tv After Words Mark Esper A Sacred Oath - Memoirs of a Secretary of Defense... CSPAN June 1, 2022 6:59am-7:59am EDT
if i can't ever go to the bathroom i won't go. i promise i won't go anywhere. i will stay right behind these black gaetz. >> potential recordings. find it on the c-span now mobile apps or wherever you get your podcasts. >> i am honored and privileged to be here this morning with former secretary of defense mark esper. i might also say former secretary of the army mark esper, colonel, retired united states army mark esper, served in uniform on active duty, served in the army national guard, served in the army reserve, one of the few people i know that served in all three components of the united states army for distant was 20 when your career. doctor mark esper, phd, vice president mark esper, one of the largest aerospace companies we have in our defense
industrial base, professional staff member on the senate foreign relations committee, set policy on the house armed services committee, national security adviser to one of the most established senators, brent thompson, a very very career, you brought extensive background to your role as secretary of defense and we are here today to discuss your book which is entitled "a sacred oath: memoirs of a secretary of defense during extraordinary times". i like to start by saying i believe if i'm correct when you graduated as second lieutenant from west point you raised your right hand and said i, mark esper, do solemnly swear that i will support and defend the constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that i will bear true faith and allegiance to the same but i take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of invasion and i will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office about which i am about to enter, so help me god. i take an oath, you took an
oath to the constitution. is this what you are referring to when you talk about the title of the book, "a sacred oath: memoirs of a secretary of defense during extraordinary times"? >> guest: thank you for that kind introduction and let me -- it is the sacred oath, the second time i took the oath, the first time was as an 18-year-old with freshly cut hair into new uniform as a west point cadet in 1982 and i took that oath another dozen times after that and to me that is what it came down to, my sacred oath as i navigated my way throughout a career but in the 18 months or so i served as secretary of defense i often had to go back to what is my oath and what guided me in the principles of west point's motto, duty, honor, country, to ask myself what is the right thing to do in this situation. >> give me a better explanation. that was the greatest nation but more insight. you approached something the
book you call values-based decision making, you were looking at values. the values tied back to the oath of duty, honor, country, your west point class had its own motto. tell me 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 around the globe, it is a hefty job so you have to have certain things that guide you. it begins with the national security strategy, what the president wants to accomplish in the national defense strategy but at the end of the day it comes back to your moral compass and the principles that guide you and for me, many of those situations have sufficient guidance or sort through the situation myself, i went back to those core values, what is important for national security or the institution of the defense department or the
institution we call the profession of arms and those are important to me particularly when you consider the unique relationship 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, the military takes its guidance from civilian leadership. >> host: a number of times there were decisions you didn't agree with and you were talking sometimes to the president, sometimes to some of his senior people in the white house where you said as you said in the book, my oath is to the constitution, not to the individual. talk a little bit about that. >> any number of occasions since i'm probably not the first defense secretary where people propose ideas that you think are wrong or inappropriate and my job is to push back. if it is the president, to offer up better ideas, better
solutions, try to meet his intent and get to a better more enduring place that is best for the country consistent with what the president is trying to do. that becomes your role and as i think about it i go back to what is my oath, my oath is to the constitution, not to a president, not to a party, not to a philosophy. it is to the constitution and i think the reason we have a senate confirmation process is congress, the people's representatives want to know that that is what is guiding you. that is what i promised when i was confirmed 90-8 in july 2019. >> host: doctor charlie stevenson of the national defense university wrote a book titled the nearly impossible job of secretary of defense, secretary austin now is the twentieth secretary of defense, you were the 20 seventh, charlie's book was written before your tenure so he covers a number of your. he talked about the job of
running the largest, most complex organization in our own federal government, i would argue in the world, talking one. 3 million active-duty, 880,000 reservists, 750,000 civil service employees, 750,000 contractors, 5000 locations worldwide. he said that it is nearly impossible, you talk about how you had extraordinary circumstances you were dealing with beyond those your predecessors had to deal with, you have a global pandemic the likes of which we haven't seen in over 100 years and you had to put in place operation warp speed. i would like to get to that. you are still dealing with mores on the ground a, our troops in harm's way in iraq and afghanistan and other areas and some of these other concerns about withdrawing troops from europe or syria. talk a little bit about, you title it extraordinary times but i think the title nearly impossible times probably would apply to your tenure when you
