Washington, D.C. – During today’s House Armed Services Committee hearing on the FY 2022 Budget Request made by the United States Army, Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) questioned Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville about how the Biden Administration’s defense budget is insufficient and inadequate to maintain our current capabilities as our adversaries modernize at breathtaking speed.
Watch her line of questioning here and see the transcript below:
REP. LIZ CHENEY. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to both our witnesses for being here today. I wanted to talk in a little bit more detail about what we’re seeing in terms of our adversaries’ capabilities. We’ve had multiple testimonies over the course of our posture hearings this year, as we have in previous years, but this year in particular, comments like, “The breathtaking speed with which we were watching the Chinese, for example, modernize” — in the context that we’re seeing adversary capabilities increase, the Biden Administration defense budget is woefully insufficient, inadequate to maintain our own capabilities. In your joint testimony, you said, “While America’s Army maintains a tenuous overmatch, it is fleeting.” And I’d like to ask you first, General McConville. We’ve heard this again year after year, this notion that it’s, you know, “We still got overmatch, but just barely.” Could you explain exactly what you mean by tenuous overmatch and on what basis? I understand in this setting it may be less specificity, but on what basis you feel confident to say, “We still maintain tenuous overmatch?”
GENERAL JAMES McCONVILLE: Yeah, Congresswoman, what I would say is we’re at an inflection point right now. So, the systems that we basically developed in the 80’s, you know, the ‘Big Five’ weapon system, the Abrams and all those type systems, the doctrine we developed, the training centers — all those type things we developed, we’ve incrementally improved over the last 40 years. I think we’re at a point right now where we must transform the Army to put us on a path, to keep us the overmatch we need. So, when I’m talking about — it’s not just the six modernization priorities, which is a ‘31 plus 4’ system, its new doctrine, it’s joint all the main operations of how we’re going to fight as a joint service. And I’ve got to see to combine all the main operations because we’re going to fight with our allies and partners. It’s new organizations we’re building, like the Multi-Domain Task Force that’s going to give us the long range precision effects, long range precision fires that we need to have to penetrate this anti-access area denial capabilities developing. It’s new ways we train. It’s new ways that we bring things on board. And more importantly, it’s a 21st century talent management system where we manage people and compete for people very differently — all those things need to be done. And as we discuss this, people are going to say, “Well, the barracks aren’t this or this.” You know, we are trying to take the money we have and apply it so we are postured the best we can with the money we’ve been given for the future.
REP. CHENEY: Well, I appreciate that, and I think that’s a key point for the American people to understand — that you’re doing the best you can, but at this moment, our adversaries are not facing the same constraints. In a contested environment, General, today, do you think that the Joint Force would have dominance across the entire spectrum?
GENERAL McCONVILLE: I do.
REP. CHENEY: Because two years ago, in 2018, as the Army began to change the doctrine, there was testimony at that time that, in fact, then we would not have. But do you think that we’ve now increased our capacities and our capabilities, that they’ve improved since 2018?
GENERAL McCONVILLE: I think we have. I think we’re on a good path right now, I feel comfortable with the Army we have. I spend a lot of time talking to allies and partners and moving around, and I’ve fought with this Army, and I feel pretty comfortable that we’re on the right path with the Army we have. And again, I think where we’re going is going to give us not the tenuous overmatch, I think it’s going to give us significant overmatch we need for the future.
REP. CHENEY:Well, I would also just urge that we can’t get to that significant overmatch if we don’t have the resources, and time is not on our side. And I appreciated your comments about whole of government, but again, I come back to the notion that deterrence fundamentally requires that our adversaries understand we have the capability and the will — and that’s the military capability and the will. And so, Secretary Wormuth, could you explain how you are thinking about deterrence in new ways, because it seems pretty clear that being able to depend upon overmatch, being able to depend on dominance across every domain, isn’t where we’re headed with this budget. So, what are the new ways you’re thinking about effective deterrence in that world?
SECRETARY CHRISTINE WORMUTH:Congresswoman, I would say a couple of things. First of all, I think one area of overmatch that we have is our relationships with allies and partners. And, you know, I firmly believe that part of our deterrent is going to be signaling clearly that we have friends that China doesn’t have in the theater, for example, who would be willing to be with us. And the Army has put a lot of emphasis and, I think, is well positioned to strengthen and thicken that network of relationships of allies and partners. I think another area that we need to work on and that we are working on with things like our artificial intelligence integration–
REP. CHENEY: My time has expired, Secretary. I look forward to continuing that discussion. I think that there’s no amount of allies, though, that can substitute if we allow our adversaries to get ahead of us from a capability perspective. Thank you.