7/18/2017 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I’d like to join you in welcoming our nominees and thanking them for their willingness to serve in positions of great responsibility in the Department of Defense.  I would also like to thank your family members, many of whom are here today, who will play an important role by supporting you through the challenges you will undoubtedly face.

Mr. Gibson, if confirmed as the Deputy Chief Management Officer, you will play the key role in improving the efficiency of DOD’s management and business operations.  There are a series of key challenges that I hope you can address for the committee today, for example:

  • Managing the mandated reductions in the civilian workforce without reducing the quality of the work and services that this workforce provides to warfighters, military families, and taxpayers;
  • Addressing concerns that bureaucratic process and legacy practices are driving up costs and slowing down the Department’s ability to deal with rapidly changing threats;
  • Driving the Department to begin full audits of its financial books, and creating the incentives that will help DOD make the changes needed to get a clean audit opinion, as soon as possible; and
  • Continuing the reorganization work driven by last year’s NDAA and the current House and Senate bills.

Ms. Lord, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics has the huge task of ensuring that our warfighters get all the equipment, support, and services they need to execute their missions, and to make sure that this done in ways that protect taxpayers’ interests.  If confirmed, you will be responsible from everything ranging from basic university research, to sustainment of major weapons systems in the field, to the procurement of services to support DOD management functions.  You will be responsible for making sure that our nation maintains its battlefield technological superiority in the face of increasing capabilities developing overseas and accelerating global innovation in the commercial world.  You will be responsible for ensuring that our industrial base, workforce, labs and test ranges, and manufacturing capabilities, including our depots and shipyards, are world class and responsive to the needs of our armed forces.  As mandated by Congress in last year’s NDAA, you will also be the person managing the splitting of your position into two separate positions – one focused on Research and Engineering and one on Acquisition and Sustainment.  I look forward to hearing how you plan to take on all of these considerable challenges.

Mr. Niemeyer, a former Committee staff member for Senator Warner, is nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and the Environment.  Mr. Niemeyer, if confirmed, you will be responsible for managing the Department’s policy and programs related to military construction, energy resilience, mission assurance, critical environmental programs, as well as many other areas.

One critical area that you will be responsible for is the Department’s response to climate change.  Secretary Mattis has stated to this committee that “the Department should be prepared to mitigate any consequences of a changing climate” and we have seen  evidence that this is happening.  For example, heat waves can ground aircraft, sea-level rise interrupts work at our shipyards, wildfires and black flag training days can halt training on the ground, and in Alaska, early warning radar infrastructure has been moved due to coastal erosion that was not expected until 2030 and 2040.  The FY18 committee-passed  NDAA included an amendment I co-sponsored with Sens. Nelson, Shaheen, Kaine, and Warren which directs the Department to conduct a threat assessment on climate-related events.  The language requires that the Department deliver a master plan for implementation and adaptation to ensure the Department has the ability to operate in all environments and continues to plan responsibly for all contingencies.  The committee very much looks forward to the timely results of this threat assessment and plan.

Mr. Donovan, who is nominated to be Under Secretary of the Air Force, served a long and distinguished career with the Air Force before becoming a fine member of this Committee’s staff. 

Mr. Donovan, if you are confirmed by the full Senate, you will be faced with a number of critical issues that confront the Air Force.  Like the other services, the Air Force faces a difficult challenge in balancing its modernization needs against the costs of supporting ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The next Under Secretary of the Air Force will likely run the day-to-day operations of the Department, and will undoubtedly have other duties, such taking significant steps to build up the acquisition work force and maintain confidence in the Air Force acquisition system as we look to expand the size of the Air Force.  In addition, the next Under Secretary will also have to address the shortfall of pilots and maintainers by developing a retention plan. 

If confirmed, each of you will face significant challenges.  I commend your willingness to serve our nation. 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.