think about all the things you had to deal with and the challenges, because you talked about the commander-in-chief, you said he was idiosyncratic, unpredictable and unprincipled and yet you were having to make decisions the deal with all those issues with that person was your boss, no question about it. tell us about that. >> it is a great job, demanding job, you have to rely on the people below you to deliver and i had a great crew of civilian and military leaders to do it but you think of the scope of it you have to be a diplomat and engage in foreign policy, next, you have to run the department, responsible for the combatant commanders and give them direction on how to function around the globe in terms of military forces, give guidance to the service sectors and service chiefs how to prepare for the future and organize their forces, equipment to buy and responsible for schools and hospitals and child develop and centers and the health and welfare not just servicemembers
and civilians but 10 million others who rely on military healthcare so you have all that and on top of that during my tenure, a demanding job regardless but we face this first global pandemic in 100 years, the war in afghanistan, conflict in syria, the aftermath of the exchanges, the conflict with iran and on top of that civil unrest, a top of that all the other things we faced, really demanding time and i'm very proud of what my folks were able to do during these challenging times in 2020 and how we navigated, defend america abroad but support america at home, whether dealing with covid, warp speed, but we had 20, 40,000 people, army doctors, nurses, and others deployed in cities across the united states, the
javits center, the largest hospital in the united states to deal with covid and many of these service members particularly the national guard risked their lives and welfare to treat their fellow americans. >> host: a large geographical area there is only one in the country they can do that and that is the department of defense, we do it for hurricanes and fires and did it for the civil unrest. because you were secretary of the army you knew the army general command, when it came time to put operation warp speed into affect the let's face it, you had some talented scientific medical experts. my understanding, i had the opportunity to work with him a little bit to help him get ready for his confirmation but also his testimony for the hill it was a dod operation and my understanding is it really did go at warp speed because people predicted we would never see a
usable vaccine for years and years and years, talk about that and what was accomplished by operation warp speed and the personnel from the department of defense that were integral to that success. >> guest: let's talk about outcomes. probably the greatest public-private partnership in us history, probably in some ways on parallel with the apollo program. there's a lot of skeptics who said you will never get a vaccine with sufficient efficacy out in time. it will take 5 to 10 years and yet this combination of dod and hhs, i was able to coleader with alex aczar, two vaccines with 90% plus efficacy and you and i wouldn't be sitting here together without facemasks if it weren't for those vaccines.
the general in charge of material, and making sweeping changes in the army, i stood up, army futures command, or where to break the acquisition gridlock so we could modernize the army from the reagan era, we quickly learned he was a selfless team player who put his duty first and was willing to give up part of his organization for the better good of establishing afc and that told me a lot about him so when it came time in the spring of 2,020 to set up warp speed and dod app specific response ability for logistics but really distribution is very apparent to me and general mark millie that gus was the right guy, he was ready to retire and he came back, extended his active-duty time and worked 24/7 and develop for the american people. we had our share of pickups but by the time president biden was inaugurated in january we were delivering a million doses of aid to the american people,
tremendous effort and he and our counterparts at hhs deserve a lot of credit. >> i enjoyed talking to him became he came from italian background, we talked about our grandparents readily and the kind of foods we liked to eat, a glass of wine here and there, he was a great leader, great accomplishment. let's talk about a series of questions of the role of the secretary of defense, the statute that governs this part of defense is primarily found in title 10 of the us code and that was updated in 1986. i was privileged to be staffed or after of the armed services or after after of the armed services committee when we passed what is now known as goldwater nickelback. to make sure we had total civilian control of the military we put in title 10 that everything in the department of defense is subject to the authority, direction and control of the secretary of defense and that was your understanding of your statutory authority. >> goldwater nichols all the way through my career in the
army, it was passed the year i graduated from west point, the secretary of defense has all the authority, only two people in the united states can deploy us troops abroad, the president of the united states and the secretary of defense. every couple weeks i was assigned deployment orders and the chain of command runs from the president to the secretary of defense to the combatant commanders, we have a series of geographic and functional combatant commanders as with a lot of people don't understand and general milley tried to educate our colleagues about this but the chairman of the joint chiefs is a statutory advisor to the secretary of defense and the president and that is the role that he's responsible for. he did a great job for me and serve the president well also but that is his role. it is not a command role, not operational role. understanding the roles different people play, the service chiefs and service secretaries are in the chain of command but not operational mode but in terms of as you know from title x manning,
