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tv   Thornberry Armed Serv  CSPAN  June 25, 2017 6:00pm-6:34pm EDT

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released a new discussion draft on their health care law of replacement thursday. the congressional budget office will score this bill this week is congressional debate expected to begin. we have posted the bill on c-span.org. you can follow the discussion on c-span2, online at c-span.org, and on the free c-span radio app. >> our guest on c-span newsmakers this week is mac thornberry, republican of texas, chairman of the house armed services committee. in that role he is interested in , all things military including spending, operations, and strategy. we will talk to him about all of that as his committee works on the defense spending plan for the coming year. thank you for being with us. >> thank you for having me. >> let me introduce the reporters who will be asking chairman thornberry questions this week. joel gold with us for the first time this week covering congress
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for the first time this week. joe, you are up first. joe: hello. we would like to know, the house armed services committee is set to markup the national defense authorization act next week. can you tell us, what is in the bill and what is the top line for defense? rep. thornberry: last fall, the speaker asked us to look at what amount of spending was needed to fix the mounting problems we were seeing in the military, planes that could not fly, ships that could not sale, ground units that have to take people out of one and put them into another in order to deploy, and the number we came up with was about $640 billion for the next fiscal year. president trump won election. he talked about a 355-ship navy, a variety of other things. we still think an appropriate next year and a next yea
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, that is the number we are proceeding with in our markup. it may be at the end of the day, there's negotiations and we don't quite reach there, but our committee does not believe that we can continue to put band-aids on the situation when we have so many problems with planes, ships, ground vehicles and when , the threats are multiplying -- north korea, etc. joe: the house committee number is somewhere in the neighborhood of $620 billion. the $640 billion figure is $37 billion more than the president's budget. is that a realistic number, given the dynamics in congress? what is the strategy for making that a reality? rep. thornberry: it is a realistic number. it is what we need. one of my hopes is we can focus
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this discussion on the capability our military needs because their lives are at stake here, rather than playing a numbers game. the second thing is a little bit of context. if you look back to 2010, we have cut the military budget about 20% from what we were spending in 2010. remember, 2010 was before russia invaded crimea, before china was building islands in the south china sea, before isis even existed, not to mention north korea and so forth. when you cut 20%, you are going to have a lot of damage. it's going to take a while to repair that damage, but this is the time to start, and i think the attitude of our committee is no more band-aids. this is the time to really fix our problems. we owe that to the folks who are risking their lives every day.
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gordon: hi, mr. chairman. i guess what i'm interested in is trying to figure out how to square mr. trump's campaign rhetoric, where he talked about the things that you mentioned -- the 355-ship navy and all these other things, rebuild the military -- but all the pentagon folks heard her in the last couple of weeks of testimony was lament of lawmakers asking why is it not more. it seems like mr. trump's own budget folks cut the legs out from underneath the pentagon on this deal. help us square -- why are they coming up short when mr. trump wanted to do so much more? rep. thornberry: i would say first, i don't think there's any doubt the president wants to repair and rebuild our military. the budget that his administration sent up did not do that, and the reason is they did not have any people in place at the pentagon. when the budget came to capitol
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23, there were exactly two senate confirmed trump appointees in the pentagon. one was the secretary of defense and the other was the secretary of the air force and she had and been there one week. what you had was either obama holdovers or people who were there temporarily, and what they had was the plans of the obama administration, and that is what they sent. those of us in congress who have been following this understand that is inadequate. part of the attitude of some of folks is give us a year to study this and get our people in place and we will come up with a better budget in 2019. our response with that is we cannot wait. we have to fix our planes, our ships, our units now. gordon: the pentagon still looks a bit like swiss cheese, and a lot of holes. not a lot of people in there.
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i think they are even losing some time on building the 2019 budget. quick question on this year's budget again, which is it was meant to be, you know, a readiness-fixing budget, but i gather that is hard to get the pentagon to part with some of the data that i think you folks require to make the case for this more money. is that an issue? rep. thornberry: it is an issue, but i see both sides of it. there are leaders in the pentagon who do not want to publicly talk about what our problems are. their view is that is telling the enemy where we are weak, and i am sympathetic with that. at the same time, unless we can talk about what our problems are, we will not have members of congress who are willing to fix those problems. it is a tension, there's no question, but certainly, the folks who devote most of their time and energy to these issues,
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like the folks on the armed services committee in both the house and senate, understand how deep the damage is that has been done by that 20% cut i mentioned, and we are just determined to follow through on what the president wants to do and make it a reality. joe: you have talked about the damage done by budget caps, the budget control act, sequestration. do you think there are the votes in the house right now, even among some of your republican colleagues, to repeal budget caps? rep. thornberry: i think so, and by the end of the negotiation, i hope that is the result. as the defense budget was being cut, our debt went up, so it is clearly not the defense budget that is driving deficits and debt, and the other thought i have is we cannot wait to get
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our budget house in order before we fix the planes and ships and tanks for our people. they deserve to be safe. they deserve to have the best our country can give them now in spite of some of our political dysfunction in washington. that's why we are so committed to try to make that happen. gordon: let me move to a broader issue, which is the building of various strategies that i know that defenseiar secretary mattis is trying to do. i think there is a suspicion, as you are well aware, that these strategies going forward, which will inform if they send 3000, 5000, or more troops into afghanistan, are going to look much different from the previous strategy or the existing strategy under president obama.
