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Deputy Secretary of Defense Dr. Kathleen Hicks Remarks at the Reserve Forces Policy Board Meeting (As Delivered)

Good morning.

Chairman Punaro, thank you for inviting me to today's board meeting.

On behalf of Secretary Austin, who is in Europe this week meeting with our NATO allies, I'm glad to be here today to discuss the critical role our Reserve Component plays in defending the nation.

In the past several years, there's been a lot of change. We've recognized that the post-Cold-War-era is over. We ended the war in Afghanistan, which was America's longest war. We've released the 2022 National Defense Strategy, which is setting forth how we are defending the country, our allies, and our interests in what we call the "decisive decade."

And, as recent events of the past week have underscored, we are in a new era of strategic competition, with the PRC as our pacing challenge. [inaudible]

But while the geopolitical landscape has changed, what has not changed is that the role of the reserve component is as important as ever.

So, the NDS that we have for this administration sets forth the same priority as its predecessor on an operational, deployable, ready, reserve component. And we recognize the importance of operating as a total force to meet the strategy's goals.

So later this month, we'll be marking the one-year anniversary of Russia's latest invasion of Ukraine, and that really, I think, provides a great opportunity to reflect on the stark contrast between how we in the United States and Russia view our reserve components.

Unlike Russia, which has had to resort to conscription, and is treating its people as cannon fodder, we view the RC as an integrated part of America's all-volunteer force. And as you know, ours is the best in the world.

The reserve component also is a living, thriving bridge between the American way of life that we must protect and those who are called to military service to defend it.

And the RC brings a tremendous amount of private-sector expertise and experience in fields like cybersecurity, logistics, and data science.

It's how we have a small-town mayor in northern Indiana who was able to serve and deploy as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan, and how a current Navy reservist, who is also a senior executive at Apple, has been able to help the department think through how best to engage the tech sector in Silicon Valley.

The reserve component helps us tap into, and benefit, from a wide pool of talent. We need that more and more these days because our strategic competitors—with the PRC, again, at the top of the list—are increasingly and deliberately seeking to erode our advantages.

It is our imperative to ensure that the entire department is best-positioned to deter and prevail in conflict. And that requires combat-credible forces, and we have every intention of making sure that our reserve component is as combat-credible as our active component.

A return to strategic competition does not mean we're returning to a strategic reserve. To the contrary, the reserves remain a vital operational component for our force.

I know the board is recommending that Secretary Austin direct the department to update the Total Force Policy, and I think that makes good sense. We have not updated it since 2009, and as I said, there's been a lot of change since then. It's time.

Over the course of today, I know you're going to hear from the under secretaries of all three military departments; I just saw Ash Vazirani leaving, and had a good conversation with him; you'll see other representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and of course from the Joint Staff, and you'll be closing out the day [inaudible] looking forward, in particular, to that engagement with General Smith.

When you hear from them, I hope that you'll provide them your advice and [inaudible] on how the reserve component can help us, again, bridge civilian and military spheres. It's as important today as it has ever been. And I also hope you'll help us think through how to attract and retain a world-class guard and reserve.

Again, rest assured that the reserve component remains vital to our nation's defense, and gives us an asymmetric advantage over our global competitors.

I know how seriously take your role in advising and counseling Secretary Austin and the department. And we're very proud of this board, we're proud of each and every one of you who volunteered to join in this effort, and we're very much looking forward to the counsel that you can provide us. We like our boards to be working boards, so thank you in advance.

With that, I'm happy to take any questions you have for me.