past, they over the last several years have began to lean into great power competition, develop capabilities and resources that will be a bit more relevant to that near-peer competition. As you look at what we’ve invested in throughout the budget here in terms of the major items, research development and technology, long-range fires, lethal air force, that sort of stuff, all of that really kind of contributes to the overall effort there, and the special operations forces is a part of that obviously, but we’re setting the stage to make sure that not only the special ops, but every other element on the battlefield can be effective. Again, we’re emphasizing that this is competition across all domains, and not just land, air, and sea.
General Milley: (22:21)
Could I just add something, Congressman Gallegos, if I could?
Mr. Gallego: (22:26)
Go ahead, general.
General Milley: (22:27)
Training is the key here. SOCOM’s reorienting the training of the special operations community for higher-end fighting against China, and all of the core fundamental task of unconventional war, strategic reconnaissance, and the entire list of core tasks, and it’s really got to do with training and getting them aligned with the various war plans against the pacing threat of China.
Mr. Gallego: (22:46)
Thank you. Gentlemen, in remaining time we have, last year Congress appropriated $169 million to the Baltic Security Initiative to increase military aid in cooperation with the Baltics. Do you have an update on how the department is spending this money? General Milley, or Secretary Austin?
General Milley: (23:06)
Yeah, with respect to the Baltics …
Mr. Gallego: (23:08)
General Milley: (23:10)
… we are doing exercises. We are doing, back to special operations forces, there’s a lot of special operations things going on in there. There’s train, advise, assist with them, and we are, as part of the European Defense Initiative, part of that is exercising in the Baltics, so under the purview of EUCOM, all of that is happening, so that’s where that money’s going.
Mr. Gallego: (23:30)
Secretary Austin: (23:31)
The president just recently met with the three key senior leaders of the Baltics there, in Brussels in the margins of the NATO summit there.
Mr. Gallego: (23:42)
Thank you, secretary. Thank you, general. I recognize ranking member to the ISO Subcommittee, Representative Kelly.
Representative Kelly: (23:48)
Thank you, chairman. First of all, I want to kind of double tap what I think Mr. DesJarlais said, Dr. DesJarlais. It’s important that we get those dollars back to the Guard and Reserve so that they don’t miss drills. You know, we have our 155 BCT out of Mississippi that has done COVID response. We put shots in arms. We’ve been the logistical backbone for our entire state. They’re at NTC in a rotation right now, and then those guys and girls are going to come back, and we’re going to tell them in August or September, “We can’t pay you for drill, so stay home,” and we’re going to lose that readiness that we’ve been building, so please help us get those dollars back to the Guard and Reserve.
Secretary Austin: (24:27)
You have my commitment that we will advocate when and wherever possible, and just to dovetail on what you just said there, I am absolutely proud of what our Guard has done over the last year especially. They have been a significant factor in our ability to begin to bend the curve with respect to COVID. Now we’re entering the firefighting season, and the hurricane season …
Representative Kelly: (24:55)
Secretary Austin: (24:56)
… and so they will continue to be [crosstalk 00:24:58].
Representative Kelly: (24:58)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Now, I want to talk a little bit about TRICARE, and having been through this process myself, we have our Guard and Reserve which don’t have TRICARE except when they’re deployed or there’s a cost associated with it, which is greater. You have certain members, federal technicians, which are not allowed to get TRICARE. It is very difficult going on and off of deployments, especially as much as we’re being used, and not having continuity of healthcare. You agree that the primary readiness issue for Guard and Reserve is having health issues, whether it’s teeth issues, dental, or other. What are we doing at the DOD to make sure that we have continuity of healthcare for our Guard and Reserve, whether traditional or full-time?
Secretary Austin: (25:39)
The health, welfare, and safety of our force is of utmost important to me, and I thank you for the question. I would welcome any initiatives that enables us to provide better healthcare, more efficient healthcare to all the components of our service. The issue always is resources, and as currently we’re only resourced to do a certain amount, and I agree all the members of our armed forces are important, and if we make a decision that we’re going to expand services, certainly we’ll need to be resourced to do so.
Representative Kelly: (26:22)
Thank you. Now, I want to get on to the next one. ISO, the intel, our special operations, the budget in FY21 was cut 495 million. Is the proposed cut this year … It was 600 million cut from FY20 and ’21, 495 million this year. They’re having to do more with less. As we shift to China and Russia and our near-peer adversaries, we still have to do the work that our special operators so often do, and in many times they’re the only people who can do that. What are we doing to make sure that we have them ready to be in places like Africa, the Middle East, and those things with these budget cuts? We’re resourcing them less, but in reality, we’re asking them to do more with less. Do you agree, Secretary Austin?
Secretary Austin: (27:12)
Well, I think when we look at the entire picture, we are retrograding from Afghanistan as we speak, and that will create some opportunities for us to shift some resources around, but to your point, special operations forces, there’s always high demand and there’s a very low density of these elements, and we’ll need to make sure that they have the resources they need to be successful, so we’ll continue to [crosstalk 00:27:39].
Representative Kelly: (27:40)
Secretary, I’m sorry, Chairman Milley, I’m sorry, I traveled recently to the Middle East and Africa, and in the Middle East specifically, and as we’re coming out of Afghanistan, we still have CENTCOM, so I understand we’ll have less resources, many of our allies and partners in the region like our presence there. Can you tell me what are we doing to build the confidence in our allies and partners in the Middle East, in Europe, in Africa, that we’re still going to be there as a great partner, even though we’re coming out of Afghanistan, because we’ve got some work I think with our allies and partners to do there, so Chairman Milley, if you can address that, please.
General Milley: (28:23)
Let me give you, in the interest of time, congressman, let me give you an answer for the record with some details of what we’re doing, but in general, for the CENTCOM AOR, the Middle East is important to the United States. It’s going to be important to us in the future. We are looking at, under the direction of Secretary Austin, an entire global posture review. We have a lot of work left to do that, to backbrief the secretary on that, but exercises, forward presence, bases, all of those things, and working closely with our allies and partners in all of the regions you just mentioned, and I owe you an answer in writing on that.
Representative Kelly: (28:53)
Absolutely. Thank you, and I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (28:55)
Thank you. Mr. Moulton is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Moulton: (28:58)
Secretary Austin and Chairman Milley, thank you for your lifetimes of service and leadership to our country. As we withdraw from Afghanistan, we have not seen an operational plan to save our brave Afghan partners and allies. Now, I recognize that the Trump Administration left you with no plans and an even earlier withdraw date, not to mention that Trump’s policy of banning Muslim immigrants would probably have led him to abandon our allies in Afghanistan the same way he abandoned our allies in Syria. Nonetheless, all of this now falls on this administration. We have 80 days until our formal withdraw date. It takes 800 days or more to process a special immigrant visa, so it’s too late for the special immigrant visa process. Secretary Austin, why have you not started an evacuation yet?
Secretary Austin: (29:59)
Well, thanks for the question, and let me say up front, and I know this is a topic that’s near and dear to a number of people in this room who have served alongside some of the interpreters and people who have helped us in the past, and so this is important to all of us. We are working with Department of State who has the lead on this, along with DHS, to, as one part of a whole of government effort, to address this issue. We are encouraging to move as quickly as we can, and we stand ready to provide resources to accelerate this if it’s possible, and it is possible. In some cases, they’ve shortened the timeline from application to completion there. There are a number of people in the pipeline. I am confident that we’ll begin to evacuate some of those people soon, but again, I would defer to Secretary Blinken to really outline what the …
Secretary Austin: (31:02)
To secretary Blinken to really outline what the …
Mr. Moulton: (31:04)
Mr. Secretary, I don’t need to tell you this, but these brave Afghan partners, these Afghan and American heroes, people who we asked to risk their lives, not just for Afghanistan, but for America, because we had their backs. Their future is in your hands. This much is certain, the Taliban will kill them if they can and they will rape and murder their wives and kids first if they can. Chairman Milley, if the service chiefs were ordered to evacuate our Afghan allies today, is there a plan in place to get that started immediately?
General Milley: (31:58)
We have the military capability to do whatever’s directed by the President of United States with respect to our allies and those that have worked with us. I consider it a moral imperative to take care of those that have served along our side. We are prepared to execute whatever we are directed.
Mr. Moulton: (32:15)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Changing subjects, Secretary Austin, last week, General Brown highlighted the importance of suicide prevention in his opening statement and then committed to supporting the Brandon Act later in the hearing of a bill that I introduced last week to provide service members a mechanism to seek mental health support if they are contemplating suicide. Wherever, we’ve received pushback from other elements within DOD on the brand enact, but no alternative suggestion for how we can tackle this epidemic. Are you personally comfortable with how DOD is managing suicide prevention given that we have lost more service members to suicide last year than we did in combat and are you prepared to support efforts like the Brandon Act or present a better alternative to address this?
Secretary Austin: (33:03)
I think this is a very important issue and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to improve in this area. This is something that I have personally been swinging at for a long time as a part of one of the senior leaders of the military and try as we may, we’ve not made the progress that we need to make. There’s a stigma associated with seeking help, seeking mental health care. We got to do more to relieve that or to remove that stigma and we got to do more to provide adequate healthcare to our troops. The answer to your question is, you have my commitment that I will continue to work this. I would tell you right now that our service chiefs are absolutely focused on this and we’ll work with the greater community at large to get best practices and lessons learned so that we can get better at this
Mr. Moulton: (34:04)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Grateful for your leadership, but I yield back.
Speaker 1: (34:07)
Mr. Gallagher is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Gallagher: (34:09)
Thank you. Chairman Milley, last week in front of this committee, both the CNO and the Commandant General Berger concurred with Admiral Davidson’s assessment that we have a growing risk of a PLA invasion of Taiwan within the next six years, which is an alarming timeline. My understanding, excuse me, is that you publicly disagreed with that timeline. I’d be curious to get your alternative assessment and the justification for it, but I mean, would you agree with just the basic idea that the PLA’s capability is growing, that the unification of Taiwan with the mainland is a legacy issue for General Secretary Xi and that this creates problems for our deterrent posture and endo pay comp?
General Milley: (34:55)
Yeah. What Davidson and Aqualino and others have said is that Chinese capability to invade and seize the island of Taiwan is being accelerated to 2027, 6 years from now. I don’t dismiss that at all. What I said was near-term, in my definition, that’s one to two years, I don’t see China, they could, they could make decisions, whatever they want to do, but I don’t see it happening right out of the blue. There’s no reason for it. The cost of China far exceeds the benefit and President Xi and his military would do the calculation. They know that an invasion, in order to seize an island that big with that many people and the defense capabilities the Taiwanese have, would be extraordinarily complicated and costly.
General Milley: (35:46)
At this point in time, near-term next 12, 24 months, I’m not seeing the indicators and warnings yet. Could have happened six years from now, eight years from now, 10 years, 20? Sure. A lot of things can happen. The Chinese are clearly building capability. There’s no question about that. They’ve been doing it for quite a while and we’re monitoring it very closely. That gets back to this budget. We need to continue to get this budget through, get it done on time in order for us to keep pace with the Chinese and stay ahead of them. We want overmatch in order to deter a great power war and stay at great power competition.
Mr. Gallagher: (36:19)
Recognizing there are limitations to the format we’re in right now, just given your position and the time you spent interacting with your counterparts in the region and understanding that to some extent, the intentions of Xi himself and the party in general are unknowable and a lot of things could change in the environment, what is your basic sense of the priority that the CCP and the PLA put on Taiwan and to what extent, as I said before, it’s bound up in Xi’s personal legacy?
General Milley: (36:49)
I think both are true. I think the issue of Taiwan and the unification Taiwan with mainland China, I think that is a core, I set it before in previous testimony, C-O-R-E, a core national security interest of China. It’s also a core national security interest of the United States to ensure that whatever happens with respect to Taiwan happens peacefully and we don’t have a general conflict in the region or globally. We support, with the Taiwan Relations Act, et cetera, for a peaceful resolution of the issue between Taiwan and China.