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what is your view on that, but also, what is your rider or upper limit on what you are willing to accept when it comes to deploying more troops and what they want to do? rep. thornberry: i think there is agreement on the strategic goals, and those are that we do not want to allow afghanistan to again become a haven for terrorists who will attack us, and we want to help the afghan military be able to provide their own security. those are the goals. the problem is that president obama put arbitrary troop caps -- in other words, limited how many people he would allow to be in afghanistan, so you had this very strange situation where you had some helicopter pilots go over to afghanistan, but they were not allowed to take the maintainers to keep the helicopters operating, so they had to hire private contractors
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to do the maintenance on the helicopters, which was more expensive and meanwhile, you had , a bunch of maintainers back here at home without helicopters to work on. that is the sort of thing that has happened over the past years because of, i believe, politically inspired troop limits. i believe the approach going forward is to look at these strategic goals and honestly assess how many people it takes to do that, not politics, not placing arbitrary limits, but not having more than you need. have what you need to do that job, and i think that is what secretary mattis is looking at. that is the right thing to do, and i don't know what that number is, but it ought to be the right number for the mission, not some sort of political number that actually makes it harder for our folks to accomplish their mission and may well increase the danger to their lives.
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gordon: quick follow-up to that and another question if i may, but is there a limit in terms of the number of troops, which is really the metric we all kind of use to establish footprint for any of these policies? is there a limit for you? rep. thornberry: i don't know what that is. we certainly are not going to have another 100,000 troops and .n afghanistan that would be inappropriate. our goals are to keep it from being a terrorist safe haven help the afghans do better on , their own. there is a limit to how many people you need, but you need enough to do that, and we have not had that in recent years. gordon: kind of to follow-up on that, clearly, the obama administration was criticized for micromanagement of all these things, as you mentioned, the pendulum is clearly swinging the other way with the authorities
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given to mr. mattis at the pentagon in yemen, iraq, syria, and afghanistan. particularly to set troop levels in afghanistan. are there perils for the military long-term that now seems to be having to own this policy, whatever happens? again, different from mr. obama who, rightly or wrongly, owned the policy? it seems that the pentagon will own it, and i wonder what you think about the perils there. rep. thornberry: if someone is the decision maker, that person will be held accountable with a for the result of his or her decisions, but i have to say, i recently reread general mcmaster's book "dereliction of duty" about what went wrong in vietnam. you had the white house, in that case under lyndon johnson, making the military decisions which were based more on
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politics than on military strategy and tactics. that was a disaster. i think you have seen shades of that in the obama administration. too many decisions were made in the white house among staffers and so forth. the military ought to be given the goal. the president say, "this is what i want you to do," and then it is up to the leadership and pentagon to determine how to do it and what resources are required to do it, and they come to us and say that. that is the way it is supposed to work. could they be held accountable if it does not go well? yes, but they are the decision-makers. that is the way it should operate. >> we are at the halfway mark, gentlemen. joe: sir, a russia question. the president has talked about a new relationship with russia, going in a new, friendlier
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direction. yet, we are seeing revelations day by day about russian hacking in the election. do you consider russia a friend or foe at this point, and is there anything in the defense policy bill aimed at curtailing russia's activity or deterring russia's activity in terms of interfering in elections, hours ours or anyone else's? rep. thornberry: i think russia is clearly acting as an adversary to the united states. it may well be that we have similar interests in certain places, and where we do, then it is ok to pursue those interests together, but we should be very clear eyed about what russia seeks and the means they are using to achieve their goals, so i think we will have a number of items in this year's defense
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policy bill that relates not only to russia but to nato strengthening, for example, the european deterrence initiative and looking at our troop deployments there. in addition, we will strengthen our cyber capabilities. we ask for a really comprehensive review of what has become known as hybrid warfare, and the russians are expert at this. it is not always overt military means they used to accomplish their goals, but they use bribery. they try to undermine confidence in elections and other institutions and democracies. they put economic pressure, political pressure on countries especially in eastern europe. they use all the instruments available to a government, and we are not very good at that.
