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tv   After Words Mark Esper A Sacred Oath - Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense...  CSPAN  May 31, 2022 12:58pm-1:57pm EDT

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>> after months of closed-door investigations house january 6th committee is set to go public. starting june 92 noon as committee members question key witnesses about what transpired and why during the assault on the u.s. capitol. watch our live coverage beginning thursday june 9 on c-span, c-span now are free mobile video out or anytime online at c-span.org. c-span, your unfiltered view of government. >> host: i'm honored and privileged to be here this morning with former secretary of defense mark esper. i might also say former secretary ofth the army mark esper, colonel retired united states army mark esper come served in uniform on active duty, served in thene army national guard, served in the army reserve.
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one of the few people i know who served in all three components of the united states army or distinguished 21 year career. dr. esper, phd, vice president as per of one of the largest defense and aerospace companies that we have in our defense industrial base. professional staff member on the senate foreign relationste committee, had a policy on the house armed services committee, national security adviser to one of thehe most distinguished senators fred thompson, a very varied career and you brought extensive background to your role as secretary of defense and we hear today to discuss your book which is entitled "a sacred oath: memoirs of a secretary of defense during extraordinary times." i and i would like to start by sayingm that i believe, if i am correct, that when you graduated as a second lieutenant from west point you raise your right hand and you said i, mark esper, do solemnly swear that i will support and defend the constitution against all
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enemies, foreign and domestic, that i will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that i take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion and that i will well and faithfully discharge the duties on the office for which i'm about to enter, so help me god. i take an oath -- you took an oath to the constitution. is this what you're referring to, secretary esper, when you talk about the title of the book, "a sacred oath"? .. econd time. i took the oath the first time as an 18 year old with freshly cut hair and a and a new uniform as a west point cadet in 1982, and and i took that oath another dozen times or so after that and to me, that's what it came down to is my s omy sacred oath as i navigated my way through a lot a career but in the 18 months i served
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as secretary of defense i often had to go back to what is my old and what guided me was the principles of west point, do honor to your country which is what i had to go back to . what is the right thing to do in this issue >> give me a better ac explanation. that was a great explanation but a little bit more insight . you approached somethingthat in the book you called values-based decision-making. you were looking at value . that value to add back to the oath, tied to honor duty country. tell us about that. >> for any cabinet secretary you have a lot of authority and responsibility particularly with the department of defense. 2.8 million people in terms of service members and civilians responsible for operations inaround the globe but it's a hefty job. so you have to have certain things to guide you. it begins with the national security strategy , what the president was to accomplish f but at the end of the day comes back to your moral compass and those principles that guide you and for me in
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many of those situations where i didn't have sufficient guidance or had to sort through the situation myself i went back to those core values and what's important for our national security or what's important for the institution of the defense department or even more so what's important for the institution recallthe profession of arms . those things are very important to me particularly when you consider that unique relationship that the united states military has with the american people and how special it is that in our country as compared to many others we understand the role of the military in society and that the military takes its guidance from civilian leadership. >> but there were a number of times when there were nd decisions you didn't agree with and you were talking sometimes to the president, sometimes to his senior people in the white house where you said as you said in the book michael is to the
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constitution, not to the individual . talk about that. >> there are any number of occasions and i'm not the first cabinet member to face this where people propose ideas you think are wrong or inappropriate. my job is always to push back and if it's the president to offer up better ideas, better solutions. try to meet his intent and get to a better more enduring place that's best for the country consistent with what the president is trying to do. that becomes your role and i've always got to go back to what is my hope and michael's is to theconstitution . it's not to a president, it's not to aphilosophy . it is to the constitution and i think the reason we have a senate confirmation process is that congress, the people's representatives want to know that that's what's guiding you and that's what you intend to adhere to and that's what i promised when i was confirmed90 to 8 in july 2018 .
