2/08/2018 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would like to join you in welcoming our nominees and thank them for their willingness to serve in important positions within the Department of Defense.  I would also like to recognize and thank your families, many of whom are here today, for their support.

Mr. Ney, you have been nominated to be the General Counsel for the Department of Defense – one of the most critical positions in the Department.  As the chief legal officer of the Department of Defense, the General Counsel is the primary legal advisor to the Secretary of Defense and other senior DOD leaders.  I expect that the General Counsel will be a key advisor to the Secretary in all the primary lines of effort to support the Secretary’s National Defense Strategy.  Additionally, the DOD General Counsel will be asked to provide legal advice on the rapidly evolving areas of acquisition reform, prevention and response to sexual harassment and sexual assault, cyber warfare, military detention operations and military commissions.  Mr. Ney, your legal advice will be essential in navigating the constraints imposed by the Budget Control Act and the uncertainties inherent in operating under continuing resolutions.  You are well prepared for the responsibility associated with this position based on your experience in the Navy General Counsel’s office and in the DOD General Counsel’s office.

Mr. Fahey, you will be taking on an important role to try to improve the outcomes of defense acquisition programs – simply put, to make sure that we can buy what we need, when we need it, and at a fair price.  Since the passage of the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, program outcomes have improved - due to more emphasis on testing, early engineering and design work, and better estimating of program costs.  However, we all know more needs to be done - especially as DOD tries to position itself to deal with a growing spectrum of threats, including dealing with aggressive economic and military peers. 

The Department is racing to keep up with the accelerating pace of global technological change, in some cases driven by commercial sector investments.  DOD is also trying to get a better grip on contracts and spending on services, which can range from office support to space launches.  You will be working on all of these challenges while simultaneously reorganizing the major Acquisition and Research offices in the Pentagon, and with an uncertain budget environment.  With your extensive acquisition background, I know you will be up to the task.  I look forward to hearing how you plan to start taking on these challenges.

Mr. Ayers, you have been nominated to be the Air Force General Counsel.  If confirmed, you will be the chief legal officer of the Air Force, providing legal advice and guidance to the Air Force Secretary, the Under Secretary, the Assistant Secretaries, their staffs, as well as to the Chief of Staff and the rest of the Air Staff.  In this capacity, you will be called upon to provide legal services in a variety of disciplines including: fiscal law, ethics, dispute resolution, contract law, environmental law, international law, cyber law, space law and litigation.  Of interest to this committee, you will also have to be prepared to address military personnel issues involving the statutory flexibilities contained in the Defense Officer Military Personnel Act, commonly referred to as DOPMA, and the Reserve Officer Military Personnel Act, ROPMA.  Mr. Ayers, I believe your Army legal experience will serve you well in this new capacity.

Ms. Gordon-Hagerty, if confirmed, you will be dual-hatted as the Undersecretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.  As Administrator of NNSA, you will be assuming responsibility for meeting the needs of the Department of Defense in an exceedingly complex modernization of our nuclear triad and its stockpile.  Your facilities and its talented people will be fully tested in doing so.  This is a critical, and also expensive, undertaking and we will need to have a close partnership. 

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.