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i think -- one last point on this -- there is no clearer signal we could send to the russians than to have a substantial increase in our defense budget. remember what really happened in the 1980's was the reagan defense buildup made such an impression that the russians knew they could never keep up. so they had dramatic change. we need to show evidence that we are serious and committed to defending ourselves and our allies. that action, even more than our words, will send a clear message to russia as well as others who would test us around the world. joe: do you think the pentagon is on the right footing as far as cyber warfare you could
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warfare? and what is in the bill that is aimed at strengthening cyber warfare capabilities? rep. thornberry: it is challenging because the constitution puts responsibility on our shoulders to oversee the military and their actions when in cyber, these actions take place at the speed of light. it is a challenging proposition, but we have changes in the way we require oversight of cyber to try to help move us along. in general, we have as good a cyber capability as anybody in the world. what we have not developed are the policies, the restrictions, the tactics on how to use cyber, so that is really where we need a push. it is in the policy area even more than in the equipment and people and so forth.
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gordon: are you at all concerned that the administration does not necessarily appear to have a unified policy toward russia that lawmakers like yourself can use to kind of carry the ball forward and get bills passed and get the stuff you're talking about done? it seems the military is very wary of working with the russians, although quietly communicating all the time, particularly with regard to syria, but do not really necessarily want to go further. the state department kind of leaning a little bit more forward, and mr. trump seems to have his own views, but we are never sure exactly what those are. is that a risk moving forward? rep. thornberry: one of the things, as i visit with leaders in europe and asia and elsewhere around the world -- one of the things i try to remind everybody is congress is a separate,
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independent branch of government, so i think you will see on both sides of the aisle, on both sides of the capital and congress, a very clear eyed you view about russia, what their intentions are, and what their capabilities are. secondly, i think it may be ok if the administration approaches russia from slightly different perspectives, and i would expect the military to be more cautious and the state department tried try to encourage dialogue, etc. i don't think everybody has to be exactly the same because we're dealing with different aspects of the relationship, but i have to say i have no doubt secretary mattis, for example -- and i'm sure secretary tillerson and others -- understand where russia is headed, what they are willing to do to accomplish their goals and our
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responsibility to key allies around the world. >> we have six minutes left. we should get to north korea. joe: sure. you talked about the policy will bill as emphasizing missile defense and last week, we saw a missile-defense test in the pacific that failed. are you satisfied with u.s. missile defense capabilities, and how does this bill address that? rep. thornberry: i'm not satisfied with where we are on missile defense. we have significant capabilities, and just two or three weeks ago, there was a very important, successful test, but i think we need to hit the accelerator when it comes to missile defense, both in terms of existing systems, buying more interceptors, for example, in alaska and california, but also
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in research for advanced missile defense that will be even more effective. one of the ways i know that the administration budget request that came up to us was largely the obama plan is that the request actually cut missile defense below what we are spending this year. so i think in congress you've got a lot of agreement that we need to not only not cut missile defense, we need to accelerate those efforts, especially in light of what north korea is doing but also iran and others are developing missiles with greater capability to threaten us and our allies. joe: what is the read on the test this past week, though? is the technology flawed? rep. thornberry: the reason you conduct tests is to learn things. i have not gotten a readout so
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far, but we need to conduct more tests so that we learn faster. hopefully, with more resources, we can do more testing and work the bugs out so whenever a missile is launched against the united states, which could be sooner than any of us liked, we have the capability to protect our people. >> we are recording this on friday morning while the house is busy at work. i'm just getting word that we have to stick with our time here, so we have about three minutes left. do you have another question? gordon: i'm curious on the role of north korea and the role china may or may not be able to play. mr. trump tweeted recently that china tried and we need to move on. i don't know what that meant or how well it was vetted through the administration.
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what is the play on china, and how does the u.s. also at the same time assert maritime freedom of navigation in the south china sea while trying to get china to play? >> chairman, you have about 10 seconds, i'm told. rep. thornberry: china needs to do more and we need to do more with more military capability in that region. that will help encourage china to do more. >> clearly, we have a lot more questions, but your time is limited. thank you so much for giving us some of it on this busy friday morning. we appreciate it. rep. thornberry: thank you. >> so much debate in washington is going to be on numbers, and as you said at the outset, we have so many different numbers going here, and the numbers will drive the policy and the acquisitions process, so how does this go forward from here between budget caps, the president's plans to the agreement that the house and senate seems to have on a $640 billion number?