training, equipping and organizing the force that they hand off to the combatant commanders to deploy and employ, very important distinction. >> the secretary of the army, the civilian head of the department of the army, you were subject to the authority, direction and control of secretary jim mattis, but your army chief who was at one point mark millie was subject to your authority, direction and control so the point, to make sure we had absolute civilian control of the military so like you say there's only one person other than the commander-in-chief, you had to go to the secretary of defense, there were a number of instances where there were times when there were suggestions made to the war fighting command, when the comes to mind in the book that frankly would concern me as someone who was a student of this area was you mentioned in the book that one point there
was some suggestions by some of the senior staff in the white house the we move 250,000 active-duty military to the southern border to help protect the border and perhaps the people in the department of homeland security were also involved in the us northern command, one of the war fighting commands by donald rumsfeld after 9/11 whose whole mission is to protect the united states of america, land space, airspace and see space, northern command started planning for that operation based on a suggestion by a staffer at the white house that had no authority to do so and us secretary of defense and chairman of the joint chiefs didn't know about it. tell me a little bit about that situation, that should worry us that one of our war fighting commands would be acting on direction the didn't come from the secretary of defense. >> in the oval office, stephen miller speaks up behind me and says we need to send a quarter million troops to the board the
with caravans coming up from central america and i think he's joking, i turned around he presses again, i say i don't have acorda million troops to deal with that, dhs can handle it and he suggested they were working on it and i came back to the pentagon, pull general milley aside and told him check on it, let's make sure nothing is going on and to our surprise there was planning happening. i assume it was layers below the commander and dod likes to lean into things and for all they knew there was guidance from the white house, i don't know how it flowed but that was my assumption and i shut it down immediately because i thought this was completely foolhardy. it wasn't the right way to address the problem. we have a problem on the border, we need border security, we need to know who is coming across and what they are bringing but the solution, acorda million troops that i didn't have to begin with, giving dhs the officer sent material, the resources they need to do it and so i shut that down and put the word out,
anyone who has a problem, come see me. know what is going anywhere unless i signed the deployment order and i was not going to send acorda million troops to the border. a few thousand like president biden has today, just another outlandish idea. >> host: the area you mentioned, active-duty military, the garden read are called up for covid and did a variety of things for essential things to operating medical stations, handing out supplies and things of that nature. call that defense support for civil authority and there are a number of times in the book where you basically cover the civil unrest, requirements for our military to perhaps be a participant and one thing people should understand, had those 250,000 active-duty troops been sent to the border they have no law enforcement authority, the president can declare certain national emergencies perhaps but the
national guard can actually exercise law enforcement so talk a little bit about 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 based on my experience, i served on active duty on activity, served in the guard and served in the reserve so i had a good understanding not just of the roles and responsibility as each where but also the training and equipping and what they could do and you are right, particularly when it comes to civil unrest, there's a role for the national guard principally to support law enforcement, that was the important thing i tried to keep reinforcing, with the president alongside attorney general bar that law enforcement to deal with civil unrest and if they need support than it is the role of governors to make that determination and if it is in the capital the president through his chain of command can do that but should always
be last in terms of consideration and use the guard because of the authority they had. after the walk we made through the park, a mistake, that night i directed a memo be prepared for me. i signed it out in midafternoon, we have a role in providing support to civilian authorities particularly dealing with civil unrest because -- i believe in law and order and i believe americans should have the right to exercise their first amendment rights. assembly and protest. unfortunately people in that crowd were doing violent things that were denying people that peaceful right, so we had that. we had a right to safeguard americans rights to protest but at the same time we are in apolitical organization and need to stay away from being caught up in the politics of those moments and those days and that is a tough thread to
weave their as you go through this day by day but keep in mind in the wake of a tragic murder of george floyd, hundreds of cities where civil unrest was happening and you have to give people that room to express themselves peacefully about what they see as injustice. >> host: there were people who want you to go further, using active-duty troops, a couple anecdote in there about people making suggestions about things we wouldn't do witches shoot our fellow americans and things like that but did you feel in the areas where you got pushed on you were able to implement the correct balance between law enforcement and the role of our military, the national guard? >> in terms of outcomes we got it right at the end of the day that law enforcement led, we would argue internally it should be local law enforcement, then state, than federal and then if you need
the guard you can use the guard but in all these instances the guard performed its mission of protecting federal buildings and federal activities, one of the mistaken reporting, gout of that day in subsequent days was that the card used violence and shot pepper balls and rubber bullets, none of that happened, the guard performed its mission and state in terms of protecting those institutions and activities so i was very proud of him. you had on any one day and summer of 2020 guards out in the streets protecting federal facilities and americans right to protest, another group of guardsmen in hospitals, field hospitals taking care of fellow americans dealing with covid and other guardsmen out deployed in hotspots around the world and then you had guardsmen deal with wildfires in california, flooding in the midwest. it was determined is time for the national guard and i think it was their year. >> host: you know from your own service in the army reserve and the army guard, since 9/11 we
have had over 1 million members of the national guard and reserve mobilized and deployed overseas or at home and they get demobilized, a true bargain for the taxpayer because they don't put in place the infrastructure they have to have for active-duty troops on active-duty 365 days a year. you made the point they are operational now, very different from the strategic reserve they were in the peak of the cold war and you see them on the front lines every single day and i know the american people appreciate that and the leadership. one thing and that area. some of the concerns they had, you and general milley established the four nos, no unnecessary wars, no strategic retreat, no politicization of dod, no issues of the military, you address that with the guard, so how are you able to deal with these concerns and handle decisions you didn't
agree with, you didn't agree with the plan to remove troops in germany although you put in place an alternative, withholding of aid from ukraine, it did get over there, blockading cuba and venezuela, activity with iran, some instances suggesting calling up retired officers from active-duty and court-martialed him because they are saying things people didn't like, what were you prepared to do if there was a case when there was a red line was crossed? >> a lot of great questions here, something i wrestled with a lot, you go back to the book, part of the constitution's article 2 which establishes the president as the commander in chief and you're bound to obey his lawful orders. in many ways i was fortunate because donald trump rarely issued orders but for the germany case but walking through these things sequentially, in terms where ukraine assistance which we are obligated under the law because congress appropriated it would be me at times army and john bolton or john bolton and mike
pompeo and i would engage the president and push him to release a security assistance, we learned why, i released it through the media why he was holding it up but that was a case where my duty was to go back in and push and press and make every argument i could. i talk about it in the book. in other cases where nato or where i got the written order to withdraw troops in germany my game plan was to give my commander, we are talking combatant commander general todd walters of european command, a series of principles i wanted to do some planning off of that i would reassure our allies, deter russia, take care of our troops and he came back with a good concept that at the end of the day, met the president's direct order to withdraw troops but at the same time allowed me to take those troops that we withdrew from germany and either consolidate them in other countries or eventually push them forward
closer to russia which meant these principles are defined as reassure allies and deter russia and i thought it was a very clever idea put forward by the combatant commander. i endorsed it, we took it to the president, you know what we were doing when i briefed him and it met what he wanted and so i didn't like its origin but what we came up with was a workable solution to meet the president's intent but for me to do it in a way that made strategic sense that bolstered our presence in europe and deterred the russians and look where we are today. i wish they had followed the plan, we would have had more troops in romania, poland. >> we are expanding our troops. one of your first trips went to nader to reassure our nato allies, put them on the spot, when we were working on the hill together our bosses were saying our nato allies aren't carrying their fair share so that was a legitimate thing for the president to make you are a big supporter of nato and i think we see today nato is more important than ever.
would that be your assessment? >> i do. i served in nato as a young army officer in europe in the 1990s and i went to brussels before i was confirmed -- >> we won't tell the senate that. >> i said publicly thereby believed in nato, that i thought it was important that donald trump was right, they need to look up to their obligations. at the time only 6 or 7 countries were living up to the gdp commitment and he was right the germany was in the wrong for supporting nordstream 2. i carried those messages as well. unfortunately ukrainians are paying the price of everybody not being on guard or worrying enough about russia and hopefully now we will see more nato countries meet those commitments. >> host: let's talk about russia. one of the things you did early on as secretary of the army with jim mattis, we had a new national defense strategy.
there hadn't been one in a number of years and as you know from your service from other jobs it is a fundamental planning documents for the department of defense, the department of defense decision-making process which is being reviewed by congressional commission, which is how the department puts its decision into monetary factors, becomes a budget they submit to the congress is guided by a bunch of documents one of which is the national defense strategy which should flow from the national security strategy and when mattis took over, you spent a lot of time and came out with a national defense strategy that was really revolved around what you call great power competition, competitors, china, russia to a more limited extent north korea and iran and global terrorism and russia was a centerpiece, china was a centerpiece, talk a little bit about what you did as secretary of defense to ensure the national defense
strategy was not just a bunch of words and look at what is 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 i'm going to go to china next. let's talk about what you did as secretary of defense to implement that strategy and i would like to get your sense where you feel it is today. >> guest: i thought it was a solid strategy and another call compliment of the trump administration. one of the things it did, first time ever was consolidator us government view that china is a strategic adversary. that is extreme important particularly the years i worked on china issues. with that said my sense as secretary of the army was it wasn't being implemented. i came in as secretary of defense and when i told others was i would make implementation of the national defense
strategy my top priority so within a couple months, july 2019 i had senior leaders conference, brought everybody in, leaning heavily on my civilian side to draft the 10 objectives that would be implementation objectives by which we would implement the nds, everything from defining china through new operational concept such as immediate reaction forces, but update our war plans, it goes on and on about this because when you are leading a large organization like dod, 2. 8 million people, i can't get out and tell everybody what i want them to do. you do it through documents such as implementation plan and that is the way you do and supplement it by visiting the command, visiting people and explaining and emphasizing and urging and checking on it. i made that part and parcel of my duty as every week to check on the entire team assembled, how are we doing in terms of
implementation, where do we need to make changes, tweaks, adjustments and i think we made a lot of good progress. >> host: it is requirement of the war fighting command, it' s as secretary of the army, you will organize, train and equip in support of the requirements of the war fighting command, you talked about the contingency plans, did the war fighting command, there were a lot of fun, central command, european command, indo pacific command, did they make the adjustments in their contingency plans to take into account china is the threat, russia and the nds? >> we we're -- we had begun doing all those war plans principally the china and russia war plan to make sure the demand requirements of the combatant commanders actually met what we could supply or provide and if it didn't than why aren't the services adapting? why didn't our acquisition adapting to that and why weren't we budgeting for those resources or people or organizations they needed and that is the meat and potatoes
making sure we have sound war plans that meet the intent of the commander-in-chief and his policy and that you have budgeted and resourced to deliver what the combatant commanders think they need and part of my job was getting into the plans and second-guessing combatant commanders, understanding what they were doing and making sure it met the policy ends we need to achieve and that became a weekly function for me to go through that and not just with them but these days we recognize the national defense strategy said this, great power competition on a global scale, when you think about a fight with russia or china it just can't be in the indo pacific, you have to think about engaging latin america or the middle east or somewhere on the european continent where i have to draw resources from those places to do so so it was important to have the other combatant commanders in the room particularly people like northern command to defend the united states, transportation command which is functional
command that would provide the cargo aircraft, tankers etc. that would keep the fight going. you've got to have all those people in the room to understand the plan or what the combatant commander was requesting. as a staffer on the hill. >> host: decades ago you actually got people focused on china, started talking about worry about china, you served on a china commission. i remember in the peak of the cold war my dad who was a 1938 graduate served with patton's army in europe, as we were worried about the cold war and i served on staff, don't forget about china, what are you talking about? it is russia. 's roommate was a chinese-american and he learned a lot, china wants to get at us, if it takes them a thousand years they are going to take over the united states and frankly in the indy as for jim mattis you said china is the threat and if you look at china they are on the march, on the march militarily, economically, they have more to poetic posts around the world than the
united states and the thing to me that is most scary is they are on the march technologically and in many areas are ahead of us technologically and frankly in some of them are military areas, in some areas we are still ahead. and they are threatening taiwan so talk a little bit about what more, it is clear we haven't done all we need to do on china and unlike russia they are an economic threat, they are a political threat, they are a military threat so talk a little bit about china. >> this is why they are the greatest challenge we face in the 21st century. i have been studying them since 1995 when i was an army war plan or working the indo pacific or pacific command at that time, responsible for that portfolio so they are the greatest threat we face because of these things. the political might they bring, long-term planning, they've told us, they've written about it by 2035 they want to have a modern military and by 2049 they want to dominate at least
