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Confirmation Hearing of General Mattis for Secretary of Defense. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 12, 2017 - 10:00   ET


SEN. JACK REED (D-RI), RANKING MEMBER: General Mattis began his long and distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps as the second lieutenant commissioned to the ROTC program at Central Washington University.

[10:00:03] He has served the highest echelons of the Marine Corps and capped as service as the commander of the United States Central Command. General Mattis, if you are confirmed to the secretary of Defense, you will lead the department during a time when the United States faces many complex and multi-faceted challenges that do not offer quick or easy solutions. Some of these challenges are about traditional, nation-state tensions while others cross international boundaries.

Also, you will help oversee national security policy for a president who lacks foreign policy and defense experience and whose temperament is far different from prior presidents. I think many Americans and many in this (inaudible) both sides of the aisle, are rightly concerned about how he may respond, when he is tested by Russia, Iran, North Korea and other transnational threats, such as cyber.

Considering some of these hot spots in the world, I in detailed, I would like to start with Iran which remains a top concern to this committee. Their behavior, the respect for proxy forces across the region has not improved and Iran's unsafe and unprofessional actions the maritime arena continue.

However, I continue to believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, is the most effective way to prevent Iran from resuming their nuclear weapons program. General Mattis, while you raise concern about the JCPOA when it was bring negotiated, you stated during a Center for Strategic and International Studies forum in April, 2016 that in your words, "There's no going back, absent a real violation."

I agree with that assessment. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about on how we can build upon the JCPOA to address other Iranian threats, including its malign influence in the region and ballistic missile program. The threat posed by violent extremists group, remains a persistent and likely a generational problem.

Our actions to support local partners on the ground in Iraq and Syria have made significant gains in recapturing areas once held by ISIL, including operations directed at Mosul and Raqqah. However, ISIL continues to find new ways to terrorize innocent civilians and recruit new members.

In the long-term, successful military action against ISIL, Al Qaida and other violent extremist groups must be complemented by non- military efforts by the international community to address the circumstances that led to the rise of such groups. Again, echoing some of the comments that my colleagues mentioned about the complimentarily of the State Department and other agencies with respect to national security policy.

In North Korea, Kim Jong Un has destabilized the Korean Peninsula and reinstituted the test in ballistic missile development to further threaten the region. Regimes as authoritarian and insulators North Korea's are brittle and prone to collapse. And how we deal with North Korea's missile capabilities and its potential for collapse will be an ongoing debate and challenge for the Department of Defense. Russia has perpetrated aggressive action against its neighbors, has roundly rejected the post-Cold War international order that is whole, free and at peace. Furthermore, Russia's employment of hybrid warfare tactics in an effort to undermine democracy and to destabilize neighboring countries cannot be ignored.

In light of the intelligence community's recent assessment that President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign designed to undermine our presidential election, this committee will be interested to hear your views regarding the best posture with regard to Russia going forward, both in the cyber realm and on the ground in eastern Europe.

In addition to these broad strategic challenges, we must also grapple with issues specific to the Department of Defense. For instance, this committee has done its best to allocate extra funding to support full spectrum readiness, including additional home station training, flying hours, steaming days, depot maintenance and installation sustainment.

General Mattis, given your extensive military experience, I would welcome your assessment of current readiness levels and your thoughts on what else can and should be done. Our men and women in uniform remain this committee's top concern. Recruiting and retaining a sufficiently sized trained and equipped military, with the necessary character and talent to meet national defense requirements, is a paramount goal.

To that end, I strongly support Secretary Carter's decision to develop gender-neutral occupational standards for all military occupations and to open service in all occupations to those who meet those standards regardless of their gender, to include service and ground combat units.

For the first time, highly talented and motivated female Marines and soldiers, are being assigned to units that were previously closed to them. Successful implication of this decision requires strong leadership to ensure that individual success of the servicemember and the collective success of their unit and their service. And I expect you to provide that leadership.

REED: I remain concerned that too often, our service members and their families fall victim to financial problems. This is an issue, I think, of importance.


A deployed soldier, sailor, airman or Marine hearing from a spouse back home about unscrupulous financial companies is unacceptable. And so, I hope you paid particular attention to the Military Lending Act which I and the chairman have made a very strong priority in this committee.