Mr. Gallagher: (37:26)
I completely agree with the sentiment you just expressed about. I think it’s a shared goal on this committee of deterring such a conflict as one of our core priorities, because it would be messy indeed, which is why earlier this year, INDOPACOM submitted to Congress a detailed requests for exercise funds, training ranges, military construction, munitions, defensive Guam systems, but the Pacific Deterrence Initiative as requested by the department and this budget consisted of non INDOPACOM specific a list of procurement items, including a destroyer, some jet fighters, a logistics ship. What caused the difference between the two versions of PDI? Why were so many of the top needs identified in the Section 1251 report, that’s INDOPACOM’s report, mostly or completely unfunded in the budget requests? Secretary?
Secretary Austin: (38:14)
Yeah. Our intent is to realize the intent of Congress and resource PDI in accordance with what’s been laid out. I think there were some miscommunications in terms of how things were been. We’re working with the committees to try to clarify that now and we’ll continue to do so, but the intent is to make sure that we follow along with Congress’s intent with the PDR.
Mr. Gallagher: (38:43)
Then, I mean, in my remaining 25 seconds, I’m tempted to ask Mr. McCord a question, only because he’s gotten off easy.
Secretary Austin: (38:50)
Do it. [crosstalk 00:38:51].
Mr. Gallagher: (38:53)
I don’t have enough time for my army and strength question for the Chairman, so instead, I will yield back my 12 seconds and hope that somebody gets Mr. McCord on the record.
Speaker 1: (39:03)
Thank you. Mr. Carbohal is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Carbohal: (39:08)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. McCord. Kidding. I want to thank you all for being here today. Let me start with Secretary Austin. I want to start by asking you about the Department of Defense audit and financial accountability. Congress robustly funds that DOD in order to defend the nation and detour conflict. We also have a responsibility to our constituents to conduct oversight and ensure that the funds are obligated effectively and responsibly. How important is the ongoing audit to your work as Secretary and how’s the department using the results of the audit to impact the budget process?
Secretary Austin: (39:49)
It’s not only important. It’s critical and we’ve made progress, a lot of progress since I was last affiliated with the department. There’s still work to be done and we will move out on this as expeditiously as possible and deliberately as possible to ensure that we get a clean audit at some point going forward, as quickly as we can.
Mr. Carbohal: (40:16)
Thank you. Secretary Austin, in the previous administration, one of my key concerns with the department was the lack of transparency to Congress in decision-making processes. For example, many here in this committee were left with more questions than answers when the department announced its decision to select Redstone arsenal in Alabama as the permanent headquarters for US Space Com. Looking forward, I hope you will commit to this committee that the department will be transparent in its decision-making so Congress and the public have full confidence that decisions are made objectively and in the best interest of our national security. With that, I’m closely following the upcoming basing decision process for the space forces Start Comm headquarters as I believe Vanderburgh Space floor space will be an ideal location to be the future home for the training and readiness command. I know this process will be led by the department of the Air Force, but I believe leadership starts at the top. I urge you to work with the Air Force to ensure a transparent and fair process. That was more so of a statement than a question, but I’d love to get your reaction to that.
Secretary Austin: (41:33)
Yeah. In the first instance, you know that that issue is under investigation by the IgE. There’s also a GAO look ongoing as well, so I won’t have any comment on that for you. I will say that my commitment to you is that we will remain as transparent as possible on this and other issues going forward. I will require that the services do the same.
Mr. Carbohal: (42:03)
Thank you. Just to conclude on that point, it was pretty much a bipartisan sentiment about the transparency and the need for more information about that. I’m glad the investigation is ensuing. Lastly, Secretary Austin and General Milley, this committee has been focused on addressing extremism in the ranks. I appreciate the tone and the direction that I have seen and heard from the service chiefs and civilian leaders, but clearly more needs to be done to take that message at the top and then share it as received throughout the ranks. How does this budget make necessary investments in initiatives that seek to address extremism and also promote diversity? Well
Secretary Austin: (42:48)
There are provisions in the budget that resource us to continue our efforts there to make sure that we have the right staffing and that sort of business to provide oversight, but this is accounted for in our budget. General Milley?
General Milley: (43:08)
Yeah. I would agree it’s accounted for in the budget. Let me make a broader comment on extremism. The United States military is committed to the idea that’s America and it’s embedded within our constitution. We are a sworn at the risk of our life, our limb, separation from our family to defend that constitution, no matter what. There is no room in uniform for anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the values of the United States of America. I know we’re going through work groups defining extremism, checking out our department of defense instructions, et cetera, but from private to general, there’s no room for extremist behavior in the United States military.
Mr. Carbohal: (43:45)
Thank you, General. With that, I’ll yield back. Mr. McCord, escaped again.
Speaker 1: (43:52)
Mr. Gates is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Gates: (43:54)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary, why was Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Lomeyer relieved of his command?
Secretary Austin: (44:00)
It was a decision made by his chain of command and typically, those decisions are made based upon either having confidence or a lack of confidence. This is issue is under investigation by the IgE. I won’t comment any further on that.
Mr. Gates: (44:18)
In my previous discussions with service members and particularly officers, I would hear about complaints over parts not arriving on time, long deployments and in my more recent discussions with those officers, the number one issue that they raised to me with concern, often unable to speak publicly for fear of the type of retribution that Lieutenant Colonel Lomeyer faced, they say that your stand down regarding extremism did not help our military and hurt the military. I want to share with you that perspective, that it caused service members to otherize one another. It impaired group cohesion and interesting to me is that I’ve heard those sentiments most frequently from units that are majority minority, that this was not particularly helpful. I wanted to give you the opportunity to maybe share with us more specificity regarding the definitions that seem to be a challenge when Ms. Hartzler was asking questions. How should the Department of Defense think about critical race theory?
General Milley: (45:25)
Could I make a comment, Secretary? I’m sorry.
Mr. Gates: (45:28)
I’m sorry. I’m very limited on my time, General Milley.
General Milley: (45:31)
I just want to make comment that the final [crosstalk 00:45:33].
Mr. Gates: (45:32)
I know, but I’ve asked the question to Secretary Austin.
Secretary Austin: (45:36)
I don’t know what the issue of critical race theory is and what the relevance here and with the department. We do not teach critical race theory. We don’t embrace critical race theory. I think that’s a spurious conversation. We are focused on extremist behaviors and not ideology, not people’s thoughts, not people’s political orientation, behaviors is what we’re focused on. One final point, and thanks for your anecdotal input, but I would say that I have gotten 10 times that amount of input, 50 times that amount of input, on the other side that have said, “Hey, we’re glad to have had the ability to have a conversation with ourselves and with our leadership,” and that’s what we need to make sure [crosstalk 00:46:28]
Mr. Gates: (46:28)
Again, reclaiming my time, Mr. Secretary. It may be that you’re receiving that input in the ratios you describe because it was your directive. It may be that people are concerned about criticizing your decision because Lieutenant Colonel Lomeyer was not relieved of his command for his actions. He was not relieved of his command because of poor performance regarding his duties. He was relieved of his command precisely because of his thoughts and because of his critique of critical race theory. It is particularly helpful that you have said that the Department of Defense does not embrace critical race theory and that you think the discussion is not appropriate. I would suggest that it is the ideology that is not appropriate. It is particularly concerning to me that you have hired a critical race theorist to give you advice on personnel matters. That person is Bishop Garrison.
Mr. Gates: (47:20)
I would particularly observe that on July 27th, 2019, Bishop Garrison tweeted regarding former President Trump, “He’s dragging a lot of bad actors out into the sunlight, normalizing their actions,” and here’s the relevant part. “If you support the President, you support that. There is no room for nuance in this. There is no more, but I’m not like that talk,” and then he replies to his own tweet with, what seems to be a very ethno nationalist hashtag, hashtag black 44. Could you enlighten us as to what advice Mr. Garrison has given you and are you concerned that while you testify publicly to our committee, that the department doesn’t embrace critical race theory, you have hired someone who is precisely a critical race theorist?
Secretary Austin: (48:09)
This is the first I’ve ever heard Mr. Garrison be described as a critical race theorist, so this is new. [crosstalk 00:48:18].
Mr. Gates: (48:18)
Did you review his Tweets before you hired him personally?
Secretary Austin: (48:22)
Mr. Gates: (48:22)
Did you review his tweets before you hired him?
Secretary Austin: (48:24)
I did not personally review his tweets.
Mr. Gates: (48:27)
I would just ask that maybe that’d be helpful. Is there anything you can share in just these final seconds regarding any advice he’s given you?
Secretary Austin: (48:33)
Well, let me just share one other thing that you brought up, Congressmen, about the input that comes to me. I trust my leadership from top to bottom that they will give me fair and balanced and unvarnished input and for you to say that people are telling me what I want to hear, I get it, but I’m smart enough to know [crosstalk 00:48:57].
Mr. Gates: (48:56)
That does happen.
Secretary Austin: (48:57)
Yeah, maybe they’re telling you what you want to hear.
Mr. Gates: (49:01)
Well, I don’t know that they even know what I want to hear.
Speaker 1: (49:03)
Time has expired. Mr. Brown is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Brown: (49:06)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I have only five minutes and two questions. At the midway mark, I may interrupt the response to the first question. Mr. Secretary, two years after President Truman desegregated the armed forces, a commission, it was the Fahy commission, found, and I quote, “That a policy of a quality of a treatment and opportunity will make for a better Army, Navy and Air Force. It is right and just. It will strengthen the nation,” end of quote. Today, while 19% of active duty service members are black, only two four star generals and admirals are black, and there is a significant under-representation by race and gender, I should add, in those career fields that experienced higher promotion rates to senior ranks. To address this problem last year, bipartisan, this Congress required the secretary and today that’s you, to establish a mentor and career counseling program. I recently requested information from the under secretary for personnel and readiness on the program status. I found the response wanting. The question is, how are you implementing the provisions of that program and why are diversity and inclusion initiatives, such as those, important to the department?
Secretary Austin: (50:20)
Just one comment upfront on the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion. I would point out to you, Congressman something that you already know and that the United States military is the most diverse organization in this country. It represents citizens from all walks of life, all ethnicities and it is truly a diverse organization. I would absolutely agree with you that the senior leadership should look like those people, those troops that are in the ranks and a troop ought to be able to look up and say, “I can be a senior person. I can be that man or that woman at the top of the totem pole, the top of the pecking order, at some point in time.” It has provided some of the best opportunities for our young citizens of any organization in America. In terms of mentorship, your specific question, I absolutely believe in the power of mentorship and embrace that. We need to do better and you have my commitment that we will do better. We stand ready to work with you and answer any additional questions that you have.
Mr. Brown: (51:42)
I appreciate that, Mr. Secretary. We’ll follow up, but I do want to get to the second question. The Fe Commission talked about treatment, not just opportunity. I’m very concerned about the disparate racial treatment that minority service members are experiencing under the uniform code of military justice. A May, 2019 GAO study, that this Congress directed, found that black service members across all services were more than one and a half times likely to be tried by court martial for the same conduct as white service members. It’s clear there is a general failure on the part of commanders in exercising their broad discretion to refer cases to the court martial. My questions are, why are the commanders woefully failing our black service members who enlist at higher rates than any other demographic group in our country? How do we fix the system so that there is truly equal justice under the uniform code of military justice, which does not exist today? That’s my question. Thank you.
Secretary Austin: (52:44)
Congressman, thanks for flagging in a question there. This is an important issue and I think one that requires more and detailed study. I would just say that the point that I made earlier in terms of making sure that we have the right representation in senior ranks is very, very important and contributes to making this issue better or improving this issue.