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>> one of our colleagues, a former professor at the national defense university wrote a book titled the nearly impossiblejob of secretary of defense . secretary austin is the 28th of defense. charlie's book was written before your tenure so it covers a number of your predecessors but you talked about the job of running the largest most complex organization in our own federal government i would argue in the world. 13.3 million active-duty, 750,000 cell service employees. 750,000 contractors, 5000 locations worldwide and you said it's been nearly impossible and you talk about how you have some extraordinary circumstances that you were dealing with beyond those your predecessors had to deal with . you had a global pandemic the likes of which we hadn't seen in 100 years and you had to put in place operational work speed.you were dealing with
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wars on the ground where our troops were in harm's way in iraq and afghanistan and had some of these other concerns about withdrawing troops from europe . talk about you title it extraordinary times but frankly i think the title nearly impossible times would apply to your tenure when you think about all the things you had to deal with and some of the challenges because you talked about the commander-in-chief and in the book you said he was idiosyncratic, unpredictable and unprincipled yet you are having to make decisions to deal with all those issues with when that person was her boss, no question about it . r>> first of all is a great job and you have to rely on the people below you eato really deliver and i had a great crew of both civilian and military leaders oubut when you think about the ascope of it on one hand you have to be a diplomat and a statesman and engage in foreign policy next you have to run the apartments, you're responsible for giving them
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direction and how to function and yet give guidance to the service chiefs about how to prepare for the future, how to organize forces. and that of course you're responsible for schools and hospitals and child development centers and the health and welfare not just of servicemembers but there's up to 10 million other dependence who rely on military healthcare so you have all that and on top of that 00during my tenure and it's a demanding job regardless but we do face this first global pandemic in 100 years. we've got the war in afghanistan, conflict in syria. we have the aftermath of the exchanges with iran and you put on top of thatcivil unrest . you put on top of that ndall the other things we face and it's a demanding time and quite frankly i'm proud of what my folks were able to do during these challenging times of 20/20 and how we navigated all this to both
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defend america abroad but to support america at home either with covid with work speed but we had 20, 30, 40,000 people. army doctors nurses deployed in cities across the united states setting up field hospitals and we're organizing the javits center into the largest hospital in the us to deal with covid and many left home and rest their own welfare totreat their fellow americans . it was a monumental time. >> when governments are incapacitated a large geographic area there's only one outfit that can do that and that's the department of defense. we do it forhurricanes and fires, we did for the civil unrest . because you were secretary of the army you were with general gus perna and when it came time to put operation work speed into effect let's
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face it, you had some talented scientific medical experts but my understanding maand i had the opportunity to work with them a little bit particularly to help him get ready for his confirmation but also for his testimony before the hill . it was pretty much a dod operation and my understanding is it really did go at work speed because people predicted we'd never see a usable vaccine for years and years . talk about that and what was accomplished by operation work speed and a personnel from the department of defense that were integral to set to thatsuccess . >> let's talkabout outcomes . it was probably the greatest public private partnership in us history. probably in some ways on parallel with the apollo program and i would say there were a lot of skeptics that said you'll never get vaccine with ensufficient efficacy out in time, it will take 5 to 10 years yet this commendation of dod and hhs. i was able to coordinate with
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alex cesar. we delivered in less than eight months to vaccines with 90 percent plus efficacy and you and i would be sitting here together without facemasks if it weren't for those vaccines but yes, i got to know general perna. he was head of army material command at a time when we were making sweeping changes. i stood up a way to break the acquisition gridlock so we could modernize the army from the reagan era and gus perna i learned was a selfless team player who was his duty first and was willing to give up parts of his organization for the better good of establishing afc and told me a lot about him. when it came time in the spring of 2020 the setup work speed at dod's specific response for logistics but really distribution, manufacturing, putting those pieces altogether was
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apparent to me and general mark millie that gus perna was the right guy and he was about ready to retire but he came back, extended his active duty time and work and delivered for theamerican people but we had our share of pickups . by the time i think president biden was inaugurated in january we were delivering over 1 million doses to the american people. he and our counterparts at hhs deserve a lot of credit. pa>> i enjoy talking to him because he came from an italian background so we talked about our grandparents that had come from italy. spaghetti and meatballs, a glass of wine here and there he was a great leader. let's talk about because i want to get into a series of questions of the role of the secretary of defense. the statute that governs the defense is found in title x of the us code and that was 1986 .d in i was privileged to the staff director when we passed what is known as the goldwater nichols act and to make sure we had total civilian control of our tmilitary we put in
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title x that everything in the department of defense is object to the authority, direction and control of the secretary of defense that was your understanding of your statutory authority correct? >> i learned goldwater i nichols ayall the way through my career in the army and of course it was past the year i graduated from west point. the secretary has all the authority. there are only two people in the us that can deploy us troops abroad. is the president and secretary of defense every couple weeks either side deployment orders the chain runs from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commanders. we had a series of geographic and functional combatant commanders and what people people don't understand and general mark millie used to educate people. that is the role that he's responsible for. he did a great job for me and
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these are the president well also but that's his role. it's not a commendable, not an operational role and understanding the roles that different people play is critical and then you got the service efchiefs and service sectors also in the chain of command but notoperational load . in termsof title x , managing and organizing the force that they then hand off to the combatant commanders to deploy and employee. that's a very important distinction. >> and as the secretary of the army the civilian head of the department you were subject to the authority of then secretary jim mattis but your chief mark milley was subject to your authority and control that was the framers of goldwater nichols who wanted to make sure we had absolute civilian control of the military and like you say there's only one person other than the commander-in-chief and by the way has to go through the secretary of defense so there were a
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number of instances where there were times when there were suggestions made to the war fighting command. one that comes to mind in the book that frankly would concern me as someone that's a student of this area was you mentioned in the book at one point there were suggestions by some of the senior staff in the white house that we move 250,000 active duty military to the southern border to help protect the border and that perhaps people in the department of homeland security were also involved and the us northern command which is one of the war fighting command run by donald rumsfeld after 9/11 whose mission is to protect the united states of america, the land space, airspace and some of the c space. northern command started planning for that operation based on a suggestion by a
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staffer at the white house that had no authority to doso and us secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs didn't know about . tell me about thatsituation . that should worry us that one of our war fighting command would be acting on guidance and direction that didn't come from the secretary of defense. >> i read this story for stephen miller speaks up from behind me and says we need to send a quarter of 1 million troops to the border to deal with caravans from central america and i turn around, he presses again i say i don't have a quarter of million to dealwith that nonsense . he suggested were working on it and i came back to the pentagon and a day or so later called general millie aside and i told him check on it and to our surprise there was planning happening and i assume it was layers below the commander and dod likes to lean into things and for all they know it was guidance coming from the white house . di don't know how it flowed .i thought it was foolhardy, it wasn't the right way toaddress the problem .
