1/16/2020 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I join you in welcoming our nominees to this morning’s hearing.  Mr. McPherson is joined by his wife, Jennifer, and his children Amanda and Philip.  Likewise, Mr. Williams is joined by his family including his wife, Laurie, and family members Tim, Ryan, and Alicia.  We are pleased you could be with us. 

Mr. McPherson, you have most recently served as the General Counsel of the Army, and prior to that, had a long and distinguished career in the United States Navy.  If confirmed as the next Under Secretary of the Army, you will play a critical role in ensuring that the Army continues to modernize and innovate in order to support the National Defense Strategy.  As the NDS highlights, our technological edge compared to our near peer adversaries has eroded over the past several years.  In order to address this challenge, the Army has made major structural changes to expedite modernization across the force.  These changes include the creation of cross-functional teams and exercising new acquisition authorities provided by Congress.  If confirmed, I expect that you will work closely with Secretary McCarthy and the Army’s senior military leadership on these modernization efforts.   Mr. McPherson, I welcome your thoughts on the Army’s modernization plans and how the Army will expedite the fielding of new platforms.  

While modernized military equipment is critical to our soldiers, readiness must remain the Army’s highest priority.  The Army has made great strides in rebuilding readiness while simultaneously making targeted investments in modernization.  Mr. McPherson, please share with this Committee what will you do to ensure that the Army remains focused on unit readiness.

Finally, the men and women who serve in uniform, as well as the civilians working in the Department of the Army, are the foundation of the Army’s success.  As the Army grows its end-strength, it should remain focused on the quality of our soldiers rather than the quantity.  In addition, the Army must redouble its efforts to eradicate sexual assault, sexual harassment, domestic violence and child abuse within its ranks.  Mr. McPherson, if confirmed, I trust that these issues will be among your highest priorities. 

Mr. Williams, you are nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment.  If confirmed, you will have a timely opportunity to improve the quality of military housing for families along with restoring their confidence at Navy and Marine Corps bases throughout the world.  The FY20 National Defense Authorization Act has dozens of new provisions, as well as increased funding, to help the Department hire additional and qualified personnel to perform much needed oversight of military housing.

If confirmed, I strongly urge you to use the tools at your disposal in order to improve military readiness as well as military housing.  First, the Navy and Marine Corps must rely upon surface ships, which depend upon vulnerable fuel supplies.  As the Department implements the National Defense Strategy, the Navy should pursue multiple operational energy improvements to its fleet.  For example, a recent analysis by the Navy found that installing a hybrid electric drive (HED) uses 37 percent less fuel than ships without an HED.  Obviously, this would give the Navy a significant combat capability in the Pacific and elsewhere.

On the shore, the Department of the Navy relies upon a network infrastructure that requires uninterrupted access to electricity, and we face increasing vulnerabilities if we do not change the way we use power in our missions.  The Resilient Energy Program Office allows the Navy to leverage non-DOD funds, at no cost to the taxpayer, to pursue energy resilience projects.  However, the Navy has recently slowed progress in this important area.  If confirmed, I strongly urge you to correct that.

Additionally, for FY20 the Department received an additional $75 million for planning design activities to support military installation resilience projects.  If confirmed, I intend to follow up with you on how the Navy and Marine Corps plans to use these important funds in order to restore readiness.

Finally, let me close with the following.  The Washington Post reported this week that the Trump Administration plans to cut another $7.2 billion from DOD accounts in order to fund construction of the border wall.  In addition, it is likely that the President’s budget will request several billion dollars in new MILCON projects that DOD will argue are urgent and necessary to improve readiness and implement the National Defense Strategy.  That argument is undermined if the Administration shifts MILCON funding dedicated for critical defense infrastructure for a border wall that was supposed to be paid for by Mexico, not American taxpayers.  The Department should not go down this path again. 

Again, I thank you Mr. Chairman for holding this hearing, and I look forward to hearing from our nominees.