Defense budgets, I think we'd all agree, should be based on a long- term military strategy. However, expense -- spending is subject to Budget Control Act as the Chairman has pointed out. And the defense investments that have been made to rebuild gradients (ph) and modernization platforms and equipment are in jeopardy.

In addition, we must be aware that simply adding additional funding to OCO for example or increasing defense spending at the expense of other government agencies creates other problems and is not an effective long-term solution.

One of your first tasks of the new administration will be to submit a fiscal year 2018 budget that addresses these issues and goes to the point that the chairman made of repealing the Budget Control Act. General Mattis, if confirmed, you will manage the Department of Defense grappling with many extraordinarily difficult challenges that require strong civilian leadership.

In order to serve as a secretary of Defense, Congress must provide an exception to the statutory requirement that currently prohibits individuals from being appointed if they are within seven years of their military service. Earlier this week, this committee held a hearing on civilian control of the armed forces which was illuminating and instructive. I hope you'll candidly share with the committee this morning the actions you will take to ensure your tender reflects and protects the principles of being in control of the military if you are confirmed.

When he assumes office, President Trump will become commander in chief of our armed forces. I continue to hope that the gravity of the office of the president and the magnitude of the challenges that our country faces would encourage him to be more conscientious and thoughtful with his comments.

However, in the two months since his election, President-elect Trump has made a number of defense-related policy statements addressing North Korea's ICBM capability, our trade relations with China and expansion of U.S. nuclear weapons. Most troubling is the president- elect's repeated praise to the leadership of Vladimir Putin and his seeming indifference to Russia's efforts to influence the presidential election.

Many have supported the waiver legislation and your confirmation because they believe you will be, to paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, the saucer that cools the coughing. I look forward to hearing how you intend to manage relationship with the Department of Defense with the NSC and with the president. Again, I thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the committee's careful process in considering this nomination. I look forward to hearing from our nominee.


General Mattis, there's standard questions that we require to ask and I would go through those very quickly and point out in order to exercise its legislative and oversight responsibility, it's important this committee be another appropriate committees Congress able to receive testimony, briefings, and other communications of information.

Have you adhered to applicable laws and regulations, governing conflicts of interest?


MCCAIN: Will you ensure that your staff compile -- complies with deadlines established for requested communications including questions for the record and hearings?

MATTIS: I will.

MCCAIN: Will you cooperate in providing witnesses and briefers in response to congressional requests?


MCCAIN: Will those witnesses be protected from reprisal for their testimony or briefings?


MCCAIN: Do you agree, if confirmed, to appear and testify upon request before this committee?


MCCAIN: Do you agree to provide documents including copies of electronic forms of communications in a timely manner when requested by a duly constituted committee or to consult with the committee regarding the basis for any good faith delay or denial in providing such documents?

MATTIS: Yes, sir.

MCCAIN: Have you assumed any duties or undertaken any actions which would appear to presume the outcome of the confirmation process?

MATTIS: I have not.

MCCAIN: Welcome before the committee, General Mattis.

MATTIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member Reed. It's an honor to come before you for this confirmation hearing as the president- elect's nominee for the position of secretary of Defense. I request my written statement be accepted for the record.

MCCAIN: Without objection.

MATTIS: I want to thank all of you on the committee for taking time to see me during my courtesy calls and I thank you for your willingness to accommodate this hearing and consider my nomination. I have testified previously in front of this committee and I've always held it in the highest regard. And based on my past years experience, I do trust this committee and each member of it and, if confirmed, I'll demonstrate that trust.

I wish to thank former Senator William Cohen for so kindly introducing me this morning and I'm equally grateful to the long- serving former chairman of the committee, Senator Sam Nunn for his strong support. It is humbling to be considered for this position and I thank the president-elect for placing trust and confidence in me.

MATTIS: When this unanticipated request came, I was enjoying a full life west of the Rockies.


I was not involved in the presidential campaign and I was certainly not seeking or envisioning a position in any new administration.

That said, it would be the highest honor if I am confirmed to lead those who volunteer to support and defend the constitution and to defend our people. All my remarks today recognize that it is only with the advice and consent of the Senate that I can be confirmed.