Mr. Brown: (53:10)
I’m going to follow up and make a comment and pick up on that point. There is a correlation, I believe, between the lack of diversity in senior leadership, in command positions and the disproportionally high rate of court martial of black and brown service members. Racial bias exists, not only in the criminal justice system, as we’ve experienced and seen for decades and brought to greater public attention after the murder of George Floyd, but that same racial bias exists in the military justice system. These are two related questions. We need to focus on diversity, but we need to immediately get after the disparate treatment under the UCMJ. That we can fix now. That we can fix now. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Speaker 1: (54:03)
Thank you. Mr. Gaetz is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Gaetz: (54:05)
You, chairman. I appreciate our Chairman and our Secretary I appreciate your leadership and I appreciate the journey that you’ve taken to get here. Also, Mr. McCord, thanks for being here. I do got a couple of comments for the record, just criticisms of the administration. I want to talk about the Air Force budget, but first I’ll just talk about China being a pacing threat, rising superpower, Navy’s matching hours in an eminent timeframe, but then you look at the actual budget. After inflation, it’s a reduction. Our words do not match our actions here and I think China sees it. I think the role that was even with inflation, but yet we’re seeing a reduction.
Mr. Gaetz: (54:46)
Secondly, I personally opposed taking the prosecution authority away from the commander I’ve was a five-time commander myself in the Air Force. I think the change will now create two chains of command at the unit level, undermines the principle that we cherish, which is unity of command and I just think this is going to open up frictions and tensions within the unit and who’s actually in charge.
Mr. Gaetz: (55:06)
A third point of criticism is, we’ve had several months now where the administration should have come up with an evacuation plan for our interpreters. We have 18,000 roughly and there is no concrete plan that I know of. It’s unconscionable. We’ve had time to work through this. Talking about it’s not a plan. I know this is falls on the Secretary of State or the State Department, so it’s a criticism toward the administration versus you two, but our country owes better to these 18,000. In my view, they will be targeted. My real first question, then I’ll get to the Air Force budget.
Mr. Gaetz: (55:45)
I think it’s important that our defense budgets are accurate and transparent, but that’s not really the case of the Air Force budget. The Air Force budget submitted by the administration is $212 billion, but $39 billion of it, or 18% doesn’t, actually go to the Air Force. It gets passed through to other organizations. When you factor it in, the Air Force budget is really only $173 billion and the other services have about a 1% pass through, by the way, versus 18% for the Air Force. I just think it’s misleading. Most people in Congress and most people that are citizens think it’s about a third, third, third for the services. Last NDAA, we tasked the department to come up with a better way. Could you give us an update on your thinking on this and what we can do? Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Secretary Austin: (56:33)
Yeah. I’ll take this for the record. We do owe you an answer in terms of the progress that we’ve made or how we’ve approached this, but I just want to say that I would absolutely agree with you that while we can’t be fully transparent on some of these issues, we need to make sure that the Air Force budget is represented in the appropriate way.
Mr. Gaetz: (56:57)
Thank you. I appreciate your sentiments there. My second question is what the electronic magnetic spectrum operations. In the 19 NDAA, we directed the department to update its strategy here and provide a detailed implementation plan. In 2020, the department did come out with a strategy, but we’ve not yet seen an implementation plan. Could you give us an update on where we’re at with that?
Secretary Austin: (57:22)
You may have heard me say before, Congressmen, that our Vice Chairman is leading the effort along to deputy secretary to make sure that we lay out an implementation plan and that we supervise the implementation of the plan. This is very important. It becomes increasingly important as we look towards competition with a great power. We can expect a much more contested aerospace and greater pressure on the electromagnetic spectrum. We saw, and you know this because you’ve been there, we experienced some significant issues early on in Iraq and Afghanistan, trying to manage that spectrum and make sure that each service had the capabilities they need. It will be increasingly difficult going forward, but the Vice Chairman is on [inaudible 00:58:18]
Mr. Gaetz: (58:18)
Yeah, and I think the Vice Chairman is doing a great job and I applaud the effort. I do hope though, in the end, we have somebody at the one-star, two star level that owns this in the future, because as you know, at the four star level, they’re doing a hundred different things. I just put that in for your consideration. Finally, to the Chairman, I’ve only got about 30 seconds left. What are some tangible things we can do to strengthen deterrence for Taiwan? What kind of weapons can we sell them or provide them? Thank you
General Milley: (58:45)
Again, I’ll take that one for the record, but briefly you’re talking about air power, counter air power so that they can have some dominance or air superiority over their own airspace. Ballistic missile defense would be key and then their abilities to defend on the ground and conduct combined arms maneuver against an invading force. Those would be things that would be in Taiwan’s interests. I’ll give you a more complete answer. [crosstalk 00:59:08].
Mr. Gaetz: (59:07)
Speaker 1: (59:08)
Apologize, time has expired.. Mr. Keating is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Keating: (59:12)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As someone who was a district attorney for over a decade before I came to Congress, I realize the challenges and complexities of sexual assault cases firsthand. In fact, I had separate units in the civil side, separate units within my office specializing in prosecution of sexual assaults and with special units for sexual assault on victims witness advocacy. I was really pleased to hear the news that you shared this morning with us regarding what’s coming forth from the commission in terms of removing these cases from the military chain of command, recommendations are one thing, but hearing from both the Secretary of Defense and the Chair of the Joint Chiefs that you support that effort to is so important. A couple of quick questions in that regard. Number one, what do you mean by removing it from the military chain of command? Number two, General Milley mentioned to changes in the domestic violence areas, the way they’re going to be reviewed. I had a separate unit for that too. Could you tell us what’s in store for us and those very important things that were a priority of myself and this committee?
Secretary Austin: (01:00:32)
For those, or first of all, I would point to the issue of this will require resources and it will require making sure that we outline a path to get to where we need to be so that we’re doing this the right way. We are focused on sexual assault, sexual harassment, and related crimes. You mentioned domestic violence and a couple of other things that are directly related to that, but we would set up a special victims’ prosecutor, or excuse me, a special prosecutor to assess and refer these cases forward. The cases would be referred and prosecuted outside of the chain of command.
Mr. Keating: (01:01:23)
Yeah. Mr. Secretary, would they be investigated outside as well with the civil investigator working with that prosecutor?
Secretary Austin: (01:01:33)
They would be investigated by competent authorities and the investigator would work with the prosecutor. Yes.
Mr. Keating: (01:01:43)
Yeah. I would hope that those authorities included some of the civil side too, and someone that would work as a domestic violence advocate to our sexual assault and witness victim advocate. Now, in terms of domestic violence, it is discrete many times from sexual assaults, so is there anything to share with us this morning on that issue as well?
Mr. Keating: (01:02:03)
… anything to share with us this morning on that issue as well?
General Milley: (01:02:06)
Yeah. So what we’re saying, what we’re recommending… well, we’ve already made our recommendation to the Secretary is to stay narrowly focused on the issue of sexual assault and directly related crimes, such as domestic violence. What-
Mr. Keating: (01:02:18)
Sometimes they are and sometimes they not.
General Milley: (01:02:19)
Well, sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not, but the data shows that there’s a strong correlation. So you bin some of these other crimes in it. As far as all other felonies go, we’re recommending not to do that but to stay focused on the sexual assault and immediate related crimes. Take that out of the commander’s hands for referral and preferral of charges, investigation as well, and put that in the hands…
General Milley: (01:02:42)
Why are we doing that? Because the data shows that we haven’t moved the needle to solve that problem. It’s a very significant problem for cohesion of the force, and we’ve lost the trust and confidence of the lower-ranking troops in it. But it’s very limited, though, to that set of crimes, because the UCMJ is fundamental to the good order and discipline of the force. The commander must have that authority because this entire system is built in order to fight in combat. That’s important to remember as well for the process.
Mr. Keating: (01:03:10)
I would like to suggest too that you look more specifically at domestic violence as well. I’m here and I’m joined by many members of this committee to provide the resources and assist you along those lines. I thank you for the news, but we want to see if we can be helpful moving forward.
Mr. Keating: (01:03:29)
Secondly, we all share the belief, and certainly you, too, share it more than many Americans, to protect families. They’re giving their most precious resources, their children, their parents or spouses to defend our country. A BU study just recently out showed that 30,177 either active duty of veterans post 9/11 committed suicide, lost their lives. That’s over four times the number of similarly situated people that lost it in war operations, lost their lives in war operations. This committee, through the NDAA, did the GAO study, which I’ll follow up with a question.
Mr. Smith: (01:04:18)
General, this time has expired.
Mr. Keating: (01:04:19)
I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:04:19)
Thanks. I would like to let members know, just a moment of personal privilege here, on the sexual assault issue. There is wide bi-partisan support and support at DOD and within the administration for the idea that we need to take the prosecution of sexual assault crimes out of the chain of command. Now, that is a recent development. We’ve been talking about this for 10 years in a variety of different forms. It has been resisted in a variety of different quarters up to this point. But at this point there is wide… There are still some who oppose, but there are a lot of co-sponsors. But the details are different, and I think that is being lost in this debate. There are some bills that take all non-military felonies out. Then there is the proposal that has come from the commission. There was also a bill, and I know Representative Speier has introduced a new bill this week. But a month or so ago, there was a bill that she had introduced. It was focused just on sex crimes.
Mr. Smith: (01:05:15)
Another way to slice this is felonies and misdemeanors. If you go the all-felony route, which was a bill that was introduced this morning in the House and one that was introduced in the Senate, you do miss some sex crimes that are misdemeanors, and you certainly miss a lot of domestic violence that is also misdemeanors. Then there’s the subject that Mr. Keating brought up. That is, well, what about the people investigating it in the first place? Are they still under the chain of command?
Mr. Smith: (01:05:41)
We need to make this change. I think it is really important that we take a moment to do it right, that we have a conversation with a bunch of different people. I’m not presuming who’s right and who’s wrong, but this is no longer a question for the overwhelming majority of members in the House, in the Senate, whether or not this needs to be taken out of the chain of command. It is now a question of how to do that.
Mr. Smith: (01:06:04)
That is a debate and discussion that I think this committee needs to take a leadership role in doing. Mr. Rogers?
Mr. Rogers: (01:06:11)
I’d like to completely associate myself with the chairman’s remarks.
Mr. Smith: (01:06:15)
Thank you. Mr. Waltz is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Rogers: (01:06:20)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’d like to introduce into the record a letter to myself from the Superintendent of West Point, Lieutenant General Williams, that was sent to me in response to my letter regarding the teaching of critical race theory at West Point.
Mr. Smith: (01:06:35)
Is there objection? Hearing none, so ordered.
Mr. Rogers: (01:06:38)
Mr. Secretary found that very interesting your exchange with Mr. Gates on no teachings of critical race theory in the United States military. I want to quote to you a letter I received from the superintendent of West Point. Says, “With regards to critical race theory, there is one course that has this theory as part of the syllabus. There are two lessons on critical race theory. There is a book on critical race theory, titled Critical Race Theory and Introduction,” on and on and on about the teaching of critical race theory in West Point.
Mr. Rogers: (01:07:10)
I just want to emphasize something. This isn’t something that we’re raising. This came to me from cadets, from families, from soldiers with their alarm and their concern at how divisive this type of teaching is that is rooted in Marxism, that classifies people along class lines, an entire race of people as oppressor and oppressed. I cannot think of anything more divisive and more destructive to unit morale.
Mr. Rogers: (01:07:41)
I want to be very clear. The military needs to be open to all Americans. Absolutely. That is the strength of the United States military. But once we’re in, we bleed green. Our skin color is camouflage. We’re worried about that American flag on our shoulder. That’s the only thing our enemies are worried about. I think we can agree there.
Mr. Rogers: (01:07:59)
But the other thing that they raised to me was a seminar that over 100 cadets attended titled Understanding Whiteness and White Rage taught by a woman who described the Republican party platform as a platform of white supremacy. This is going on at West Point as we speak to our future military leaders. Sir, I would encourage you, I would demand that you get to the bottom of what is going on in the force, and further, for what it means for civilian oversight of the military when our future military leaders are being taught that the constitution and the fundamental civilian institutions of this country are endemically racist, misogynist, and colonialist, and therefore it is their duty to resist them. What does that mean for a future cadet who one day will be sitting where you are?
Mr. Rogers: (01:08:56)
So do you agree that critical race theory should or should not be taught in our military academies?
Secretary Austin: (01:09:01)
As I said earlier, thanks, Congressman for the question, and thanks for your continued support. Thanks for your service.