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joe: i think that's the big question. the $640 billion from the senate armed services chairman, mac thornberry on the house side and john mccain on the senate side, and then we heard from kate granger, who is the chair of the house appropriations defense subcommittee, who said money would have to fall from heaven to have that the a reality. -- have that be a reality. between the $603 billion that the president has proposed and that $640 billion number the senate budget committee has offered a compromise of about $620 billion. what chairman thornberry told reporters yesterday was that they are just going to move out with their $640 billion number, but negotiations are still ongoing. budget caps apply, but what chairman thornberry told reporters yesterday is that they do not apply to the of prices,
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ers, they apply to the appropriations bill, so where we wind up is still kind of up in the air. we have a limited calendar, and republicans have a pretty ambitious agenda outside of defense. >> we should probably tell people that in addition, there's an emergency operations contingency on top of this that brings it up over $700 billion. joe: that's right. it's about $705 billion. i think where chairman thornberry and the trump is theyration matchup are both talking about $65 million for oco. >> that's the iraq and afghanistan-based initiative. joe: correct. we do not know what the troop number is going to be in afghanistan and is that is going to put pressure to increase the overseas contingency count.
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>> chairman thornberry has been talking about doing acquisition reform. he is interested in putting more competition into the process. you have been watching this process for a long time. will major defense contractors have a lot of pushback on that? they have big lobbyists in this town. gordon: that's right. senate armed services chairman senator mccain was complaining the other day during testimony before the pentagon's number two, patrick shanahan, who is from boeing, and he represents these top five companies that essentially are responsible for 90% of makeup on some level of the pentagon budget. defense secretary mattis clearly wants to do some reform of some of this -- some of the internal stuff, and as soon as he get some people in like shanahan, if he gets confirmed, they can start to work on it. chairman thornberry said they
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were starting kind of with a deficit in terms of time. they need to get through this budget season, really start to work on 2019, but they still do not have the people even really to do that. there is still going to be pushback on reforms. there always are, but i think mr. trump's of you, and it's , and it'smp's view kind of trickling down, is to get more business-oriented people into the building. people who can look at a problem and find a more economic solution. >> that's a major argument of his campaign, bringing business skills to the process. joe: that's true, but let's not forget that last year, spearheaded largely by senator mccain, there was a massive acquisition reform effort. i think what we seeing, at least -- what we are seeing, at least on the house side, is i think a
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little less ambitious. i do not think they would concede that, but i think what we are seeing is a less ambitious spate of reforms coming from the house. >> what will the flashpoints be? gordon: i think that is a great question. we are seeing conversation right now about getting to a 355-ship navy. although we do not have all of the numbers because the chairman's markup of the ndaa comes monday, we know there will be a push for more shipbuilding. with $640 billion, you can do a lot, but if there's less than that, i don't think we will see as many ships, and jets, tanks. -- ships, jets, troops. gordon: ships was sort of iconic in mr. trump's campaign rhetoric. this is not easily done.
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there's no real consensus on how to pay for it. immediately, we have to t be concerned about the strategy in afghanistan, the strategy in iraq and syria, getting the right number of troops there, and if there are plans to and expand troops to some of these areas -- lawmakers are not necessarily going to write yea or nay on it, but i think they will be paying a lot of attention. you do not necessarily build capacity -- you don't build capacity overnight. to his point, doing what testing -- doing more testing just to see where the witnesses are an andhere the weaknesses are essentially make more robust the
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message. >> as we close here, all of the focus for the people who cover this town is on the unfolding russia investigation, etc. can you tell people at home that this process we are talking about here, devising a budget for the military, as they hear all the reports about the investigation -- armed services committee deserves some credit because this defense policy bill in a town that is known for dysfunction happens every year as staff and chairman like to point out. this is a bill that moves every year. democrats and republicans come together. >> thanks again for returning program.
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>> tonight on cue and day. >> i got interested in political power and i can see that these lyndon johnson national power studies in political power i thought when you are a , when you win an award you think you know everything. first time robert moses started talking to me i realized i didn't know anything about power at all. >> looking at the evolution and exercise of political power in >> the ambition was
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the overriding consideration. it was only when compassion and he realizes if he wants to be president he has to pay us a civil rights bill. feeling -- because all his life he had want andave four people particularly for people of color. -- to help poor people, and particularly poor people of color. >> republicans released a discussion draft of their health care law on thursday. the office will -- we posted the billet c-span.org. you can follow live senate coverage at c-span2, online at c-span.org, and on the free c-span radio app.
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>> c-span, where history unfolds daily. in 1979 c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television companies and is brought to you today by the cable or satellite provider. now more on this weeks senate action on the health care law replacement bill from today's washington journal. this is about an hour. >> "washington journal," continues. host: this week in the u.s. senate debate on the gop health care law or placement plan released this week by senate republicans, we're joined this guests, samur berger, a senior policy advisor for the center for american jacobs, whod chris is joining us from the texas public policy foundation, a senior culture analyst with them. sam

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