3/11/2020 — 

Thank you, Chairman Inhofe.  I want to join you in welcoming the Honorable Matthew Donovan, William Jordan Gillis, and Mr. Victor  Mercado to this morning’s hearing.  I would also like to acknowledge their families, we know they serve along with you.   

Secretary Donovan, your nomination is welcome.  The Department has not had a Senate-confirmed Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness since Secretary Wilkie departed in July of 2018.  With the wide range of the USD P&R’s responsibilities, it is imperative that we fill this position as soon as possible.  If you are confirmed, you will face many challenges in ensuring, first and foremost, that our military has adequate numbers of ready and trained service members, of sufficiently high character and talent, to meet national defense needs.  You will also be responsible for military and civilian personnel policy, military family and child care programs and the DOD-run school system.  Most importantly at this moment, you will be working with the military services to ensure the health and welfare of the force in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, especially those stationed overseas. 

Secretary Donovan is currently the Under Secretary of the Air Force, but we know him well owing to his tenure on the Senate Armed Services Committee as staff for Senator McCain and Senator Inhofe.  I also trust that his prior career has  prepared him well to take on these challenges.  I also trust that his prior career has prepared him well to take on these challenges.

Mr. Gillis, if confirmed, you would become the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment at a critical period for military families who are still struggling with a broken privatized housing system.  You would assume the role of Chief Housing Office for the Defense Department and would be responsible for implementing over thirty housing provisions in the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act.  It is imperative that these provisions are implemented fully and properly to restore trust and give our military families the housing they deserve.

Also related to the safety of our military installations, the FY20 NDAA included several new requirements that will shore up climate-related vulnerabilities in order to improve military installation resilience.  New requirements to use forward-looking projections in the planning and design of military construction projects will ensure taxpayer dollars are well spent on facilities that must last at least 40 or 50 years into the future.  If confirmed, Mr. Gillis, I look forward to working with you to ensure these military construction guidelines are put into place and are effective.

Mr. Mercado, you have been nominated to serve as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities. This is an important position that oversees the National Defense Strategy, as well as the development of global defense posture, and the review of campaign and contingency plans.  As you acknowledged in your opening statement, if confirmed, you will be instrumental in “re-invigorating the plans review process and guiding the capability development and force management processes.”

As you may know, Section 1708 of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act included a requirement for the Department of Defense to provide a report to Congress on the Department’s implementation of the National Defense Strategy, as well as conducting two independent studies on the development of joint operational concepts.  I believe this report will provide tremendous value to senior political and military leaders, and if confirmed, I trust that you will make this reporting requirement a priority. 

In addition, the Committee is concerned about the atrophy of analytical capabilities within the Department of Defense to support force development and planning processes.  I would welcome your thoughts on actions you will pursue, if confirmed, to strengthen analytic capability and expertise within the Department.

I again thank the nominees and I look forward to their testimony.  Thank you, Mr. Chairman.