tv Newsmakers Air Force Sec Heather Wilson CSPAN February 24, 2019 6:00pm-6:33pm EST
for legislative work on monday. the house will take up joint resolution to terminate the presidents national emergency declaration that allows him to build a southern border wall with money congress intended for other purposes. also, measures including universal background checks for gun buyers and closing certain loopholes. in the senate, the annual rating of george washington's farewell address. then they continue work on an abortion bill. later in the week, the nomination of andrew wheeler to head the epa could the house is live on c-span and the senate is live on c-span two. susan: joining us on "newsmakers" is the secretary of the air force, heather wilson. dr. wilson was sworn in in may of 2017. she oversees air force active guard and civilian forces,
and manages the annual budget. she was also part of the security council earlier in her career. thank you for doing our program this week. it is great to be here. susan: let me introduce the two reporters. thank you. nice to see you. robert: madam secretary, the defense department is in an unusual situation this year with an acting secretary of defense. it is unclear whether the president will nominate pat shanahan to be the confirmed secretary or not. your name is often mentioned as a highly qualified candidate. i wonder if you can tell us if
you have been approached by the white house for this, and if so, if you were asked to serve, would you do so? heather: thank you. i think it is humbling to have people speak of me in that way. i serve at the pleasure of the president. my focus is, we have a budget about to roll out in the next two weeks. the president has a new proposal for a space for so would be underneath it air force and my focus is on those things. robert: as a follow-up, can i ask you over these past months since jim mattis left the job as secretary of defense, whether relationships between the services and secretary's office have changed in any way? has management of the pentagon changed in any way? heather: we actually have a good relationship among ourselves. our focus is on organizing, training, and equipping the force. we cooperated well together. we continue waited -- we
continue on to execute the job, do the work. robert: thank you. dan: thank you for your time. i wanted ask you about the space force. thisusly a major focus week, the president signed a directive. i know you will have a leading hand in organizing that appeared what do you think the first several steps are and when we might see some legislation moving on capitol hill? will go the legislation forward with the president's budget although there are questions about the date and timing. it will be within the next couple of weeks sometime. that piece of draft legislation is pretty much underway. we have other things that are already getting done. the standup of the combatant command for space, which we had before 9/11. that is being stood up and does not require additional legislation because it has already been authorized. we have reorganized acquisition for space.
we have stood up the space rapid capabilities office. we have cut the amount of time to get on contract for satellite capabilities. a big part of this is the budget. year 2019, there was a significant increase and money appropriated for space capabilities, and we reprogrammed a lot in our existing budget. we were able to get congressional support for that. year budgetscal proposal to present will put forward is also a significant increase. the focus of first capabilities to the war fighter. organizing for war fighting. and then the legislative proposal will go forward including a space force organized underneath the united states air force. dan: in the fall, you had a memo that suggested we were looking at $13 billion over the next five years. that included the space command, as i understood it. the proposal that does not quite match what we saw, at this
point, with the white house. maybe there were some discussions about what made sense initially. how much do you think it will cost in the initial budget request now and what are we looking at over the next five years? heather: the paper you are referring to is internal in the air force. or rather, inside the pentagon. it laid out the various choices and components we would have to cost out. it really looked at an entire new department and force that included acquisition and legal and finance and budgeting. personnel. all of the things a completely independent apartment -- independent department would have to do. the president gave guidance and find that out earlier this week, that said we are going to propose there is a space force that has a chief of staff and will have those components, but will not have a completely independent acquisition, legal,
finance, all those things. that would remain within the air force and we would have an undersecretary specifically for space. i currently have one undersecretary. it would expand that to two. the president is elevating the importance of space and the focus on space and has made it a kitchen table conversation for the country to recognize the threat that is there in space. the overall cost is significantly less because the president has directed components to keep the cost down. susan: what do you anticipate the reaction will be from the democratic majority in the house of representatives? heather: we are going to begin to engage with the congress on both house and senate on what their priorities are. i think there is a very broad agreement that space will be contested. it's because we are so good at this. the u.s. is the best in the world at space and our adversaries know it and they are
