John C. Rood, undersecretary of defense for policy, and Air Force Lt. Gen. David W. Allvin, the Joint Staff’s director for strategy, plans and policy, testify at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on strategic threats, ongoing challenges and National Defense Strategy implementation, Dec. 5, 2019.
Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony on strategic threats, ongoing challenges, and the National Defense Strategy. We’ll be talking a lot about the National Defense Strategy. We’ve already kind of acknowledged that something that’s kinda rare. We had the top leadership in the Democrats and the Republicans agreeing on certain things that have to be into the NDS and we’ve adhered to it, and it’s served us very well. Two years ago, the National Defense Strategy, NDS, shifted America’s military focus to a new era of great power competition. One year ago, the NDS Commission Report provided a bipartisan blueprint for effective implementation of the NDS. These documents demand tough choices to achieve urgent change at significant scale. We must reshape our military, reform the Department of Defense, and recommit to strengthening alliances and attracting new partners. This is exactly what our National Defense Authorization Act is designed to do. The good news is we’ve made progress toward this goal. The bad news is that we’ve got a long ways to go, especially as we look ahead to fiscal ’21 budget request. When it comes to tough choices, we’ve heard a lot about the Pentagon leaders about what they’re doing to implement the NDS. I’d like to hear more about what they’re not doing, what missions have been cut or are now a lower priority than they were. In fact, I’ll have one question at the time for questions of both of you on that subject. We’ve also heard a lot about the Pentagon leaders about prioritization of prioritizing China and Russia, but with 14 thousand troops deployed in the Middle East since May, we must ask if the urgency is, once again, over-weighing the important. I would comment on this. It’s true that 14 thousand troops have been over there, but this article that came out I think just yesterday saying an additional 14 thousand troops is something I had not heard, and, Senator Reed, I actually talked just recently as this morning to the Secretary of Defense, who denied this, but ask for some clarification on that from the witnesses today. I’d like to hear from the department about how it is prioritizing Russia and China. Prioritizing China and Russia means making tough choices, but we’re about where we send our forces in the world. Not every theater can be prioritized, but as we right-size our posture in theaters like Africa, places that have not had adequate attention in the past, we’ve gotta keep a lotta these things in mind. Defining an acceptable level of risk is never easy. People don’t understand, when you talk about risk, you’re talking about American lives, and you’ve got to face the risk as these decisions are being made. NDS implementation is not just a job for the Pentagon. It’s a job for Congress. The Defense Authorization and Appropriation Bills are critical to resourcing and overseeing the implementation of our strategy, whether it’s recovering readiness, modernizing our nuclear arsenal, investing in cutting edge technology, or making sure our troops and their families live in safe housing. We had a very large hearing that, just I think a few days ago, on this issue. I think it might’ve been the largest one I’ve ever attended, or chaired, anyway, on the housing issue, and it is a serious problem. That’s one more reason that we’ve got to get on with our Defense Authorization Bill. We’ve got some solutions to these problems that we’ve got to get started on, but, as we speak, Congress has failed to pass a Defense Authorization and Appropriation Bills on time. The NDAA is being held hostage to partisan politics. Worse yet, most remaining issues have nothing to do with defense. China isn’t waiting for us to get our act together. China is increasing their military spending. You know, we had, during the last five years of the Obama administration, using constant dollars, we actually reduced our defense appropriations by 25%, and, at the same time, China was increasing by 83%. People are shocked when they find that, that it’s a fact, and it’s something that we’re gonna have to deal with, so let’s get real. If we’re serious about competing with China and Russia, we have to show that our democracy can give our troops what they need and when they need it. And, finally, the Pentagon and Congress need to do a better job including the American people in this conversation. During the Cold War, I think we did a good job during the Cold War, and we had people fully aware of the problems that we’re facing, and they were controllable problems, but the people were aware of the threat that we’re facing, and it’s been my personal experience that that is not true today, and that’s one of the areas where we need improvement. Senator Reed.
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our witnesses, and I also thank the chairman for scheduling this important hearing to review the strategic threats and ongoing challenges to our national security. Today’s hearing is an opportunity to hear from our military leadership about how the department is implementing the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, to meet these threats and challenges. The NDS marked a shift in our strategic priorities, from a focus on counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East and South Asia to prioritizing the longterm strategic competition with Russia and China. The NDS called for increased investment in the strategic competition with near peer competitors while moving to a more resource-sustainable approach for countering North Korea and Iran, defeating terrorist threats, and winning the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. The department’s begun to shift its focus to these strategic competition issues, but much remains to be done. As the independent non-partisan National Defense Strategy Commission assessed, the Defense Department and White House have struggled to clearly state how the United States will prevail in this strategic competition and still lack a whole-of-government approach for countering our adversaries in gray zone operations below the level of traditional military conflict. In addition, the administration’s impulses to alienate allies and embrace authoritarian strongmen have undercut our military’s ability to pursue a coherent defense strategy and have undermined US national security interests globally. In the Middle East, there is a clear disconnect between the objective stated in the NDS and our recent actions in the region. Despite the NDS shift to a more resource-sustainable approach to threats posed by Iran and counter-terrorism, we have deployed more than 14 thousand troops to that region since May. In the case of Iran, the administration has pursued a so-called maximum pressure campaign that has only succeeded in isolating us from many of our allies, making conflict more likely, and given Iran cover to violate constraints placed on its nuclear program by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Furthermore, Defense Department efforts to consolidate counter-terrorism gains by the Anti-ISIS Coalition have suffered a major setback as a result of the administration’s hasty withdrawal of US forces from a Turkish declared safe zone in northeast Syria and abandonment of our partners in the Syrian Democratic Forces. With regard to Russia, the National Defense Strategy stresses that one of our greatest military advantages is our alliances and partnerships, particularly NATO. A bipartisan overwhelming majority of the Senate has endorsed the fundamental value of NATO to the US national security interest. Yet, the President’s failure to recognize the security benefits of these transatlantic ties and his diversion, for example, of European Deterrence Initiative funds to pay for the wall along the US southern border, has caused some of our allies to openly question the reliability of the United States as we go forward. Turning to Asia, the National Defense Strategy identifies China as our most challenging longterm competitor. China’s global economic and military expansion will challenge US primacy in the decades to come. We can no longer assume we will have economic leverage over China, yet I fear we are not developing the tools of statecraft to adequately address the significant national security implications of China’s economic rise. Even in Western democracies, the space to criticize China’s aggression and human rights violations is narrowing. China is willing to punish any country that criticizes the authoritarian and course of activities, whether it is the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Uyghurs in Western China or political interference in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In addition, we are spending pennies on the dollar compared to China’s multi-billion dollar propaganda campaign to whitewash its behavior in the public sphere. We need to be working with like-minded allies and partners to push back on China’s coercive behavior, human rights violations and predatory economic tactics targeting the sovereignty of its small neighbors, and we have to work much closely with our partners, particularly in the Pacific with Japan and Korea, rather than engaging, as we are of present, in discussions about increased burden-sharing and other aspects of our relationship. Again, let me thank our witnesses for their service and for their testimony today, and I look forward to the testimony. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Senator Reed. We will now hear from our witnesses, and try to keep your remarks down to about five minutes ’cause we won’t have time for all of our questions to be asked, and we’ll start with you, Secretary Rood.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Ranking Member Reed, other members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today. I look forward to discussing DoD’s efforts to implement the National Defense Strategy, or NDS, in an era of great power competition, and addressing your questions, along with Lieutenant General Allvin. I have a longer statement, Mr. Chairman, that I ask be included in the record, and I’ll just summarize it here.
[Inhofe] Without objection.
