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WASHINGTON – As a Member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) yesterday questioned Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford regarding the Department of Defense’s FY2018 budget request.

Sen. Moran questioned Sec. Mattis and Gen. Dunford regarding the need to rebalance Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs) across the force as the Army increases end strength. In addition, Sen. Moran highlighted his flight in Textron’s Scorpion jet during a recent visit in Wichita to emphasize the need for the light-attack aircraft.  

Click here to watch Senator Mornan’s questioning. 

Sen. Moran (0:05): “I was able to visit in this setting not too many days ago with General Milley regarding end strength levels beyond the FY2017 NDAA mandate. I want to have a conversation about how those brigades will be divided, and what kind of brigades we need. The new threat environment, I assume in your assessment, means that we are going to need to rebalance those brigade structures, with the Russian aggression, our reassurance efforts, and the conversation this morning about Afghanistan. I do know that back-to-back armor brigade combat team deployments to Europe is occurring. I know that the Big Red One in Kansas is a part of that – we will have 4,000 of those soldiers with the 2nd Armored BCT this fall. What do you believe, Mr. Secretary, is the right mix of light armor, light attack armor and advise and assist brigades and consequently where will the BCTs require training?”

Sec. Mattis (1:35): “Those brigades will be joining the general purpose force, so what we do is look at what is a threat as best as we can determine. I would tell you sir that as we put this proposal forward if we do not remove the Budget Control Act caps and we bring those troops in, the only way we will be able to pay them two years from now, is by stopping, again, modernization. So there is a danger here to even discuss this if we don’t look at the broader budgetary horizon.”

Gen. Dunford (2:20): “Senator when we talk full spectrum what we are really saying is that the United States of America given our security challenges can’t prepare for Russia and China, or violent extremism. We have to prepare for all of those challenges. Two areas we have found now to be very stressed. One is armored brigades, even the rotation now as you know is a pretty tight turn. What that impacts is the amount of time that our soldiers are home, but it also affects the amount of training that they are able to do across the spectrum. Right now even our armored brigades have been singularly focused on violent extremism and the challenges in Syria than we would like to have. Increasing the armored capacity is something that General Milley has spoken about. In terms of the advise and assist brigades, that is an initiative that the army has been working on now for a couple of years. General Milley’s leadership has put that over the goal line. Our methodology for dealing with the violent extremism problem in particular is to train local forces, so they can assume responsibility for securing their countries. Those advise and assist brigades are designed exactly to do that. I would emphasize one point the Secretary made and that is our caution in growing capacity now without certainty about what the next several years would be. In other words, the worst thing we could do now is to grow capacity and then not have the funds available to properly train and equip those units. I do believe we will have to grow, I think the defense security review that the Secretary will lead will indicate a need to grow in capacity. Balance means two things, it means being prepared to deal with threats across the spectrum and it also means we have a balance in our training equipment and personnel to ensure the units are whole.”

Sen. Moran (4:45): “I recently took a backseat ride in a light attack fighter, the Scorpion, over the skies of Kansas. I want to highlight for you this issue that we are going through a process of a new attack fighter, developed by the private sector, and would want you to respond perhaps – and take one for the record – about its value to the entire military. At the moment there is a focus by the Air Force, but I have the view that it has a value to a broader way of our military efforts.”

Sec. Mattis (5:18): “Yes sir, we are on board with it. The first test was done at CENTCOM, and I am keenly aware of that test. We are watching it closely and it has a lot of promise.”

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