REED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I join you in welcoming Dr. Hicks to this morning’s hearing, and on behalf of the committee, I want to thank you for your willingness to return to public service.  In addition, I want to welcome your husband, Tom, who is with us this morning, and to acknowledge your children, who I am sure are proudly watching from home.  Finally, I want to recognize and thank former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who will be introducing Dr. Hicks this morning, along with our colleague, Senator Shaheen.

Dr. Hicks is a highly regarded national security and defense policy expert with extensive experience in government and the private sector.  She has served in senior level positions at the Department of Defense, as well as with public policy research organizations, including her recent tenure as a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

This committee has also relied on Dr. Hicks’ expertise to shape defense policy and conduct oversight.  Her testimony before this committee helped inform the Goldwater-Nichols reforms included in the FY 2017 NDAA, and she has also testified on civil-military relations.  Most recently, Dr. Hicks served as a member of the National Defense Strategy Commission, which provided valuable analysis for this committee’s consideration as we conducted oversight of NDS implementation.

If confirmed, Dr. Hicks would be the first woman confirmed by the Senate to serve as the Deputy Secretary of Defense.  She is exceptionally qualified for this position and her background and expertise should serve her well.

The Deputy Secretary of Defense position is complementary to the Secretary of Defense, and equally critical.  The Deputy is focused on the internal management of the Department, and it takes considerable skill to administer a large and diverse bureaucracy like the Department of Defense.  If done effectively, it can enable the Secretary to focus primarily on establishing defense policy and maintaining alliances and partnerships while developing strategy to counter our competitors. 

One of the most consequential decisions for the Deputy Secretary of Defense is how to allocate budget resources for the development of weapons platforms and cutting-edge technologies.  This year will be an inflection point in how the Department prioritizes the resources it needs to accomplish its missions, given that the Fiscal Year 2022 budget will not be constrained by the Budget Control Act (BCA).  Dr. Hicks, as we discussed during our office call, one of the primary challenges you will face is how to transform how the Department operates.

Transformation includes ensuring the Department is postured to face future threats which means harnessing cutting edge technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, biotechnology, and cybersecurity while also divesting of legacy systems that are not optimized for future combat.  But transformation also includes becoming more efficient in managing the “back office” of literally one of the largest bureaucracies in the world.

Transformation of the Defense Department is not new and has been tried before, but it inevitably faces obstacles.  One complication can be service parochialism, as each military service is responsible for the platforms that are needed to meet mission requirements, and each service has their favorites.  Such parochialism can also extend to the civilian components of the OSD staff, making efficiency initiatives difficult.  Also, the interests of individual members of Congress can also hinder change, particularly in the retirement of legacy systems.  Dr. Hicks, I hope you will share with this committee your thoughts on how you intend to manage this process, if you are confirmed.

The other issue you will need to immediately address is filling the civilian vacancies in the Department and revitalizing civil-military relations.  There are always multiple positions that need to be filled at the start of any new Administration.  However, I am concerned about the morale in the Department given that the previous administration made a concerted effort to leave multiple senior-level civilian offices unfilled, necessitating the installment of career or mid-level officials into senior positions in an acting capacity.  Furthermore, large numbers of experienced, career civilians left the Department during the past four years, leaving a dearth of expertise and increasing the workload on those who remained.

Secretary Austin has pledged his commitment to repairing civil-military relations and empowering civilians at all echelons of the Department, and if you are confirmed, you will be integral to this effort.

Finally, every member of this committee wants to ensure that high caliber candidates serve in the Department, and we will continue to fully evaluate, and expeditiously consider, nominees for these positions.  Filling these vacancies quickly and with capable and talented individuals will ensure the Department is operating effectively.  I want to thank Chairman Inhofe for working with me to schedule a prompt confirmation hearing for Dr. Hicks.  And Dr. Hicks, if you are confirmed, I hope you will work closely with Secretary Austin to fill these positions and provide steady leadership for the Department.

Dr. Hicks, we face many challenges that will require strong leadership and the ability to make tough decisions.  Thank you, again, for your willingness to serve our nation.