The fundamental problem we face today, as identified in the NDS, is the erosion of US competitive military advantage, vis a vis China and Russia. While continuing to address threats from rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea and violent extremist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda, it’s critical that we continue our work to reverse this trend to regain our competitive advantage, especially in high-end warfare. Doing so will ensure the United States can continue to deter aggression and coercion from those that would seek to supplant the United States and challenge the free and open international system that supports our freedom and democracy. The NDS remains the guidepost for our department. Secretary Esper and his management team are taking action to reinforce the strategy and his predecessor’s efforts by structuring and overseeing implementation efforts within the department to focus on great power competition and war-fighting today and tomorrow. We are actively assessing the threat environment and our progress towards NDS priorities and refining our planning and resourcing efforts. To this end, the department recognizes it’s one piece of a larger puzzle. The DoD supports inter-agency partners to contest China and Russia’s maligned diplomatic, informational, economic, and military efforts to undermine global security and reshape the rules-based international order in their favor. This endeavor is dependent on cooperation with allies and partners to ensure regional balances of power remain favorable. The department’s primary job is to provide combat-credible forces to deter war or to win, should deterrence fail. Bolstering our military’s deterrent capability is, therefore, job number one. Since the NDS launch, the department has made significant progress to modernize and restore high-end readiness in the joint force towards this purpose, as evidenced in the President’s FY20 budget submission. For example, the FY20 budget requested $14.1 billion to maintain our edge in space. The administration also submitted a proposal to Congress to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the armed forces to focus and accelerate establishment of space doctrine, capabilities, and expertise to outpace future threats. With congressional approval, the department also created an operational command, United States Space Command, focused on the daily operations of our space assets and war-fighters. The President’s FY20 budget also requested $9.6 billion for cyber capabilities, which would be a 10% increase over the FY19 budget if approved. We’re investing $3.7 billion in capabilities for our cyber forces, including teams focused on stopping cyber threats outside US networks. Within the past year, DoD has published a new classified cyber strategy, we have completed the Cyber Posture Review, which looked at our gaps and shortcomings, and we’ve revamped our authorities and continued to build out the Cyber Mission Force, and there are more examples that are in my written testimony. We must continue to balance this prioritization of great power competition with ongoing operations globally that affect military resourcing and readiness, including the challenges posed by Iran, Syria, North Korea, and terrorism. Investments alone, however, will not deter China and Russia. Great power competition also means DoD must develop new concepts and organizational approaches for force employment and design, posture, and war-fighting. DoD is building increased flexibility and responsiveness into our global force posture, allowing us to dynamically flow strategic capabilities to hot spots on short notice. The department is also strengthening and leveraging the US network of allies and partners. This network is a pillar of the National Defense Strategy and one of our greatest strategic advantages. As our competitors seek to advance their own revisionist view of the world consistent with their authoritarian model, we understand their strategies involve isolating and trying to gain leverage over countries through predatory approaches and intimidation. In some cases, bolstering defense relationships does necessitate hard conversations with allies on things like burden-sharing and targeted capability development as we take steps together to address shared challenges. Our allies are stepping up their efforts. Just this week, NATO announced that 2019 defense spending by allies increased in real terms by 4.6%, the fifth consecutive year of growth. By the end of 2020, allies will have invested $130 billion more than they did in 2016, and this accumulated increase in defense spending is projected by NATO’s Secretary General Stoltenberg to rise to four hundred billion dollars by 2024. As Secretary General Stoltenberg said, quote, “This is unprecedented progress, “and it is making NATO stronger,” end quote. In the Indo-Pacific, DoD is strengthening and evolving US partnerships. For example, with India, we are committed to a common vision for a US-India major defense partnership that we will advance at the 2+2 ministerial on December 18th. We’ve agreed to expand military-to-military cooperation and improve interoperability, including by establishing a new tri-service amphibious exercise, Tiger Triumph. Additionally, no country in Southeast Asia does more than Singapore to enable a US-forward presence in the region. More than a hundred US ships and eight hundred to a thousand US aircraft transit through Singapore each year. In Vietnam, we’re building a productive defense relationship and overcoming the legacy of the Vietnam War. Last year, the United States Navy conducted the first US aircraft carrier visit since the Vietnam War, but we’ve also transferred a high-endurance Coast Guard cutter, and Secretary Esper announced two weeks ago in Hanoi that the United States would be transferring a second high-endurance cutter to Vietnam. DoD is also investing $521 million over the next five years in programs like the Maritime Security Initiative to build the capacity of our partners in the region, including to conduct maritime security and maritime domain awareness operations and advance interoperability with US forces. So, Mr. Chairman, lemme say, in conclusion, the NDS represents a major shift. We still have important work ahead of us to design a more lethal, resilient, and ready force, solve tough operational problems, build a combat-credible forward presence, and to work with allies and partners. The NDS remains our guidepost, and we’re determined to deliver on its priorities. Thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this morning.
Thank you; so, General Allvin?
Chairman Inhofe, Ranking Member Reed, and distinguished members of the committee, good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I appreciate the chance to update you on the global strategic challenges and National Defense Strategy implementation. As the secretary’s National Defense Strategy details the global strategic challenges and provides the guidance for the entire department, the National Military Strategy describes how the joint force implements that direction. In addition to addressing our great power competitors, it provides the joint force with the guidance that crosswalks the mission areas of assuring and strengthening allies and partners, competing below the level of armed conflict, deterring conventional attacks, deterring strategic attacks, and responding to threats, and great power competition remains the joint force priority, demanding that we make planning, force employment, force development, and force design decisions that ensure longterm US competitive advantage against the revisionist powers of China and Russia. The joint force is addressing these challenges by focusing on building a more lethal force, modernizing our key capabilities, and strengthening our alliances and partnerships. However, the joint force must remain postured to respond to more than just those priority challenges. For example, the dynamic threats within US Central Command AOR jeopardize the regional stability and demand focus as well. Dealing with these threats has resulted in the reallocation of some resources within the year of execution with potential ripple effects on readiness across the future year’s defense program. This creates a strategic tension between our response to emergent threats and our ability to sustain investments in future readiness and that competitive advantage. Addressing this tension is a continuous and dynamic endeavor. Underpinning the joint forces’ approach to this strategic environment of today and tomorrow is the foundation of global integration. Simply put, the character of wars change, adversaries operate across regions and domains, and they seek gaps and seams that they can exploit to gain asymmetric advantage. On the joint staff, we’re adapting our processes and our products to adjust to this reality, and we’re working closely with the OSD staff to ensure that our efforts are complementary and mutually support the implementation of the National Defense Strategy. With the support of all the services and all the combatant commands, we have completed three what we call globally-integrated base plan reviews and are currently conducting a fourth. These reviews look beyond just the typical single-contingency plan and view the potential conflicts from a global perspective, accounting for the global nature of the threat as well as understanding the activities outside the main conflict area that will compete for resources. With the completion of each review, we have incorporated lessons learned into the department’s NDS implementation efforts and identify tasks to improve readiness on a global scale. In his role as a global integrator, Chairman Milley remains focused on capturing a comprehensive review informed by the combatant commanders and the joint chiefs so that he may provide military advice to Secretary Esper and the President that reflects the global nature of the threats and the inherent tensions that exist across geographic boundaries and time horizons. Once again, thank you for the opportunity to speak today, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
Well, thank you both. In my opening remarks, I referred to the 14 thousand and then what I believe was an erroneous article in a newspaper. Do you wanna clarify that for us, Secretary Rood?
Yes, Senator, that is a erroneous item. First, we are observing Iran’s behavior with concern. As you know, in recent months, they’ve conducted some attacks on shipping, on the Saudi oil facilities and on a American UAV. We continue to see threat reporting that concerns us as well. We have deployed 14 thousand troops over the last six months, many of those on ships and air bases and other things in the region, so, the secretary and others, we’re continuing to look at that threat picture and have the ability to dynamically adjust our force posture, but we haven’t made a decision to deploy an additional 14 thousand troops.
Okay, that’s clarification. We had a lotta calls on that, and I appreciate that. To both of you, we know that some of the missions will have to be scaled back and some programs will be cut, but they need to be the right missions and the right programs. We don’t want a repeat of the past where we cut programs like the F-22, and, ever since then, we’ve knew that we made a mistake, and we gave up long-range artillery only to realize our mistake years later, so can you give us specific examples of missions or programs that DoD has already either scaled back or are planning to scale back in the future?
Well, Senator, as you know, we are investing additional resources in new areas in investment, and I highlighted some of those in my prepared, written testimony for things like hypersonics, artificial intelligence, directed energy. There are some older legacy systems where the department has made decisions, the services have made decisions not to pursue them. For example, last year in the budget request, the Navy chose to move forward with new aircraft and retire older ones, F/A-18 C and D models as an example. The Navy made a decision not to move forward with additional Nimitz-class and instead to look to the future, Nimitz-class carriers, I should say, and there are other examples like that in the Army and Air Force where decisions were made for older legacy systems to purchase fewer of them or to phase them out in favor of newer capabilities for the future.
You know, this is a little off-subject, but it’s closely related, and, when I look at our general, I recall the time that you were the commander of Altus Air Force Base, and right down the road at Fort Sill, we were undergoing all kinds of problems at that time. The Crusader, I’ll never forget. We were all prepared, ready to go. “Oh, it’s gonna be good.” We spent two billion dollars when it was axed. Then, the Future Combat System came up, same thing, and, in fact, you were there at the time, not that you had anything to do with it ’cause you were next door, but, nonetheless, that was $20 billion, but that’s the kinda thing that we have to make sure that doesn’t happen again. Hopefully, we learned the lesson. We can’t keep up business as usual with our competitors, especially China, because of the threat of changing so quickly. For example, few predicted the spread of China’s overseas military presence, starting in Djibouti. Prior to that, most of the activity began within the city limits there of China. This is where everything was starting. It was Djibouti, the first time that actually they started such an effort in a foreign country. Now, that has spread all the way down as far south as Tanzania and other places. Then, you skip over and you see what they’re doing at the same time in the South China Sea. We had a group of us, who are some of us up at this dais, that were over there observing when they first started all the building of the islands and these things. You have to wonder where they come up with all these resources. How can they continue to do this all over? A lotta times, people who are adverse to supporting a strong defense will come up, and they’ll talk about how China and Russia together don’t spend half of what we spend over here, but the biggest expense, as we well know, is in strength. It’s our people. After last week’s hearing on how we’re taking so much of a concern over our people, they don’t have that problem. They give ’em a gun and say, “Go out and kill people.” So, anyway, that’s something that is of a great concern, and I know that you are concentrating your efforts there, and that’s justly where you should be doing that. Thank you for that. Senator Reed.
Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and, as the NDS has indicated, Russia is now one of our major peer competitors, and some of the most sophisticated techniques they’re using are the hybrid warfare, not direct conventional conflict but hybrid warfare, and, the most relevant example, that is the 2016 election. We’ve had three independent analyses. Our intelligence community, the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee, and also the Mueller Report concluding that there was, in the words of Mueller, “sweeping in a systematic fashion “involvement of Russia in hybrid operations “with the intent of affecting the outcome of our election.” Indeed, the public reports in 2018, based upon national defense tact authorization, CyberCom took offensive actions to disrupt these operations, so one issue that’s come kinda recently into focus is whether or not the 2016 election was interfered with in the manner described by the intelligence community. Secretary Rood, do you concur with the intelligence community, the Intelligence Committee of the Senate and the Mueller commission that this was done in a systematic way with the purpose of disrupting our election?
Senator, the intelligence community concluded that Russia had an effort to influence the 2016 elections, as you know. As I’ve testified before, I have no reason to question the intelligence community’s judgment. I didn’t serve in government at that time, but I assume that their conclusions are accurate and endorse them.
And, also, it prompted, in some respects, given our authorization, the activities of CyberCom before the 2018 election. Is that accurate?
Yes, sir. As you know, prior to the midterm elections last year, the various organs of government, led by the Department of Homeland Security, had a concerted effort to protect those elections from outside interference. The Defense Department played a much larger role than in the past, led by Cyber Command, and while the particulars are classified, I would say we made no secret of the fact prior to the election we were going to do that, and one of the areas I find quite satisfying is, if you look back in all of our memories of how did we regard those elections, we regard them by their results. That’s the main thing everyone is focused on, and there’s a reason that the results happened without interference, and we’re very proud of the work of the United States government to ensure that.
And you are prepared, the Department of Defense is prepared or anticipating that the Russians will be engaged in this 2020 election?
We certainly hope they will not do that, but we’re prepared for that eventuality, and we are engaging with our other inter-agency partners to provide capability.
Lemme turn to Syria now. The Defense Intelligence Agency made an assessment, in their words, that, “ISIS has exploited the Turkish incursion “and subsequent draw-down of US troops in northeastern Syria “to reconstitute its capabilities and resources, “both within Syria in the short-term “and globally in the longterm.” That’s one conclusion. Second conclusion, “ISIS will likely use the security vacuum “in Northeast Syria to target the West “because will likely have more time and space “to plan attacks and provide support “to its 19 global branches and networks,” and, finally, their conclusion, “Absent counter-terrorism pressure in Syria, “ISIS would probably have an opportunity “to regain control of some Syrian population centers “and to be better postured to launch external attacks “and expand its global footprint.” Again, Secretary Rood, do you agree with those assessments by DIA?
And is it adequate, the residual US presence that we have in country to thwart those aspirations by ISIS?
Well, time will tell, but where we are at right now is that we’ve made some adjustments, as Secretary Esper and others have noted. We have a residual presence there. As he mentioned yesterday, about six hundred troops will stay. A key thing to mention, Senator, is our campaign in Syria is by, with, and through our Syrian democratic allies, and, there, we are working very closely with those partners to improve their capabilities, and counter-ISIS operations are underway, but our key strength of our effort will be the degree to which we can enable our partner force to continue those activities backed by US and other allied capabilities, but we do intend to continue the Defeat ISIS mission, sir.
Just a final question as my time expires, one of the factors that was introduced by the withdrawal was at least discussions between the Syrian regime and the SDF Kurdish forces for some, if not cooperation, at least less antagonism, lemme put it that way. Have you sensed that the SDF is in play, IE between the Syrian regime supporting them and continuing working with us?
We are aware that the SDF has been engaging in dialogue with the Syrian regime. They’ve told us about that. That’s part of the benefit of the partnership is that they are open with us. That’s a matter for the SDF to make their own decisions, and, after all, these are people who are from Syria. They live in Syria, they were born there, raised there. Their self-identity is as Syrians, and so it would be natural that they would want to live in a Syrian state. From our perspective in the United States, our partnership is about the defeat of ISIS with those folks, but we are aware of and understand that they’re having this type of dialogue with the Syrian regime.
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Inhofe] Senator Fischer.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary, the National Defense Strategy Commissions Report recommended between a three and a 5% annual real growth in defense spending would be necessary to adequately resource the NDS. That report was released about a year ago, and, since then, we’ve passed a budget deal that keeps defense spending essentially flat between FY20 and FY21. Also, we are still on a continuing resolution almost a quarter of the way through the fiscal year, and we still don’t have a Defense Authorization Bill. First, do you believe that we will be able to meet the goals of the NDS on flat budgets?
We are planning for a situation that we’re likely to face with flat budgets as our planning assumption. Obviously, additional funds make it easier to do things than fewer funds, but the administration understands there are a number of things in play, and so what we’ve been allocated from the Office of Management and Budget and others is a certain portion of the overall federal budget, and we’re planning for something that will be flat.
And will the goals be met in the NDS within the timeframe of it?
Well, that’s the challenge before us, and you mentioned continuing resolutions. That’s one of the things that makes it much more difficult. In addition to having to live in this present case at $19 billion dollars at the continuing resolution level below last year’s funding level, it’s also highly disruptive to the planning and operation and substantially reduces, by the time you’re done with the year, the purchasing power of the government. A hundred dollars doesn’t buy a hundred dollars’ worth of products at the end of the year if provided later in the fiscal year and with the disruption caused by CRs.
I know the department’s looking to generate savings by reorienting resources away from activities that don’t support NDS, is that correct?
That is correct. We are trying to emphasize the priorities in the NDS much more substantially than those that are lower priorities and items, and one of the virtues of the NDS is it does make hard choices.
Can you talk about the role that you play in that effort? Is there policy direction that guides determinations about whether missions or activities support the NDS?
There is policy guidance that has a bearing on that, although I am certainly not the only stakeholder that has an influence on that. In the department, there are quite a few officials that play very substantial roles—
Has that been given to the services and the combatant commands on how they should prioritize their activities?
Yes, from the Secretary of Defense, I would add, Senator. Not from me individually. The Secretary of Defense each year promulgates guidance that my office takes the lead in preparing for him for those resource allocations.
[Fischer] And that’ll be true of the FY21 budget as that is being built as well?
Looking at the realities of revenue and making tough decisions on how we can even implement the NDS?
General Allvin, can you talk about the joint chiefs’ role in this process?
Yes, Senator, so the chairman really gathers the inputs from the combatant commands as they understand through the National Military Strategy with the guidance of the NDS on how they would execute those priorities and the requirements that they have. The joint chiefs also heavily participate as they have feet in both camps, understanding the organized training equipped in their Title 10, but understanding the requirements of the combatant commands. Now, there is an extensive series of dialogues that go through, you probably heard of the tanks. We have a tank process. It’s a bureaucratic process that terminates with the chairman with the joint chiefs and all of the combatant commanders discussing those priorities in the context, those combatant command priorities in the context of the overall National Defense Strategy. When we talk about global integration, this is, as I mentioned in my opening comments, this is why it’s critical for the chairman to be able to have that comprehensive view so when he makes a recommendation to the secretary, it really is understanding the entirety of the NDS and some of those hard choices that Secretary Rood alluded to, so there is a strong advisory role and a continuous dialogue with the joint chiefs.
And as we move forward and look at really the importance of having that joint command between all of our services in dealing with the challenges we face in this world, I hope you will all come before this committee and stress the needs that we have for the resources in order to meet those challenges. Thank you.
[Inhofe] Senator Shaheen?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Secretary Rood and General Allvin, for being here and for your service to the country. During the NATO meetings this week, President Trump suggested that one of the biggest threats to the world is nuclear weapons. At least, that’s what I inferred him to say, and he mentioned that Russia wants to make a deal on arms control. What’s DoD’s position on the extension of the New START Treaty, which could be done anytime before it expires in February 2021 just by mutual agreement without needing to come back to Congress?
Senator, at DoD, we work in support of the broader government approach on this area, and, as the President said, his desire is to negotiate a nuclear arms deal with both Russia and China that would limit arsenals, and so we have been in support of that broader objective, and the State Department takes the lead there. With respect to your question on New START, of course, it expires, as you mentioned, in February of 2021, so we do have some time until that time, and in accordance with the terms of the treaty, it may be extended by mutual agreement of the parties. No need to renegotiate the portions of the treaty, simply to agree on the period of time from zero to five years that it would be extended by mutual agreement.
So why would we not wanna go ahead and extend New START before it expires and allow ourselves the time to continue to negotiate with China with some of the other issues that we would like to bring in to any new arms control agreement, which will take a significant amount of time? As I remember, the negotiations around New START were over two years long. So why would that not be beneficial to the United States because it would continue not just the opportunities it gives us for transparency to look at the verification pieces that are part of New START with what Russia is doing but also to try and keep the weapons limits at what they are today under the treaty?
Well, Senator, if the United States were to agree to extend the treaty now, I think it would make less likely that we would have the ability to persuade Russia and China to enter negotiations on a broader agreement. China has not participated in these similar arms control agreements, as you know, in the past. We do retain time until February 2021. To state the obvious, today it’s 2019, and so there wouldn’t need to be a lot of negotiation required if there was a decision by the United States and Russia to extend the treaty. It’s just merely agreeing on the time period.
But Russia has also suggested that they’re interested in doing that, and, if we’re both interested, then we could work together to try and bring China in, so I will not ask you to respond again because you’ve indicated your position on it, but it just seems to me like it would make sense for us to give ourselves more time to negotiate, and the suggestion that we can’t extend it, I think, is sort of a red herring, but I wanna go to South Korea and Japan. I think, would you agree that those are our two strongest allies in the Far East?
I would agree they’re very strong allies in the Far East.
Reports have suggested that the administration has asked for more than a five-fold increase in payments from South Korea in the Special Measures Agreement negotiations and that one of the things we’ve seen, I think there’s some suggestion that there’s a correlation, is that it has produced some demonstrations in South Korea against the United States and our continued presence in South Korea and that there are reports that, if we can’t agree on the cost-sharing negotiations, that the Pentagon may pull out a brigade from Korea. Can you comment on that? Is that accurate, and what’s your assessment of the situation there?
Senator, on the points you made about potentially withdrawing troops, Secretary Esper addressed that in public remarks within the last few days stating that that is not accurate, and that is not something that we are planning to do. With respect to the negotiations, there are negotiations, I would point out they’re led by the State Department, on a Special Measures Agreement, the next version of it, and while the specifics of it, I won’t go into in public forum and in open forum, it is fair to say the United States is asking our allies to increase the portion of the burden that they bear, but I do wanna hasten to add the Republic of Korea has been a close and long-standing partner of the United States. We enjoy a very good, very close military-to-military relationship. That is very, very important to us in the Pentagon and the United States to preserve the vitality of that, as the Koreans like to say, and it’s very unique, as you know, to have a combined command between the RoK forces and US forces, and they are the ones with much larger forces on the Korean peninsula, and so, as our Korean colleagues like to say, the saying of the command is, “We go together,” and that is our approach.
Well, I’m glad to hear you say that and appreciated your remarks in your opening statement about the importance of our allies helping to ensure our national security. I think it would be disappointing if we couldn’t reach an agreement with South Korea on the sharing of the cost of keeping troops there and supporting security, both for us and for South Korea.
I fully agree, and I believe it’s the Senate custom to say, “I associate myself with those remarks, Senator.”
[Shaheen] Thank you, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and, gentlemen, thank you very much for being here today. This is a very important hearing. As we know, America’s place in the world is being threatened, of course, by our peer adversaries, and they have spent decades studying us, studying our behaviors. All the while, they’ve been able to modernize their forces and continually improve their own war-fighting doctrine, so it is really incumbent that we do everything we can to maintain our military and our technological edge, and I’d like to focus in a little bit on that through my line of questioning. As we’re doing that, the technologies that I’d like to focus on, things that I’ve been very interested in, of course, artificial intelligence, making sure that we are acquiring the right systems, and, of course, making sure that, while we are doing that, we are also eliminating waste and protecting our taxpayer dollars. That will be important as we move forward because we struggle in Congress with things like, this year, passing the National Defense Authorization Act and getting a spending bill for Department of Defense approved and passed, so we do have to get that done. We owe that to our service members, so I’d like to start again by discussing some of these issues and tying them to spending. I have said over and over again, we can be both a defense hawk and a fiscal hawk. I think that’s really important. Now, Mr. Rood and General, you have discussed some of the programs that the services are cutting back on. You mentioned the F/A-18 Charlie and Delta, the Nimitz-class carriers and other legacy systems, but are we seeing any obstacles to doing that, retiring legacy systems, and I’d like to focus a little bit on our inability to pass a spending bill and how that ties to a continuing resolution. How can we retire legacy systems when we can’t invest in the new types of technologies that we need? We can’t start new programs. Mr. Secretary, could you address that please?
Well, Senator, you’re exactly right. That’s one of the substantial problems with the continuing resolutions, particularly if they extend for continuing periods of time, because hard decisions are made on different budget choices, and, believe me, that’s a very vigorous debate inside the Pentagon, but to get to the point where hard decisions are made to retire older systems to begin moving forward with new systems, you’re prohibited from doing that, as you know, in New START under continuing resolutions. Secondly, the delay in time in the fiscal year, if the money is approved, let’s say, at a halfway point of the fiscal year, from the time that we complete then the apportionment of it within the executive branch to the time it reaches the program manager to get to the right vendors to do the work, there is a substantial time lag, then, which reduces the amount of time to actually do the transformation to do the work, and this is why I say it reduces the purchasing power of the United States substantially, and we everyday in the Defense Department write thousands of contracts, thousands of change orders. Each and every time there is a change to those funding authorities, contracting people, like a giant machine, are churning out things to accommodate for each and every one of those changes, and it’s a enormous amount of work that is disruptive, and so predictable, stable funding is quite valued.
Yeah, so it sounds like we put you in a very difficult position when we can’t get these spending bills done. General Allvin, again, talking about things that I think would improve efficiency within the DoD, things like artificial intelligence, quantum computing, our near peer adversaries like Russia and China have really focused on those types of technologies. Can you talk a little bit about where we can see savings, cost savings, if we were to use things like artificial intelligence?
[Allvin] Senator, I think a couple examples come to mind, but I think I’d also like to talk a little bit about the actual war-fighting advantages—
Which is significant. On the savings part, obviously, there are certain things we are doing, whether it be in the entire intelligence scheme of thing where there are man hours that are being committed to analyzing things that, perhaps, through recognition software and other algorithms, can do the things that machines can do that can limit the humans to do the things that only humans can do through our cognitive domain, which would save massive amounts of resources in time and human resources, but also with respect to the capabilities that it provides, you mentioned in your opening, Senator, that they’ve spent decades studying what we’ve done, and so when we look at where our adversaries are going, they’re trying to take advantage of doing things early before we can take our forces and get ready to deploy in a very decisive operation, so speed is key, so the idea that artificial intelligence can aid us in decision speed and in execution speed, it puts us inside of their decision loops and puts them on the horns of dilemmas with decision paralysis, if you will. That is very, very key because this 21st century warfare that we’re leaning into with these two competitors is gonna be largely about who can generate speed, tempo, and agility and resilience, and that artificial intelligence and some of these other capabilities are part and parcel and central to that proposition.
Outstanding, exceptional response, General. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
[Inhofe] Senator Heinrich?
[Heinrich] Secretary Rood, did I hear you correctly that our counter-ISIS, our Syria strategy, is by, with, and through our partner force?
The administration abandoned our partner force. I don’t understand how you can say that with a straight face. How did it impact our strategy to stand down as the Turks pushed our Kurdish allies out of northern Syria?
Senator, what I would say to you is, as we speak, we are continuing our partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces, and, in fact, in recent days, have conducted combined operations—
How has that impacted our credibility as we stood down while Turkish forces pushed our allies out of northern Syria? Did it positively impact our strategy in the region?
What I would say to you is that we have maintained our relationship with the SDF. When the Turks were preparing to conduct their military operation into Syria, wanna be clear, we discouraged the Turks from taking that military operation—
[Heinrich] Was that effective?
Well, I would say, Senator, the Turks began threatening to do that incursion a year ago, and we engaged in this sort of discouragement, and so it was effective for much of the year, but ultimately, regrettably—
I would make the point that, if this is how we treat our allies, that it sends a very dangerous message to our allies and our partners in the region if this is how we stand up for them when the chips are down. Lieutenant General Allvin, I could not agree more with what you said about artificial intelligence, so one of the things I’m concerned about is, given the theft of intellectual property that we’ve seen from some of our near peer competitors, how does the Pentagon make sure that the things that we develop to get inside those decision feedback loops, that those don’t simply get stolen as open, particularly when open source algorithms are put on the web, that we don’t develop the leading-edge technology and simply see that adopted by our competitors?
Senator, I can speak somewhat to that, I think, because, largely, it becomes a relationship between us and the Defense Industrial Base, so I don’t know if the secretary has anything to add to this, but it really becomes understanding this relationship about what is there in the commercial industry that, in and of itself, doesn’t qualify as classified, but, when it’s aggregated with others, can put together pieces that, in the aggregate, can be classified. I know that, within the department, with the DoD CIO and our Joint Staff J6 working very hard to understand where those gaps might be, to work with policy on how we may be able to work with the other elements of OSD to be able to, when we interact with industry, have them have a better understanding of the part that they play in the whole where they may be unwitting or certainly not malign in their intent but that their activities, when put together with other activities, generate that threat. That is something we’ve been seriously working on, and I don’t know if Secretary has anything to add to that.
Yeah, only that, Senator, as you know, there’s a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center that the department has stood up, headed by a three-star general, that has the primary responsibility for this, and the challenge you mentioned is one of the things that they are certainly trying to address.
It seems to me that the place we should be moving fast is with regard to AI today as imaging. You know, when you have a human being looking at images for hours and hours, it gets harder and harder for a human to focus whereas, when AI looks at images, it’s clear that it actually learns and gets better over time. How effectively are we employing the kind of artificial intelligence that is straightforward, that we know works, particularly with regard to imaging, so that we can save those human eyes for when it really matters?
Senator, I know that that is one of the things that has been looked at and work is underway. I have to say, it’s beyond my area of responsibility to exactly that. I will say, though, on your general point, you’re exactly correct. I began my career as an imagery analyst in the intelligence community and literally spent all day looking at images, and I can say every time I discovered something new, the first thing I did after I got the a-ha moment was go back in time because I was certain I’d missed it before, and to see where I had been able to find that because I believe I was taught in school, you probably were too, to find a trend, you needed at least three points to draw a straight line, and so by the time the third or fourth one registered in your mind that there was a pattern of activity, I went backwards, and so artificial intelligence holds substantial promise. In terms of your specific question, as to how much work the department’s doing in that area, we would have to check with the JAIC folks and others to get a response to you, sir.
I would appreciate that, thank you.
Thanks, both of you, for being here. We all watched over last, I guess it started in the summer, of the protest in Hong Kong, and then Congress rightfully passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, and then, I guess, the first thing that China has done, communist China has done since is not allow our Navy vessels into Hong Kong. How do you think any of those actions, what the protest did, what the President’s signing of the bill, and China’s actions with regard to not allowing military ships into Hong Kong, how’s that gonna change the dynamic in that part of the world?
Well, I’ll start, and, General Allvin, if you have anything to add, please do. With respect to the port visit by a US carrier and others, we were disappointed that the Chinese indicated that they would not allow for that in Hong Kong, but I would hasten to add this is not the first time that we’ve experienced this. Chinese government periodically over the years has either allowed or not allowed port visits that we’ve requested by our naval vessels, so in that sense it was not note-worthy in its denial, but, nonetheless, we obviously made the request, and we would like to conduct those visits. I think we’re watching, all of us, with concern, what’s going on in Hong Kong, and certainly the President was supportive of the legislation passed by the Congress or he would not have signed it, and so the concern that we have about seeing the aspirations and the rights of the people they respect is certainly strong, and now, I would hasten to add, it’s the primary mission of the State Department that they’ve taken the lead on that, but we in the Defense Department are watching that very carefully.
With regard to Taiwan, what should we be doing that we’re not doing to make sure we continue to support them so hopefully China will not take any military action against Taiwan? What else should we be doing that we’re not doing, and how else can we be supportive, and is there anything Congress should be doing to be supportive of Taiwan?
Certainly consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act, we are continuing to provide armaments and other training to our colleagues in Taiwan. That remains an important area to deter potential attack, to support, as the Taiwan Relations Act identifies, the legitimate defense needs of the people in Taiwan, and so we continue with that activity in addition to the work directly with the Taiwan authorities. Of course, we in the Defense Department are doing a number of things in and around that region to make clear that, for instance, freedom of navigation must be continued to demonstrate our resolve to deter aggression and to be present for our allies, Senator.
I fully agree with Secretary Rood. I would say, sort of bouncing off the last point, which is really it’s not so much about Taiwan itself. Obviously, Taiwan is, as Secretary Rood said, is we’re acting in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act, but really, in the region, the activities that we’re doing in the region, this is really part of the competition, the understanding that the freedom of navigation in the internationally-recognized waters, this is, by the way, not only just the United States. This is part of the working with allies and partners to show that this is an international norm that we’re reinforcing. This is this competition of the ideas of there’s a rules-based order and there’s the other, and so, with INDOPACOM, Admiral Davidson leading INDOPACOM, leveraging not just at Taiwan but in that surrounding region that this is an area against which a free and open Indo-Pacific is important. Taiwan is just one element of that, understanding it could be a hot-button issue for the Chinese, but also that there is a Taiwan’s Relation Act that we’re supporting.
Do our naval vessels visit Taiwan just like they visited Hong Kong?
Not on a regular basis, but we have had them visit there before.
Does it make sense, when China says we can’t go into Hong Kong, make sure that we have the same, take those vessels and have visits to Taiwan to show support to Taiwan?
We always evaluate where, and I will say that we being typically the Indo-Pacific command leadership, as to where would be an appropriate stop for crew rest, for port visits and those type of things. I don’t know if, General Allvin, you wanna add anything.
Yeah, and this is probably getting into Admiral Davidson’s business, but, to the secretary’s point, there’s a broad range of issues, whether it’s the refueling and refitting, the capability for the port to be able to accept, et cetera, so, acknowledging your point, Senator, that there’s a sorta diplomatic message that could be sent. I think there’s also a practical concern about leveraging those port visits throughout that theater.
[Scott] Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Rood, the United Nations Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons reached a general agreement that meaningful human control over lethal autonomous weapon systems is necessary. With these systems, it may be impossible to understand how engagement decisions are made, as I believe you know. The software and algorithms of these systems are proprietary information, and other nations are unlikely to disclose information to prove that there is meaningful human control involved in the deployment of ’em, and we have concerns about that because, if you take the human out of the loop, you may achieve significant tactical advantage in a battle situation. In November, Secretary of Defense Esper confirmed that China is exporting drones to the Middle East that they claim have lethal autonomous capability. The Chinese company Xi’an markets the Blowfish A3, which is basically a helicopter drone armed with a machine gun. Xi’an quotes, this is their quote, “Autonomously performs more complex combat missions, “including fixed-point timing detection, “fixed-range reconnaissance, “and targeted precisions strikes in an autonomous fashion.” So my question to you, sir, is do you believe that there would be benefits, or what would the benefits and pitfalls be of entering into some sort of arms control agreements to establish transparency and ensure that our adversaries do indeed have meaningful human control over these lethal autonomous weapons?
Senator, it certainly is, as you know, in the way that we are approaching pursuit of more autonomous systems, and they’re not all for lethal purposes as discussed. For example, Senator Heinrich had a very good example of one that’s analytic in nature. As artificial intelligence proceeds, it’s very important that we maintain our ethics and maintain our standards, and that’s the approach we’ve tried to take within the Defense Department in how we’re approaching that. Our leader of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has the lead for that, but in discussing this with him and listening to him, I believe that that is the principles that are being applied by us in the Defense Department. Separately, and led by the State Department, the United States does engage in dialogue with other countries. You mentioned one of the four at the UN where these kinds of conversations have had because it’s an emerging field, and we do think it’s important that there are certain global standards and ethical approaches that we try to promote.
So you agree, though, by taking a human out of the loop does give a tactical advantage to that weapon system because of the speed of action?
I wouldn’t say that in all cases. For instance, I saw some demonstrations in industry where land-based robotic systems set to do things were easily out-foxed by their human counterparts because they were doing things as programmed very rapidly or trying to adapt, but the humans still had the edge on them, so I wouldn’t agree in all cases that that is the case, but you can postulate a future, and we’ll both see together what AI could become, where that could be a bigger concern, and so we—
And that’s a very realistic future. I mean, you’re talking about capabilities today, which I think people would agree, but this future is coming at us a lot quicker than most people realize. I think you alluded to the fact that an international agreement may be something that we should look at. How would such an agreement be enforced, and what are the contours of that agreement as you’re thinking that through?
Well, wanna be clear and clarify, I think there’s definitely a value in these conversations in these international fora to try to establish certain standards. I don’t know whether that would necessitate itself into some internationally-binding agreement or something of that nature yet. Again, that’d be something that would be led by our State Department, but I do understand your point about maintaining our ethics and the human dimension of how our approach to conflict, to use of force, is applied, if I’m understanding you correctly, Senator.
Yeah. Lieutenant General Allvin, I’d like you to weigh in as to how you think these lethal autonomous weapons, as they develop in the years ahead, may influence our views on doctrine and the future of legacy weapons in this rapidly-changing environment.
Senator, I’ll try and be brief because that’s a not only fascinating but a hugely important topic about how we move forward with our doctrine in the context of these advanced weapons. Obviously, as the secretary alluded to, there is a renewed emphasis on the ethics of it as these become from human-in-the-loop to human-on-the-loop to that sort of a trajectory. I think our doctrine is gonna need to adjust to understanding the increase. It’s about speed, part of it. Part of it is about speed, but, to the secretary’s point, if it becomes just speed for speed’s sake, we may not have accuracy so that’s where the humans come in to understanding the operational strategic impact of tactical speed, and so I think our doctrine needs to be more sophisticated as we move forward, understanding that decision speed is also key, not just execution speed. The ability to understand the second and third-order impacts of this, and one can imagine, as these advanced weapons are being developed, leveraging big data and algorithm development for better decision-making, not decision-making in lieu of a human but presenting information for better human decision-making faster, so I think we should be ready for the speed of everything increasing but not be sacrificing some of those fundamental Law of Armed Conflict and ethical pieces that are always gonna be inherent in warfare.
[Peters] Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all for being here. I wanna circle back, Secretary Rood, to the Wall Street Journal article and chat about that for just a second because I represent, and when I was in the House, represented Fort Campbell, and, as you know, the 101st has been deployed more than anybody else as we have faced these challenges in the Mideast, and what the Journal reported was that this was being considered, not that a decision had been made, so I’d like some clarification from you on that. Are you considering sending 14 thousand troops to the Mideast, are you considering sending a smaller number of troops to the Mideast, are you not considering this at all, and should I be completely shocked if I were to wake up one morning in the near future and hear on the news that we are deploying a significant number of troops back to the Mideast, and, if this were under consideration, where would you be pulling those troops and resources from in order to meet that obligation?
Okay, so, Senator, with respect to the Journal article, as mentioned, the Iranians, we’re watching this situation where the Iranians both have conducted attacks in recent months, and we’re concerned about the threat stream that we’re seeing, and I would note, going to come to brief the committee in closed session in a week on that very topic where we’ve offered that, and obviously, in closed session, can go into much greater detail for you, but with respect to that threat situation, we’re concerned about what we’re seeing—
So you are considering it?
Yes, what I would say to you is there is a dynamism, both to the threat situation and there needs to be—
Is 14 thousand the correct number, or is there a lesser number?
The Secretary of Defense has not made any decisions to deploy additional troops—
So it is being considered, and you are looking at additional troops, and then where would you move those from? Would you reposition troops that are currently deployed, or would this be a cut in dwell time that would cause some of our troops to be deployed?
The Secretary of Defense is consistently and continues to evaluate, with the advice of others, what the appropriate number of forces to be deployed to the Middle East is. He has not made a decision—
So you’re saying we should not be shocked and get a surprise announcement between now and a briefing in a different setting in the next week or so, is that correct?
I would respond differently by telling you that we are evaluating the threat situation, and the secretary, if he chooses to, can make decisions to deploy additional forces based on what he’s observing there. That said, we haven’t made those decisions yet. To answer your question even more directly, based on what we’re seeing with our concerns about the threat picture, it is possible that we would need to adjust our force posture, and I think that that would be a prudent step, depending on what we observe, because our objective is to deter Iranian aggression, and deterrence is not static; it’s a very dynamic activity. It’s not as though it stays at a certain level at a certain point in time, and so we will need to make dynamic adjustments to our posture. In terms of your question, Senator, as to where forces would come from, of course, it depends on the nature of the forces. A number of those, roughly half of those that have been deployed, the 14 thousand, in the last six months, have been on naval vessels: cruisers, destroyers, carrier battle groups. Others have been air assets, for example. In the recent months, we’ve announced the deployment of additional fighter aircraft squadrons to Saudi Arabia for that purpose, bomber squadrons. A lot depends on the nature of the forces, and, as you mentioned, the 101st has been terribly busy. That’s been a very highly-deployed unit, and so I certainly resonate with your concern.
Thank you. I recently was in Africa, and I had the opportunity to be in Mogadishu and also in Djibouti, and I have a series of questions I had wanted to ask, and I will submit these for the record because I’m about out of time, but I do have questions about our approach to security cooperation on the continent and how that may need to change to prioritize strategic competition as we look at the presence of China and Russia there, and I will submit those for the record and yield back my time.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Rood, would you agree that China’s goal is to be the top military force in the world?
So what is Russia’s goal, as you note in your testimony, as it continues to, with its litany of destabilizing activity across the world, which, in many cases, result in a loss of innocent lives, so what’s Russia’s goal if China’s goal is to become the top military force in the world?
I’m not sure they share the same goals or agree with each other on many things, Senator, but the short answer, I think, Russia’s objective is to be a substantial player. They’d like to return to as much of the influence as they held during the Cold War in the Soviet Union period of time as they could, and they do wish to exercise a level of influence in order to affect the affairs of state in certain parts of the world or at least to exercise a veto in certain cases over what different countries are doing.
And Russia’s goal in its efforts to be the destabilizing player, that’s not particularly good for our own national security, is it?
You noted that, in your testimony, that we knew that Turkey wanted to go into northern Syria to push the Kurds out and, yeah, as long as the US troops were there, it stayed Erdogan’s hand, but the minute the President says we’re withdrawing our troops, Erdogan made his move, so I think there’s a definite cause and effect there, and while we like to think that the kind of decisions that are made as to where our troops will be deployed or where they’re leaving will be done in some sort of a rational way, that’s not always the case, I think, with this president, so even if Secretary Esper had provided reassurances that we will not be withdrawing troops from South Korea, if the President wants to do that, I don’t know what you all are supposed to do about it. So it’s an ongoing concern as to the decision-making process regarding what our military does or does not do. The department faced some criticism when it omitted the mention of climate change in the National Defense Strategy, and the Chief of Naval Operations in 2009 created a taskforce of climate change to make recommendations for policy and strategy to address climate change because it is real, and it’s having an impact worldwide. So, in January 2019, the Worldwide Threat Assessment was released, identifying climate change as a major threat to national security, and, in January 2019, again, a GAO report identified military installations most threatened by climate change, three of which installations are in Hawaii, so aside from these multiple reports, what is actually being done on the policy side to address these threats because, you know, policy changes should drive implementation actions?
Sure, and things like military installations are a different undersecretary. Undersecretary for Personnel and Resources as well as the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment often take the lead in issuing that policy, Senator, but that being said, in terms of your other question, is there a impact on military installations, and do we need to plan for that? Absolutely, as climate change occurs, we must adapt to those realities in order to continue to do the military operations that are our missions.
So, my time is running out, so at least on our own military installations that have seen some devastating impacts of climate events, that’s happening, but what about things like our violent extremist organizations taking advantage of water insecurity and food scarcity to gain influence? This is moving into the worldwide arena now, or how has drought combined with incompetence led to water shortages in Venezuela, and how has that influenced stability there, and how is water scarcity influencing both partners and adversaries in the Middle East and north Africa? So there are all these kinds of events that are linked to climate change going on worldwide, and what our policies with regard to those concerns?
Well, certainly as you mentioned, resource scarcity and competition for resources and using resources as a natural resource as food and other things as a weapon is one of the things we sometimes see violent extremist organizations or terrorist groups do. We also see nations compete over this, and this produces a lotta tension, and so certainly it’s a part of our policy approach to consider how do we address those underlying security concerns and, in many cases, try to engage in diplomacy, again, led by the State Department typically on those activities, such as I was just in Egypt, as an example. Egypt has real concerns about this with their neighbors right now.
I’m glad you mentioned, if I may, Mr. Chairman. I’m glad you mentioned diplomacy because we need to have a much more of a robust effort, not just on the military side, but, you know, many of our ambassadorships are not filled or being filled by people who are political appointees with little diplomatic experience or experience in the countries to which they are sent, so that’s not very helpful at all. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Rood, I have to confess that you’ve confused me in your responses first to the chairman and then to Senator Blackburn. I think you just said to Senator Blackburn that the Pentagon is considering sending additional troops to CENTCOM. Now, that confuses me because the Pentagon spokesperson said last night in direct response to me that the Pentagon is not considering sending additional troops to CENTCOM, so let me ask you again. Is the Pentagon considering additional troops to CENTCOM?
Senator, we’re always considering changes to our force posture not only in CENTCOM but in other—
So the Pentagon spokesperson, in responding to me last night, publicly misspoke. Is that what you’re saying? Lemme just read to you what she said. She said, “To be clear, the reporting “about the Wall Street Journal report is wrong. “The US is not considering “sending 14 thousand additional troops to the Middle East,” but you just told Senator Blackburn that that is under consideration, and that was in direct response to me, so I’d like a direct answer. Are you considering it or not?
The direct answer I’d give you, Senator, is that we are always considering, and, in fact, based on the threat situation in the Middle East, are watching that and, as necessary, the Secretary of Defense has told me he intends to make changes to our force posture there. With respect to that statement by the spokesperson, we have not made a decision to deploy 14 thousand troops—
Well, that wasn’t what she said, though. So, you’re telling me now that she misspoke. I think at this point it would be helpful to hear from the secretary on this issue, and I’d like to hear from him today on this issue. I assume that he signed off on the official spokesperson’s comments, direct public comments last night to me, which she repeated over and over again, and you’ve directly contradicted here this morning multiple times, so I think some clarification’s in order, and I’d like to have it, I’d like to have it in public, because the Pentagon has now made multiple contradictory public statements. Can we do that? Can we get that done today?
I’ll talk to the Secretary of Defense about that, but I do wanna say, Senator, I wouldn’t agree with your characterization that I have directly contradicted the spokesperson.
Well, how can that be the case when she says the United States is not considering sending additional troops to the Middle East, and you just said that you are?
I believe her statement was we’re not considering sending 14 thousand troops—
Right, so, wait, I’m sorry, what’s your testimony then? Your testimony’s different from that? ‘Cause you just told Senator Blackburn that that is under consideration.
For example, Senator, there isn’t some pending document with the Secretary of Defense that states, “Deploy 14 thousand troops, do you approve, yes or no?” I’m not trying to be argumentative, sir. I’m just trying to point out there’s a dynamic security situation in the Middle East and that it’s a custom that we do, and we didn’t do it just because of recent events, where we regularly evaluate the appropriate number—
All right, well, I’ve hearing what you’re saying, but there is a pretty direct contradiction here. You’re telling me, have told me, have told Senator Blackburn, that this is under consideration. The Pentagon spokesperson said last night that it’s not, so I’ll let you all circle up and talk to one another and then issue a public statement today clarifying this, preferably from the secretary. Lemme you ask you this, you said earlier that you have sent 14 thousand troops already in the last six months. What have those achieved in that theater in CENTCOM?
The purpose of the deployment of those troops, sir, was to deter further Iranian aggression.
[Hawley] Has that worked, in your estimation?
I think it has had a deterrent effect in that we have not seen those type of attacks that Iran was conducting before continue, and one of the things that we were concerned about, sir, was potential planning for attacks on American forces, and I would note we haven’t had American forces attacked by the Iranians in that period to produce deaths or casualties, things of that nature. Now, I think where you’re going is deterrence. Have they been dissuaded? Have they been deterred to the point where they no longer feel aggressive impulses towards the United States or have those activities, and that’s where I mentioned in my testimony, we’re concerned about what we’re observing about the potential for further—
No, actually what I’m wondering about is I just am wondering what the aims of deterrence actually are and I’m wondering about the connection to all of these troops. 14 thousand is a lot. You’ve said now that you’re considering sending maybe many, many more. I just am wondering what it is exactly that we’re aiming to deter, question number one, question number two, what the connection is with this very large troop buildup. I don’t think I understand actually what our strategy is here.
Our strategy is to seek stability to deter further Iranian aggression or—
Well, when you say stability, you mean what? Stability of the region?
For example, the absence of attacks on Americans.
Well, that’s different. Regional stability and the absence of an attack on American forces are two very different. I mean, what is regional stability, exactly, and how would we aim to achieve that?
Well, that’s been a long-standing American policy, not just to this administration, to promote stability in the Middle East, and the absence of conflict, more peaceful relations, those are forms of stability. We engage in stability assistance throughout the region. This has been something that the United States has pursued as, again, not just during this administration, a long-standing objective of ours.
Well, my time has expired. I would just note that if our aim is to prevent all absence of conflict in the region, then we’re gonna be sending a lot more than 14 or 28 or a hundred thousand ground troops. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Rood, one of the very first things you said was deterrent capability is job one. I think you said our primary strategy is deterrence, and, if deterrence doesn’t work, to win. Lemme focus on a particular issue of deterrence that I’ve been doing a lotta work on and puzzling about, and that is cyber deterrence, and particularly cyber deterrence, I would call it, below the threshold of catastrophe. In other words, a cyber attack that disables our entire electric grid, I think everyone would agree, deserves a clear and unequivocal response. What about a cyber attack that freezes the voter registration lists in Florida a week before the election? How do we deter those kinds of attacks? My sense is we’ve had Sony, we’ve had OPM, we’ve had 2016, with very little, if any, substantive response and that our adversaries don’t fear us, to put it most bluntly, in terms of cyber attacks on this country. Give me some thoughts about cyber deterrence. The National Commission on the Defense Strategy last year said the US is not deterring its adversaries as effectively as it should in cyberspace, and realizing we’re on a very limited time, but give me a minute or so of your thoughts on that, and perhaps then you could follow up.
Yes, Senator, and I recall you raising this with me during my confirmation visit with you, and it’s something you’ve been a leader on in pursuing this type of activity. I would say, since that time you and I met two years ago, we have put in place now a cyber strategy, and one of the primary aspects of that is it calls about defending forward. We will no longer wait. If we’re observing indications of planning for an attack, for an adversary to spring that attack, if they are doing the equivalent of stockpiling cyber weapons to deploy at a later date, we’ll not wait to receive that attack in our networks and then try to deal with it, but rather we will defend forward, and that’s one of the ways that we think we can deter by denial of objectives. You’re exactly right, there needs to be, in part of any deterrence, the ability to impose costs on an attacker or an adversary in order to dissuade them.
The adversary has to feel there’s some risk in order to affect their calculus of whether or not to attack, is that correct?
Yes, and that risk can be through cyber means and other means, and that is a part of our approach. Where you mentioned some of the difficulties where you’ve been puzzling through that is, as you say, getting the right threshold and thinking through questions of proportionality, thinking through questions of how do you produce the right effects, how do you evaluate the effects, essentially, of your attack? We call it in the physical world if a bomb was dropped, bomb damage assessment. Use of cyber tools evaluating the effect of those actions and making sure that there’s not collateral damage is also quite important, sir.
I appreciate that and hope that, perhaps, we can follow up with this conversation because this is a very important topic, I believe. Different question, General. Are we adequately confronting new threats, drones, swarms, hypersonics, cyber? Here’s an example, and it gets back to money, and we were talking about how much we’re spending. We’re spending twice as much as China and Russia combined, and I take the chairman’s point on that, but still, we’re spending 10 times what Russia spends. Putin can hire 12 thousand hackers for the cost of one jet fighter, and I think all would agree that what he did in 2016 was pretty effective attack on our country. Are we putting our money in the right places in terms of emerging threats? Hypersonics is a perfect example.
Senator, I would say that the last two budgets started to move that way, and having the National Defense Strategy as a touchstone, as sorta the North Star, it acts as sort of our conscience, so as we look at the development of these systems, I think we are headed in the right direction. Are we going fast enough?
But it bothers me that we’re spending 10 times what Russia is and they’re the ones that are fielding a hypersonic missile this year, and we’re four, five years away. How did we miss that?
Well, sir, I think we have a broader set of global objectives that we need to achieve, and so I think there was also the focus that we’ve had over the past 20 years before the NDS, and we’re transitioning into this new prioritization on great power competition. I think there are a lot of elements that we have within—
Well, I think we have catch-up to do, as I think you’ve both testified, but I think the area of technology and confronting emerging threats is a real area where there has to be some good strategic thinking and investments. Final question for the record ’cause I’m out of time, we haven’t talked about it here today, I’m concerned about the possibility of an emergent China-Russia access. They’ve been split apart for many years. I’m concerned that, to the extent they decide to cooperate against us as a common enemy, that can be a force multiplier, so I’m not asking for an answer now, but I would hope you could give me some thoughts for the record on the danger and what the intelligence tells us about cooperation and coordination between China and Russia. Thank you, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and Mr. Secretary, General, thank you for being here. I think you’re doing a good job in a tough position, so we appreciate this. I think you see a lotta wisdom on this panel. My friend from Maine always asks very intelligent questions. I certainly agree with him on what he was just asking you on cyber and this issue of deterrence. We have to make sure that people fear us and have at the front of their mind the fact that there’ll be costs. I also agree with some of the comments earlier with regard to allies. I think you do, Mr. Secretary, that that’s one of our biggest strategic advantages in the world. We’re a ally-rich nation. Our adversaries, potential adversaries, China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, are ally-poor. Not many countries looking to join the North Korea team or Iran team. So if you can just keep that in mind. Finally, I do wanna ask a question. Senator Hirono talked about resources. You know, something else that doesn’t come up nearly enough is another area I’d like your view on. I quickly have a number of questions for you. We’re now the world’s energy superpower once again. We’re the largest producer of natural gas, largest producer of oil, largest producer of renewables. I think this is a win-win-win for America. It’s also good for the environment, since we have the highest standards of producing energy in the world on the environment. Can you just briefly tell us what that does for the national security of our country? The media never reports on that. It’s a remarkable achievement that we are now once again the world’s energy superpower. How does that help our national security?
Well, Senator, as you very correctly point out, we are, in the United States, in a very different position than we were a few years ago—
And we can dominate this sector for decades, correct?
Well, it’s not my area of expertise, but the things I’ve seen, this will go for quite some time, and the things that that has done to provide more energy independence for the United States has just lessened our reliance on oil from the Middle East, as an example, sources from elsewhere, and so—
And Russia blackmailing countries that we wanna help, like the Baltics and Ukraine, correct?
Energy security is key to prevent blackmail. Energy security is key to prevent having to take decisions that you wouldn’t like. I think it’s very important.
Lemme ask another question. You know, I don’t think this administration gets enough credit on the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy. If you polled the US Senate, I bet you’d have 95 senators saying the general orientation of that, to refocus, reorient, on great power competition with regard to China is really, really important, and I think that that’s positive, the bipartisan support for the NDS that I’ve certainly seen in the Senate. One area I do wanna talk about, not surprisingly, where there’s become a really big area of great power competition, Secretary Pompeo had a very good speech in Finland on this, is the Arctic. Mr. Secretary, I’m excited about you coming up to Alaska this weekend and seeing America’s Arctic ’cause we’re an Arctic nation because of my state. I’m gonna submit for the record, just in the last three or four months, these are the headlines from everything from National Geographic, Newsweek, Washington Post, “The West is losing the battle for the Arctic.” “Arctic melt heightens US rivalry “with Russia on the northern front.” “A thawing Arctic is heating up a new Cold War.” “China is mixing military and science to redraw the Arctic.” I mean, there is literally a article a week, almost a day. I’m gonna submit this, Mr. Chairman, but I’m a little bit worried the Pentagon’s been slow to the punch here. As I mentioned, Secretary Pompeo is focused on it. This committee has been very focused on it. You may have seen a lotta bipartisan work, new Arctic strategy, the need for a strategic Arctic port. Can you comment on this, and, you know, what can we do to make sure that, aligned with the National Defense Strategy, if you look at our rivals, China, Russia, North Korea, one thing they have in common is contested space in very cold, mountainous, difficult climbs. Our Navy can barely even operate in the Arctic anymore. We used to be able to do that quite well. I’m looking forward to having you up in Alaska like I said, but can you talk about this and what your view is, as the top policymaker for the Pentagon?
Yes, first of all, I agree with you. The United States is an Arctic nation. The Arctic is very important to our future, both militarily, economically, and, given the political competition in that region, we need to be quite conscious of that. Now, as you know, and I am very much looking forward to learning more when I’m with you in Alaska, we have some substantial military capabilities, military presence in terms of facilities, aircraft, air bases and so on, in the region. Recently, and I think it was your provision, if I recall correctly, Senator, required a submission of an Arctic strategy per the NDAA, that which we provided to the Congress, that discussed some of our plans, but our interests are in a free and open area of commerce, and we are trying to make improvements in our ability to operate in cold weather. Our colleagues in the Coast Guard, not the DoD, of course, have an icebreaker acquisition program, which we think is quite important to that area, and I know our Navy is looking at ways they can improve their activities. I don’t know, General Allvin, would you like to add anything?
I’d just pile on on the importance. I mean, obviously our most valuable and useful Arctic training is up to the cold weather training that’s up there, Fort Wainwright, et cetera. I think not only with respect to the Arctic but the location of Alaska, we’re at large, with respect, is we’re looking at global competition, global challenges. If you just took the globe from scratch, you would see Alaska as very critical with respect to both of our great power competitors, and so, as we look forward, we definitely see not only the Arctic competition but the geostrategic positioning of Alaska as being actually quite important.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, thank you, Mr. Chairman. We are commemorating now, as everybody knows, the 70th anniversary of NATO. I assume you would agree that NATO is important to our own strategic security, and the record may reflect that you are nodding, and I appreciate that—
Yes is the answer, sir.
It is such a self-evident truth that nodding is the appropriate response, but I’m deeply concerned about at least one of our NATO allies, Turkey. As you know, there is currently no mechanism to remove NATO allies. Disciplining a NATO ally certainly seems problematic, and yet, what we’ve seen over the last year or so, Turkey’s invasion into northeastern Syria, slaughtering our Kurdish partners, a moral revulsion as well as a strategic nightmare, the purchase of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles, greatly exacerbating tensions with the United States, as well as with NATO partners, in fact, almost making a mockery of our common strategic military interests, the increasingly close ties between President Erdogan and Vladimir Putin, all these action seems to fuel concerns about NATO as an ally. I’ve introduced a bipartisan bill with my colleagues, including members of this committee, senators Shaheen, Blackburn, as well as senators Graham and Van Hollen, who are members of the Foreign Relations Committee, to impose strict sanctions on Turkey. The bill would sanction Turkish political leaders, including the current president, and sanction the military and energy sector and ban arms sales to Turkey. Secretary Rood, would you support this legislation?
Well, Senator, first lemme say I understand your concerns, and we have been engaging with the Turks about our concerns about a number of the things that you mentioned. For instance, we continue to press them to not move forward with the S-400 acquisition. It’s simply not compatible with an interoperable NATO. That system is not, cannot, and will never be interoperable with the rest of the NATO air defense architecture, and, as you know, interoperability is core to the ability of NATO to operate effectively as a military alliance, and so we’ve discouraged our allies in Turkey from proceeding. It is their sovereign decision whether they wish to proceed to that, but we’ve pointed out to them sovereign decisions have consequences, and I’ve personally been to Ankara to support the negotiation, the ceasefire, that the Vice President and Secretary of State negotiated, and when this topic comes up, we always point out to them our expectation that, if the administration didn’t move forward with actions, that Congress would, including sanctions.
Mr. Secretary, I appreciate that. That missile system is inoperable. Actually, it’s more than inoperable. It’s directly contradictory. It’s inconsistent with NATO’s common defense, and that’s the reason why we’re not selling F-35 to them. It enables them to shoot outta the skies the planes that NATO would otherwise sell to them, otherwise use, that they would use, but it’s simply one more action by Turkey inconsistent with their being a NATO ally, and I just wonder what more we can and should be doing. Sanctions is what our bill would do, and, if it’s not sanctions, and I am not going to cross-examine you, for lack of a better word, on why you’re not answering the question about sanctions, I fully understand that there are a lot of complexities here, what more can we do?
Senator, we remain engaged with the Turks, both at the highest levels, the president spoke to President Erdogan, as you know, in recent days. The Secretary of State is engaging very much with his counterpart, and we’ve had people visiting Turkey. We have not given up on this activity and persuading the Turks of some of the disadvantages and why we don’t think it’s in their longterm interest, nor ours, for them to move forward with the S-400, but there are, as you mentioned, other areas of concern in the relationship. It’s a very complex one, and so we also are working with our other allies within the rest of NATO, who many of them have the same or very similar concerns, and partners in the region who also have those concerns. I can’t sit before you today and tick off 10 specific steps that would produce 10 changes in behavior, regrettably, but it’s something that we’re really trying to solve that and improve the relationship.
Thank you. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I’m very glad that we’re having this discussion. I do think that the NDS has been very useful in focusing the energies of the Department of Defense and the rest of government, this body included, and I look forward to hearing more from the witnesses on how we can improve upon the implementation of NDS, but I do think that there are some blind spots within the NDS as it is, and I’d like to discuss how DoD will address these shortfalls. So some of the deficiencies I notice are that the NDS devotes significant space to addressing the need to build a more lethal and agile force, but it spends very little time addressing the vital resources that would be needed to project power and sustain that power during a conflict, things like rail cars and transport ships. Secretary Rood and General Allvin, would you support developing a supplemental or addendum to the NDS that focuses on developing resilient transportation networks and logistics systems that can survive in contested environments?
Well, Senator, you certainly make a great point about the centrality and the importance of transportation and the logistics is sort of a historical redheaded stepchild, and we can’t afford that, so, yes, ma’am. What I would say is that what we have done, largely in response to the National Defense Strategy, is we have put increased emphasis on the transportation piece, and I think you noted that on the Sealift, the Navy is looking to how they may recapitalize for Sealift to be able to have a more relevant capability to project power. I think you mentioned, though, in contested environments and how we would make sure to protect our power projection. I will tell you that, in our readiness reviews for some of our larger operations plans where I talked about in my opening statement about the global integrated base plan, we’re really looking at the real costs and real risks overall, and that power projection, for the first time, I would say, in decades, we have looked at how one might project power under contested environments, so things like identifying, which I won’t go into anymore at this classification level but would be happy to follow up with you, things about areas in which we would want to have physically and harden and increase resilience in cyber, in nodes, in ports, as well as understanding the potentiality for attrition of those forces while they’re being deployed into theater, so the idea that the logistics and transportation enterprise is really starting to move up in the position of importance, I would say, is a positive trend, and I think we’ve been able to see those when we look at the larger global integrated base plan, so I would say that there is attention being paid, and there is significant work being done by US Transportation Command, supported by our Joint Staff J4, about how we would wanna look at which nodes to harden, which capabilities not only to get to the theater but intra-theater as well, so I would say, looking at it, even though it’s not specifically in pen and ink in the strategy, there’s been a lot of effort that reflects that reality.
Yes, but that’s my point, it’s not in pen and ink, and that’s a problem because it can be overlooked. The Navy’s Ready Reserve Fleet is nowhere near ready, and, in fact, like over a dozen of those ships have lost their Coast Guard safety certification. I don’t think we have enough rail cars. I don’t think we have enough heavy lift or tank or refueling. It’s not just ocean-going but it’s also air capability and ground capabilities as well, so are you saying that you don’t think we need an addendum to the NDS moving forward to really focus on these issues?
Well, Senator, I don’t have an opinion whether it should be in the NDS addendum. I do absolutely concur with the fact that it needs to have increased attention. I guess I’m trying to convey that it has more attention than one might think, that we actually are identifying those as we speak, but I don’t have a particular opinion as to which product it should be in that would ensure that accountability for ensuring that those ideas and those initiatives move forward.
But I haven’t seen a similar level of investment in these capabilities. I see the investments in things like long-range precision fires and submarines and strike aircraft, all of which I fully support, but what I haven’t seen is a corresponding rise in investments in the less flashy but still critical transportation and logistic systems, and I think that this is gonna lead us to a more lethal force, which is good, but much more unsustainable and fragile in many ways because we can’t sustain the lethality that we have, so if you don’t think that we need to write this down, will you at least commit to reversing the trend and try to align future budgets with all of NDS’s aims, including the logistical support, the sustainability, and the security of the logistics network?
Actually, Senator, that certainly is part of the thought process, that we actually, when we look at the entirety of what it takes to execute the National Defense Strategy, that is part and parcel to it, and that’s why when I mentioned these readiness reviews, they are designed to suss out the specifics, rather than just in general we need more of X or Y, understanding which of those are the most critical that we can put those investments in early on to make the biggest difference the soonest is where we’re headed, so I am, I guess, trying to convey that we are putting attention to it.
I’m not seeing it in the budget request, though. I mean, you can say that all you want, but you still have over half of your Ready Reserve Fleet is over 40 years old, and most of them are gonna reach operational life within the next 15 years. You don’t have enough tankers. You can’t even transport stuff on rail cars across Europe in the way that we need to be able to, and how are we gonna be active in the Asian-Pacific region if we don’t have the capability? And I don’t see that same focus in terms of, “Hey, we need to spend money here like we do on the F-35.” As much as we love the F-35, how are we gonna support it? I’m out of time, thank you, Mr. Chairman.