WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, today participated in a full committee hearing discussing the future force posture for the United States Army and the fiscal year 2024 defense budget.
In his remarks, Wicker emphasized the urgency with which the Army must shift its focus to deterring conflict in the Pacific, while also pushing improvements in our defense industrial base.
“The Army is and will continue to be on the leading edge of efforts to rebalance our Western Pacific forces. United States Army Pacific, through Pacific Pathways and other engagements, has established significant relationships with allies and partners that promise to enable access and maneuvering capabilities across the theater,” Wicker said. “Further, the Army has successfully and rapidly pushed the envelope to rebuild our Arsenal of Democracy through significant capacity expansion investments and proposed multi-year contracts, though more work remains.”
Wicker also mentioned the recruiting crisis for the United States Army and increasing pressures on the United States Army will require a significant increase in the defense budget. The Mississippi senator once again called out the President’s suggested defense budget as a “disservice” to the armed forces.
“When accounting for inflation, this year’s budget is about a two percent cut compared to last year,” Wicker said. “The impact of that cut is even more severe at a time when personnel expenses are rapidly increasing.”
Secretary of the Army, Hon. Christine E. Wormuth and Chief of Staff of the Army, Gen. James C. McConville testified to the committee.
Read Senator Wicker’s remarks as delivered below or watch them here.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I want to thank our witnesses for being here.
I also join the Chairman in offering my condolences to those killed last night in the training accident at Ft. Campbell. On this committee we take the safety of our service members seriously, and we will seek a fuller accounting of what happened.
I will also say that when it comes to the Army, the distinguished Chairman of the committee knows of what he speaks and I am fortunate to have him as a teammate.
First, I want to thank General McConville for his service to the United States. Since earning his commission from West Point in 1981, he has faithfully served his country as an Army Aviator and as a General Officer.
I also want to recognize General McConville’s family, as the Chairman has done. However, I don’t know if we’ve yet recognized his favorite member of his family, his youngest -- his grandson Patton.
No U.S. soldiers are fighting against Russia in its brutal invasion of Ukraine. This is Ukraine’s fight, and it is fighting well and valiantly. Even though no U.S. troops are directly engaged in the fight, the United States Army is providing critical on-the-ground support to Ukraine. Thousands of U.S. soldiers are deployed to provide logistics to supply Ukraine’s military. Thousands more are training Ukrainian military personnel.
And the result is a significantly degraded Russian military, as Secretary Austin testified earlier and that is a positive development.
The lessons of Ukraine should be an example of our efforts in the Pacific. The Army is and will continue to be on the leading edge of efforts to rebalance our Western Pacific forces. United States Army Pacific, through Pacific Pathways and other engagements, has established significant relationships with allies and partners that promise to enable access and maneuvering capabilities across the theater. Further, the Army has successfully and rapidly pushed the envelope to rebuild our Arsenal of Democracy through significant capacity expansion investments and proposed multi-year contracts, though more work remains.
The Army also has an important role to play in contested logistics and in providing more options for sensors and shooters to the joint force. I am heartened by the speed with which the Army has sought to reshape itself to provide deterrent value against Chinese People’s Liberation Army. But we should still do more to accelerate this effort.
In particular, we should capitalize on the progress made on the Precision Strike Missile and the Mid-Range Capability weapon system. For next-generation combat vehicles, platforms like the optionally-manned fighting vehicle and the armored multi-purpose vehicle may soon replace or reinforce their aging counterparts. I hope to hear more about these advancements and those in network, soldier lethality, future vertical lift, and air and missile defense.
None of these achievements or capabilities would work without the dedicated soldiers of the United States Army. And I join the Chairman in noting that we are in the front edge of a recruiting crisis. I would like an update on this year’s recruiting goals and how the Army has changed its strategy to meet its recruitment and retention objectives. Along those lines, let reiterate a position that I have had for several years now during the markup of the NDAA: I am strongly in favor of efforts the Army may pursue to expand the Junior ROTC. I do believe this is a valuable program not only for our potential military members, but principally for citizenship and public service in our young people.
Sadly, I must mention the Biden administration’s disservice to the Army in the Fiscal Year 2024 budget submission. In that regard, I associate myself with the remarks of the distinguished Chairman of the committee. When accounting for inflation, this year’s budget is about a two percent cut compared to last year. The impact of that cut is even more severe at a time when personnel expenses are rapidly increasing. Meanwhile, General McConville submitted a list of almost $2 billion worth of unfunded priorities the Army needs, including support for partnership-building exercises in the Indo-Pacific – and I do appreciate those submissions because they inform this committee. Further, the budget request fails to use multiyear procurement authority for critical missiles like PAC-3 and GMLRS. I am confident my colleagues – on a bipartisan basis, again – will join me to correct this inadequate budget and ensure the Army has the right resources to confront the nation’s current and future challenges.
So, thank you Mr. Chairman, I think we share many views along this. I thank our distinguished witnesses and look forward to their testimony.