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we need border security, need to know who's coming across and what they're bringing but the solution was accorded million troops i didn't have to begin with . it's given dhs the officers that they need to do. so i kind of shut that down immediately and put the word out. anybody in dhs has a problem come see me and i'lldeal with it because of the day nobody was going anywhere . i knew i wasn't about to send a quarter million troops to the border. >> we already had a few thousand like president biden had today but it was another outlandish idea . >> in that area as you mentioned are active duty military, the guard and reserve were called up and a variety of things from medical essential things to basically operating medical stations handing out supplies and things of that nature and you call that defense e support to civil authority. there are a number of times in the book where you basically because of civil unrest there were requirements mefor our military
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to perhaps be a participant and one thing people should understand for example at b those 200 50,000 active troops been sent to the border they have no law-enforcement authority. the president can declare certain national emergencies but the guard can actively exercise law enforcement so talk about some of the civil unrest situations you had to deal with and how you saw the role of the active military compared to that of the national guard. >> i was fortunate in the rv sense based on my experience is as a circular guard, i had a fairly good understanding of what not to the roles and responsibilities of each work but the training and equipping of what they do and i was in the dc bar for example. particularly when it comes to civil unrest there's a role for the national guard
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basically to support law enforcement and that was the important thing i tried to keep reinforcing with the president alongside attorney general bar law enforcement an should deal with civil unrest and if they need support that is the role of the governor's to make that determination and it's in the capital then the president through his chain of command to do that but my view was we should always relax in terms of consideration and because of the authorities they have and after the walk we made through lafayette park which was amistake for me and certainly i don't general millie feels the same way . that night i directed that a memo be prepared for me and i cited up midafternoon that said we have a bowl and providing support to civilian authorities particularly in dealing with civil unrest because as right here i believe in law and order and i believe that americans should have the right to exercise their first amendment rights so assembly and protest and position. and unfortunately there were people in that crowd that were doing violent things and
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denying people that peaceful right so we had, we had a right to safeguard americans rights to protest but at the same time we are in a political organization and need to stay away from the politics of those moments. >> that's a tough thread to weave their as you go through this day by day but keep in mind we had the wake of the tragic murder of george floyd the city where civil unrest was happening. you have to give people that room to express themselves peacefully about what they see as injustice or whatever the case maybe you felt like i say you created the right balance even though there were peoplethat maybe wanted you to go a little bit further, use active duty troops . a couple of anecdotes in there about people making suggestions about things we wouldn't do which is our fellow americans . did you feel like in the areas where you got pushed on you were able to implement the correct balance between law enforcement and the role
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of our military particularly the national ouguard? >> in terms of outcomes i right at the it end of the day that the law enforcement led. we would argue internally should the local law enforcement and state and federal anand then if you need to guard you can use the star but to include lafayette park the guard performed its mission of protecting federal buildings haand one of the mistaken reporting coming out of that day and subsequent days was somehow the guard use violence and shop pepper balls and rubber bullets, ow none of that happened. the guard performed its mission and stayed in terms of protecting those institutionsand activities though i was proud of them. you had a one day out industries . protecting federal facilities and americans right to protest. another group of guardsmen and hospitals, field hospitals taking care of their fellow americans dealing with covid and other
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guardsmen deployed in hotspots around the world and even then are dealing with wildfires in california were flooding in the midwest. it was a tremendous time for the national guard and i think it was there here. >> you know from your own service in the guard since 9/11 we've had 1 million members of the national guard and reserve dmobilized and deployed overseas or at home and they get demobilized and they are to bargain for the taxpayer because you don't have to put in place all the infrastructure you ghave to have for active-duty troops that are on duty 365 days a year so the guard and reserve you may want their operational now. there from the strategic reserve they were in the cold war and you see them on the front lines every day and i know the american people heappreciate that and the leadership. one thing in that area and i want to read from my paper. because of the concerns you have you and general milley
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establish what you called the 4 nos. no politicization of dod and no misuse of the military. you address that with the guard. how were you able to deal with these tconcerns and handle decisions you didn't agree with. you didn't agree with the plan to remove troops from germany although you put in place an alternative that was withholding of aid from ukraine, finally did getover there . blockades in venezuela, activity with iran. instances of calling up retired officers from active duty and court marshaling them because they're saying things people didn't like. what were you prepared to do if there was a case there was a red line crossed and you weren't able to support ? >> i wrestled with a lot and you go back to the book sacred oath, the oath is to
