Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing to Hear Nominations for Department of Defense
Thank you, Senator Inhofe. I want to join you in welcoming our nominees. I would also like to thank their families for their support.
I would be remiss if I did not once again take a moment to remind my colleagues as we begin this nomination hearing that the Administration recently disregarded our constitutional role of advice and consent with respect to the appointment of Mr. Tata to the Department of Defense when it was clear that he would not receive confirmation from this body.
This is an abuse of power that continues to disturb me and should cause us all consternation about the appropriate constitutional role of the President and the United States Senate. I would hope the Administration would be taking actions to rectify it and prevent any further erosion or disruption of the appropriate role between the Senate and the Administration.
Gentlemen, I had the opportunity to speak with most of you previously. Mr. Abend, I want to thank you for our conversation. You have extensive experience as an investigator, but you have never really had experience as an Inspector General, as part of a very specific and sophisticated operation. You’ve been a special agent; you’ve served in many areas, but you’ve never served in the military and you’re being asked now to be the Inspector General for the Department of Defense. Again, we acknowledge your skill as an investigator , but you’ll be leading 1600 professionals in jobs that transcend investigation in very complex operations at the Department of Defense.
Also, in 2008, we passed the Inspector General Reform Act. One of the functions of the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, or CIGIE, is to make recommendations for appointments to IG positions. Your nomination is the only recent IG nomination that was not submitted for a recommendation, so we do not have any input from the CIGIE, which I think is an important detriment to you, and we are now lacking advice from inside the council.
Mr. Hansell, you have been nominated to serve as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security. I believe your service in the Army and Special Forces, on the National Security Council, and as a management consultant in industry provide you with valuable and relevant experience for the position. In your answers to the Committee’s Advance Policy Questions, you consistently emphasized the importance of collaboration and coordination to the effective performance of the duties of the office. I appreciate this perspective very much. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security must be focused on providing intelligence support to our warfighters, and security services for all the components of the Department of Defense.
Mr. Polakowski, you have been nominated for the position of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs. As a former chemical corps officer, you have experience in defending against chemical and biological weapons. That knowledge will be important as you oversee the Defense Department’s expertise in these areas, particularly in the Department’s role in the whole-of-government effort to develop a vaccine against the coronavirus.
Mr. Polakowski, if confirmed, another major part of your portfolio will deal with nuclear matters. You will have acquisition oversight, along with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, on the production schedules for the nuclear warheads. You will also be involved in managing the Nuclear Weapons Council, which is the joint DOD-DOE body to coordinate these efforts. I have concerns about your expertise in nuclear matters. You have experience in chemical and biological weapons, and I would hope that you will focus a great deal of your attention on getting up to speed on nuclear matters.
Mr. Bremer, you are nominated to be the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict, or ASD SOLIC, a critically important position tasked with the oversight of, and advocacy for, special operations forces, in addition to other policy responsibilities related to counterterrorism, irregular warfare, counter-narcotics, and building partner capacity.
If confirmed, you will be charged with completing long-overdue actions to enable the office of the ASD SOLIC to fulfill its “service secretary-like” responsibilities related to special operations forces. The Department has fallen short of the clear mandate provided by Congress nearly four years ago, and efforts to hire qualified personnel, update departmental guidance, and integrate SOLIC into decision-making bodies must be accelerated.
Unfortunately, several high-profile misconduct incidents in recent years have led to questions about the professionalism and ethics of our special operators. I opposed the President’s inappropriate intervention in several war crimes cases last November and remain concerned about the message such actions send to our troops, the American people, our allies, and our adversaries. I am particularly interested in the comments you made regarding Edward Gallagher, and I will address those during the questioning period.
I believe the ASD SOLIC needs to be a person who is not only willing to advocate for SOCOM, but also hold each member to the highest standard of conduct and not applaud those who abandon those standards.
I look forward to the testimony of the nominees. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.