I know the senators of this committee are well aware of the many global security challenges we face. We see each day a world awash and change. Our country is still at war in Afghanistan and our troops are fighting against ISIS and other terrorist groups in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Russia is raising grave concerns on several fronts and China is shredding trust along its peripheral (ph). Increasingly we see islands of stability in our hemispheres, democracies here in Europe and Asia under attack by non-state actors and nations that mistakenly see their security in the insecurity of others. Our armed forces in this world must remain the best led, the best equipped and the most lethal in the world.

These demanding times require us to put together a strong national security team here in Washington. If confirmed, I will lead the department of defense and be a forthright member of that team. I recognize that I will need to be the strongest possible advocate for military and civilian personnel and their families.

I will foster an atmosphere of harmony and trust at the department with our interagency county parts and the congressional committees. As swiftly as the president-elect's national security team is confirmed, I will work to make sure our strategy and military calculus are employed to reinforce traditional tools of diplomacy, ensuring our president and diplomats negotiate from a position of strength. In addition to insuring collaboration across government and the adoption of an integrated strategy, we must also embrace our international alliances and security partnerships. History is clear, nations with strong allies thrive and those without them wither. If you confirm me my watch words will be solvency and security in providing for the protection of our people and the survival of our freedoms. My priorities as secretary of Defense, will be to strengthen military readiness, strengthen our alliances and bring business reforms to the Department of Defense. Our military is the envy of the world representing America's awesome determination to defend herself. Working with you, I will endeavor to keep our unique all volunteer force second to none.

We open the door to all patriots who are eligible and meet the standards, provided with the training, equipment and leadership essential to their success and ensure all service members are treated with dignity and respect.

I recognize my potential civilian role differs in essence from my former role in uniform. Civilian controlled, the military is a fundamental tenant of the American military tradition. Both the commander and chief and the secretary of Defense must impose an objective strategic calculus in the national security decision-making process and effectively direct its actions.

Civilian leaders bear these responsibilities because the (inaudible) core of our military, its can do spirit and it's obedience to civilian leadership, reduces the inclination and power of the military to oppose a policy if it is ultimately ordered to implement.

If the Senate consents and if the full Congress passes an exception to the seven year requirement, I will provide strong civilian leadership of military plans and decisions in the Department of Defense. I recognize under the Constitution it is the Congress that raises, sustained and supports our armed forces through annual authorizations and appropriations.

For many years I have watched you in action and testified before you. I look forward to collaborating closely for the defense of our nation. I am mindful of the extraordinary privilege it is tube nominated for this position. I will hold service members, civilians and their families foremost in my thoughts and work to give the department the best chance for victory if you confirm me.

Finally, on a personal note, I've worked at the Pentagon twice in my career. A few people may know I'm not the first person in my family to-do so. When in the wartime spring of 1942, my mother was 20-year- old and worked in military intelligence.

MATTIS: She was part of the first wave of government employees to move into the still-unfinished Pentagon. She had come to America as an infant and lived today on the banks of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest.

[10:15:02] Little could she imagine in her youth, that more than 90 years after she immigrated to this country, and 75 years after she first walked through the doors of the War Department, one of her sons would be sitting here before you today.

Thank you. May I take your questions?

MCCAIN: General, I neglected -- would you like to introduce members of your family who are here with us today?

MATTIS: Thank you, Senator. They're safely west of the Rockies as well, right now.


MCCAIN: Very quickly; our uniform military leaders have said that -- have testified before this committee that the Budget Control Act has put the men and women serving in uniform at greater risk. Do you agree with that?

MATTIS: I do, sir.

MCCAIN: I believe that we are in serious trouble in Afghanistan as the Taliban is able to mount greater and more serious attacks on capitals across that nation, do you agree with that assessment?

MATTIS: They have had advances and eroded some of our successes, Chairman.

MCCAIN: And the Afghan -- the ANA is sustaining -- unsustainable, over a long period of time losses.

MATTIS: I need to review the actual casualty figures and the recruitment, sir. But I believe that's correct.

MCCAIN: Do you believe that we have a -- a strategy that will allow us to regain control of Raqqah?

MATTIS: I believe we do, sir. However, I believe that strategy needs to be reviewed and perhaps energized on a more aggressive timeline.

