Ernst Questions Defense Secretary on Efforts to Counter Aggression by Near-Peer Adversaries

“I think anything we can do to keep our adversaries off-kilter, we need to do that.”

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee received testimony on the Department of Defense (DoD) budget posture from Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Under Secretary of Defense David Norquist, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford, Jr. At the hearing, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), a combat veteran and Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, questioned the witnesses on the DoD’s efforts to ensure our military remains competitive and equipped to combat threats posed by near-peer adversaries, like Russia. 

Watch Senator Ernst's questioning here or by clicking on the image below.

On Countering Russian Aggression: Senator Ernst cited recent reports that the USS Harry Truman Carrier Strike Group will break with tradition and remain in the European theater to counter Russian aggression and asked Secretary Mattis to speak on the need to “make our military less operationally predictable” and “make our adversaries counter us in the multi-domain.” Secretary Mattis pointed to the National Defense Strategy, which now focuses on “large power, great power, competition” and the Secretary’s efforts to make our military strategically reliable, but operationally unpredictable to our adversaries.

On Operational Unpredictability: “I think anything we can do to keep our adversaries off-kilter, we need to do that,” stated Senator Ernst.

On Expanding the Competitive Space: The Senator pointed to Russia’s success in “competing with the United States below the threshold of actual conflict, in what we call the Gray Zone.” Senator Ernst asked Secretary Mattis to detail what “expanding the competitive space” to counter Russian aggression would look like. Secretary Mattis cited the cyber and space domains as areas of focus and maintaining a hardline on Russia’s acts of aggression.

On Combating Russian Threats at Every Level: “We are going to have to able to compete across diplomatic, economic, information, energy lines, and we are engaged in that on a routine basis,” responded Secretary Mattis.