Last week the Senate Armed Services Committee convened to discuss the nominations of:
- Mr. Brad Carson to be Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and
- Ms. Jennifer O’Connor to be General Counsel of the Department of
- Todd Weiler to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and
Causes for Concern
Mr. McCain started the hearing by welcoming the families of the nominees, before tearing into Mr. Carson. An excerpt of his speech is quoted below for effect.
Mr. Carson, the Department of Defense recently announced two rounds of Force of
the Future proposals. However, the Department has never provided this Committee
any information whatsoever on these proposals.
I am informed that you are the main architect of the Force of the Future. As an
individual who previously appeared before this Committee as a nominee to be the
General Counsel of the Department of the Army, and later as Undersecretary of the
Department of the Army, your failure to provide information to this Committee stands in stark contrast to the commitment you have previously made, to provide witnesses and briefers in response to Congressional requests. The Department has repeatedly ignored my requests for more details and refused to brief me or my staff. You will be expected to answer questions from the Committee today, on the record.
Many of these Force of the Future proposals appear to be solutions in search of a problem. We are eager to learn what clearly identified problems you propose solving with your proposals, and of course, we want a full description of the background research, cost analysis, and analysis of the impact on military readiness that served as the foundation for the development of such proposals. I find it deeply disturbing that you are proposing to add expensive fringe benefits allegedly aimed at retention during a time when we are asking 3,000 excellent Army Captains to leave the service who would have otherwise chosen to remain on active duty.
From my perspective this initiative has been an outrageous waste of official time and resources during a period of severe fiscal constraints. It illustrates the worst aspects of a bloated and inefficient Defense organization. I look forward to your explanations and empirical data on this important matter.
To his credit Mr. Carson claimed that he had attempted to reach out to the SASC before and had been rebuffed. He also claimed that he had briefed staffers on the Force of the Future initiative before this hearing.
Senators also requested that Mr. Carson conduct a command-climate survey as a formality due to disgruntled claims by employees about his prior leadership in the Department of Defense.
Prior-Service and a Taliban Hostage Swap
Ms. O’Connor received sharp words as well, including a barbed question about why she was fit to serve as DoD Counsel despite never serving in the military herself. She was also continually asked to state her opinion on last year’s transfer of Taliban hostages for the freedom of Army hostage Bowe Bergdahl.
Much of the hearing went off without trouble, but I highlighted the negative excerpts to show that there is an unusually high level of fraction between the SASC and these high-level DoD nominees. This doesn’t bode well for the upcoming year, in a time where DoD and Congress desperately need to cooperate on key issues like personnel reform and high-level restructuring a la Goldwater-Nichols.