-- pretty modern military today. we can talk about that when it comes to the navy and they are on the march. they have -- spreading money around the world trying to bind countries to the road initiative, you talk about the economy, unlike the soviet union, i grew up in the cold war as you did as well. china now poses as the second-largest economy in the world at $16 trillion, russians never had that. and also as you say the chinese have a lot of great technology and they continue to grow that. a lot of times it is on our backs, our intellectual property, our plans, the fbi talked about every 12 hours they open an espionage case against the chinese government so we need to be concerned, i don't think we are in position to fully deal with them. i do give the trump administration, we are collectively did a good job forming a consensus that china was a strategic adversary and getting many of our allies in
europe and asia on board with that concept and we need to keep pushing in that direction. >> host: is by part is in support on capitol hill, they recognize the scent want to do something about it. what more do we need to do with china so we don't get in a situation we got into with ukraine? >> we need to beef up other parts of the government, the state department, for our diplomatic efforts around the globe particularly in the indo pacific and recently we learned the solomon islands are signing a security agreement, that is terrible. we need to overturned that, but beef up the state department, usaid in part of latin america and elsewhere where american diplomacy can grow it. in terms of dod we need to modernize the military, make these big shifts in terms of how to fight in the indo pacific and that will require more defense spending. a lot of people don't want to hear that but we are making a transition from what i call the reagan cold war military, at least for the army that was
built up, to this new type of military that can deal with china in the 21st century. that is why the u.s. navy is trying to make this transition. it is hard without more money. there is all those things and we need to bring all the allies and partners on board as well. we can just be focused on our own front yard. they need to focus on what is happening with china. the other thing is china, snaking its way into human organizations where they are trying to seek control of the united nations body and drive its intellectual property, the who, the un itself, we need to be conscious of this and come up with a national game plan to deal with it. >> host: let's talk about spending more money because one of your efforts at reform was quite notable and one of the reasons you need reform, you know in my second book titled the ever shrinking fighting force i point out how we are spending more about taking inflation out than the peak of the reagan buildup and you were part of that and yet we have 1
million left less active duty, the army's 50% smaller, the navy is 50% smaller, we have 50% less fighting units. we are not getting the bang for the buck we should. i agree with you we've got to increase, we've got to cover inflation, we got to cover the modernization but if we don't get more bang for the buck we are not going to get the kind of capabilities you are talking about that we need vis-à-vis china and you started the army night court which was an effort at reform. secretary mattis has three bodies to strengthen the lethality of the military, strengthen our alliances and partnerships and reform the military, you added 1/4 one i will talk about in a minute but let's talk about reform and so you did in the night court, we are going to squeeze the budget, get money for modernization and then you brought it to the secretary of defense and one thing you took on, we never did in the congress, i wish we had, very few if any of your predecessors took it on and that was what i
call the overhead and the department of defense. if you look at what we call defense wide spending people argue about these numbers dod will admit it is between 17% to 20% but if you add in the spending on the big defense agencies it is closer to 30% so almost a third of the budget is spent on defense wide spending, not on the tip of the spear and we started with one defense agency, the national security agency, these agencies are large logistic agencies, worldwide communication routine, worldwide grocery chain, worldwide defensive school system, defense missile agency, you started to take that on because you say some of these things are big businesses yet they are not run like the business and military support organizations and you try to bring reform to the defense agency but probably left before you could get what you wanted to get done but talk about how we need to reform what we are
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 of your book you gave credit to the men and women, active duty, reserve, defense, civilians, contractors, research and develop and, they come to work in the pentagon every day to do the very best job they can for the war fighter and the taxpayer likely and congressional staff and former secretary of defense told me, bill perry said bad posture feeds good people every day and in dod we still have a lot of proliferation of bad policies you tried to reform. talk about reform efforts particularly as it relates to massive defense agencies. >> guest: i came in a sector of the army in 2018, where i wanted to take the army, general milley supported me on that. but i knew making the transition in terms of reorganizing the force, a new
personnel system, new equip and to deal with the china and russia we saw ahead that i would need more money and is much as i was going to go back to congress and ask for that i felt at the end of the day because donald trump was good in terms of giving us extra money i knew at the end of the day we had to do our own internal work to get rid of the fat if we could and make some hard choices so that is where night court began as we introduced our modernization for the army which is everything from long-range precision fires i knew it would take billions of dollars. when the team presented me the budget i didn't see it in their. i had to say time out of the process, called him back in and set want all 500 programs, 1 to 500 and the 34 programs we are building the army modernization on had to come first. what that ended up doing his people would come into a series of meetings, we spent 50 hours
doing program after program, reducing and at the end of the day, over $40 billion, one hundred 86 programs. my view was i can only control what i control, take care of myself, do my own handiwork in the department of the army to deal with that and we were able to find that much money to reinvest in the army and i was at army futures command not long ago and they told me by next year by 23 or 24 of those 31 programs, the initial rollout, initial production, a great achievement and i attribute that to the entire team at the time that did it but to your next point you talk about building this budget is aggressively for the army cutting into it and going hard, reprioritizing and making these choices. at one point i get a bill from osd, they say you have to chip in 2 or $3 billion to pay for this or that and it got me angry.
