Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I also want to welcome General Hyten, his wife, Laura, and his children, Chris and Katie, to this morning’s hearing.
The purpose of this hearing is to focus on the duties of the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to closely scrutinize whether General Hyten’s previous service and experience qualify him to serve as the Vice Chairman.
General Hyten, over the past few weeks, a number of media outlets, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, have reported allegations that you sexually assaulted a subordinate under your command as the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command. These are serious allegations, and therefore, consistent with this Committee’s longstanding practices, we have held five Executive Sessions related to General Hyten’s nomination, totaling over 15 hours of testimony and deliberation. During those sessions, Members received sworn testimony on extremely sensitive matters and were able to ask questions, and review documents and background material. Members have been afforded the opportunity to request additional information from the Department, which we have done.
These Executive Sessions were the appropriate forum to consider this information, which enabled the Committee to utilize long-standing procedures that have served it, and the Senate, well for decades. The sessions allowed each Member to hear the viewpoint of our colleagues, even if that perspective was different from our own. Ultimately, that dialogue helped inform our Committee, and I appreciate the thoughtful consideration of every Member during this process. Finally, I want to thank the Chairman for ensuring that this Committee had sufficient time to conduct our review of these matters. Senator Inhofe has been extremely cooperative in this regard, and I appreciate it. Nevertheless, we must recognize the public nature of these allegations will likely raise questions today that are appropriate to an open session of this Committee.
Last week, the Senate confirmed General Mark Milley to be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. As General Milley testified, the international order established by the United States following World War II is under threat by authoritarian regimes seeking to challenge our country and our global interests. The new National Defense Strategy, or NDS, which the Department is currently implementing, will help posture the U.S to compete with a near peer competitor like China or Russia. As the Department pursues this new strategic direction, Iran and North Korea remain dangerous, and the threat posed by violent extremist organizations is not diminishing. Furthermore, the Department must continue to recruit and retain high caliber individuals, while restoring readiness, and pursuing new high-end capabilities for the force.
General Hyten, if confirmed as the Vice Chairman, you will be working closely with General Milley to address each of these issues, and I hope you will share your views on these topics with the Committee.
In addition, if confirmed, as the Vice Chairman you will serve a key role in the interagency process that often requires working closing with senior policy makers within the Department and at the National Security Council on critical national security issues. In light of the strategic challenges I referenced earlier, the committee looks forward to hearing from you on the effectiveness of the current interagency process.
Finally, the Vice Chairman is assigned a number of specific responsibilities within the Department. First, the Vice Chairman oversees the Joint Requirements Oversight Council (JROC), which reviews requirements for acquisition programs to ensure they are reasonable and necessary. Second, as a senior member of the Nuclear Weapons Council, the Vice Chairman plays a central role in ensuring the U.S. safely maintains its nuclear weapons stockpile. Finally, given your recent service as the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, if confirmed, I would expect that you would play an integral role in how the Department of Defense will address the threats posed by our near-peer adversaries in space.
I look forward to hearing more from General Hyten on how he will prioritize and execute each of these critical functions if confirmed as the Vice Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.