Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing to Consider Gen. James McConville to be Chief of Staff of U.S. Army
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome General McConville this morning, and to thank him for his many years of service to our nation. I would also like to acknowledge General McConville’s family who are here with us today. His wife, Maria, who is an Army veteran; his sons, Michael and Ryan, and his daughter Jessica, all of whom are captains in the Army; and his son-in-law Ryan, who is an Army staff sergeant. The entire McConville family exemplifies service to our nation, and we thank them for their continued sacrifice.
General McConville, your record of service is commendable and underscores your qualifications to be the Chief of Staff of the Army. As the current Vice Chief of Staff, you have been a key player in all aspects of the Army, from readiness to modernization.
If confirmed, you will oversee the Army at a time of long-term, strategic competition with both China and Russia. This strategic shift has implications for the Army, and it will require the Army to train for full spectrum operations and to field the equipment necessary for a high end fight. I would like to hear how the Army plans to balance the shift to a possible fight with a near peer adversary, while at the same time, continuing a counter-terrorism mission.
As the National Defense Strategy 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 also made major structural changes to expedite modernization across the force to include establishing cross functional teams for major modernization priorities, and exercising new acquisition authorities provided by Congress.
As I emphasized to Secretary Esper and General Milley when they testified before this committee on the Army’s recent budget request, delivering cutting edge capabilities to the warfighter under an expedited acquisition timeline is always a challenge. To do so while undergoing a major structural and cultural change makes this process even more complex. While I applaud the Army for taking a hard look at their acquisition processes, given the threats we face, we do not have a wide margin for mistakes.
General McConville, as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army you have been integral to these efforts. I am interested in how you intend to ensure the Army fields new capability on time and on budget, if confirmed as the Chief of Staff of the Army.
Modernized military platforms and upgraded equipment are necessary to prevail in a great power competition. But success against any adversary also requires that the Army build and maintain readiness levels. General McConville, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how the Army can make targeted investments in modernization while also restoring readiness levels. I would also like to know how you plan to prioritize rebuilding and sustaining readiness, if confirmed as the Chief of Staff of the Army.
Finally, the Army failed to meet their recruiting goals last year, and it is imperative that as the Army tackles this challenge, it address the reality that there is a declining pool of recruits who are both qualified under current enlistment standards and interested in serving. If you do not, you pay more and more for fewer and fewer recruits. This is not just an Army problem, it is a national security problem.
The national service commission we enacted in 2017 has as a charter mission the requirement to explore the “means by which to foster a greater attitude and ethos of service among United States youth.” Clearly, you have unique insight on some possible answers - all of your children followed you into the Army for which we are thankful. As a nation, we need to foster a greater propensity for public service among all our youth, and the Army must be part of that solution.
General McConville, thank you, again, for your willingness to serve our nation. I look forward to discussing these and other issues with you.