Mr. Rogers: (01:09:07)
Secretary Austin: (01:09:09)
This is not something that the United States military is embracing and pushing and causing people to subscribe to. Now, whether or not this was some sort of critical examination of different theories, I don’t know, but [crosstalk 01:09:26]-
Mr. Rogers: (01:09:26)
We need to understand our past, I want to be very clear. But can you agree at least that understanding whiteness and white rage presented in [inaudible 01:09:34] Hall, over 100 cadets, probably is something that we shouldn’t be teaching our future leaders of the United States army?
Secretary Austin: (01:09:41)
As you have described it, it certainly sounds like that’s something that should not occur. Again, I would like to notice specifics of the [crosstalk 01:09:49].
Mr. Rogers: (01:09:48)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Just switching topics to shipyards and our infrastructure. Our shipyards are old. They’re small. They can’t handle the fleet of today, much less the fleet of tomorrow. We currently have four public and less than 20 commercial. The Chinese are approaching 1000 shipyards. One dry dock that can handle the Ford class, not enough for the Virginia class. The Navy has its $21 billion investment plan, but it’s over 20 years over the next two decades. Would you welcome additional funding as part of our shipyard modernization? I think it’s absolutely critical.
Secretary Austin: (01:10:25)
I agree that it’s critical and we not only have to have the right mix of capabilities, we have to be able to sustain and maintain as well. In this budget, you’ll see that we’ve invested some $830 million in recapitalizing.
Mr. Rogers: (01:10:41)
I think that is woefully, woefully… Chinese are at 1000. We’re at less than 20. What I’m so disturbed by is we’re debating a $1.9 trillion infrastructure plan. Navy has its shipyard infrastructure improvement plan, so they clearly define shipyards and infrastructure. No mention. Not one. Were you consulted by the inter-agency group that submitted the infrastructure plan, whether it is grids, ports, and especially shipyards? Were was the Defense Department consulted for its priorities as part of the Administration’s plan?
Secretary Austin: (01:11:21)
Well, certainly I support the Administration’s plan.
Mr. Smith: (01:11:23)
That will have to be taken for the record. The gentleman’s time has expired. Ms. Houlahan is recognized for five minutes.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:11:28)
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us today. I know my time is very precious, but I would like to yield some of my time to General Milley because I know that he had some comments that he wanted to make when Representative Gates was talking, as well as Mr. Waltz, about a similar subject of the stand down and race theory. Would you like a minute or so to comment on that? Do you remember what your line of questioning or thought was there?
General Milley: (01:11:52)
Sure. First of all, on the issue of critical race theory, et cetera, I’ll obviously have to get much smarter on whatever the theory is, but I do think it’s important, actually, for those of us in uniform to be open-minded and be widely read. The United States Military Academy is a university, and it is important that we train and we understand. I want to understand white rage. I’m white and I want to understand it. So what is it that caused thousands of people to assault this building and try to overturn the constitution of the United States of America? What caused that? I want to find that out. I want to maintain an open mind here and I do want to analyze it. It’s important that we understand that, because our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardians, they come from the American people. So it is important that the leaders now and in the future do understand it.
General Milley: (01:12:47)
I’ve read Mao Tse-Tung. I’ve read Karl Marx. I’ve read Lenin. That doesn’t make me a communist. So what is wrong with understanding, having some situational understanding about the country for which we are here to defend? I personally find it offensive that we are accusing the United States military, our general officers, our commissioned non-commissioned officers, of being “woke” or something else because we’re studying some theories that are out there. That was started at Harvard Law School years ago, and it proposed that there were laws in the United States, antebellum laws prior to the Civil War, that led to a power differential with African-Americans that were three-quarters of a human being when this country was formed.
General Milley: (01:13:27)
Then we had a Civil War and emancipation proclamation to change it. We brought it up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It took another 100 years to change that. So look it. I do want to know. I respect your service and you and I are both Green Berets, but I want to know. It matters to our military and the discipline and cohesion of this military. I thank you for the opportunity to make a comment on that.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:13:46)
Thank you, General. Changing the subject right now to our people, which I think is really important. You mentioned that people are our number one priority. In May of this year, I introduced the Military Moms Matter act, which among other initiatives would propose extending paid family leave to 12 weeks for service members, which would be in line with the NDAA 2020 proposal for all federal employees. That became law last year.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:14:11)
One of the big topics of debate in this bill is for primary versus secondary caregivers. As the policy is currently written, a secondary caregiver is able to use very little leave. We want to make sure that we understand that, and General and Secretary, would you mind expounding on your thoughts, on secondary leave for service members? Should that be eliminated or that designation be altered so that everybody could have equal access to paternity and maternity leave?
Secretary Austin: (01:14:39)
Well, it’s a thing that deserves further discussion and an examination, but you asked for my personal opinion, and I absolutely support primary and secondary. [inaudible 01:14:52]
Ms. Houlahan: (01:14:51)
Thank you, sir. In what’s left of my time, I’d like to talk about childcare, what happens after you have the leave. I’m grateful to see that $ 168 million increase was included in the budget for family issues, including childcare, including in-home childcare. But I was really devastated to hear a story of a young woman at Fort Hood who explained to me, a single mother, that she had to drop her child off at 5:30 in the morning, off-base childcare, had to drive at 80 miles an hour to try to get online fast enough to get to PT at 6:00 in the morning. This is not okay. So my question is how can we make sure that we provide better support mechanisms in the childcare area for those people like her?
Secretary Austin: (01:15:35)
Well, I think first of all that the pandemic has amplified some of the existing concerns with childcare and other issues. We have provisions in this budget to address home care support. I think we need to continue to look at this hard. I would say in addition to that, there are some $ 8.6 billion that are focused on military family support programs. So this is very important to us. We’ll continue to work it, but I could not agree more with you on the importance of this issue.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:16:18)
Thank you. With that, I yield back. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Smith: (01:16:21)
Thank you. Mr. Johnson’s recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Johnson: (01:16:23)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Secretary Austin, General Milley. Thank you for being here today. Many of my colleagues have expressed concern with the top line amount for this year’s budget requests. I just want to echo those concerns. We recognize, of course, that you’re operating under certain constraints, but it’s alarming to many of us that the President is spending with reckless abandon in virtually every area except our national defense. In our current era of strategic competition makes it all the more important that the US recommit the longstanding principle of peace through strength, especially as our key adversaries continue to take meaningful steps to close the gap between us and them.
Mr. Johnson: (01:16:59)
Secretary Austin, brings me to a question for you. In your confirmation hearing when asked to commit to the current schedule for nuclear modernization efforts, you told Senator Fisher you’d like to look under the hood first and get a better feel for what we’re dealing with with our nuclear forces. I know this has been covered a bit today. Some of us are in and out for other hearings, but just to be sure, you’ve been on the job now six months. Can you commit now to nuclear modernization being a top priority for DOD?
Secretary Austin: (01:17:25)
I think you may have heard me say a number of times that modernization of our triad is absolutely important to us. What I meant by looking under the hood, though, is making sure that we go through a nuke posture review to ensure that we have the right balance and mix of forces.
Mr. Johnson: (01:17:40)
Well, staying on that subject, our next-generation ICBM, the ground-based strategic deterrent, was a system approved by President Obama in 2015. It was fully funded by President Trump. It was funded in President Biden’s FY ’22 budget request at 2.6 billion. Since you were confirmed as Secretary of Defense, we’ve learned that the GBSD will be almost $38 billion cheaper than any Minuteman III life extension. It will also be a much more capable system, able to better penetrate Russian and Chinese defense systems. Do you fully support president Biden’s FY 2022 budget requests for the GBSD and agree it is the future of the land leg of the triad?
Secretary Austin: (01:18:22)
I fully support the President’s budget. I would further say that the GBSD is one of those things that we’ll continue to evaluate along with the posture reviews that we have ongoing, a nuke posture review.
Mr. Johnson: (01:18:41)
Am I correct in stating that the GBSD is on track, on schedule, on budget for the first flight test in 2023?
Secretary Austin: (01:18:50)
Mr. Johnson: (01:18:51)
Another item we were pleased to see in the budget is a request to construct a weapons generation facility at Barksdale Air Force Base. That construction will allow our B-52s that are stationed there to carry out their nuclear mission without having to fly first from Louisiana to North Dakota in order to be loaded with nuclear ordinance. So Secretary Austin or General Milley, can you comment on the strategic flexibility the Barksdale WGF will provide in making sure the air leg of the triad is capable of fully executing its mission?
General Milley: (01:19:21)
Yeah, I think, again, the triad and recapitalization of the triad is critically important. It’s been in effect really for, I guess, going on seven decades since the end of World War Two. You can never prove a negative, but is clearly one of the fundamental reasons why World War Three didn’t break out, was because of the nuclear capability of the United States. It is time now to recapitalize the entire thing, all three parts of it plus the command and control piece. That is really critical to defend this nation for the next seven decades. The time is now to invest in it. It’ll be a one-time thing for a period of years until we can get the system replaced, but it’s really, really important in all legs to include that at Barksdale with the B-52s and soon to be the B-21s, et cetera. Really critically important to do that.
Mr. Johnson: (01:20:04)
Thank you. Those efficiencies, I think, will help in those overall goals.
General Milley: (01:20:07)
Mr. Johnson: (01:20:07)
The last thing I’ll touch on is the noticeable reduction in army accounts in the budget request. I understand that’s a reflection of the Afghanistan draw down, but as we transition our focus to other parts of the world, I do think it’s important that we not allow army readiness to decline. I know you all agree with that. We still need to execute rotations through our training centers. To that end, I appreciate the budget requesting a new joint operation center at Fort Polk, that the current JOC is decades overdue for an upgrade and a new facility will make sure our soldiers are equipped with the best possible training experience so they’re at the ready if and when they’re called upon. But just in the 40 seconds I have remaining, would one of you comment on the importance of that army readiness, where we stand on that?
General Milley: (01:20:48)
We’re both deeply indebted to the army for where we are in life. But I would say as a former chief of staff of the army, the readiness of the army is critical. It takes a full joint force, synergy of air, land, sea space and cyber to prevail in combat and wars are often started from afar, from long range weapons systems, but they’re always ended somewhere on the ground. The last bullet of a war is usually fired by a marine or army infantrymen. So it’s really critical to maintain the readiness of the United States army.
Mr. Johnson: (01:21:18)
Hopefully we can host you at Fort Polk sometime soon. I’d love to see you there.
General Milley: (01:21:21)
We’ve been hosted there quite a bit, both of us.
Mr. Johnson: (01:21:23)
General Milley: (01:21:23)
Mr. Johnson or Congressman Johnson, and I would say that it’s a pretty valuable capability.
Mr. Johnson: (01:21:30)
Thank you. I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:21:32)
Thank you. Mr. Crow is recognized.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:21:33)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to associate myself with the concerns by some of my colleagues in the other side of the dais about back-pay for National Guard, and also point out that the HR 3237, the emergency security supplemental, which passed the House by one vote, actually created a back-pay of $500 million to help shore up the pay for the National Guard. So I would encourage my colleagues to support that and to continue to push the Senate to support that as well, because if we actually passed that bill, we would resolve that issue and make sure that our men and women in uniform do get paid.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:22:11)
I do want to change to Afghanistan for a minute and just start by saying I understand that it’s not your decision to make to conduct an evacuation of civic society leaders, SIV applicants, or anybody. That’s not for you to decide. That’s not for Secretary Blinken to decide. That’s a decision that only resides at the White House. I get that, and I appreciate the fact that you all have conducted contingency planning to be prepared to do that. General Milley, your comment earlier about the military capability that exists and that you will conduct whatever’s necessary.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:22:46)
My concern is about time because where we sit right now, that capability and the dangers and risks of doing it are not going to be static. That risk is not lessening. Is it true, Secretary Austin, that Taliban continue to make territorial gains, that provincial capitals continue to fall, and that freedom of navigation and the outer ring road continues to deteriorate?