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the constitution but part of the constitution's article to which establishes the president, he's the commander-in-chief and you're bound to obey his lawful orders . i was fortunate because president trump rarely issued orders but walk through these things sequentially in terms of ukraine assistance which we are obligated to do, it would be me at times for me and john bolton or john bolton and mark pompeo and i would engage the president to push and release the security assistance. we learned why later, i did through the media while he was holding it up but that wasn't the case where my duty was to go back to him and pushed and breast-fed every possible argument i could to get that relief and i talk about it in the book. in other cases with nato or the case where i got the written order to withdraw troops from germany my game plan was to get my commander and i was talking about the combatant commander general todd walters. i gave him a series of principles. i wanted to do some planning off of that i would rip
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reassure our allies that would we would take care of the troops and he came back with a good concept that at the end of the day you met the presidents direct order ad to withdraw troops but allowed me to take those i troops we withdrew from germany and consolidate them in other countries or eventually push them forward b closer to russia which meant r. these principles i had defined as reassure allies and determined russia and i thought it was a clever idea put forward by the combatant commander. i endorsed it and we've reached it to the president and he knew what we were doing when i briefed him and it met what he wanted so i thought it was again, i didn't like it's origin but what we came up with was a workable solution to meet the presidents intent for me to do it in a way that made strategic sense that bolstered our presence in europe and deter the russians and look where we are today and frankly i wish they follow the plan because we would have more troops in romania and poland. >> one of your first trips
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you went over to nato to reassure our allies put them on the spot. even when you and i were working our bosses were saying our nato allies are carrying their fair share so that was a legitimate thing for the president. you were a big supporter of nato and we see today nato is more important than ever, would that be your assessment ? >> i served in nato as a young army officer in the 90s and went to brussels as acting sect death before i was confirmed. >> we won't tell the senate that. >> i said publicly i believed in nato but this is where president trump was right. they need to live up to their obligations. at the time six or seven countries were living up to its two percent gdp commitment and he was right germany was in the wrong for supporting nordstream 2.
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unfortunately ukrainians are paying the price for everybody not being on guard and off or worrying g enough about russia and hopefully now we will see more nato countries meet that commitment. >> let's talk about russia because one of the things you did early on as secretary with jim matus is we had a new national defense strategy. there had been one in a number of years and as you know from your service in ost policy from other jobs that it's a fundamental planning document for the department of defense. the department of defense decision-making process which is being reviewed by congressional commission, defining programming budget and execution system which is how the department puts its decision into monetary factors and becomes a budget they submit to the congress is guided by a bunch of documents. one of which of course is the national defense entity which should flow from the overall national security strategy and when he took over , you spent a lot of time and came up with the national defense strategy that was really revolved around what you call
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power competition, near your competitors. china, russia. to a more limited extent north koreaand iran and global terrorism and of course russia was a centerpiece . china was a centerpiece . talk about what you did as secretary of defense to ensure that the national defense strategy was not just a bunch of words and look at what's happening now. russia basically is doing some of the things the new strategy said was going to happen if we didn't deter them and then i'm going to go to china next but let's talk about what you did as secretary of defense to try to implement that strategy and like to get your sense, where you feel it is today? >> i was a solid strategy and i think this is another accomplishment of the trump administration. one of the things it did was consolidate a us government view that china is a
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strategic adversary and i thought that was important particularly all the years i worked on china issues . but that said , my sense as secretary of the army was it wasn't being implemented and as i came and as secretary of defense what i've told my chain of command and what i sent to the senate was i would make implementation of the nds national defense strategy my top priority so within a couple months of taking office i had thesenior leaders conference . i brought everybody in. leaning heavily on my civilian side to draft up what we call the 10 objectives that would be the implementation objectives by which we would implement the nds so it's everything from defining china's threat to new operational concepts such as immediate reaction forces. we need to update our war plans. it goes on and on about the objectives because when you're leaving a large organization like dod, i can't get up and tell everybody what i want them to do you do it through documents such as the nds and
