5/10/2018 — 

Thank you, Senator Inhofe.  I would like to join you in welcoming our nominees and thank them for their willingness to serve in positions of great responsibility.  I would also like to thank your family members, many of whom are here today, for their support.

Dr. Porter, if confirmed, you will be responsible for helping Dr. Griffin, the new Undersecretary for Research and Engineering, stand up his office so that it can promote innovation in the Defense Department at a very complex time.  You will be tasked to develop strategic guidance and provide leadership to all elements of the research and innovation community, ranging from DARPA to the labs to newer offices like the Strategic Capabilities Office and D-I-U-X, the Silicon Valley outreach activity.  You will also be responsible for maintaining technological superiority over rising near peer adversaries, especially in emerging technology areas like artificial intelligence and quantum computing.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how to address these complex challenges.

Mr. Stewart, if confirmed as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, you will face many challenges.  First and foremost, the Department and the military services must have adequate numbers of ready and trained servicemembers, of sufficiently high character and talent, to meet national defense objectives, an increasingly difficult task given the declining propensity and eligibility among the nation’s youth to serve in the military.  You will also be addressing the reform of the officer management system, and streamlining the operations of the DOD Education Activity and the Defense Commissary Agency.

Mr. Stewart, your past experience will serve you well in your new position.  I look forward to working with you as you tackle these difficult issues.

Dr. Anderson, you have been nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities.  This is an important position that oversees the National Defense Strategy, the development of global defense posture, the review of campaign and contingency plans, nuclear and missile defense policy, and security cooperation activities. In other words, the position you will assume, if confirmed, is critical to preparing the Department for the future strategic environment. 

The implementation of the recent National Defense Strategy will likely be your primary challenge.  While the “re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition” with Russia and China is the central challenge facing our nation, the Department must address other equally urgent situations including tensions on the Korean Peninsula, Iran’s ongoing malign activities, and violent extremist organizations such as ISIS.  Therefore, I would welcome your thoughts on the priorities you will pursue, if confirmed as the Assistant Secretary, in the context of a dynamic defense environment.

Admiral Slavonic, if confirmed, you will serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, where you will face many of the same thorny personnel policy issues as Mr. Stewart.  You enlisted in the Navy in 1971, served for a number of years in the Navy Reserve, and retired as a Rear Admiral in 2005, having held numerous military and private sector positions.  After over 30 years in the Navy, you should be well prepared to address the challenges facing the Navy and Marine Corps today, and I look forward to working with you.

Dr. Verdon, you are highly qualified for the position of Deputy Administrator for Defense programs within the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA.  You are now the director the weapons program at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and before that you were at the University of Rochester’s Laboratory for Laser Energetics, which serves as an important feeder of scientists to the NNSA laboratories. 

If confirmed, you will confront a broad array of challenges in modernizing our stockpile which right now encompasses programs extending the life of four, or even possibly six, weapon systems within the next 5 years.  In particular, you will confront the daunting challenge of restarting plutonium pit production to meet the needs of the Department of Defense, while ensuring there is an adequate workforce and infrastructure at the laboratories and plants to accomplish the overall modernization mission.  This plutonium mission is of particular concern to me and I am interested in your thoughts on the major issues you expect to confront.

I again thank all the witnesses for their willingness to be here today and to serve their country.