Secretary Austin: (01:23:12)
The Taliban have made incremental gains throughout. Those gains have increased most recently. In terms of provincial capitals, I think you heard General Milley’s assessment early on that actually none of the provincial capitals have fallen. They have made some gains where they’ve surrounded some of the provincial capitals.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:23:34)
Part of that, General Milley, is it true that we don’t yet have an agreement with Turkey or any other NATO ally with regard to the security of the Kabul airport?
General Milley: (01:23:48)
Written agreement, no. We’re having a meeting this week. I think we’re pretty much at the final piece. I don’t want to speak for Turkey and I don’t want to preempt the outcome of a final agreement, but I feel very comfortable that security at the Kabul airport will be maintained and the [crosstalk 01:24:02] will be a part of that.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:24:03)
Is it true that we’re turning over control of Bagram to the Afghans?
General Milley: (01:24:08)
That is the plan. That’s correct.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:24:09)
Okay. So understanding that situation, the deteriorating security situation, the assessments, the lack of navigation and the fact that these SIV applicants would actually need to make it to Kabul or a population center to be evacuated, and they also need to do in-person vetting in Kabul to qualify, is it fair to say that as time continues to progress that it becomes harder and more risky to conduct an evacuation?
General Milley: (01:24:44)
I think that’s a fair statement, Congressmen.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:24:45)
Okay. Relatedly, I’m concerned about the ability of the Afghan Air Force to conduct air operations and to maintain an air cap with our withdrawal. The A-29 fleet continues to degrade. We know that. We have submitted a request for three additional A-29s, but maintenance, with the removal of all the maintenance personnel, do we yet have any fidelity on where that maintenance will occur once our contractors withdraw, who are currently conducting that maintenance?
Secretary Austin: (01:25:23)
Some of the maintenance is taking place in one of the Gulf countries, one of our partners. So for the higher-level maintenance, we would fly that and have flown some of that gear out to that location to be serviced. You got levels of maintenance, as you well know, but the organizational maintenance, the operator-level of maintenance we can do and are doing some of that by virtual mentorship on a day-to-day basis. We may be able to contract other types of capabilities going forward. That’s still a work in progress. Ideally, we’d like to have the ability to conduct maintenance in one of the neighboring countries for some of the higher-level maintenance, but again, a work in progress, not yet solidified.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:26:22)
Yeah, I appreciate that. With my remaining 10 seconds, I just wanted to express my appreciation, Chairman Milley, for your leadership and your courage and how you continue to speak out on behalf of what is a diverse and increasingly diverse force of men and women in uniform [crosstalk 01:26:40]. Thank you.
Mr. Smith: (01:26:41)
The gentleman’s time has expired.
Mr. Gallagher: (01:26:41)
I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:26:41)
Mr. Green is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Green: (01:26:44)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Rogers for holding the hearing. I want to thank our witnesses for being here today. Deeply respect and appreciate your combined service to this country.
Mr. Green: (01:26:54)
As the war on terror has continued, the United States military has taken risks to maintain readiness during budget decreases of the last years of the Obama Administration, including installation management, research and development for future systems. The last administration set us on the right path helping to rebuild peace through strength. Those four years of increased budgets helped, but they could not make up for nearly 20 years of war and seven years of cuts. Today’s force is still challenged with decreasing overmatch due to those previous cuts and the risk decisions that were made to maintain readiness.
Mr. Green: (01:27:32)
When we send America’s sons and daughters, and I believe each of you would agree with me on this, it should never be a fair fight when they go to war. It looks like the real dollar cuts and spending of $4 billion in this budget proposal, we’re once again potentially sacrificing the future fight for readiness today. In the case of the Navy’s budget, it looks like they’re pinning their risk in the three to five-year range in hopes that beyond that, they can find new technologies that will create overmatch. The question, of course, is how do we maintain overmatch with pacing threats, such as China, when they’re increasing their budget 6.8% and we’re effectively decreasing ours? My first question gets very granular, and it goes on what Mr. Johnson was talking about, the CTCs. If I’m understanding the budget for the army correctly, we’re cutting CTC rotations by a third in this budget. If that’s correct, can you tell me why?
General Milley: (01:28:29)
Yeah. I don’t think that’s correct. I’ll go back to Chief of Staff of the Army. There’s 10 rotations a year at each of the CTCs. If they’re cutting them by a third, I’d be very surprised. I’ll find out.
Mr. Green: (01:28:38)
Would you do me a favor and just get back-
General Milley: (01:28:40)
I’ll get back to you.
Mr. Green: (01:28:41)
Thanks. Thank you, chairman. I really appreciate that. I noticed on aviation we were looking at a cut of around 15.6%, and this is across all the services for aviation. Can you guys give me a description on what we’re doing to make up for those cuts, or is there some technology we don’t know about? Is there some future system that’s going to address the decrease in readiness or capability in the future with a 15.6% cut in aviation?
Secretary Austin: (01:29:04)
Well, we want to make sure we’re investing in the right capabilities and we want to be able to network those capabilities in new and effective ways that we’ve not been able to do in the past. That requires investing in the right kinds of technology to be able to do that. If you take ISR, for example, and you look at the fact that the Air Force is taking down a couple of lines of ISR, what they’re really doing is not decreasing the number of tails, they’re taking down some lines so that they can have the ability to upgrade some capability and network their [inaudible 01:29:46] together in ways that we haven’t haven’t done before.
Secretary Austin: (01:29:50)
That applies to each of the services. We have to invest in those things that are going to allow us to have resilient forces, operate in a distributed manner, and be absolutely lethal in the next fight.
Mr. Green: (01:30:01)
Yeah, I understand. I just want to make sure that capability isn’t decreasing 15.6%. I guess that’s really my big question. We’re going to have the same capability or better capability, even though we’re cutting aviation 15%?
Secretary Austin: (01:30:13)
Our goal is to have better capability. With those investments that we make in the future, we want to make sure that the platforms that we invest in are able to accomplish some of the things that I just described.
Mr. Green: (01:30:27)
One of the open source journals, the Computing Research Association, reported a concerning quote. “The Army, Navy, and Air Forces university research initiative, sub accounts are cut 31.1%, 18.9% and 17.5% respectively.” Considering cyber, these recent cyber attacks, is that really a wise decision? I’m not an engineer. I’m not a computer scientist. I’m a physician, but it seems that cuts in those particular areas, those areas that research our ability to fight cyber, seems misplaced considering the recent attacks. Could you comment on that, or perhaps I can get something in writing back?
Secretary Austin: (01:31:08)
Or we can do both, sir.
Mr. Green: (01:31:09)
Okay. Thanks, Secretary.
Secretary Austin: (01:31:12)
First, I’ll remind you that for RDT and E overall, we’re investing $112 billion. Specifically for cyber, there’s a almost 10 and a half billion dollar investment in cyber. That includes cyberspace operations and a number of other things. So we think cyber is pretty important. We are part of a whole of government effort to defend our networks here in the country. Our focus is further out towards the source of malign activity, and we-
Mr. Smith: (01:31:49)
The gentleman’s time has expired. I apologize. Ms. Slotkin is recognized for five minutes.
Mr. Austin: (01:31:54)
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here. I know it’s a long hearing. I want to address this constant conversation we’ve been having about the top-line, because it feels like very 2005 to me. All the hearings that we’ve had in the last two years that I’ve been here have talked about not just the amount of dollars we’re spending, but how we’re spending them. I think we need to be intellectually honest, as members of Congress, that we are a part of the problem. We make you budget on one-year cycles instead of the whole [inaudible 01:32:23]. Every year you come to us with about $2 billion worth of legacy programs you’d like to cut, and we up here don’t let you cut them.
Mr. Austin: (01:32:31)
Then let’s be frank. If we’re talking about budgets, the nearly $10 billion that was taken out of DOD and put towards the border wall should be factored in for anyone who’s concerned about the top line. So that’s what we have responsibility for, but I am worried because there is bipartisan agreement that China is gaining on us. I’m also worried that our big, lumbering, bureaucratic system is an inhibitor to us being competitive with China, particularly on acquisition and getting the best American technology into the Pentagon.
Mr. Austin: (01:33:03)
… acquisition and getting the best American technology into the Pentagon. Secretary Austin, can you talk about what we’re going to do to acquire faster and better technology?
Secretary Austin: (01:33:11)
Well, that’s a focus for us. We are far from being as agile as we need to be in order to capture or take advantage of the emerging technologies. And so, you’ve given us some authorities in the past that we’ve not fully used or employed, and we need to push to, number one, take advantage of what you’ve already given us, but number two, encourage our force to be more agile. And we need to take advantage of emerging technologies that may be available in smaller companies, that have capability, that they can’t get across the valley of death to provide capability at scale. So, the deputy secretary and I are absolutely focused on this, and she’s launched some initiatives to be able to address this.
Mr. Austin: (01:34:13)
Thank you. Your personal attention to that, I think, is going to be really important for the future fight. Switching gears to the authorization of military force. Last week, in a bipartisan way, we called for the repeal here in the House of the 2002 AUMF. It’s now being discussed and debated over in the Senate, but there seem to be some confusion here in the House, and maybe in the Senate as well, on whether the Pentagon is currently relying on the 2002 AUMF for any operations. Can you confirm where you stand on the 2002 AUMF?
General Milley: (01:34:48)
Well, right now on the 2002 AUMF, that is an under review, and it looks like it’s going to go away. The 2001 one is the one that gives us all the authorities. That’s the one we need to hang on to, is that first one that gives us the authority to conduct operations.
Mr. Austin: (01:35:04)
So, if we repeal the 2002, will that affect current operations in anyway?
General Milley: (01:35:09)
No. My assessment, my military assessment, is no, it won’t have any negative effect on current operations. It’s the 2001 AUMF that’s the critical one for us to continue operations.
Mr. Austin: (01:35:20)
Thanks. Thanks for clarifying that. One of the things that myself and Representative Gallagher are doing, we run a bipartisan task force on supply chains, and the deputy secretary was really gracious with her time and came last week. I have become possessed with this issue because of COVID and having to negotiate with Chinese middleman in the middle of the night for a 78 cent mask. And I stood yesterday in front of my second GM plant in my area that has to go to a temporary shutdown because we can’t get a 14 cent microchip. Can you tell me just your commitment that you will take this issue seriously? It was stunning for some of us, the amount of vulnerabilities that we have, even at the Pentagon, for things like ammunition propellant and for pharmaceuticals on other countries, particularly sole source from other countries. Can you just commit that you’ll help with some transparency on our supply chains?
Secretary Austin: (01:36:14)
You have our commitment. You heard me mentioned earlier the $341 million investment to help boost our support of American industry, and some of that includes microelectronics and that sort of business. But we are absolutely focused on this. We think that supply chain vulnerability is a national security issue. That was kind of laid bare for us, to your point, over the last year.
Mr. Austin: (01:36:43)
Thank you. And I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:36:45)
Ms. Bice is recognized for five minutes.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:36:48)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, ranking member Rogers, Secretary Austin, General Milley. Thank you for joining us today. I first want to maybe echo my colleague, Representative Slotkin, on supply chain task force. I was honored to be put on that as well, and it has illuminated a lot of the challenges that we see because of COVID or even just supply chain in general, so I appreciate your commitment to making sure that we continue to look at how we can shore up the supply chain challenges. I’d like to start by focusing on an issue that has been of concern in my state of Oklahoma and on military bases across the nation: improving the quality of privatized base housing on military installations.
Ms. Houlahan: (01:37:29)
Since being sworn into office, I’ve engaged military housing stakeholders in my district and across the state of Oklahoma, including at Tinker Air Force Base and Fort Sill. While I’m cautiously optimistic that things are moving in the right direction, there is still work to do. Ensuring safe and high quality housing for our nation’s service members is one of my priorities. Despite the recent reforms, evidence from earlier this year suggests military families are being charged thousands of dollars of out of pocket expenses by private military housing contractors for reasonable and needed ADA upgrades to their on-base housing units. In response, I’ve introduced legislation with Representative Sarah Jacobs to clarify that military families cannot be charged amounts in addition to rent for needed ADA upgrades. Secretary Austin, can you tell me what actions DOD is taking to ensure that service members do not face financial hardships in obtaining on-base accommodations for a disabled member of their family?
