Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and please let me welcome the co-chairs of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy, Ambassador Edelman and Admiral Roughead. Thank you and all of your colleagues for the extraordinary effort that you gave to the country.
This commission was established by the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to provide an independent evaluation of the National Defense Strategy. Congress required that the Commission assess the assumptions, missions, force posture and structure, and strategic and military risks associated with the strategy. After an exhaustive review, the Commission’s report was released earlier this month.
While today’s hearing is an opportunity to hear directly from the Commission on what they learned, I would like to highlight a handful of the Commission’s findings. First, the Commission echoes the NDS in finding that the U.S. technological edge has eroded as compared to its near peer adversaries. As the Commission notes, “maintaining or reestablishing America’s competitive edge is not simply a matter of generating more resources and capabilities; it is a matter of using those resources and capabilities creatively and focusing them on the right things.” The Commission makes a series of recommendations on how the U.S. can address its innovation challenges, and I hope our witnesses will discuss them with us this morning.
In addition, one of the main lines of effort of the NDS is building a more lethal force that “possesses decisive advantages for any likely conflict, while remaining proficient across the entire spectrum of conflict.” The Commission also prioritizes the readiness of our Armed Forces and recommends a series of actions to rebuild and sustain readiness. I am pleased with this focus, since the readiness of our armed forces is a paramount issue for this committee.
Another critical finding of both the NDS and the Commission is the need for strong international alliances and the importance of a whole-of-government approach. In fact, the National Defense Strategy puts a premium on bolstering current alliances while pursuing new partners. However, I am concerned that the President continues to make statements and pursue actions that have undercut America’s leadership position in the world, which may weaken our influence and ultimately lead to uncertainty and the risk of miscalculation. Given our panel’s extensive experience, I would welcome the Commission’s assessment of our current alliances, what more can be done to sustain these critical relationships, and the importance of non-military elements of national power to our security.
The aforementioned issues are critically important, but I want to highlight two issues the Commission emphasized which were not a focus of the NDS. The first is the state of civilian-military relations, and the second is the deficiency of the Department’s analytical capabilities.
Prior to Secretary Mattis’s nomination to serve as the Secretary of Defense, this committee held a hearing on civilian control of the Armed Forces. Civilian control of the military is enshrined in our Constitution and dates back to General George Washington and the Revolutionary War. This principle has distinguished our nation from many other countries around the world, and it has helped ensure that our democracy remains in the hands of the people.
The Commission states unambiguously that there is a “relative imbalance of civilian and military voices on critical issues of strategy development and implementation.” The Commission went on to state that “civilian voices were relatively muted on issues at the center of U.S. defense and national security policy, undermining the concept of civilian control.” When I read the Commission’s report, I was struck by these observations and the consequences that such an imbalance can have on the development of defense policy, the impact it could have on the civilian and military personnel serving in the Department, and how it may shape the advice provided to the President. I would like to hear from our witnesses today what they believe is the cause of this troubling trend, and what can be done to reverse it.
The other issue is the erosion of analytical capability within the Defense Department. As the Commission points out “making informed decisions about strategic, operational, and force development issues requires a foundation of state-of-the-art analytical capabilities.” However, the Commission determined that “detailed, rigorous concepts for solving key operational problems are badly needed, but do not appear to exist.” Therefore, I would ask the witnesses for their thoughts on how to address this shortfall.
Finally, implementing a defense strategy requires resources. The Commission assesses that in order to implement the NDS, additional and predictable resources will be required. However, the challenges facing our country are complex and multi-faceted. As such, the commission notes that comprehensive solutions to these comprehensive challenges will require whole-of-government and whole-of-nation cooperation extending far beyond DOD. Trade policy, science, technology, engineering, and math education, diplomatic statecraft and other non-military tools will be critical. So will adequate support and funding for those elements of American power.
It is the duty of this Committee to ensure the men and women we send into harm’s way have the resources necessary to complete their mission and return home safely. As we examine what funding requirements are necessary for the safety and security of our country, we need to look at our federal budget in a much broader context. As the commission states, we need a holistic approach, otherwise, the United States will be at a competitive disadvantage and will remain ill-equipped to preserve its security and its global interests amid intensifying challenges.
Thank you very much.