Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome General Mark Milley this morning, and to thank him for his outstanding service to this nation. I would also like to acknowledge his wife, Hollyanne, and to thank her for her sacrifice and support.
General Milley has had a long and distinguished career as an Army officer, most recently, serving as the 39th Chief of Staff of the Army, where he prioritized rebuilding readiness and transforming the Army’s modernization process. General Milley’s professionalism and commitment to duty served him well, and I commend him for his willingness to take on another critical assignment.
General Milley, if confirmed, you will serve as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a time of transition within the Department of Defense. Currently, the Department is in the midst of implementing the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, which will enable the U.S. to posture for competition with a near peer competitor like China or Russia. This strategy requires new investments for high end capabilities and new training for our troops. At the same time, the threat posed by violent extremist organizations is not diminishing, and Iran and North Korea remain extremely dangerous. In addition to these broad strategic challenges, the Department continues efforts to restore readiness, while recruiting and retaining high-caliber individuals to serve in our armed services.
As the Department has grappled with these challenges, it has also been hamstrung by the fact that there has not been a permanent Senate-confirmed Secretary of Defense for nearly seven months, and during this time, two different political appointees have helmed the Department in an acting capacity. In addition, vacancies are pervasive across the senior level, particularly the civilian posts.
Steady leadership at the highest echelons of our military is a necessity, now more than ever. But I am concerned that the constant turnover of senior civilian leadership within the Department has created uncertainty and disarray, and as a result, it may have unintentionally created a situation that could weaken civilian control of the military within the Department. I first raised concerns about civilian-military relations in the context of Secretary Mattis’ confirmation to be Secretary of Defense. More recently, the National Defense Strategy Commission also raised significant concerns about the current state of civilian-military relations and encouraged the Department to take action to ensure decision making remains in the hands of civilian leaders.
General Milley, this morning, I hope that you will provide us with your views on the current state of civilian-military relations within the Department, and, if confirmed as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, what actions you intend to take to ensure this relationship remains robust and strong.
The role of the Chairman is to serve as the principal military adviser to the President and the Secretary of Defense. As I previously mentioned, if confirmed, you will serve as the Chairman at a time in which our country is facing multiple threats from abroad. It had been my hope that as the President became more accustomed to the gravity of the office, he would, over time, become more conscientious and thoughtful with his comments. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. Instead our foreign policy continues to discount the value of longtime alliances and careens from one crisis to the next, oftentimes driven by the President’s personality and an apparent affinity for world leaders who do not share our core American values such as liberty, due process, and freedom of the press.
General Milley, if confirmed, I am confident that your deep understanding of the national security threats facing our nation will be an asset to the President, and hopefully, the military advice you will provide to him will alleviate the risks of miscalculation and unintended consequences. Furthermore, if you are confirmed, I expect that you will continue make it a priority to keep this Committee fully informed on policy decisions impacting our armed forces and changes to our military strategy to counter the risks posed by our adversaries.
Thank you, again, General Milley for your willingness to serve our nation.