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such as an implementation plan that's the wide way by which you do it and you supplement by visiting people and texplaining and emphasizing and urging and checking on it. i made that part and parcel of my weekly duties. check on the entire team, how re are we doing in terms of implementation, where do we need to make changes etc. and i think we may have a lot of good progress. >> everything under title x is supposed to flow from the requirements of the war fighting command . it's as you will organize train and equip in support of the requirements of the war fighting command. he talked about the contingency plans, did the command, there were a lot of them.no central command, european command. did they make the adjustments in their contingency plans to take into account china as the threat in russia and nds before you left? >> we had begun reviewing all those were plans to make sure rethat the demands, the
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requirements of the combatant commanders met what we can supply and it didn't then why are those services acting. why isn't our acquisition system adaptingand why were we budgeting for those resources or people or organizations that they needed . that is really the meat and potatoes of making sure that you have sound were plans that meet ethe intent of the commander-in-chief and his policy. and you have budgeted and resource to deliver what the commanders think they needed a fourth part of my job was into the plans and second-guessing the combatant commanders, making sure the policy we were trying to achieve and that became a weekly function for me. and not just with them but these days we recognize and the national defense strategy said this was it was great power competition on a global scale so when you think about a fight with russia or china it can't be in the indo
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pacific you have to think about i may have to engage in latin america or in the middle east or somewhere on the european continent. we at least have to draw resources to do so so for me it was important to have all the other commanders in the room particularly people like northern command to defend the united states or transportation command which is optional command that would provide all the aircraft and tankers and etc. that would keep the fight going so you've got to have those apeople in the room to understand the plan or at least what the commander was requesting . >> as a staffer decades ago you got people focus on china.ab you started talking about worrying about china. usurped on the china commission. i remember in the cold war my dad was a 1938 graduates who wserved with patton's army in europe as we were worried about the cold war and i was serving onstaff he would say don't forget about china and
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i'd say what are you talking about, it's russia but his roommate was a chinese-american and he said i know wants to get after us . if it takes them 1000 years they're going to take over the united states and frankly in the nds and jim mattis you said china is the patient threat. there on the market militarily, economically. they have more diplomatic posts around the world than the united states and the thing that's most scary is there on the market technologically and in many areas the have us technologically and frankly in some of them are military areas . in some we're still ahead . and of course they're threatening taiwan so talk a little bit about what more needs. it's clear we haven't done all we need to do on china and unlike russia, there are an economic threat. there are politicalthreats . there a military threat so talk about china but you've hit all the key points. >> this is why they're the greatest challenge we face in the 21st century and i've le been studying them since 1995
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when i was a war planner working the indo pacific . i was responsible for that portfolio so they are the greatest threat we face because of all these things. a political might they bring. their long-term planning. they've written about it that by 2035 and want to have a modern military and want to dominate . there are pretty modern military today. >> we can talk about that when it comes to the navy. they have diplomatic half, there's printing money trying to live the countries through that belten road initiative. i grew up in the cold war as you did. china now possesses the second largest economy in the world. the russians never had that so as you say the chinese have a lot of great technology and they're continuing to do that . a ntlot of times it's on our backs.
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they're stealing our plans and the fbi has talked about every 12 hours to open up an espionage case against the chinese government. i don'tthink we're in a position to deal with them . i do give the trump administration, we collectively did a good job forming a consensus that china was our strategic adversary and getting many of our allies on board with that concept and we need to keep pushing in that direction . >> there's bipartisan support on capitol hill. they want to do something about it. what more do we need to do that we don't get ourselves in a situation that we got into with ukraine. >> we need to beef up the state department. for our diplomatic efforts around the world particularly in the in the pacific. recently wewere in the solomon islandsis signing some type of security agreement with the chinese . that's terrible. we need to overturn the state department , go into parts of latin america and africa where american diplomacy can
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help grow it. in terms of the od we need to modernize our military and these big shifts in terms of how to fight in the indo pacific and that's going to require more defense spending and i know a lot of people don't want to hear that but y we're making this transition from what i call o'regan cold war military at least for the army that was built to a new type of militarythat can deal with chinese in the 21st century. that's why the navy is trying to make this transition . tit's hard without more money. we need to bring all the allies and partners of war. they can't just be focused on our own front yard . they need to focus on what's happening with china. china has managed to eat its way into all these un organizations where they're trying to control you and bodies drive whether it's intellectual party parity or the un itself and we need to be very conscious of this and come up with a national game plan.
