tv Newsmakers Rep Mac Thornberry CSPAN April 29, 2018 6:01pm-6:36pm EDT
litigators, floyd abrams representing the new york times in its case, and ted olsen, a former u.s. solicitor general under president george w. bush. watch landmark cases monday at 9:00 eastern on c-span, and join the conversation. follow us at c-span. we have resources on a website for background on each case. the landmark cases companion book, a link to the national constitution center's interactive constitution, and the landmark cases podcast at c-span.org/landmarkcases. newsmakers is pleased to welcome the chairman of the house armed services committee, mac thornberry, republican of texas. the subcommittees of his committee have been working on next year's pentagon spending with a total of $716 billion. it has cleared the subcommittees
and moved to the full committee after the house break this week. we have lots of questions about pentagon priorities. thank you for being our guest. rep. thornberry: thank you for having me. susan: let me introduce our reporters. gordon lubold is pentagon reporter for the wall street journal. megan scully covers national security for cq roll call. as are watching the system works scenes at of the korean peninsula on this i am wondering friday, what your thoughts were on the security issues for the peninsula and for our allies as you are seeing these scenes and promises between the two leaders unfold. rep. thornberry: number one, it is remarkable. we have not seen this sort of thing since the end of the korean war. number i remember the history two, that north korea has been very adept at manipulation of public opinion and benefiting from it.
it may well be they have gone further and more effective in splitting -- trying to split us from our south korean allies than his father or grandfather has ever done. so i remain skeptical because of the track record, but it is worth putting them to the test to see if they are serious about giving up their nuclear capability. if so it will be a major achievement. chairman, we have a new secretary of state. i wondered if you can give us a sense of how you think mr. pompeo will re-steer foreign policy at this point? rep. thornberry: i think he will do well. as you know we served in the , house together. actually on the house intelligence committee together.
i think he has done a very good job as the director of the cia, and has been supportive of the workforce, and at the same time has the confidence of the president. i think that is the way it will go at the state department. i think he will improve the morale at the state department, but he will also continue to have the confidence of the president in implementing his agenda. he is adept at personal relationships, and seeing the bigger picture. of the strategic interests of the united states. i think there is a lot of hope that he will be very successful, not only in that job of working with secretary of defense the national security adviser john bolton and others in the foreign policy realm. gordon: as this team reshuffle unfolds, from the cheap seats it sometimes looks like the dynamic
of change and the impact secretary mattis had in buffering some of the impulses of the white house and mr. trump could be changed or minimized in some way. i'm just wondering what you think about how this new team changes the dynamic. rep. thornberry: i know secretary mattis because he said it over and over again leads diplomacy has to lead. and that the military is a supporting function of where the diplomacy leads. he went out of his way to have a close working relationship with secretary tillerson, and i have no doubt he will do the same thing secretary pompeo, as well as the national security adviser and others in the intelligence community, that whole national security apparatus. i think it takes a team to advance the interests of the united states. and i think we have an effective team and i think they will do
well. megan: one of the first issues secretary pompeo will need to deal with is the iran nuclear deal. he is starting off the bat with that. interestingly we have seen some changes from the pentagon in terms of the stance on the deal. he told your committee that the deal could use some changes, some revisions some tweaks. , that is a step away from his much more full-throated support of the deal previously. i am curious where you stand on the deal and how you see this playing out in the coming weeks. we are coming very close to the main 12 deadline. -- may 12 deadline. rep. thornberry: i am not very good at predicting what is going to happen in the next few weeks. i opposed the deal when it was negotiated. but the question now, once the
deal is in place is what happens if the united states walks away? secretary mattis, among others, to my ear at least has , been consistent saying whatever you thought of the deal to begin with him a understand -- and you better understand what the consequences are of of walking away. at the same time saying as president macrone was arguing in congress, there well may be improvements that could be made to the deal or around the deal. as far as iran's other activities are going. i think we should try to work for improvements. maybe enhanced verification for example of the deal, or -- and/or curtailing iran's other aggressive activities in the region and their missile program, for example.
