Mac Thornberry, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has made the reduction of bureaucracy—which he claims stifles innovation at the Department of Defense (DoD) and hinders our military’s readiness—at the core of his mission as chairman.
In his initial marks for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2019, which appropriates the money for the DoD, Chairman Thornberry proposed major cuts to centralized DoD departments, part of what he calls the “fourth estate,” although the version of the bill that passed the committee will leave it up to the DoD’s Chief Management Officer.
The fourth estate was among one of several flashpoints—others including the importance for missile defense and our allies, the emerging fields in cyber and space, and the controversy related to large Chinese technology companies—in Chairman Thornberry’s appearance for a Bloomberg Government event in the morning of May 15.
While there were disagreements over the Chairman’s cuts of the fourth estate, Naval defense systems, Trump’s call for a military parade, Trump’s remarks about the potential Space Force as a fourth branch, recent military aviation disasters, Trump’s proposed border wall, and reporting executive branch use of military plans, among other things, Chairman Thornberry said “There’s so much [the committee] agree[s] on that doesn’t get attention,” he said. “Everyone recognizes the need to rebuild and reform.”
As part of that rebuild and reform, the NDAA authorizes additional spending for 116 double V-hull Stryker combat vehicles, upgrades to battered A-10 Warthogs, land force munitions like the Guided Multiple Launched Rocket Systems (GMLRS).
According to Chairman Thornberry, the DoD cannot consistently rely on 10 percent budget increases in spending every year from Congress, therefore, his reforms on overhead are necessary to get more money and resources to the hands of the soldiers.
Chairman Thornberry’s comments on the fourth estate are hardly new, and studies say that better cost-cutting measures should focus on modernizing the archaic military health care system, increased oversight on Pentagon service contractors, and adjusting the number of civilian workers.
Regardless, Chairman Thornberry sees the current and first-ever audit of the DoD—which has already revealed massive problems—as crucial to that process.
“It’s very important not to punish [the Pentagon] for finding problems,” he said, “but we need to hold them accountable to solve those problems.”
As President Trump and North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong-Un are set to meet in mid-June in Singapore, Chairman Thornberry continued to reinforce his position that spending for missile and missile defense programs are justified.
“I don’t foresee a time in this country where we will not need to defend this country from missiles,” he said, arguing that the U.S. should move forward with a missile defense system on the East Coast, despite other reports claim that the proposal is ineffective.
Another crucial piece of protection, Chairman Thornberry said, is ensuring the U.S. gets defense systems to our allies. If not, it could drive allies to rivals like China, he said, who utilizes a “whole nation” approach.
“We’re over here trying to get our agencies to communicate,” Chairman Thornberry said, meanwhile China has a whole nation approach, which allows corporations to do the bidding of the government, if need be, which is exactly at the core of the problem with the Chinese technology companies.
“It’s not an economic question, it’s a national security question,” he said adding that he “doesn’t understand the administration’s take on this [issue] at this time,” after Trump said he’s working on an agreement with the large Chinese technology firm, ZTE.
The Chairman said he hopes to have the NDAA, which will come to a full-floor vote in the House in the coming weeks before moving onto the Senate, passed “on time for a change.” But, he added, “There’s always something unexpected that becomes controversial.”