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>> let me talk about spending more money because yone of your efforts at reform was quite notable and one of the reasons you need reform is as you know in my second book, i point out how we're spending more in dollars then the peak of the reagan buildup which you were part of thatand yet we have 1 billion left active-duty . armies 50 percent smaller. we have 50 percent less fighting units. we're not getting the bank about that we should be kept increase, covered inflation. we've got to cover the modernization but if we don't get more bang for the buck were not going to get thekind of capabilities that we need vis-c-vis china and you started the army night court which was an effort reform . secretary matus had three priorities which was strengthened the war fighting readiness of our military.
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increase our partnerships and reform the military. you added a fourth one i'm going to talk about in a minute wastake care of our troops and families but let's talk about reform. so you did in night cecourt you said for going to squeeze the budget. we got to get money for modernization and then you brought it to the secretary of defense and one of the pe things you took on and i'll be honest , we never did in the congress . i wish we had. very few if any of your predecessors to get on and that was like all overhead in the department of defense if you look at what we call the fence line spending argue o about these numbers. dod will admit it's between 17 to 20 percent but if you added was called privatized spending, it's close to 30 percent is almost a third of the budget is on defense wide spending. not on the tip of the spear and we started with one defense agency, the national security agency and we now have 28. these agencies are large behemoths. a worldwide communications agency, worldwide grocery chain, worldwide dependent school system . defense missile agency and you start to take to take
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that on because you said some of these things are big businesses yet are not run like a big business and our support organizations and you try to bring reform to the defense agencies are probably left before you could get what you wanted to get done but talk about how we need to reform what we're doing in the pentagon and don't get me wrong. i'm making a longer question because i want to say as you said in the beginning you gave credit to the men and women active-duty, guard and reserve n, defense contractors, research and development. they come to work every day to do the best job they can or the war fighter and taxpayers like the congressional staff and yet former secretary of defense told me bill perry said our best process is the good people every day and dod we still have a lot of proliferation of bad processes which you try to reform. talk about your reform efforts particularly as it relates to these massive
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defense agencies . >> i came in as secretary of the army late 2018 and within six months wrote a statement of where i wanted to get the army as general milley sign this mission statement but i knew making the transition in terms of reorganizing the horse. i knew calendarpersonnel system . new equipment to deal with the china and russia that we saw i had i would need more money and as much as i was going to go back to congress and asked for that i felt at the end of the day because president t trump was good at giving us extra money at the end of the day we had to do a lot of our own internal work. how to get rid of the fat and make some hard choices so that's where night court began. as we introduced our six modernization priorities everything from soldier t lethality to long-range precision i knew it would take billions of dollars and when he first presented me the budget i didn't see it in
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there and i had to say time out and i called him back in and said i want all 500+ grams right in order 1 to 500 and 34 or so programs we are building the army modernization on had to come first and what that ended up doing his people came in through a series of meetings ev i think the chain of command and i spent 40 hours cutting and trimming and reducing at the end of the day we freed up over or use something billion dollars, 186 programs my view is i can only take care of myself. i'll do my own handiwork with a department party to deal with that and we were able to find that much money to reinvest in the army and i was just down to army futures command not long ago they told me that financier by 23 going to 2deliver on 24 of those t-1 programs in the initial rollout. so it's a great achievement and i attribute that to the entire team at the time but to your next point, you talk about when we're building this budget aggressively for
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the army putting into it and going hard and reprioritizing making these choices. at one point i get a bill from ost and they say you have to chip in to $3 million. to pay for rthis or that and it got me angry and i was complaining why this and that and couldn't get an answer . so when i become secretary of defense i now have a budget and i find out what's going on the so-called overhead is something that consumes i don't know, over $110 million a year and it's a couple dozen agencies and what they were doing was test they had all their programs and activities and in some ways it would work with the combatant command and levy bills on the services and were subject in my view to any supervision or oversight or checking to see if that was consistent with where the department was going so i clamped down on that so we put a civilian in charge of the fourth estate to manage its administrative and
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budgetary stuff so they couldn't grow personnel or make these demands and cut it back and i thought it was kind of a big accomplishment. we need more work to do on that but i think they should be subject to all that and you've got to deal with all the other growth but that's the hard work of the department. aas much as i can say on one hand we need to grow the defense budget and i was a big supporter of the 3 to 5 percent annual growth we also still as dod civilians and senior military have a duty to the american people to be good stewards of every dollar between even when we're id getting the additional cash we still got to go back in there and get rid of the excess, the fat, etc. and do good on its and that's the hard work. it's not going to get done unless the secretary of defense gets involved so that's why i put personal y time towards that. i think in the two-month in august and september found
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five, six, $7 billion we could cut and put backinto war fighting . and some people said that wasn't enough for me that was a goodstart . >> these are important organizations but the point is we need to get more bang for the buck out of hethem just like you got more bang for the buck out of the army and thesecretary, you have the army by the stack and swivel, that's the term we understand as military folks . it's alittle bit harder to get control of some of these il organizations . one of the things that we do have a world financed military and we want to keep that may way.we recruit and retain the best people and their families and i'm going to talk about that. we give them constant training but we also from our industry give them the best technology so they're never in a fair fight . you work in industry, how important is the defense industrial base and technology and as secretary of defense you prioritize i think 10 or 11 top priorities from hypersonic to artificial
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intelligence to quantum, 5g. how important to our economy is keeping the focus on these cutting-edge technologies particularlywhen china , we know that t ahead of us in hypersonic's. some people would arguethat ahead of us in ai . the former vice chairman said it's still an open book in quantum but it's very important . talk about the importance of our industrial nobase. >> before i do so i added what's important about the military is how we empower noncommissioned officers . . we're seeing this play out on the battlefield in ukraine versus russia how mi noncommissioned officers are the strength of our military but i served many years and the defense industry and it gave me insight into what makes them function and into what incentivizes them in terms of how they operate so i was able to leverage that a good deal as i came back and i would meet weekly as set army with industry to kind of find out how can we do better and help them it helps when i
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stood up on the futures command in terms of how we craft that industry needs predictability so one of the out to do, et leaving myself and brian mccarthy that jim mark millie as the two army y senior leaders was appropriate ability is what the army wanted and not change it because if you can get credibility put money behind it industry will respond and innovate. and i'm proud to say it's 2020 to 4 years later. the army still hasn't changed his prioritization and that's key in terms of signaling to both industry but also to the army ouwhere you're going. since i've left service i'm working more in venture capital . i'm on a firm called red cell doing a lot of interesting work. i wish i knew more about that part of the ecosystem because that's where part of innovation happens. some of the companies omfounders, innovators i take
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and hear from our doing cutting-edge work and what i'm hoping i'm able to do now i wish i had known and was how do you get those really small innovators and founders before dod senior leadership so that we can make those big bats. just like venture capital l does on cutting-edge technologies that will allow us to leapfrog the chinese and if i can do it all over again i would be meeting with those guys these quarterly to find out and make those big bats because of problems with acquisition in dod is it's so bureaucratic and their risk averse but if you have the secretary of defense willing to make those big bats, kind of to get some of them wrong knowing if you get some right it will make a difference, that's the key. >> i think congress to give the dod people incentive to take risk. we need to get the lawyers to let the senior leadersmeet with some of these industries, not thinking you've given them an advantage on someone else . when i talked to cutting-edge commercial firms they get so frustrated as you inwell know.
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they tell you the same thing dealing with the bureaucracy and the leaders at the top if you look now work in the army, heidi hsu is the head of technology, she's very aggressive in this area and they want this technology and d our government. they wanted for our tlmilitary but the bureaucracyis really an encumbrance so your spot on . >> that's why we put army futures command in austin texas but even today i sit on the board of small companies and a sit in this valley of death 18 months and can't survive if you're a company of 100 200 people how do you make it through even though they have cutting-edge technology . >> you did a terrific job, she's enbeen followed by phil (laplante who said we got to get back to production lines so there's an incentive by the leaders in europe and the current tenure to dothis. we've just got to get around
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the bureaucracy . >> it's an important chapter, this book is all about donald trump. people want to portray it that way but this is about my tenure and there are whole chapters at barely mention him at all . this is one of them is how do you innovate and report this is critically important.all your predecessors, bill perry, donald rumsfeld, bob gates, leon panetta, these are all important because as we said thedepartment of medefense is a learning organization . is one of the few government that's always striving to do better so people this is a bible for not just the war colleges but for people in industry to look at the things we need to fix. that's going to be my last question. >> i will book for three audiences, one the american people about the next two ou were four people ingovernment and dod so people can learn these lessons . i've referred to all my
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predecessors and i would go back and read their books and understand how they did things orlessons learned like you are saying . >> you were a military family . when you added to the four priorities for military families, spouse, child care. when the volunteer force was put into effect from the draft that was so unpopular president nixon asked the former secretary of defense to do a commission and he said we should go through a volunteer force. we've got to fix three things though, the toutmoded promotion system and based on skills and performance, not time and grace. very few of those things have changed but we do have a volunteer force but in the 70s and almost went under and we didn't pay enough attention to the families . now if you don't have programs for spouses to get employment you're going to lose the best and brightest. you have that is a real priority. tell us what you did ? >> when i entered active duty