but, from me, i would not think it was in the best interest to walk away from the deal unless we are very clear about the consequences of that. if we walk away, i think we are going to be on our own. it is going to present a number of problems. megan: is their time to make these changes to the deal? is their willingness on behalf of our allies? it is not just france who has signed on to it. rep. thornberry: i think they are interested in seeing if improvements could be made. but they want us to stay in the deal while everybody works on those improvements. that would be my advice. don't walk away from the deal now but make it clear you are seeking improvements. we can do that together and offer iran some incentives for those improvements. i think it is worth working on , but again i would not walk out
of the deal while you are trying to affect those changes. wedon: i would just ask as -- as the u.s. potentially goes into some form of negotiations with korea on that issue, are there perils to nitpicking the iran deal? or even if some of the changes are in the margins. does that send a bad signal? rep. thornberry: there is a risk there. the question is if the united states makes a deal, is the united states going to stick with the deal? everybody is watching how we handle this. so that is part of the reason , the better course is to stick with the agreement that we signed even though i disagreed , with the deal at the beginning. but sticking with that deal with continuing to work on improvements that can benefit not only the united states and
our allies in the middle east, but ultimately be a benefit for iran in the long run. susan: one last question and we will move on to defense spending and that is the veterans department. after watching what happened with president trump's nominee, dr. ronny jackson what is your , advice to the white house about the kind of v.a. secretary who would do well for the services you could feel comfortable about the direction of the department going forward? rep. thornberry: my advice would be someone who knows veterans, someone who has good management experience, someone willing to shake things up. that is the combination of characteristics we need. i can tell you there is a lot of frustration in congress. if you look at what we have done with the budgets going into the v.a. over the last two years they have gone up quite a bit. ,but the output has not gone up
commiserate with the increased money. there is a lot of frustration. we keep trying to make reforms. we keep putting more money into it and yet we are still not serving the veterans the way they should be served. that is why i add the characteristic of you have to be willing to shake things up. congress has to be willing to work with the secretary in order to shake things up. susan: on to defense spending and policies. megan: some things that stood out to me a couple of key words. issues that jumped out on the screen to me were cyber-based. information security, missile-defense. i'm curious your thoughts on how that aligns with the pentagon pentagon'siority -- own priority as they align this year. rep. thornberry: they are
closely aligned. the key feature of the new national defense strategy is we going to have to pay greater attention and put greater emphasis on near peer competitors. , and have been advancing capabilities while we have been cutting our defense budget. if you look at the world recently, cyber has been a key tool. not only for those countries but other countries have been using it. obviously the threat from north korea missiles that can receive united states makes missile-defense very important. all of the hybrid warfare and other unconventional types of warfare we have seen mean we have to the able to defend the country and all of these domains, not just when tanks come rolling over the hills in a
traditional sense. i think the emphasis for this 's bill is repair the military, and we still have a lot of work to do to repair the problems that have developed as the military budget was being cut. number make reforms so that we two, are better able to deal with this huge array of threats that we face. part of those reforms will be putting more emphasis on cyber, and our space, -- outer space, new technologies like hypersonic and artificial intelligence. i think that is what you will see in this bill. megan: you mentioned reforms are in you put forward a bill that would seek to cut a significant chunk of the pentagon bureaucracy to say some are in the realm of $100 billion. aboutu talk a little bit that and what your plans are moving forward to the markup? rep. thornberry: i don't think
we will save $100 billion. i would like to say $100 billion. focused, we have really the last three years on improving the way the pentagon buys things. goods and services. what i am trying to focus on more with this year's bill is to streamline and make more efficient the supporting bureaucracy and the pentagon. those parts of the pentagon that are not the army, navy, air force and marines, but the underlying supporting functions. the accounting the logistics. ,there is something like 28 different agencies that are not part of any of the military services. my goal is to try to save some money by streamlining their back office functions. in other words the way they handle personnel, the way they handle for just six within their
own agency, the way they manage their real estate. just those limited, discrete areas that try to squeeze more they out of what is called tail, so more taxpayer dollars and go to the tooth, the war fighter. this perfectly fits in with in the realm of your oversight. do you feel as if you have -- do you think this is the kind of initiative that should have emanated from the pentagon first? and also do you feel you have an -- a partner in not only secretary mattis of mr. shanahan as well in the pentagon to see this through? and how is it different? rep. thornberry: i do think we have a partner. if you look back since the pentagon was created, congress a lot of times will help bring
about reforms. sometimes it is hard for the pentagon to do that internally. that is our role as an independent branch of government, with the responsibilities of the constitution to raise and support, provide and the military forces of the united states. that is our job. but we can be more effective if we do work at it in partnership. i don't know the pentagon agrees with everything i have laid out in this year's proposal, but i do know that we are headed in the same direction. and we will continue to tweak it and make refinements and work with them. again, the goal here is to use heat up decision-making and ultimately get more resources into the hands of the war fighter. we have got to keep our focus on them. i think working together we can be much more effective. susan: 10 minutes left.