Secretary Austin: (01:38:26)
Thank you for the work that you’re doing in this area. It is absolutely critical. There’s nothing more important than the welfare of our military families. And as we’ve seen in the past, this has not gone the way that it should have gone in terms of contracted housing, privatized housing. You’ve seen us increase the supervision in this area, and we’re working with the services to really ensure that we have the requisite oversight and emphasis the whole contractors accountable for providing quality service to our family members. And this will remain a priority for us going forward. It directly affects the morale of not only our family members, but the services all together. So, you have my commitment that we will remain cited on this.
Mr. Austin: (01:39:25)
Thank you, Secretary. Appreciate that. It’s clear to me that in my short time here in Congress, that one of the biggest threats is the current space race threat. China has become incredibly competitive landing a rover on Mars, putting up geosynchronous satellites. Do you believe this budget provides the dedicated resources in research technology exploration that we need to ensure that we are not outpaced?
Secretary Austin: (01:39:54)
Right. Again, $112 billion for RDT&E, that’s a pretty hefty investment. But I would go one step further and say that we’ve invested, or we plan to invest, 20.6 billion or so dollars to resource our efforts in space.
Mr. Austin: (01:40:17)
Thank you. I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:40:25)
Brief announcement before I call on Ms. Sherrill. So, votes are supposed to be called at 1:30. It is my intent to keep going through them. Well, it’s a little bit complicated. Votes are like 25 minutes to a half hour, but if there are members who wish to ask questions, if you could go and vote like right at 1:30 and then come back so we can cycle through that way. I don’t want to waste any time and take advantage of all the time that we have. You can process that. So, if you’re coming up and you want to go vote and come back, that’ll give you an opportunity to ask a question. Mr. Rogers and I will figure out our own deal one way or the other. Ms. Sherrill’s recognized for five minutes.
Representative Sherrill: (01:41:07)
Thank you. Thank you so much. General Milley, I want to talk about the long-range precision fires. As you know, Picatinny Arsenal, my district’s, a key center of innovation for this matter innovation priority. I know that General McConvil is committed to the value that long-range precision fires bring to force employment for the joint force. So, can you speak to the value of the multiple dilemmas that ground-based precision fires can provide for deterrence and force employment?
General Milley: (01:41:38)
Sure. First of all, all of the services have capabilities and are developing capabilities for long-range precision fires. And it’s important when you’re facing any adversary to present them with multiple dilemmas simultaneously so that it’s very difficult for them to solve. A land-based long-range precision fires will give us a significant advantage relative to the pacing threat of China, so that they can be operated off of basically unsinkable aircraft carriers. So, our allies and partners, if we work out through the diplomatic arrangements, to have unit station there with long-range precision fire capabilities, we can do significant damage. We have [inaudible 01:42:14] damage against the People’s Liberation Army Navy. So, we’re experimenting that with Army force and Marine forces in the Pacific right now, in the South China Sea for example, through exercises and other things. In addition to that, we’re doing some long range, precision fire developmental testing that is being done at the various ranges, and these are quite extended ranges that will cover the South China Sea. So, the conceptual idea would be that we could handle the Chinese surface fleet with land-based long-range precision fires in combination with air and naval fires.
Representative Sherrill: (01:42:49)
Thank you, General. I appreciate that. Moving on and talking again about the supply chain, we’ve all become critically concerned, as we talk about single source materials, as we talk about rare earth materials, I encourage you, General Austin to continue to look into how that impacts some of our smaller defense manufacturers from entering into competition. When they have to trace the supply chain, that is something they have a lot of trouble doing and haven’t done well at. I also encourage a discussion about rare earth materials and if there are alternatives, the research and development we might make into alternatives… That’s something that’s been brought up, but I don’t think we have a good understanding of what we could do with respect to alternatives to rare earth materials, especially single source rare earth materials from our adversaries.
Representative Sherrill: (01:43:47)
I’d also just like to bring up that in conversations with former senior defense officials, currently serving service members, and leaders in defense innovation, I’ve heard time and again that the military just isn’t innovating the way we need to. So, to make better use of private sector innovation by a more nimble acquisition system and to improve access to talent through better STEM recruiting, and to ensure that research and development within the DOD is better supported in risk-taking to, as many of our military members say, fail fast and then learn, what is the best way forward to make these changes, and how can Congress best support those changes?
Secretary Austin: (01:44:33)
Well, I think you have to establish programs and mechanisms that encourage innovation. While you want to reward success and support small companies in their efforts to get their innovative products onboard, you also want to condition the force to be able to accept an element, or a measure, of risk, and we’re not really good at that. And I think in order to be agile, we got to become better. And so, you’ll see the deputy secretary begin to employ a couple of initiatives that encourage that innovation and that would help us begin to pull some things forward and support some things going forward that we haven’t been able to do in the past? And again, we’ll keep pushing on this and pulling on this until we become more agile. I do think we need to do better and take an advantage of what you’ve already given us to help us with that agility.
Representative Sherrill: (01:45:40)
Thank you. And I echo Ms. Slack in our gratitude in having you involved in this process. I think it is very important. And then, finally, before my time is up, I simply want to say to you, General Milley that I deeply and sincerely appreciate your comments to Ms. Houlihan. Thank you. Yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:46:00)
Chair recognizes Representative Jackson for five minutes.
Representative Jackson: (01:46:05)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and ranking member Rogers for holding the hearing today. Also want to thank Secretary Austin and General Milley for being here today. Thank you both. Mr. Secretary, the first time we met and the first event I ever attended in the House Armed Services Committee here was the discussion we held when you came before the committee in January. As you know, I voted in favor of the waiver required for your appointment, and I did so because I thought we should take advantage of the opportunity to have somebody in there that really understood the impact that policymakers have on the troops. So, thank you, and it’s good to see her again today, sir.
Representative Jackson: (01:46:39)
General Milley, I really appreciated your leadership and the continuity that you’re able to bring to the department during the most recent transition in administrations. I know both of you very clearly understand the urgent threats that we face. I imagine you both must share my frustration with the budget cuts that President Biden has sent over. I agree that we need to be more efficient with how we spend our money if possible, but now is not the time to cut our defense spending like President Biden has proposed.
Representative Jackson: (01:47:05)
My first question. The National Defense Strategy clearly calls for three to 5% real growth in defense spending each year. President Biden as somewhat ignored the NDS and has put you both in a very tough spot in my mind by proposing that we cut defense spending this year with a request that does not keep pace with inflation. I’ve heard alternate proposals circulated around Congress that might come before this committee of a top line 10% cut for defense spending. If the three to 5% number is based on the NDS, I’m not really sure where the proposed 10% number comes from. For both of you if the 10% cut is just a random number, should we really be comparing that as an alternative policy recommendation to what is called for in the NDS, and would either of you consider a 10% cut to be a serious policy recommendation? This might be a short answer.
Secretary Austin: (01:47:53)
When it comes to structuring the budget, Congressman… And by the way, thank you for your service. I think randomness is never a good idea, and so we endeavor, as you well know, to link our resources to our strategy, strategy to policy, policy to the will of the American people. This particular budget was based upon the interim strategic guidance given to us by the president early on in my guidance to the force. And so, those were the things I provided us, really, the structure to be able to build a budget on. But to answer your question, I do not think randomness is a good idea when it comes to budget.
General Milley: (01:48:43)
I echo those comments, and I’m not aware of a proposal of a 10% cut, per se. That’s not what this budget does. This budget, essentially, is flat. I mean, depending on how you do the calculations, some would you it’s 11 billion more than ’21 enacted, others will tell you a few billion less if you’ve measured against constant dollars. And then, of course, you’ve got the factor of inflation. The bottom line is, it’s all relative to a threat, and I think this budget at $715 billion, it’s a lot of taxpayer dollars, and I think it adequately defends the United States for fiscal year ’22. And I would urge a rapid passing of it and a rapid enactment of it.
Representative Jackson: (01:49:19)
Yes, sir. Thank you. I brought up the 10% because I think that’s been circulated around here, and I assume that that’s going to come later on in the form of an amendment or something. Thank you for that. I’m concerned that this is only the beginning of the defense budget cuts over the next few years for the reasons I just described. Given that President Biden relies on your expertise, I would urge you both to advise him on how disastrous that would be, the 10% cut, for our national security if that comes up.
Representative Jackson: (01:49:43)
Last week, we discussed how we can implement the goals of the National Defense Strategy despite a budget cut. Something that General Berger said before this committee stuck out to me. He said, “We have a perfect record of guessing where the next conflict is going to happen and we got it wrong every time.” We know there will be another threat. That’s just a fact. So, I don’t see why President Biden is forcing us into a budget cut when we are actually losing to China right now and have other rising threats around the globe. Secretary Austin, assuming we are able to keep up with the counter and the threat from China, where do you see the next threat coming from? Also, how harmful are the proposed budget cuts as you prepare the military for whatever future conflict we might have?
Secretary Austin: (01:50:24)
Yeah. Thank you, Congressman. Again, China is the most challenging competitor that that we’ll face, and so we have to prepare for the most challenging competitor. As we do that, what it also prepares us well for other things. We’ll see threats from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and we’ll continue to see a threat from transnational terrorism. And I agree with General Berger that there’s always something that we weren’t really cited on necessarily, but we were prepared to address because we prepared for the most challenging threat.
Representative Jackson: (01:51:04)
Thank you both. My time is up. I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (01:51:07)
Chair recognizes Representative Golden for five minutes.
Representative Golden: (01:51:10)
Thank you. Secretary Austin, in recent testimony you provided before the Senate, both Senator Collins and Senator King asked if you’d worked with them in Congress to restore the proposed cut to the DDG 51 Flight III program, and in both cases, you said the plan was to resource that ship in 2023. General Milley, I believe you testified something similar earlier today. I’d like to understand that more clearly. The most recent figures the Navy has provided to Congress was in December and anticipate the procurement of two Flight III ships in fiscal year ’22 and two and fiscal year ’23 for total of four ships. In light of this., Mr. Secretary, am I to understand that you’re committing to procure three DDG Flight III ships in fiscal year 2023?
Secretary Austin: (01:51:58)
We’ll certainly work out the balance of our investments in the next budget, and I don’t want to predict where that’s going to land, but we’re going to go after that DDG that we didn’t resource in this budget in the next fiscal year.
Representative Golden: (01:52:19)
Thank you. If you just look at all of last year, the Navy was saying that they needed the Flight III from a capabilities perspective, but also, they were projecting two ships, whether that was last winter in February. Again, putting out some figures in the fall and then in December, it was always two ships each time, and then, suddenly, we’ve received this budget request to go down and to one. But if it’s not a commitment to actually go back up to three, then I think it’s not resourcing the ship that the two senators and I are asking about, and it wouldn’t, in fact, represent a broken contract.
Representative Golden: (01:52:58)
You did talk to Senator Collins about wanting to have the right mix of capabilities in place, and I agree with what Senator Collins said about quantity having a quality of its own, but I’d like to focus on the capabilities piece. The Navy says that the Flight III is key to sea denial and sea control missions. It’s also expressed urgency to the committee about getting the AMDR SPY-6 radar and those capabilities that will be brought to the Navy into the fleet. The Navy is looking to decommission cruisers, as well. Therefore the Flight III is slated to house perform the role of air defense for our carrier strike groups, but this was going to take several years to fully field that new capability. Last week, the committee received testimony that the benefits of an AMDR are undeniable, and it was stressed that the Navy has to have that radar. I’m curious, in light of the change from two ships, two ships, two ships all through 2020 to just one now, and given this testimony that we’ve received from the Navy about the importance of the capability, what’s the driving force behind the reduction?