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as an officer at fort campbell it seems to me most folks weren't married and had kids but over time that changed. now what you have is. very military spouses and in today's society most spouseswere. it's this kind of old adage . you recruit thesoldier but you retain the family . i saw too many places where we were talking the talk and not doing enough to deliver . i went after how do we fix the employment system, though after recognizing certificates. as you move from state to state because the spouses were having a hard time getting hired because they didn't have the proper credentials and we work by ourselves. i worked with my fellow service sectors and withheld to break that down. and then as i went after childcare i found the biggest problem in our childcare wasn't necessarily spaces, it was the fact that there were often only three quarters
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filled because our hiring system wasn't up to the task so we went after tackling back. and then there are a myriad of other things and i described in the end is kind of ilchapter about the nature of the military and its bureaucracy where we were telling families you can't come into the px for the commissary unless youare properly dressed . k and as you noted, my wife and i served 21 years. she was with me since i was a young lieutenant. saw me go off to war. we asked from europe within the united states. we dealt with childcare and all these things and she was an incredible to me and would pick up these ideas as she ie met with spouses as we would ea go on the road and one of the claims was why can't i wear a fitness gear into rpx is just the bureaucratic resistance to something as simple as that because my view was the sailor, the chairman, the soldiers and marines may have signed up for the militarybut the spouses didn't . it's a family business but let's not make it difficult
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on what is the strength of the us military at this point which is the families that support our servicemembers. >> it's the same in other parts of america but you got frustrated with that priority and i could see where the acquisition system would frustrate you. i could see where trying to fix the state would frustrate you but frankly this is such ano-brainer about the families. what made it so frustrating ? >> my wife lived and i lived. you're trying to what should be a service initiative to go out there and might make life easier, allowing them to wear fitness gear into our commissaries met this stiff bureaucratic resistance and i said if it's your responsibility then fix it and i found an unwillingness to fix it. i don't think it was coming from civilians as much as the integrated culture of the military and eventually i said enough, i'm going to have to do what the secretary
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of defense shouldn't do and tell families you're allowed to wear leisure gear into the px is an commissaries. it was a small thing but an important thing for our families and i wanted to de signal every day i went in i kept our families in mind as i dealt with all these issues . >> we're getting towards the end of our program and civilian control was so fundamental to your moral compass that you adhere to the constitution. maintain what you call w civilian control of the military. one of the areas that we've had is we've had somewhat of a controversy. jim mattis had to get a waiver to serve because he had not been retired long enough. i've never been in favorof the retired military, that's why we put in a 10 year provision . you've beensecretary of the navy . i know you admire both of thoseindividuals . but frankly do you think we ought to have recently retired militarypeople serve as secretary of defense ?
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>> let me begin by saying my hometown boyhood hero is george marshall and he was secretary of defense in september i think 1950 call back by truman to help after the killings of military in korea . he didn't think it made sense for a former retired military officer to be secretary of defense but did it nonetheless. and to answer your question no i don't think so. i think that moratorium of 10 .ears made sense it has nothing to do with secretary mattis or secretary often. it has everything to do with making sure you have a distinct difference between the military culture and civilian culture and there's different skill sets in terms of what both bring epto the job. it doesn't mean you can't be successful but not having that separation makes a big difference and i would support reinstating that moratorium and maintaining
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it. we have nkenough of people that are civilians back can fulfill that role to do that. because i think civilian control of the military is critical. i have a whole chapter where i outline some of the problems i saw coming in that i didn't think the civilians were used enough. i had to forcibly push billions into the war planning and review process as an example there are other areas where i got pushed back but nonetheless i had been civilian secretaries. and good civilian leaders that were able to push through that and try and pull some of that control back and as i talk about in the conclusion that's is something that i think that congress needs to reload . >> it's clear from my k. conversation today secretary esper is clear from this remarkable important book and it's clear from your entire history and your entire experience you did bear true faith and allegiance to your oath to support and defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic and i know i speak as a personal note .
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i know everybody that knows you andthe american public appreciates what you did . your service, that of your family and i think you have a lot of valuable lessons to convey to the congress, to the american people. continue to work to support a strong national defense so we greatly admire you and thank you and obviously we thank c-span for giving us this opportunity to spend so much time allowing you to talk about things that are so important to the future of our country. thank you very much . >> i appreciate that.>> the up-to-date on the latest in publishing with book tvs podcast about books with current nonfiction book releases plus bestseller lists as well as industry news and trends through insider interviews. you can find about books on
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c-span now or wherever you get your podcasts. >> our newsletter word for word recaps the day for you from the halls of congress to daily press briefings to remarks from the president. scan the qr code at the right bottom to sign up for this email and stay up-to-date on everythinghappening in washington each day . subscribe today using the qr code or visit c-span.org/connect to subscribe anytime. >> c-span now is a free mobile app featuring your unfiltered view of what's happening in washington live and on-demand. keep up with today's live events with live streams of floor proceedings and hearings from the congress, white house, courts, campaigns and more from the world of politics all at your fingertips. you can stay current with the

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