megan: these are logical goals. is this something the pentagon and congress have struggled with for years. secretary gates previously tried bureaucracyagon under the bush and obama administrations. how is this effort different from this past efforts? rep. thornberry: you are right. it will be something we have to continue to work at. we will never get pentagon bureaucracy or any other government bureaucracy perfect. i think what is different now are two things. one is a partnership where congress and the pentagon leadership both are trying to , move in the same direction and give us a chance to be more effective. the other thing that is different, and again this is all bipartisan sort of work, members and congress understand we face a wider array of national security threats than we have
faced before. everything from russia modernizing their nuclear weapons, to the kind of information warfare that we were talking about. and lots of things in between. to deal with this array of threats we can't afford to just focus on one like terrorism. or another like the former soviet union. we have to be ready for everything. that, i think is driving a sense of urgency to slim down not just the size of the bureaucracy to save money, but the slim down the bureaucracy so we can make decisions at the pace the world is moving. i think there is a real sense among everybody that we have got to bring the pentagon up-to-date and a lot of these challenges. that is a new sense of urgency. megan: in terms of that urgency the pentagon is getting more , money next year. about over the
$85 billion cap. it is a number you have supported. with that extra money does that , decrease this urgency to save money and realign priorities? because they have more money to deal with. they are no longer cash strapped going into next year. rep. thornberry: i do not think it decreases the urgency because what we have in place is a two-year agreement on how much the pentagon will get. for 2018 and 2019. we don't know what happens in the future. it will always be important to pentagonke -- help the be more efficient and him or resources into the hands of the war fighter. that is not going away. secondly, this increase in money that we are getting for 18 and 19 -- 2018 and 2019 is mostly needed to fix the things we already have. one example, a study showed
that since the budget control act really took effect in 2013, aviation mishaps have increased 40%. we have got to fix our planes and ships and things. that is where this money is going. but we are still going to the resources to develop missile defense and hypersonic's and space capability looking , particularly at what the russians and chinese are doing. the needs are still there. and,ve got to step up again, not to save money but speed of our decision-making and that means shrinking bureaucracy. susan: six minutes left. gordon: i want to go back to the policy questions. the strikes in syria a couple of weeks ago raised a number of questions. one question i have for you is are you -- if there is a need
for the administration to take another step, maybe more strikes if mr. assad uses chemical weapons again, are you content with the notification or do you want to start to see congress or at have your hand and least free look at the role before these operations commence? rep. thornberry: i think of course you never telegraph ahead of time what you will or will not do. i think it is important for mr. assad to know the international community, and in the case of the last strike it was three of the five permanent members of the un security council acted in his chemicalnish weapons facilities and make it clear he was beyond the bounds even of warfare.
i think it is important to send that message. i do believe that strike, for that purpose did not require congress to approve it ahead of time. if we had some other goal like replacing assad or something much more ambitious, i think it would require congress to approve that mission ahead of time. in today's world we cannot expect the congress to give a prior approval for every cannonball or missile the military may need to shoot to send a message or deal with a particular problem. i admit it is somewhere in there is a fuzzy gray line. i can't define for you exactly where that line is. i think this strike was below it but obviously discontinuing war
against terrorists is above it. we will have to work our way through the circumstances to figure out exactly where to draw the line. gordon: do you think the u.s. has a strategy in syria? rep. thornberry: i do not think we have a strategy to fix syria. we are trying to completely defeat isis and we have not finished that job yet. we are also trying to send a saudi message not to use chemical weapons. not to assad a message use chemical weapons. as far as the russian involvement, turkish interests, about what follows assad, i'm not sure we have a plan and i am not sure that anybody does. it is in a norma's messitte president trump inherited -- an enormous mass that president trump inherited and i'm not sure i see the way out of. that is not what we are in syria to do. we are in syria to primarily defeat isis. we have got to do that job.
megan: should there be talk of a bigger strategy about fixing syria? rep. thornberry: if there is talk of a bigger strategy, i will be interested in listening but it is not clear what that is what the u.s. military can or should do to bring it about. again the complexities involved , in syria today are just a norma's. -- enormous. i am not saying we ignore it but on the other hand, if we are going to approve some use of the military or other enhanced u.s. engagement, we need to have a clear idea in mind with that leads us, not just a bunch of troops and hope for the best. susan: final questions from you both. megan: as you consider this massive pentagon bill your partner of the last several years across the capital senator , john mccain, is home in arizona recovering. i'm curious how that changes
things this year for you, particularly on matters to have worked close with him, such as pentagon acquisition and bureaucracy. well, i veryry: much value what we have been able to accomplish together. my understanding is senator mccain is still in regular telephone contact with his staff as they prepare to do the senate version of the defense authorization bill. at some point we will have to get the house and senate together and work through those details with the use of technology or senator mccain being able to come back. we will be able to work through those things. we have accomplished a lot. both bodies in the last few -- three years and we will continue to try to build on that progress in -- progress. susan: final questions? gordon: what else should we be looking for in the next couple of months with all these
different hotspots? what are you most concerned about? the sleep that night questions? what is keeping you up? rep. thornberry: there are a lot of things out there in the world to worry about. what i am most concerned about, or what we keep me up at night if anything did was what we do to ourselves. we talked earlier about the two-year deal to begin to fix our military. that is only going to count if we can go ahead and get the final authorization and appropriation done on time this year and not go through these continuing resolutions that do damage to the military. i think our future is in our hands. it depends on the decisions we make, and hopefully we can do the right thing by the military, and not let politics influence things. because sometimes that gets off the rails. susan: house armed services
committee mac thornberry of texas, we'll is appreciate you being a guest on newsmakers. thank you for coming back. rep. thornberry: thank you for having me. susan: let's start we finished with his call for regular order and the whole fiscal move for best physical process for congress. both of you watched the dynamic and mood after going to the on omniest -- multiple bus bills this year. what is the next round? megan: what is important is there is a budget deal in place for 2019. we already have top lines in place to deal with that. that make the process little easier. significantly easier from the get-go. we are not haggling over defense or nondefense spending, what to do about entitlements. they still have to get down and actually write the bill.
chairman thornberry's bill authorizes spending and sets policy. appropriators tend to use it as a prescriptive in terms of how they actually allocate the funding to be spent. sitting down and writing those bills and getting them through both the house and the senate, which is where things becauseget stuck getting anything through with 60 votes can be difficult. all that before september 30, that is a goal that has eluded both chambers for years now. susan: the pentagon was the big winner in the on the this process. -- omnibus process. as you both are watching what was emerging from the subcommittees, what should the american public know about what they are getting for their money? and where there are any changes in emphasis? gordon: as the chairman the trs , they were in
rears in addressing some of these accidents, and i think a lot of it has to do with playing catch-up, getting back to a place they had all thoughts of the when the caps undermined that. but i think the problem with some of the folks inside the pentagon, they think a lot of them did not have time to work on this bill because of personnel issues, and a lot of them are running around, keeping the dam plugged on other issues. other people i talked to worried that they did not get to hit the ground running early on from the personnel changes in the building. >> i wanted to press around the discussion you had on his savings program, what they called the fourth estate, the
contractors and support services. it was an effort to save money, as i understand it, taking it from individual services and putting it together. writing by some critics, suggesting that the services like the idea because they will get sort the authority -- reabsorb the authority back into the various branches of the military. the savings in the end might not be as great as they are hoping. can you give us some perspective? >> everything old is new again. i erroneously said it would save $100 billion, i think it is more on order of $25 billion come of agencies cost about $100 billion food -- billion. it was about centralizing authorities and setting money, and now we have come back, and this is what we generally see in
terms of overhauling the pentagon bureaucracy, which is huge and difficult to manage. whether or not it will yield these kinds of savings has yet to be seen. we have seen pushback from get -- from. -- from democrats. could affect pentagon operations, especially in the national capital region but also another base closure round if congress were to authorize that. he is calling for more study on this and whether it is a good idea, he is skeptical there will be cost savings. >> last question. the chairman talks about the ond for more spending weaponry, aircraft. some of the biggest accidents in the military over the last year and half were people based. what are you hearing from
oversight members on the concerns of training of the actual forces? >> a lot of these services, and i think the chairman himself would say that readiness declined because there was not enough opportunities for training. think most people would agree air force pilots did not get enough flying time and there is a direct correlation between matt -- between that and some of these actions. i think there is an opportunity to address some of those issues, but to the point earlier, there is a danger that too much money is going to make everybody crazy again, and some of these attempts to cut costs, refocus money where it has to go will not matter because happy days are here again. >> thank you to both of you for the questions a conversation, to have you back.
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