Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at 1/18 Hearing on Department of Defense Nominations
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to join you in welcoming our nominees and thank them for their willingness to serve in positions of great responsibility in the Department of Defense. I would also like to thank your family members, many of whom are here today, for their support.
Dr. Griffin, you are nominated to serve in the newly reconstituted position of Undersecretary for Research and Engineering. As such, you will be charged with ensuring that our operational forces have access to the best and latest technologies and systems. You will have to ensure that the Department is leading the way in areas of technology and engineering that the U.S. military needs to prioritize - like undersea warfare and hypersonics. You will also have to work to make sure that DOD can keep up with the rapid pace of global and commercial technological innovation in fields like biotechnology and artificial intelligence. A large part of your role will be your ability to create an environment where innovators inside the Department, at places like DARPA and the labs, and outside the Department, in industry and universities, have the funding and protection from red tape and bureaucracy they need so they can thrive.
If confirmed, you will be the first person to hold the Undersecretary for Research and Engineering title since the reorganization legislation was passed. You be sorting out the details of who handles the variety of acquisition functions occurring in the Pentagon right now, and identifying your responsibilities and authorities. From my perspective, you have a wealth of background on space, but let me be clear that the day-to-day job for which you are being confirmed for is to be the chief technology and innovation officer of the Department and not for the management of space issues. I look forward to hearing your views on the new positon and your strategy for keeping the Department in a position of technological superiority.
Mrs. Bayer, you are nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment, and Mr. Henderson has been nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Energy, and the Environment. If confirmed, both of you will have a unique opportunity to restore readiness by improving the energy resilience of the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.
The Department of Defense relies on a network of infrastructure that requires uninterrupted access to electricity, and we face increasing vulnerabilities if we do not change the way we power our missions. Energy resilience improvements can often be achieved through third party financed projects, at no cost to the taxpayer. The committee has repeatedly given the Department new mechanisms to improve energy security through the NDAA, and I urge you both to explore them and put them to good use.
I strongly urge you both, if confirmed, to advance operational energy improvements as well. Specifically, I suggest you thoroughly examine where in the logistical supply of energy our troops are most vulnerable, in both contested environments and here at home. I strongly urge you both to identify energy-related seams and gaps that may exist between the Combatant Commands and campaign plans. Simply put, the more efficient use of energy and alternative energy technologies can extend the combat reach of units, allowing them greater lethality.
Climate change is a direct threat to military readiness. It has already cost the Department hundreds of millions of dollars, and if left unchecked, it will continue to mirror significant cost overruns observed in other programs of record. Simply put, the Department must plan for and mitigate the effects of climate change. The FY18 NDAA requires DOD to deliver to Congress a list of the ten most vulnerable military installations within each service based on the effects of rising sea tides, increased flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, thawing permafrost, and others. Mrs. Bayer and Mr. Henderson, I hope that you will prioritize that legislative direction, if you are confirmed.
Dr. Roper, many challenges will face the Air Force Senior Acquisition Executive. Although perhaps not at the same operational tempo as the Army and the Marine Corps, but at a significant tempo, the Air Force has been facing a difficult challenge in balancing its modernization needs against the costs of supporting ongoing operations overseas. If you are confirmed, you will play a significant role in choosing among these priorities.
In addition, you will be largely responsible within the Air Force for implementing the major changes in the acquisition system that the Congress has enacted over the past several years. Some of these changes relate to expanding rapid acquisition processes to a broader segment of the Department’s acquisition portfolio.
Your recent experience as Director of the Strategic Capabilities Office should serve you well in this regard. However, you will also need to deal with some very large, very complicated programs where rapid acquisition practices may have some benefit, but will not be able supplant all of the normal acquisition procedures. I look forward to working with you on how we can better refine our acquisition system and modernize our Air Force.
I would again like to thank the nominees for your willingness to be here today and to serve in the Department of Defense. The committee looks forward to hearing your views on these issues.