Questioning defense readiness

Sen. Jim Inhofe

Sen. Jim Inhofe

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services  Committee (SASC), today delivered the following opening statement at the hearing to consider six Defense and Homeland Security nominations. Sen. Inhofe’s prepared remarks focused on the current state of defense readiness.  Most American will be shocked at how, in this threatening time, poorly staffed and supplied current defense forces stand at risk.
As prepared for delivery:

I thank our nominees for being with us today and for their willingness to serve our country.  If confirmed, they will assume positions of importance at a time when the Department of Defense and our national security are facing serious challenges.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

We heard earlier this month from the Director of National Intelligence and the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency about the growing threats around the world.  Director Clapper stated on February 12th “Looking back over my now more than half a century in intelligence, I’ve not experienced a time when we’ve been beset by more crises and threats around the globe.” Based on what I’ve seen and heard on my many travels over the years, I think he’s exactly right.

Yet, over the last five years, massive cuts to our national security – including nearly half of a trillion dollars cut before sequestration took effect – have resulted in a steep decline in military readiness and capabilities.  At the same time, the capabilities of our adversaries are growing.

The Navy is at a historically low level of ships, our Air Force is the smallest in history, and the ground force may fall to its lowest level since before World War II.  Readiness levels of remaining forces are plummeting and commanders now use the term “hollow” to describe their ability to defend the nation.  Last October General Odierno said he had only 2 brigade combat teams, out of over 40, that were ready for combat.

To be clear, protecting the United States is more than just resource levels.  The resources we provide our military men and women must directly address the threats we face using an effective comprehensive strategy.  InhofeArmy45bThis isn’t the case today. Instead, the President and his administration continue to base their strategy and justify cutting national security spending on the naïve world view that the “tide of war is receding” and Al-Qaeda is “on the run” and on the “path to defeat.” If you look across the Middle East and North Africa, it’s clear the tide of war is not receding. It’s expanding.  Al-Qaeda and its allies now operate in more countries and control more territory than ever before.  Even the President’s top intelligence official – Director Clapper – told me during testimony that Al-Qaeda isn’t on the run and instead is “morphing and franchising.” Tragically, this is what happens when strategy is driven by hope rather than reality – our security and that of our allies is paying the price.

Additionally, continued waste and inefficiency within the Department is exacerbating unwise budget cuts and robbing precious resources from our warfighters.  Every dollar consumed by waste and inefficiency is a dollar that cannot be used to rebuild readiness and defeat our adversaries.  This is particularly true in the defense acquisition process.  For example, my staff is informed it requires 80,000 man hours to produce the documents required to pass Milestone A for a Major Defense Acquisition Program (“MDAP”); and over 100,000 man hours to produce the documents to pass Milestone B for a MDAP.  This is ridiculous. Making sense of a convoluted and cumbersome acquisition process and instituting common-sense reforms will be vital steps towards maximizing taxpayer dollars to deliver necessary technology to our military men and women on budget and on schedule.  I look to our witnesses today, particularly Mr. Work, to provide ideas on how we can achieve this objective.

The challenges facing the Department are not confined to strategy and budget.  I’m deeply concerned about recent headlines that depict ethical and leadership failings of some of our military leaders.  I know firsthand that the vast majority of our military cadre are strong, ethical leaders who serve our nation with distinction. However, the failings of some have the potential to undermine the service of the rest.  I expect the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and all our senior officers to renew their commitment to integrity, to correct those whose moral compass is not properly aligned and, if necessary, to firmly address failures in a transparent manner.

I look forward to our nominees providing us with their views on these and other important matters facing our national security.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Editor’s Note: The nominations under consideration include: Honorable Robert O. Work, to be Deputy Secretary of Defense; Honorable Michael J. McCord, to be Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller); Ms. Christine E. Wormuth, to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Mr. Brian P. McKeon, to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy; Honorable David B. Shear, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs; and Mr. Eric Rosenbach, to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense.