Army and Air Force leaders testified before the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights, based on a CQ transcript:
- Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) asked whether DOD can adequately operate under a fiscal year 2020 appropriation of $733 billion, the amount House leaders have proposed. “I think the Army’s component of the defense of the United States, what we’re asking for, the answer is yes,” Army Secretary Mark Esper said. The president has asked for $750 billion.
- Lawmakers praised the Pentagon for completing its first-ever audit, even though the results were mixed. “If I can say you guys can pass an audit, it’s a lot easier to advocate and explain to the American people why the budgets need to keep going up,” Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) said.
- The leaders said they need a supplemental spending bill to fund storm recovery at three installations. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said she had to delay 61 facilities projects in 18 states to begin storm recovery. “I won’t press you,” Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) said, “but in fact, the money is already in the Department of Defense. The decision was made to transfer for the construction of 150 miles of border fence rather than Tyndall, Offutt or Lejeune.”
- Asked about the Army’s missed recruitment targets, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said, “We were able to recruit 70,000 soldiers into the Army last year. That’s a 10-year high. And yes, we missed the mark by 6,500, but we did that because I set the bar too high on an unachievable goal. Secretary Mattis and others cautioned us against that, by the way.”
- Esper said the Army has completed inspections of all its housing. “You know, this has been an eye-opener for everybody,” he said. “The leadership’s getting back involved in the housing business, and that’s our number one commitment.”
- In opening remarks, Smith thanked Wilson, who is leaving her position in May, for her service. “I don’t think you actually left just because of the Space Force, but I’d be sympathetic if you did,” he said. Wilson has made critical remarks about forming the new branch, but she and Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein assured the committee they support the plan.
- Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told Wilson, “We are all saddened that you are departing, but I look forward to when you return as secretary of defense.”
Air Force Photo by Wayne Clark