October 21, 2015



(As Prepared for Delivery)

Dr. Gates, welcome back to the Armed Services Committee, and let me join the Chairman in thanking you for your willingness to testify today. 

It is no accident that the Chairman has asked you to testify on possible reforms to the Department of Defense.  You have more than 1,500 days of service as the Secretary of Defense and decades serving the U.S. Government in roles that range from the National Security Council to the Central Intelligence Agency to the Department of Defense.  Your vast experience with DoD and the interagency, especially in a post September 11, 2001 context, will be important to this committee’s study of the organization and missions of the Department. 

While you were the Secretary of Defense, you were an outspoken critic of your own Department and its ability to manage critical competing priorities, such as funding military modernization and ensuring that the requirements of our deployed forces are being supported appropriately.  In a speech before the American Enterprise Institute, you said the Department is: “a semi-feudal system -- an amalgam of fiefdoms without centralized mechanisms to allocate resources, track expenditures, and measure results relative to the department's overall priorities.”  As a policy maker in the legislative branch, this kind of assessment from the most senior official in the Department is deeply concerning.  I look forward to hearing your ideas and thinking on what changes, if any, you’d recommend to address the current organization of the Department of Defense. 

Congress has tried to help address some of these problems, as you have rightly noted, in creating the Deputy Chief Management Officer.  But one person is not enough to create or compel systemic change in the largest organization on earth. 

During your tenure, you created two ad hoc entities in the Department to address rapidly critical issues – the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected or MRAP Task Force and the Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance or ISR Task Force.  While both of those endeavors were successful in bringing about the changes needed to address the specific problems presented at the time, a more holistic approach may be necessary to address longstanding inadequacies in the way the Department is organized.

Also in your American Enterprise Institute speech, you made a critical point: since 2001, we have seen “a near-doubling of the Pentagon’s modernization accounts…[that] has resulted in relatively modest gains in actual military capability.”  This should be of concern to us all.  We would welcome your recommendations on how to bring about the changes necessary to change this trend going forward.

You have also spoken about the need for Defense spending to be stable and predictable and the importance of the role of Congress in ensuring that such stability is provided.  Former DOD Comptroller Bob Hale, who served with you at the Pentagon, wrote recently about the budgetary turmoil he experienced during his tenure, including sequestration, a government shutdown, and continuing resolutions.  Specifically, he wrote “this budgetary turmoil imposed a high price on DOD and therefore the nation it serves.  The price was not measured in dollars, since DOD certainly didn’t get any extra funding to pay the costs of the turmoil.  Rather, the price took the form of harm to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s mission.”

We continue to confront these budgetary issues in the context of the Budget Control Act and advocacy by some of increasing war funding or the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account to accommodate what are really enduring base budget requirements of our military.  Defense Secretary Carter has testified that raising OCO to accommodate base budget requirements does not allow the Defense Department to plan “efficiently or strategically.”  In light of these issues, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the impact of budget uncertainty on the Department’s ability to make needed investments, particularly in modernization, and on the morale of the men and women of our military and their civilian counterparts.

Finally, during your tenure, Dr. Gates, you were a strong advocate not only for our military but also for funding the “soft power” tools of statecraft, our diplomacy, development efforts, and our ability to communicate our goals and values to the rest of the world.  As we consider steps for making DOD more effective, I would also be interested in your thoughts on the importance for our national security of enhancing our civilian elements of national power, and the harm that sequestration is doing to our ability to advance U.S. interests. 

Thank you.