Senator Wicker Leads Armed Services Republicans in Defense Intelligence Hearing

May 2, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger F. Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), led his colleagues in examining worldwide threats to national security with expert testimony from defense intelligence leadership.


Director of National Intelligence Hon. Avril D. Haines and Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Jeffrey A. Kruse, USAF, testified before the committee.


This hearing is part of the annual series in which the most senior U.S. military officers and national security personnel discuss with SASC the challenges within their areas of responsibility. The hearing is one of the few opportunities Americans have to hear openly from their senior defense intelligence officials about the growing threats from our adversaries.


In his opening remarks, Senator Wicker observed that the global security environment is extremely perilous given the combination of great power competition and violent Islamic extremism.


In this context, the Mississippi senator noted, it is more important than ever for the intelligence and defense communities to work together closely.


One place Senator Wicker pointed to start would be a better public intelligence community assessment of China’s defense spending. Reports indicate their budget may be much larger than currently estimated.


Read Senator Wicker’s opening statement as delivered below or watch it here.


Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Today’s hearing is a chance for the committee to hear the intelligence community’s assessment of the many threats that our country faces. I regularly hear from our nation’s top uniformed and civilian personnel. Their testimony makes it clear to me that the United States faces a troubling threat environment and that the situation urgently requires American leadership.


Armed conflict is raging in multiple theaters. Regional instability is on the rise. Violent Islamic terrorism is expanding. Several of our principal adversaries are deepening their cooperation, forming a new axis of evil and striving to reshape the geopolitical order.


We have reached a pivotal moment in history. The decisions we make this year will have far-reaching implications for our national security.


It is disturbing to me that the intelligence community seems unable to give our national security officials or the American public an answer about the size of the Chinese defense budget. That said, we do know that our principal adversary, Communist China, has announced another 7.2 percent increase to its defense budget for 2024. I would like our witnesses to articulate a plan for how they will answer this question – a plan that involves more than one full-time analyst working on the problem, as is currently the case.


No matter the exact size of the Chinese budget, we see with our own eyes, in public and in classified settings, the scope and scale of the Chinese military modernization. If we hope to maintain deterrence or win a fight, we will need the military and the intelligence community to work more closely together than they ever have. To that end, I would like to understand what specific policies the intelligence community has changed to enable a more effective targeting process for the military.


Beijing is leading that increasingly integrated axis of countries bent on undermining United States’ interest. This new alignment of cooperation among China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea is a greater menace than we have faced in decades. I do not believe the American people have a sufficient understanding of the danger. Many of us do not know the ways in which these adversaries are working together to make Americans, our allies, and our partners less safe. I hope our witnesses can comment with specific examples about this new threat.


The national security supplemental that Congress passed last week is an important and historic step in the right direction, as the Chairman just stated. It was necessary, but it is insufficient. We have much more work to do to restore our industrial base to a wartime footing, to strengthen our allies, and to get innovative technologies into the hands of our service members. We do all of this because we hope to prevent a war from ever coming to pass.


So, I thank our witnesses for their service to the country and for being with us today. Thank you.