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Senate Hears Testimony on Top Pentagon Nominations

May 7, 2020 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony from the nominees for three senior Defense Department positions.

If confirmed by the Senate, Kenneth J. Braithwaite will serve as Navy secretary, Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. will be the next Air Force chief of staff, and James H. Anderson will be the deputy undersecretary of defense for policy.

"It saddens me to say that the Department of the Navy is in rough waters due to many factors, but primarily the failure of leadership," Braithwaite said during today's hearing. "They are all indicative of a breakdown in the trust of those leading the service," he added, alluding to a COVID-19 outbreak on the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt and other recent issues.


Braithwaite said he is confident such circumstances can be handled better in the future because DOD is resilient and successful organizations have a strong culture, which always starts with leadership.

While Braithwaite said he recognizes the challenges of becoming Navy secretary, he is prepared for the position and has learned lessons across myriad roles in military service, as an executive in the private sector, a congressional staffer and as the ambassador to Norway.

"I have been preparing my entire life for this moment — always guided by honor, courage and commitment," Braithewaite said. 

Brown emphasized to the committee that the 2018 National Defense Strategy provides DOD with clear, actionable and attainable goals to compete, deter and win.

The general said he has been in leadership positions focused on the challenges that lie in China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and violent extremist groups, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy. 

Ships sail in formation.
Pacific Transit
The Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group transits the Pacific Ocean in formation while on a scheduled deployment to the Indo-Pacific region, Jan. 25, 2020.
Photo By: Navy Seaman Dylan Lavin
VIRIN: 200125-N-TL141-1018

"If confirmed, I am committed to the Air Force achieving irreversible momentum toward implementation of the National Defense Strategy in an integrated and more lethal joint force," he said. 

At the top of Brown's list is working with other DOD leaders to ensure the success of the U.S. Space Force to increase joint interoperability, he said.

He also pledged to encourage innovation. "I am an advocate for constant collaboration [among] operators, acquisition professionals and industry partners to unleash innovation [so] … the warfighter has access to the most capable and state-of-the-art assets sooner than later," the general said.

If confirmed, Brown said, he will continue to carefully consider risk assessment balancing the Air Force's support to combatant commander requirements, while investing in capabilities that prepare the Air Force for future competition, conflicts and challenges.

Anderson noted that he has worked under the National Defense Strategy, and he told the committee that if he is confirmed as deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, he will continue those efforts in a new role.

A jet refuels in mid-air.
Raptor Approach
An Air Force F-22 Raptor approaches an Air Force KC-135 Stratotanker from the 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron during a Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve mission over Iraq, April 11, 2017. The KC-135 enhances the Air Force’s capability of its primary mission of global reach. The National Defense Strategy lists extremist groups such as ISIS as a global threat.
Photo By: Air Force Senior Airman Joshua Hoskins
VIRIN: 170411-F-HA049-003C

"My professional experience has taught me the value of asking hard questions and the importance of seeking practical solutions," he said.

He understands the importance of working with allies and partners, he said, in addition to the importance of teamwork and esprit de corps.

"I am privileged to be part of this team," he said of DOD's policy office. "The National Defense Strategy … remains our North Star. The document clearly outlines priorities to ensure our nation's competitive advantage amid the exacting demands of long-term strategic competition."

If confirmed, Anderson said, "I will do my level best to help implement the strategy in a cost-effective and timely manner. The men and women in uniform, as well as their civilian counterparts who serve the department, deserve no less from their senior leaders."