i was complaining why? couldn't get an answer and had to pay my bill so when i became secretary of defense i had the budget and find out what is going on, the so-called for the state that you call overhead is something that consumes $110 billion a year, a couple dozen agencies and what they were doing was they had all of their programs and activities and in some ways would work with combatant commands and they would levy bills and they were not subject in my view to any supervision or oversight or checking to see if it was consistent so i clamped down on that and one of the things we did was put a civilian in charge of before the state, administrative and budgetary stuff so they couldn't grow personnel or budget command and cut it back and i thought was a big accomplishment, we needed more work to do on that but they should be subject to that and then you deal with all the other growth that happens out there but that is the hard work
of the department. is much as i could say we need to grow the defense budget and a big supporter of the 3% to 5% annual growth, we also as dod civilians have a duty to the american people to be good stewards of every single dollar which means when we get additional cash we've got to go back in and get rid of the excess and do good audits. that's the hard work for the department and it is not going to get done unless the secretary of defense gets involved. that is why i put time to that. the deputy secretary of defense in august and september found 5, 6, $7 billion to put back in the war fighting and some said that wasn't enough but for me that was a good start. >> host: these are important organizations but the point is we need to get more bang for the buck out of them like you got more bang for the buck out
of the army and as secretary of the army you had the army by the swivel, that's a term we understand in the military, the secretary of defense, harder to get control of some of these organizations. one of the things we have the world's finest military and want to keep it that way, we recruit and retain the best people and their families and want to talk about that, give them constant realistic training and in our industry give them the best technology so they are never in a fair fight, you worked in industry. how important is the defense industrial base and technologies, you prioritize 10 or 11 top priorities from hypersonic to artificial intelligence, how important to the country and the economy is keeping a focus on these cutting-edge technologies when china, we know they are ahead of us in hypersonic's, somewhat argue they are ahead of us, the
vice chairman says it is an open book in quantum but very important. talk about the importance of that? >> i would add, how we empower noncommissioned officers. the battlefield in ukraine versus russia, the strength of the military. i served many years in defense industry. and in terms of how they operate. leveraging that a good deal, how i would meet weekly, how do we do better, in terms of how we craft that, one thing we set out to do, being myself, the two army senior leaders put
predictability, if you put money behind it, industry will respondent innovate and i am proud to see it is 2022 four years later, the army hasn't changed its organization in terms of modernization in terms of signaling the industry. since i left service and working on venture capital. i wish i knew more about that part of the ecosystem. that is what happens. some of the founders i hear from, what i hope to do now, how do i get those innovators in founders with senior leadership, you can make those big bets.
cutting-edge technologies, at least quarterly to make those big bets and the problem is it is so bureaucratic and risk-averse but if you have the secretary of defense willing to make those big bets, willing to get some of them wrong, but if you get some right it will make the difference. >> congress are to give the dod people some risk and to let the senior leaders meet with those cutting-edge industries, not thinking of them as an advantage. when i think of the silicon valley and commercial firms, dealing with the bureaucracy and the leaders at the top, working in the ari, heidi hsu is the head of technology, the dod, following david norquist,
they want this technology in the government and our military but the bureaucracy is an encumbrance. >> that is why we put army future commands in it. i said on the board of small companies and they sit in a valley of death for 18 months and they can't survive, 100 to 200 people even though they have cutting technology. >> your acquisition technology, in the confirmation hearing we've got to get too hot production line but there's an incentive in the current tenure to do that we've got to get to bureaucracy. speak >> guest: i talk about this in the book. it is not just about donald trump. this is about my tenure and all chapter here, the president and this is one of them, the reform.