Secretary Austin: (01:54:04)
You have to make tough choices in any budget, and again, in this budget, we’re investing in a DDG, two submarines, and a frigate, which I think is a pretty substantial investment. And again, we’ve said before that the 355 ship maybe is a good goal to shoot at. You have to look at the progress over time. You also have to consider the numbers of holes that we’re putting in the water between now and the end of fiscal year ’22, and when you do that, you’ll get a better picture of the full capabilities. I agree that it is important to make sure that we invest in that DDG going forward. But again, in any budget, you have to make some tough choices. And we also need to make sure we have the capacity to build a ship that we invest in.
General Milley: (01:55:04)
Could I just add that it’s important, in terms of capability, the destroyers are the work horse of the Navy, for sure, on the surface fleet, but the most important investment in Naval capabilities is submarines, so the priority went to the submarine.
Representative Golden: (01:55:17)
Yeah, certainly. I mean, it sounds like you’re talking about trade-offs. Hard trade off. So, this is a top line budget challenge discussion rather than delivering what the combatant commanders are saying that they need out in the fleet in the next five years. I know that they’re excited to get that Flight III out there. But someone could argue that the eight ships requested, maybe three of them might not be as critical as the destroyer, but we don’t have to talk about that right now. I would just say, it is also concerning that, in some ways, breaking a multi-year procurement like this is unprecedented, and it does undermine trust that the Navy is going to be able to follow through on future commitments or contracts concerning to the industrial base and that capability, in my opinion. But I do see that the Navy is expressing interest in a future multi-year procurement for FY ’23 through 2027 for the Flight III, and look forward to working with you that. I know we’re out of time, so if you have any comment, we’ll take it for the record. Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Smith: (01:56:11)
Thank you. Before recognizing Mr. Carl, votes have been called, and again, votes are going roughly a half hour. So, if someone wants to go over and vote now and come back, we’re going to go till 2:00 here and we’ll do that. So, Mr. Carl is recognized for five minutes.
Representative Carl: (01:56:28)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and ranking member Rogers. Gentlemen, thank y’all so much for coming and spending time. Secretary Austin, I want to point out something that two Alabama colleagues here are wearing orange and blue in support of your Auburn Tigers, and that’s tough being a big Alabama fan, just going to let you know. Real quick, the fiscal year ;22 shipbuilding budget has been a hot topic today, obviously, and during recent hearings in the committees that we’ve held here, the report the Navy submitted to Congress last week on a long-range shipbuilding highlights the importance of steady acquisitions profiles to maintain our industrial base. However, just a few pages later in the report, the report has 398 to 512 ships in the Navy long-range plan, and the difference is 114 ships. Do you think there might be a little question there how we won or lost 114 ships? That’s not my question there.
Representative Carl: (01:57:36)
But Secretary Austin, the shipyard that I’ve spent the last 10 years recruiting young people to work in is being threatened to be shut down now because of this budget. So, with that said, the shipyard will be facing layoffs, workforce in the coming years because of this FY 2022 budget. There’s uncertainty. Why did this administration not follow the law and submit a true 30 year shipbuilding plan?
Secretary Austin: (01:58:11)
Again, the shipbuilding plan will come with the FY ’23 submission, but that’s on the horizon there. We presented a one year budget this year, and the next year we’ll present the budget for the outlook for the fight up.
Representative Carl: (01:58:28)
Okay. Thank you.
General Milley: (01:58:31)
And as you recall, Congressmen, there was a submission by the previous administration, very late, and the current administration just hadn’t had an opportunity to fully review that. So, that’s in the works, so there will be a 30 year ship building plan here shortly.
Representative Carl: (01:58:44)
Shift gears here real quick to KC-46. The Air Force has accepted delivery of the KC-46 aircraft that is not fully operational, and still having quite having some difficulties even being used. The first operational one is not expected to 2024, 7 years after the original date. Do you think any of this makes sense? The taxpayers are paying for aircraft that are not fully operational, and the first is currently projected to be fully operational seven years after the contracted date. So, Secretary, also along with all the issues at KC-46A is facing, now it cannot even correctly hold fuel. Is it time to recommit and look at contracting these aircraft out to other companies?
Secretary Austin: (01:59:44)
We’ll work with the Air Force to ensure that we’re providing the right amount of oversight and drill down into choices going forward. And assessment suggesting that that we move to an alternative plan has not yet been presented to me, but this is something that we absolutely have to remain focused on.
Representative Carl: (02:00:09)
Well, we have Airbus planes that are flying in Europe that we’re refueling behind so we know we’ve got capabilities of other aircraft other than just what’s being built and delivered. General, one quick one for you, sir. Every time they say that China or Russia is a better military force, I see you bow up a little bit, and I love it. Thank you for your service, your patriotism.
General Milley: (02:00:34)
Thank you. And just to be clear, and I’ll reiterate it, neither China nor Russia, militarily, nor any other country on the face of the earth is a better military than the United States military.
Representative Carl: (02:00:44)
Thank you, sir.
General Milley: (02:00:45)
On the KC-46, I had an opportunity to go out and see them. There’s some glitches in the software. They are operational, and we’re flying them. We’re flying them and doing tanking operations in training exercises around the world. We’re not using them operationally in combat zones, that’s where we’re not using them, but they are being used in training. There are some software things yet to be worked out, and I have confidence in the KC-46 as a program.
Representative Carl: (02:01:09)
Thank you, sir.
General Milley: (02:01:09)
Representative Carl: (02:01:10)
I yield my time back.
Mr. Smith: (02:01:11)
Thank you. Ms. Luria is recognized for five minutes.
Representaive Luria: (02:01:14)
Well, thank you, General Milley. Over the last year, I’ve been reviewing the Goldwater Nichols Act to look at things, both positive and negative on the current organization within our service. A couple of questions I had. 10 US code 163 states that the president may direct the communications between the president or Secretary of Defense and the commanders of the unified and specified combatant commands be transmitted through the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Has the president or Secretary of Defense given direction to you that communications through the combatant commander should go through you?
General Milley: (02:01:52)
The word is routine communications, and it’s in the UCP. And yes, it is currently in effect. So, routine communications, normal communications… The chain of command, though, is clear, and it’s unambiguous. The chain of command is the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the combatant commanders. And then the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the service secretaries for the departments. I am an advisor, and I advise on the advantages, disadvantages and [inaudible 02:02:16] cost and risks and benefits, et cetera. But the chain of command is clear, but routine communication typically goes through me in order for me to do my job as an advisor.
Representaive Luria: (02:02:25)
Okay, well thank you. And another portion, 10 US code 16 says that subject to the authority direction and control of the Secretary of Defense the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff serves as the spokesman for the commanders of the combatant commands, especially on operational requirements of their commands. Do you serve as the spokesman for the combatant commanders on the operational requirements for their commands?
General Milley: (02:02:49)
I do. And when I say I, the joint staff who helps me formulate-
Representaive Luria: (02:02:54)
I was looking… I’m sorry. For a yes/no because I-
General Milley: (02:02:56)
The answer’s yes.
Representaive Luria: (02:02:57)
Okay. Well, thank you. So, you recently said that there’s a low probability that China would take over Taiwan militarily in the near term, and this seems to be in direct conflict to the statements made earlier this year by Admiral Davidson, Admiral Aqualina, last week by the CNO and the commandant of the Marine Corps, that they believe that China could act militarily against Taiwan in the next six years. If their window is six years, but you disagree with that, what is your window?
General Milley: (02:03:22)
I didn’t say I disagreed with their assessment of six years. Their assessment assessments based off a speech by President Xi that challenged the People’s Liberation Army to accelerate their modernization programs to develop capabilities to seize Taiwan and move it from 2035 to 2027, hence six years. It’s a capability. It’s not an intent to attack our seas. My assessment is an operational assessment. Do they have the intent to attack our seas in the near term to fight us in the next year or two? My assessment, and based on what I’ve seen right now, is no. That can always change. Intent is something that can change quickly.
Representaive Luria: (02:03:52)
But from the statements and how many members of Congress have interpreted that over the series of hearings, we heard Admiral Davidson, Aqualina clearly state that they thought there was an intent. You’re saying there’s a capability-
Representaive Luria: (02:04:03)
… clearly state that they thought there was an intent. You’re saying there’s a capability, so I think that there’s a difference.
General Milley: (02:04:05)
No, I looked at their testimony, the words, and very explicitly, and I can go back and look at it again. If Admiral Aquilino and Admiral Davidson said that China had an intent, has made a decision, and they intend to invade and seize Taiwan, then I do disagree with that. I’ve seen no evidence of that actual intent or decision-making. What I’m talking about is capability.
Representaive Luria: (02:04:28)
General Milley: (02:04:29)
What they were talking about is capability, and the Chinese leadership, President Xi, challenged them to accelerate their capability development, which is two different things.
Representaive Luria: (02:04:40)
Thank you. I understand that you’re making a nuance there. I’ll say that members of the House, I think interpreted the Admiral’s earlier testimony differently, but just kind of taking that capability as capability as well, so whether they have intent right now or they may in the future between now and 2027 when you think they will have that capability, just looking at this budget, which really is a divest to invest strategy and I would say that without the sense of urgency that that could happen in the next six years, it’s not really palpable to think that we could divest to invest. For instance, decommission more ships before we have the replacement, thus reducing the fleet size, retiring bombers at a faster rate than we’re replacing their inventory and the Air Force has just said recently in a hearing that the bare minimum of maintaining 45. Last week, we had several hearings that expressed to us about the Navy’s budget, it’s divest to invest strategy. Mr. Gallagher referred to Admiral Davidson’s comments as the Davidson Window.
Representaive Luria: (02:05:43)
I just wanted to, and we have very little time left, get after the question of between the combatant commanders and yourself acting as a role as an advisor to the president.
General Milley: (02:05:54)
Representaive Luria: (02:05:54)
Who should we be listening to? I feel like the combatant commanders, they’re message is very different than what we’re getting in a message in this budget, because the budget does not convey a sense of urgency when we see it as a shrinking fleet, rather than a growing fleet to counter the threats that we see from China in the Pacific. I have very little time left, so it has to be a quick response and answer.
General Milley: (02:06:14)
There’s one second left, so I’ll give you an answer on the record.
Mr. Smith: (02:06:17)
Take it for the record. Ms. Cheney is recognized for five minutes.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:06:20)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you General Milley and Secretary Austin for being here.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:06:24)
Secretary Austin, I wanted to ask you about GBSD. We’ve had consistent testimony, as I’m sure you know, in front of this committee this year and in prior years that the extent to which GBSD will save the taxpayer money, moving forward with it, is $38 billion in cost savings over the life extension of the Minuteman. Obviously it also has significantly increased capabilities over the Minuteman. I’ve listened to you today, it sounds like there may be some question about whether or not you agree with those assessments or whether or not a change will be made as you look at the posture of you. Could you elaborate what factors might lead you down the path of not going with the less expensive, more effective and capable GBSD system?
Secretary Austin: (02:07:11)
If I conveyed that I already made some sort of decision, Congresswoman, that’s absolutely not the case. I think the right thing to do, if we’re going to conduct a nuclear posture review, which we are going to do that, is to make sure that we have the right pieces in place, the right balance and to make sure that we continue to evaluate the GBSD in the context of that nuclear posture review. But again, my intent was not to convey a preference or a decision. That’s not where I am.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:07:45)
Well, thank you. I appreciate that. Again, just looking at the cost that we’ve seen, the consistent testimony and the effectiveness, it would be some concern, obviously, if we moved towards trying to do a life extension at this point.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:07:57)
General Milley, I wanted to ask you about Afghanistan. It does seem that we’ve now seen the Taliban taking 50 to 60 more districts. I know the government moves its district centers at some point, but it does seem that we’re withdrawing from the battlefield as our enemy advances. Could you talk about both what the actual specifics are, we haven’t really heard anything in terms of over-the-horizon basing, and whether or not you think this is good policy to withdraw as our enemy is advancing?