seeking to develop the capabilities to deny us the use of space in crisis or war. we're not going to let that happen. now we have to engage with them on how they would best like to see this organized to make sure we remain dominant in space. so there will be discussions over the next several months after the president proposal moves forward. robert: just as a quick follow-up. there is a history of legislative proposals creating what was once called the space corps. that was favored heavily, as i recall, in the house. i wonder what you think the sentiment is now in the senate for the new proposal. heather: at this point, i think it would be unwise for me to characterize it. nor do we know. the president's proposal has not been transmitted to the congress. i expect we will have numerous discussions and possibly hearings with members of the house and senate. that will take place over the next several months. dan: when it comes to the space
corps, you go back to the -- 2017 and the president pushing for a space force. both you and secretary mattis had issues with it, raised issues with it. i recall a letter you sent saying if we did this, we may as well basically move for a submarine force as another option. what has happened between then and now? you have said more recently you are in favor of it. heather: one of the things presidents have the opportunity to do is highlight issues and make sure they move forward. they have the power of the presidency to say this is important, it is important for the country to focus on, and we are going to move forward and make sure we are not denied the use of space in crisis or war. i am the secretary of the air force. i don't have the same kind of power of the presidency that the white house has. by bringing this forward and saying we going to do something
different, we are going to create a new force, do it in a cost-effective way, the president has made this kitchen table conversation and made it a central element of what he wants to do as president of the united states. kudos to him for bringing this to the floor in a way it was not before. robert: madam secretary, i would like to ask about the situation on the korean peninsula. next week there will be a summit between american and north korean leaders. and wondering if you think in the context of air force strategic error exercises, a long history in the area whether , there is room to change or reduce those exercises. the air force strategic presence in the region without diminishing the strategic effect. heather: the united states air force and our allies and in the pacific -- in the indo pacific
we will always be ready. that requires planning and exercises. there are times when we do training and exercises, or particular flights to send a message about what our capability is. those those are part of a whole of government effort, the air force is tasked to provide certain capabilities. but the air force has also provided a continuous bomber presence in the pacific, to extend america's deterrent capabilities and demonstrate our global power wherever it needs to be. and by doing that, i think we've helped keep the peace. and provide stability in the naval freedom and comers in the pacific. we make no apology at all for that. robert: to follow up quickly, the bomber presence is one of the things that historically the north koreans have objected to. i'm wondering whether, as negotiations unfold, if you
would be concerned that this would be one thing that could be reduced or negotiated away, the air force bomber presence in that region? heather: the primary bomber presence we have been rotating forward is through guam. it's not specifically related to korea, but the entire indo pacific region. one of the things that national defense strategy recognizes is we are in an era of re-emerging great power competition. we have a potential adversary in china, that is modernizing very rapidly, and engaging with its neighbors in ways its neighbors find threatening. one of the things that's also fascinating to me, i think for the first time in my memory, anyway, we have a major line of effort in the national defense strategy that focuses on our allies and partners. the thing that's -- that people don't talk about quite as much, i think, as they should is that the united states actually has allies. we have countries around the world that feel safer because
they are allied with the united states of america, and our adversaries really don't. our adversaries are threatening their neighbors, they're not cooperating with their neighbors. it's the united states that stands for free and open navigation around the seas. and peace and prosperity that benefits not just the united states but benefits other countries as well. dan: i wanted to ask you about our military housing. we had a congressional hearing last week. it has obviously been a topic of conversation in the military and in washington recently. army secretary esper apologized recently for the condition of some army housing. what about on the air force side? are you happy with the conditions? does it match the narrative we have seen in recent days, or are you in better conditions? heather: we know we have some privatized contractors who have not met expectations. we deal with that base by base.