MCCAIN: It seems to me that some of the actions -- we're taking 50 troops here, 200 there, is -- smacks of mission creep. Is that -- is there -- do you think that there is some aspects of that?

MATTIS: Chairman, I'm -- I'm not current on this issue, if confirmed I will get current very quickly.

MCCAIN: I just returned from a trip to the Baltics, Georgia and Ukraine. They are incredibly worried about our commitment to them. And the -- one of the major priorities that the Baltic countries have is a permanent U.S. military presence. Not a base, but a permanent military presence in the Baltics. Do you agree with that?

MATTIS: Chairman, once the new national security team is confirmed I want to sit down with them and come up with a -- a coherent integrated strategy that uses diplomacy, military...

MCCAIN: Yeah, I understand. But I'm speaking -- specifically speaking of the Baltics.

MATTIS: I do, sir.

MCCAIN: On that trip that I took with Senator Graham and Senator Klobuchar we went to Mariupol, close to the front lines, where we -- with the president of Ukraine, where we took part in various ceremonies and meetings with these brave Ukrainians, 10,000 of whom have been slaughtered by Vladimir Putin in his invasion of Crimea and Ukraine.

And I know you can appreciate the fact that there was a ceremony where the president of Ukraine gave their highest award to the mother of a young man who had just been killed by a Russian sniper a couple of days before. It's always very moving and it brings home graphically what the Russians have done in Ukraine and Crimea.

Crimea in blatant violation of the Budapest Agreement; for which they recognized Crimea's part of Ukraine in return for Ukraine giving up its nuclear inventory. What do you think we ought to do about Russia, General Mattis?

Do you think we oughta maybe have -- have sanctions against Russia? Or basically sit by as we have for the last couple of years and watch their aggression -- by the way, including their precision guided weapons against hospitals in Aleppo.

The list goes on and on of the atrocities that have been committed by Vladimir Putin while we, again, try a reset as -- I've watched three presidents commit themselves to a new relationship with Vladimir Putin. All three have been an abysmal failure. Should we ignore the lessons of history in our relationship with Vladimir Putin and what should we be doing?


MATTIS: Chairman, history is not a straitjacket, but I've never found a better guide for the way ahead than studying the histories. Since Yalta, we have a long list of times we've tried to engage positively with Russia. We have a relatively short list of successes in that regard.

And I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we deal with Mr. Putin and we recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance and that we take the steps -- the integrated steps, diplomatic, economic, military and the alliance steps, the working with our allies to defend ourselves where we must.

MCCAIN: You are a distinguished student of history and as we are all aware that following World War II, a world order was established, which has held for basically the last 70 years. Do you believe that that new -- that world order is now under more strain now than it's ever been? MATTIS: I think it's under the biggest attack since World War II sir and that's from Russia, from terrorist groups and with what China is doing in the South China Sea.

MCCAIN: And, that would argue for us making sure that we are adequately prepared to meet these challenges.

MATTIS: I think deterrence is critical right now sir, absolutely. And that requires the strongest military.

MCCAIN: Do you think we have a strong enough military today, in order to achieve that goal?

MATTIS: No sir.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

Senator Reed.

REED: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman. And thank you General for your testimony and again for your service.

As I mentioned in my opening statement, your comments at CSIS indicated that despite misgivings about JCPOA, in your words there's no going back and short of clear and flagrant violation, that was enough to simulate the European's actions as well that we have to essentially stay the course is that still your view?

MATTIS: Sir, I think it is an imperfect arms control agreement. It's not a friendship treaty. But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.

REED: There also as I pointed out and as you recognized and has pointed out much more eloquently, challenged arising from the non- nuclear aspects of Iranian contact, proxy support, interference with shipping. In fact there was in incident this week of provocation.

How do you apply appropriate pressure to the Iranian's to contain their behavior in these areas without jeopardizing the solidarity for the European and world community and the durability of the JCPOA?

MATTIS: Chairman, once the once the new national security team is confirmed, we'll work together, but I think to publicly display what Iran is up to with their surrogates and proxies, their terrorist units that they support, to recognize the ballistic missile threat, to deal with their maritime threat and to publicly make clear to everyone what they're doing in the cyber realm, all helps to constrain Iran.

