Tuesday, December 8, 2015


To receive testimony on improving the Pentagon’s development of policy, strategy, and plans

(As Prepared for Delivery)

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.  I’d like to join you in thanking our distinguished panel of witnesses for their willingness to appear today as we consider how the Department of Defense can improve its processes for developing defense policy and military strategy.  Given their national security expertise, I welcome their thoughts and suggestions on specific steps they believe the Department could undertake to help us better address the complex national security issues confronting the U.S. today.

As Secretary Bob Gates testified before this Committee in October, “Americans, including all too often our leaders, regard international crises and military conflict as aberrations when, in fact and sad to say, they are the norm.”  He went on to further state, “While we may not be interested in aggressors, terrorists, revanchists and expansionists half a world away, they ultimately are always interested in us – or our interests or our allies and friends.” 

Secretary Gates’ admonition has reverberated throughout our hearings these past few months.  The Department of Defense is facing many complicated and rapidly evolving challenges.  We have seen how violent extremist organizations are able to promote their destructive agendas and carry out attacks against the United States, our allies, and our respective interests.  In Iraq and Syria, the breakdown of the nation-state system has allowed the re-emergence of centuries-old divisions, creating a vastly complex situation.

At the same time, Russia continues its provocative behavior in Europe, while also deploying Russian troops and military equipment to Syria to directly support the failing Assad regime.  Likewise, China’s assertive behavior in the South China Sea region reflects both its desire to assert great power status and a challenge to international norms, including the freedom of navigation.  Compound these issues in an age of nuclear proliferation, and global stability becomes even more tenuous. 

It is in this context that previous witnesses before this Committee have testified that the Department’s organization and processes are not flexible enough to respond in a timely manner.  For example, Eliot Cohen outlined how the Department currently produces strategy documents on a fixed schedule and stated that “A much better system would be something like the White Papers produced by the Australian and French systems, not on a regular basis but in reaction to major international developments, and composed by small, special commissions that include outsiders as well as bureaucrats.”

In addition to how the Department develops defense policy and military strategy to respond to evolving threats, I would also welcome the witnesses’ views on whether or not changes are needed to the Department’s force planning process; if the current Combatant Command structure engenders effective military operations; and whether the size and number of defense agencies and field activities and other headquarter functions should be consolidated or eliminated.  Lastly, while not fully within this committee’s jurisdiction, I would be interested in the views of our witnesses on the current interagency structure for national security and whether changes in that area should also be considered.

These are complex, multifaceted issues that do not offer easy or quick solutions.  Again, I look forward to hearing from each of our witnesses their perspectives on these issues and their thoughts on how we can make our national security strategy more effective in addressing these challenges.