we also know -- one of the things that bothered me, dan, last week about the hearing was not so much that there are issues in housing. housing is generally better than it was in the 1990's when we went to privatization. i think that's pretty well accepted. but that on bases, even where we have had significant problems, we have got some major construction and rework under way, where there were construction deficiencies. but airmen who are in housing have a right to expect prompt and competent maintenance of housing that they are in. there were some -- i think there've been some identified issues with that. the thing that bothered me about last week was, there were a couple of families who said they were afraid of retaliation if they reported a housing problem to their landlord. that their landlord would tell their, you know, their
commander, tell their boss, they were being difficult or something. that really bothered me. that's a leadership issue. as a result, the chief of staff and i have directed 100% review by leadership, by the base and wing commanders, of housing units for the united states air force. 100% review. let's get eyes on. there is nothing better than leadership's eyes on, to see if there's a problem. and we asked our inspector general to look at processes for managing housing to see if there are some systemic changes we need to make. susan: we're at the halfway point. dan: were there specific bases or installations that drew your concern on the air force side? heather: we know we have four bases where we have had construction deficiencies in privatized housing. tinker, mcdill, and there were two others and i'm going to blank on them. as i'm sitting here. but for example, at tinker, we -- in the privatized housing when it was built there was a
construction deficiency in the subcontracting for the piping. so there was just a lawsuit settled on it, and they're tearing apart the houses and redoing all the plumbing in the privatized housing. at mcdill, it was the ceiling wasn't done right on the ventilation and air-conditioning systems. so they're having to seal all of those things. we know we have four bases where there are significant problems in construction, so there were construction deficiencies. we've actually -- we already have contracts under way that will complete within the next eight to 18 months depending on the base. we have four bases where we know that's an issue. we also have other bases where things are going pretty well. often it comes down to local leadership and making sure that if there is a problem, that it is elevated and addressed between the companies and the air force. susan: while we're talking about personnel, you recently
announced the deploy or get out policy. can you explain to our audience what thinking is behind that and what you expect it to do to the forces? heather: sure. a little less than a year ago, the department of defense gave a new department of defense instruction on deployability. and what we released last week was how the air force will implement that new policy. and it's basically, if you have been nondeployable for over a year, you have to be referred for a review. say, is this something that continues to be temporary? what's the plan for getting you back to deployable status? there are some cases where somebody is in a field that doesn't deploy at all. and the fact that they are prevented from taking anti-malaria drugs or something for some medical condition doesn't matter to us. as an example, if you're an interop ballistic missile operator, we don't care if you
can deploy because you'll always be in a silo in the upper midwest. it is just not an issue for some of our airmen. so we'll deal with those on a case-by-case basis. heather: when you have done the analysis, how many people do you expect to be impacted by this? heather: right now, i think it is 93% or 94% of our force is a deployable at any one time. we are trying to get to about 95%, so we're very close to where we think we need to be. a certain number of people are temporarily nondeployable. if you twist your ankle, you're on crutches, you're not deployable for three weeks. you always have that. the reality for if for us is medical readiness. making sure somebody is nondeployable because they don't have their dental appointment up to date or haven't gotten their shots done, getting to the doc, get that taken care of because we want to be ready. we are an expeditiousnary air force and need to be ready to deploy.
robert: madam secretary, you mentioned icbm's. with the democrats having taken control of the house now, one of the issues that has risen toward the top on the house armed services committee is the future of the u.s. nuclear weapons policy and the question that has been raised by a congressman smith as the new chairman is the future of -- the future of the modernization program as well as the question of whether all three legs of the triad are really necessary. of course that affects the air force in two ways and i'm wondering whether you can explain your position on why both the bombers and icbm force are necessary. heather: yeah. the nuclear deterrence has helped keep the peace for over 70 years and the nuclear deterrence has been revalidated and supported by every president and every congress since harry truman was in the white house. so -- and that was true, you
know, president obama came in to his administration asking those same kind of questions and ended up revalidating the importance of the triad. so the triad includes submarines, bombers, and the ground base nuclear deterrent, which is the intercontinental ballistic missiles. the air force has two of those legs of the triad. we operate the bombers and we operate the icbm's. we also have three quarters of nuclear command control and communication. all of the legs of the triad need to be modernized. 's were first deployed in the 1970's. the bombers, of course we're in the midst of buying a new bomber, the b-21, which will be nuclear capable, and we're replatesing the old launch cruise missile. things wear out and get old, materials get old and need to be replaced. but the nuclear posture review that was -- that recently was done in the defense department , and president obama's nuclear
posture review supported the triad as well as a strong nuclear command control and communications network. robert: as a followup, your immediate predecessor had to deal with morale issues in the icbm force related in many ways to resources and the question of how much money was being spent on modernization. things have evolved since then to some degree. i wonder whether you have delved into that question, and are satisfied that the force is stable and on the right track. heather: i've been to our icbm bases as well as bomber bases. i have not been to maelstrom, but i have been to others. i would say that the changes made by my predecessor helped tremendously, but i'll also say that the air force as a whole has been stretched. we are too small for what the nation has been asking us to do , which is why the chief of staff and i, with the support of the president and the congress, have been trying to restore the life and health of our squadrons
and trying to increase the end strength and put support back in the squadrons so that if life in the squadron is good, the morale of the air force and the combat power of the air force is in the squadron. the squadron is the beating heart of the air force and in the quake of the sequester, a lot of support was taken from squadrons. we're trying to put that in so so the more fighters there -- the war fighters can focus on the mission. dan: one thing in the budget request i think a lot of people will be watching for is where the f-15-x conversation goes. whether to buy more fourth generation fighters or whether to focus more heavily on the f-35. we're close to that budget request now. can you lay out where the air force stands and what you expect to see? heather: the air force is f-35,gly committed to the
our stealth fighter. it's a game chamer. i just came back from visiting dulles and our red flag exercise. -- one one been yet vignette as to why this matters, it's the only aircraft that we have that can call the shots inside contested air space. one little vignette -- new, fighter pilot right out of training, this has his seventh tee in theor aircraft, brand new. goes up to fight and he's up against a 3,000-hour fighter pilot in a fourth generation aircraft, coming up on the radio and says, turn around, you're dead, i'm right in front of you. and then within the next hour went on to shoot down or virtually shoot down three other aircraft. this is a game-changer aircraft and we're committed to it. the question overall is, we just -- we have got to get larger in the number of fighter units we
have to meet the threat in the 2025-2030 time frame. we have some older aircraft like the f-15-c that are far beyond their expected service life. so how can we get to a point where we're buying about 72 fighters a year and what should that mix be? one of the things that we have considered and that will be coming over to congress in the budget is the possibility of replacing those f-15-c very old aircraft with an f-15-ex which is a much more modernized fourth generation platform. we're budget limited. can we get more capability and get more aircraft, buy more aircraft if we buy some fourth gen and the rest f-35's. dan: do you intend or expect to be buying any of the new f-15's at this point? heather: i expect that that's the proposal that will go
forward. one of the other things, dan , that this does is we have some allies that have put a lot of research and development into the f-15. we know the f-15-c, can't extend its life much longer and we don't want to get to the point where -- we have 54 fighter squadrons now. our analysis says we need 62. we don't want to be having to ground aircraft and reduce the number of squadrons that we have when we actually need to be going in the other direction. the qataris and saudis that put research and development into the f-15, we may be able to leverage off the money they spent and buy off the end of the new ones.ft with susan: some final questions from you? robert: madam secretary, a quick question about afghanistan. as the commander there mentioned, he's making some, what he calls efficiency moves to in effect reduce the size of the u.s. force.
i am wondering the degree to which this has affected or will affect the air force role? heather: we organize, train and equip forces. the combatant commander tells us what forces he needs and we send them over. but with respect to afghanistan particularly, the air force has been very heavily involved in afghanistan over the last year , and one of the things that to me is very different, really changed in my decade or more away from the military is precision intelligence combined with very effective airpower, has really, really helped both in afghanistan and in the fight against isis. we'll respond to the combatant commander requirements and provide the forces they need. susan: final question. dan: thank you. with as much time as we have, what's the current status of kendall air force base following the hurricane? what sort of initial steps have you been able to make? kendall got hammered by
the hurricane. we have moved some money around within the budget to try to do the initial recovery. we have some operations that are back there but we will need supplemental support from the congress to recover that base. and we think we do need to recover that base. because it is right next to the gulf, training and test range, it's a tremendous place to do training. what we proposed to congress is rather than rebuild it the way it was, is to rebuild it as our next f-35 base. we would have to change infrastructure at other bases, in this case we know we have to replace a lot of infrastructure. let's replace it and make it a fifth generation base. susan: because the public has been hearing so much about this, with the president's emergency declaration for the border wall, will any air force's funds be tapped? heather: we have not gotten any information on that. susan: that does it for our time. it's a big week for the air
force and the north korean summit. thank you for being on "newsmakers." gentlemen, let's start with the space force. what's the reception going to be in congress. let's start with the house of representatives because it's got the policy component and a funding component. on the policy side, the new democratic head has a big air for space in his district. what will reception be by the armed services committee and the appropriators for this? dan: i look at this with great interest and a lot of question marks at this point. the house was to a degree able to push through a space corps proposal prior to the president weighing in on this. but that was at a different time when we didn't have a democratic majority and i think a political landscape there has shifted enough where it becomes a lot more of a question. robert: one thing that might work in the favor of this proposal is the fact that they seem to have paired it down --
to have pared it down financially to a relatively smaller amount of investment than may have been feasible at the beginning or expected at the beginning. susan: if it goes forward, it could be a lot of r&d money. the whole idea is to develop a new way of approaching adversaries. there's also a review in the pentagon about r&d and procurement and whether or not there's a better way to go about it than has been done in the past? are we expecting new approaches to this with all the r&d that will be necessary? dan: there's been broad agreement within the military and within sort of the political leadership that more money needs to be spent on space and that they need to maintain their advantage. , more do that is, i think a friction point at this point. one thing that i think stood out loud and clear here is by not initially proposing now moving toward a full space department, with a new service secretary,
they've probably maybe bought thems some time to work on those other things like that. where there is agreement. and the rest would be, you know, maybe a second term administration thing or perhaps never happen. susan: for those what are opposed to the idea, the secretary makes the case about russia and china having great interest in space and that we need really to up our game. what would be the people that are opposed to this, what are their counterarguments? robert: i think one of them is talk of an arms race in space. if in fact creation of a space force leads to development and deployment of weapons in space. perhaps either as part of a missile defense system that is connected really to space because it's actually using space or whether it's simply anti-satellite weapons or defensive weapons. i think the concern is that this would lead to competition that would take china and russia, the competition with china and russia to a new level.
dan: i think that's a very good point. even in the president's announcement within this last week, you know, he sort of teased it a bit. well, this is mostly defensive. but you know, he mentioned offensive and a lot of people in the pentagon cringe when he does that. they like to cast the space force or space corps, whatever it would have been, esther create defensive program. about two minutes left. let's move on to the north korean summit. not just the air force but the pentagon as a whole. what are they looking for from the president this week as he reapproaches the north dreian -- north korean leader? robert: i would say one point is, i think there's a concern that as happened last time they were surprised immediately after the summit when the president said they were canceling exercises. a major exercise, which is in the view of most in the pentagon
, a necessary thing to keep the north koreans at bay, so to speak. it's a necessary part of the overall strategy, and they wonder this time whether that or something else will be added to the mix, if the president will put something on the table that will have ramifications for the long term u.s. role there and the alliance with south korea. dan: within the military, one issue that came up, it was sort of a -- an initial win with the last summit, was the repatriation of american remains and there are still thousands of remains north of the border, in north korea especially. a lot of those were aircraft crashes. we haven't seen a lot of public movement since then. there have been at least no acknowledged exercises to bring remains home. any kind of joint patrols or anything like that where you would actually go into north korea on the ground and start looking.
whether or not there's any kind of movement on that, i think there will be a lot of military families watching. susan: about 30 seconds left. you touched on four major issues that impact rank and file, things like base housing, ,round, and the icbm corps deployability status. what is your reporting telling you about the overall morale within the air force at this point, dan? dan: it's mixed. there is certainly excitement over there being additional money to fly. that there's more money to get up in the aircraft. that there are more pilots willing to stay as a result of those sorts of things. but there's confusion based on the mixed messages they get from the very top and i think there are some people that are more inclined to stay and others more inclined to leave. susan: bob? robert: i think the big thing is resources. if they see more resources are being made available, it makes them pleased that they have a future in the force and that
tends to boost morale. susan: squadron health, as the secretary says. thanks to both of you here, good questions, nice to have you back on the program. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] the house and senate return for legislative work on monday. the house will take up a joint resolution to terminate the president national emergency declaration that allows him to build a southern border wall with money that congress intended for other purposes. also, measures to require universal background checks or gun buyers and closing certain loopholes. floor on monday is the annual reading of george washington's farewell address. then they continue work on an abortion bill. later in the week, the nomination of andrew wheeler to head the epa. here is more on the house democrats planned legislative action on the preside'