General Milley: (02:08:26)
Congresswoman, in terms of the district centers in the provinces and as mentioned earlier there’s 419 district centers, 81 of them or so are in the hands of the Taliban, about 50 were done previously and about 30 or 40 in the last X amount of months. In addition to that, no provinces have fallen to the Taliban yet. There’s a 300,000 plus a minus security force consisting of the army and the police forces for the Afghans. We have not done train, advise, assist in quite some time down at the tactical level, so they have been out there shouldering the burden of that fight for well over a year. In terms of what we are doing, what we are doing is a deliberate, responsible draw down, a retrograde, to bring out US military forces. We’re going to keep a small number of forces there to maintain the embassy open and to keep capabilities there and keep the money going for the NSF and the government.
General Milley: (02:09:19)
Now what happens in the future? There’s a wide variety of possibilities. The worst case: Civil war, breakdown, fracturing the government, fracturing of the army. That’s very possible and that would be a very bad outcome. There’s also a possibility, not high in the probability list, but a negotiated settlement between the government and the Taliban. That’s possible. Then the alternative is an outright takeover of the Taliban, which I also think that is unlikely but possible. There’s a variety of outcomes here that could happen. We are executing the orders that were given in a very professional way and thus far things are relatively stable on our end.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:09:58)
Thank you, General Milley. I think it’s obviously just a significant concern as we do watch the Taliban advance and we know we’ve got a counter-terrorism mission we have to conduct and we don’t have any basing agreement secured for over the horizon.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:10:11)
But I want to just end with the continuation of this topic that’s been discussed. A couple of my colleagues suggested that there were service members who were being somehow persecuted because of their political beliefs or their ideological beliefs. I want to, first of all, thank you for noting that the attack on the Capitol on January 6th was an attack on the Constitution. We do need to understand what happened. It was an attack provoked by the commander in chief. He could have immediately intervened to stop it and he didn’t. I think it’s very important for us to recognize and understand who was in the Capitol that day and why and we have to protect the First Amendment rights of our service people, no doubt. But it’s also critically important that we remind everybody that the UCMJ makes it a crime to engage in sedition or mutiny or to seek the violent overthrow of the United States government. I would urge, as you are focused on getting to the bottom of what happened, we need to do the same here, but we really need to focus on that piece of this as well.
Rep. Liz Cheney: (02:11:16)
With that, I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (02:11:19)
Thank you. I recognize Representative Jacobs.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:11:24)
Well, thank you so much for joining us. I wanted to follow on a question from my colleague, Ms. Cheney, about the GBSD. I know you said a final decision will only come after the nuclear posture review, but it seems from the budget that this decision has already been made with the claim that the price to build and operate the new GBSD would be less than the cost to maintain the current Minuteman Three. It seems this conclusion is based by comparing the total lifecycle cost of the two options through 2075 at a deployed level of 400 ICBM’s. Is that true? If so, where did those numbers, 400 and 2075 come as the baseline requirement? Who made that decision, and is that still going to be revisited down the road, as you said?
Secretary Austin: (02:12:11)
Well, certainly, as I indicated a couple of minutes ago, I’ve not made any decisions on this. I think it deserves the right amount of effort and attention, and we’ll, we’ll make the best choices. But these choices need to be informed by the posture review to make sure that we have the right balance here.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:12:38)
Well, thank you. I think it’s important that we do the process necessary and not invest in a very expensive nuclear platform as, for instance, our president is in active negotiations to decrease our reliance on nuclear weapons.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:12:55)
My next question is, I represent San Diego and almost all of the people in uniform I speak to there are struggling to find childcare. I’m happy to see that the president’s budget increases base pay, but it seems like there’s just so much more we need to do. I was a little surprised that in this budget request, it only requests funding of a single construction of a new childcare development center. One 200-space center at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas. I know you said to my colleague earlier that you were working on investments in home care support and others, so I just wanted to know what more you’re planning on doing to address childcare beyond this single one space that is being constructed?
Secretary Austin: (02:13:41)
Well, thanks for the question and for your continued focus on what I believe is a very important issue. We’ll continue to work with the services as they work with their installation commanders and they identify what their needs are and make sure that those needs are reflected in military construction plans going forward. But I personally believe that, and I know all the secretaries and the chiefs believe that, this is an important issue and one we need to continue to invest in. More work needs to be done to the point that you’re making.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:14:16)
Thank you. Yes, I really want to emphasize that. I think what’s in the budget is not sufficient. I can tell you for my constituents in San Diego, of our subsidized childcare waiting list spots, more than half of them are military families. It’s a really critical need and I hope that you would continue to emphasize it. I appreciate your comments there.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:14:37)
If Ms. Escobar is here, I’m happy to give the remainder of my time to her.
Mr. Smith: (02:14:42)
I don’t see her.
Rep. Sara Jacobs: (02:14:48)
All right, well then, Mr. Chair, I’ll yield back.
Mr. Smith: (02:14:52)
Sounds good. The chair recognizes Representative McClain.
Rep. Susan McClain: (02:14:59)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I want to thank you for being here in front of this committee today, and it’s a pleasure to meet you in person. I want to speak today in regards to what a lot of my colleagues have already spoken on, which is China. I think we all agree is China seems to be our most challenging adversary or national threat. We’re fortunate enough to have thousands of businesses across our country that have contracts with your department. My question is, do you believe it would be in the best interest of our national security to ensure that the CCP does not have access to our military intellectual property?
Secretary Austin: (02:15:43)
I absolutely believe that. It’s important to me to make sure that, number one, the DOD networks are properly protected, but we need to advocate or ensure that all those people, all those companies that are supporting us in supply chains are doing the right things to meet the standards to reduce vulnerabilities in the supply chain.
Rep. Susan McClain: (02:16:10)
Yes. Extremely critical. Finally, do you fear that when the United States conducts a foreign military sale to a nation that also has accepted belt and road funding, that our military equipment might fall into the hands of the CCP? If not, can you explain, how do we ensure that this doesn’t happen? What do we do to make this better and to protect America and to protect our intellectual property? What action steps can we take?
Secretary Austin: (02:16:43)
Well, before we enter into to the agreements there, we certainly do assessments to make sure that the people that we’re selling the gear to do have the capability to protect our property, our intellectual property, and they agree to do what’s necessary to do that.
Rep. Susan McClain: (02:17:03)
To make sure I understand, I didn’t mean to interrupt, is when we engage in a sale, we put mechanisms in place to make sure that our intellectual property is protected and secure?
Secretary Austin: (02:17:19)
To the best of our abilities. Yes. We take appropriate and responsible actions. Of course, the State Department is involved in deciding whether or not these sales will be consummated. I mean, they approve that.
Rep. Susan McClain: (02:17:38)
What measures, if any, can we take to make sure that we ensure this process is even safer to a greater ability? I mean, you hear, or at least I hear, the American public hears on a constant basis, China’s stealing our intellectual property and it’s coming from a lot of our business dealings.
Secretary Austin: (02:18:04)
I think we need to continue to engage our partners and allies and emphasize the importance of this. We need to make sure that as we convey equipment, that we are confident that the people that we’re conveying it to can protect the intellectual property.
Rep. Susan McClain: (02:18:27)
Thank you, sir. I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (02:18:29)
Thank you. We are at that magic hour and I know the secretary has a hard stop at 2:00. Mr. Kahele, I’m sorry, I never pronounce that correctly. I’ll learn by the end of the session. I promise. But you are recognized for five minutes. He will be the last questioner that we have before we close at 2:00.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:18:47)
Mahalo, Mr. Chair, and aloha, Secretary Austin, General Milley. Mr. McCord, thank you for your service, mahalo for your testimony today.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:18:54)
I want to focus my questions on the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, the importance of those US relationships with our allies and partners in the Pacific region and the changing nature of the future conflicts.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:19:04)
Secretary Austin, I applaud you for showcasing America’s commitment to the Indo-Pacific region by making your first overseas visit with your trip to Japan and South Korea and India, and a brief stop in the Hawaiian Islands. I’m sorry I missed you. But as we are now discussing the FY22 defense budget, which I appreciate the president’s budget and the investment in the PDI, I also think as China becomes more aggressive in the region, the United States needs to be more aggressive regarding our critical investments in the PDI. And there are things that are not in that budget, in the unfunded, like the Guam defense system, the Homeland radar, Hawaii, the TACMOR in Palau that I think we need to take a look at. And so that we can fully fund that PDI and fully meet the objectives that we discussed today, which is one of those national instruments of power, which is our military deterrence and the strength of that deterrence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:20:02)
As a member of the Pacific Islands Caucus, I want to continue to call attention to Oceania and the Pacific Islands region. China regularly provides military training in the Pacific Islands region. They have been broadening their reach throughout the Pacific. They actively cultivate those relationships with senior defense officials. We know what the investments that they’ve been doing in Guam for a number of, or excuse me, in Western Samoa for a number of decades. As those defense region officials from China go to the different Pacific Island regions, they get full military honors, such as in Papua New Guinea, under their defense force, chief of defense visit in 2016 under President Xi. Senior PLA officials have held bilateral meetings with their counterparts in Papua New Guinea and Tonga and Fiji.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:20:48)
My first question to you, sir, is given the increasing military-to-military engagements in the Pacific Islands region, especially Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Tonga, many of those small islands listed on the unfunded Section 1251, will the deal [inaudible 02:21:03] plan similar high-level engagements to strengthen those relationships with our counterparts in those small island nations in Oceania to deter China from extending their reach throughout the Western Pacific and into the Eastern Pacific?
Secretary Austin: (02:21:18)
As you pointed out, Congressman, the Indo-Pacific is important to us and my very first trip was out to the region. I would just say that China is engaging a number of different countries with economic…
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:21:39)
Secretary Austin: (02:21:40)
Yeah. But we have something that China doesn’t have, we have allies and we have partners. If you consider the Australias, the Japans, the Korea’s of the world, there is tremendous capacity in our allies and partners. I think the Pacific Islands are absolutely important and you’ll see us continue to engage various countries in the region there and to make sure that, where we can, we’re increasing our capacity and accessibility and strengthening the relationships. But we far and away exceed any capability that China would have in terms of partner or allied capability, and we’re going to continue to strengthen what we have.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:22:32)
What are your thoughts then on expanding those relationships that we currently have or previously had, for an example in the Philippines? We had robust bases at Clark. Of course, we have a presence in Subic, in Singapore, we have [foreign language 02:22:46], we have [foreign language 02:22:48], and in Thailand. What are your thoughts on expanding those relationships, specifically the Philippines?
Secretary Austin: (02:22:55)
Absolutely the right thing to do. I talk with the minister of defense in the Philippines a couple of times. Certainly we would look to expand our footprint and strengthen our relationship as we go forward. I’ll continue to work on that personally. I think it’s really, really important.
Rep. Kaiali’i Kahele: (02:23:13)
Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I will yield back the remainder of my time. Mahalo.
Mr. Smith: (02:23:18)
Well, thank you very much. I want to thank both of you. Well, all three of you. Mr. McCord alas did not get a question. I’m sure you are profoundly disappointed. But I do want to thank the secretary and the chairman. I think it’s really important, as we’ve had these discussions, we focused on some areas of disagreement, but there was overwhelming agreement on this committee in a bipartisan way about the priorities and needs within our Department of Defense and how to meet those. I hope we’ll stay focused on those and not get too obsessed with the areas where we disagree because there’s a lot of good in what you’re doing at the Pentagon. A lot of work to be done, obviously. I think this committee and this Congress will contribute to that with useful and productive and helpful ideas over the course of the next several months as we work through the defense bill and the appropriations bill. But I want to congratulate Secretary Austin’s first, not first appearance before this committee, but first appearance I believe as the secretary. We very much appreciate your leadership. I think you are absolutely the right person for the job at this moment. Glad you are there. Look forward to continuing to work with you.
Mr. Smith: (02:24:22)
Mr. Rogers, do you have anything for the good of the order?
Rep. Mike Rogers: (02:24:24)
Just to say I envy Mr. McCord. I mean, this is my kind of hearing for you, buddy. I just have the highest respect for the secretary and the general. Thank you for your service and being here. I concur with the chairman’s observation about this committee’s focus on what we need and we will continue in our bipartisan fashion. Thank you very much. I yield back.
Mr. Smith: (02:24:46)
Thank you. With that, we are adjourned.
Mr. Smith: (02:24:47)