REED: Thank you.

Now if you are to become the secretary of Defense, you will be a critical component of the intelligence community. You produce intelligence for the defense intelligence agency, you can consume intelligence because it is the basis of most every recommendation or decision that you would make. And we are in a very unique situation, where we have the President- elect disparaging the intelligence community, questioning its conclusions and questioning it's motivations. Suggesting perhaps that there would be some actions taken perhaps bordering on retribution for intelligence analysis that is being done, we presume -- I certainly presume, based on the trade craft and allegiance to the facts and to the best judgment that they can make.

Do you believe if you observe behavior such as that -- disrupting the intelligence community, disparaging it, undermining it, ignoring it, under -- again I could go on. Do you feel you have an obligation to the country and the Constitution to inform the committee of those actions?

MATTIS: Senator, I can tell you that in my many years of involvement in the military, I had a close relationship with the intelligence community.


I could evaluate their effectiveness at times on a daily basis and I have very, very high degree of confidence in our intelligence community.

REED: And if you see that community being undercut, not debated about their conclusion, but undercut or somehow ignored or selectively being listened to or ignored. Again, do you feel you have an obligation to make us aware of this so that we can exercise our responsibilities?

MATTIS: I'll be completely transparent with this committee sir, but I would not have taken this job if I didn't believe the president- elect would also be open to my input on this or any other matter.

REED: You have talked about the situation with respect to Russia, one aspect of that is operations in Syria, there has been some discussion of on and off during the campaign of cooperating with the Russians and Syria, do you think there's a possibility of that, a likelihood of that or would that be a good approach?

MATTIS: Senator, Russia, to quote the Chairman's opening statement has chosen to be a strategic competitor. They're an adversary in key areas and while we should always engage and look for areas of cooperation and even in the worst years of the Cold War, President Regan, Secretary Shultz were able to work with Russia -- the Soviet Union back at (ph) that time -- and reduce the nuclear weapons. So I'm all for engagement but we also have to recognize reality and what Russia is up to and there's decreasing number of areas where we can engage cooperatively and increasing number of areas where we're going to have to confront Russia.

REED: Thank you.

MCCAIN: Senator Inhofe.

SEN. JIM INHOFE (R), OKLAHOMA: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I'm not going to take all of my time here because every question I was going to ask, the chairman's already asked and I like the answers. I also have been honored to have known you for 30 years and that's not normally the case and so I'm so excited that you're willing to do this. The two things that we are concerned with are readiness and what's happening -- that I'm concerned with is readiness and our- the U.S. influence.

A year ago you said that you stated our influence in the Middle East is at its lowest point in four decades and I agree with that. We had also confirmation testimony last November by General Goldfein, that said continuations combat operations in reduced overall budgets have driven readiness to a historically low levels. And I look and I see Senator Cohen and Senator Nunn and I spent time with both of them and I admire them so much but this isn't like it used to be. I mean right now we have 1/3 of the Army Brigade to combat that are ready to fight in all types of warfare.

The current Air Force is the smallest and oldest in the Air Force history, yet only half of its fighter squadrons are ready to fight in intensive -- intensity combat and General Mattis and your Marines, the aircraft there, combat and Marine aviators at a historical lows in terms of flight time. Same thing with Navy, we have requirements for 308 shifts and we only have 274, so this is not like it used to be. And I would only say this -- that I really believe that we'll have to relook at the priorities that we have in this country and I've -- I enjoy quoting President Reagan when he first came in.

He said, quote, "starting by considering what must be done to maintain peace and review all of the possible threats against our security. Then a strategy for strengthening peace the -- and defending against those threats, which must be agreed upon, and finally our defense establishment must be evaluated to see what is necessary to project (ph) any and all of the potential threats. The cost of achieving these ends (ph) is totally up in that -- in (ph) the result is the budget for national defense."

Do you think he was right at that time?

MATTIS: Yes, sir, I do.

INHOFE: Yes, I look forward to that and thank you for being willing to do this.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Thank you. Thank you, General Mattis, for also being willing to do this.

You and I have had a chance to work together in the past and we've also had a chance to visit.


I would like to first briefly talk about the overseas contingency operating fund.