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McHugh Notes Challenges at Confirmation Hearing

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 30, 2009 – U.S. Rep. John McHugh’s inspiration to serve as secretary of the Army lies in his desire to repay the devotion to duty exuded by today’s military members despite the many challenges he’ll face, the New York congressman said here today at his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing.

“For all the excitement of this moment, I want to assure this committee that I appear here with few delusions as of the difficulties that lie ahead,” President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Defense Department’s largest organization said. “I believe I have a clear understanding of the serious and numerous challenges that face America’s Army.

“They are strained by the frequency of constant deployments and stress by the pressures levied against their families,” he continued. “Too often -- far too often -- they return home to only to be disappointed by a network of support systems that, despite high intentions and constant effort, continue to fall short of the level of support they so richly deserve and each and every one of us so deeply desire.”

McHugh said the challenges that await him if he’s confirmed have no easy answers. But providing longer “dwell time” at home stations between deployments, improving family support and services and balancing the growing needs for equipment with a decreasing budget will continue to be his focus, he said. These issues have been at the top of his priority list for some time, the former ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee noted.

“I know from personal experience the concerns and efforts each of you put forth each and every day in support of the great men and women of the military who, along with their families, sacrifice so much to protect our freedoms and our liberties wherever and whenever that challenge might arise,” McHugh said. “And I have been fortunate to work in your shadow in a similar cause.”

McHugh noted the difficulties that come along with balancing tough choices and decisions. He recognized that resources that may have been more abundant for the Army in the past -- such as supplemental wartime budgets in addition to the overall budget -- likely would continue to diminish.

He quoted a recent statement by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in which Gates said the Defense Department “cannot afford to do everything and buy everything, but, at the same time, we cannot afford defeat.”

“That’s a tough challenge -- tough realities. But both can be met and overcome,” McHugh said. “It will take a constant formulation of new thinking and new direction.”

Success also is going to require a reinvention and reinvigoration of government resources, he added. He called for the expertise of organizations such as the U.S. Agency for International Development to be used effectively to augment responsibilities and, when possible, to help to end conflicts. It should be a requirement that the Army and all the services “do their part to facilitate the effective implementation of nonkinetic tools,” he said.

But in the end, he said, the military family and community and their service to the nation is the bottom line. He recalled visits to wounded warriors and to the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite dealing with life-changing disabilities and separation from their families, he said, the devotion of military members to serve continues to grow and encourage others.

“I’ve visited our wounded warriors at home and abroad,” he said, “and in each visit, I have been struck how these heroes, facing pain and loss and uncertainty, ask only one question: What else can I do to serve?

“We can ask no less of ourselves,” he added. “How can we succeed in repaying even a partial measure of the devotion they render to all of us each and every day?”

McHugh was nominated June 2 to replace Pete Geren as Army secretary. He is a 16-year member of Congress and serves New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which encompasses Fort Drum and some of the Army’s most frequently deployed soldiers.

The confirmation hearing also included Joseph W. Westphal, nominated for the Army’s second-ranking civilian position as undersecretary. Westphal was confirmed by the Senate as assistant secretary of the Army for civil works in 1998, and in 2001, he served briefly as the acting secretary of the Army. He’s now a university system professor of political science at the University of Maine.

Juan Garcia III also provided testimony for his nomination to be the Navy’s undersecretary for manpower and reserve affairs. Garcia, a lawyer in Corpus Christi, Texas, served 13 years of active duty as a Navy aviator.

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U.S. Rep. John McHugh


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