>> guest: it is important for history. bob gaetz, leon panetta, these are important because the department of defense is a learning organization, one of the few that is striving to do better. this is a bible for not just the war college but people in industry to look at the things to predict. that is my last question. >> host: i wrote the book for 3 audiences. he could do this, all my predecessors, i can read their books and understand, just like you are saying to. >> host: you were a military family. when you add to the military family, child care when the volunteer force was put into it
in 1973 from the draft that was so unpopular in vietnam president nixon asked's former secretary of defense gaetz about the commission and go to a volunteer force and fix three things. very few of those things changed but we have volunteer force. in the 70s it went under, if you don't have childcare for them to get employment and the best and the brightest, you have that is a real priority. >> guest: when i had active duty in fort campbell, it seemed to me, over time it changed and what you have is folks are often married to
military spouses, what i find is this old adage, you recruit the soldier but retain the family. too many where we were talking the talk and how do we fix the employment system, and if you move from state to state, and work with fellow -- to break that down. the childcare is not necessarily spaces, it is that often only 3 quarters filled because of the hiring system that wasn't up to the task so we went to tackling that. there are a myriad of other things that i described in the end, the nature of the military and its bureaucracy where we are telling families you can't
coming to the commissary, and served 21 years. we pcs multiple times to europe back to europe within the united states, dealt with childcare and all these things, and incredible help to me to pick up these ideas and one of the claims was why can't i wear fitness gear. my view was the sailor, the airmen, the soldier and marines, the spouses didn't. let's not make it difficult on the strength of the us military at this point and support our servicemembers. >> the same in other parts of america but you got frustrated with that priority.
fixing the fourth estate would frustrate you but this is such a no-brainer, what would have made it so frustrating, what should be a service initiative to allow to make life easier for families, the fitness gear, the stiff bureaucratic resistance. i found an unwillingness to fix it. it was not ingrained cultural military. i'm going to do what the secretary of defense should have to do, you are allowed to wear fitness care, leisure gear if you will into the commissary's and stuff but it is an important thing for families and i want to signal i kept families in mind as i dealt with all these issues. >> host: we are getting towards
the end of our program and civilian control of the military, we talked about that, so fundamental to your moral compass, you adhere to the constitution, maintain civilian control of the military. one of the areas we had is somewhat of a controversy, jim mattis had to get a waiver from congress to serve because he had not been retired long enough, same with secretary austen. i was never in favor of the retired military, we put in a tenure provision, and out his back to 10 years, you have been secretary of the navy. i know you admire both of those individuals but frankly do you think we should have recently retired military people? >> guest: my hometown boyhood hero is george marshall and george marshall was secretary of defense in september of 1950, called back by truman to help after the failings of military in korea and he didn't think it made sense for a
former retired military officer to be a secretary of defense but did it nonetheless. to answer your question directly no i don't think so. i think that made sense. it had nothing to do with secretary mattis or secretary austen. it has everything to do with making sure you have a distinct difference between the military culture and civilian culture and very different skill sets in terms of what both bring to the job, doesn't mean you can't be successful but having that separation makes a big difference and i would support reinstating that moratorium and maintaining it. we have enough good people out there that are civilians that can fulfill the role of secretary of defense to do that because i think civilian control of the military is prickle. i have a chapter in their where i outlined the problems i saw coming in as civilian secretary that i didn't think civilians were being used enough. i had to push civilians into the war planning and review
process as an example and other areas i got pushed back but nonetheless good civilian secretaries and good civilian leaders that were able to push through that and to pull that control back and as i talk about in the conclusion of my chapter this is something congress needs to look at. >> host: it is clear from my conversation today with mark esper that it is clear from this truly remarkable important book, very clear from your entire history and experience to bear true faith and allegiance to euro to support the ponds to tuition against all enemies foreign and domestic and i speak as a person who knows my family and everybody that knows you and the american public appreciates what you did, your service, that of your family. you have a lot of valuable lessons to convey to the congress, the american people, to continue to work to support a strong national defense so we admire you and thank you and we
thank c-span for giving us the opportunity to spend so much time allowing you to talk about things that are so important to the future of the country. >> guest: thank you very much, i really appreciate that. >> after months of closed-door investigation the house january 6th committee is set to go public. starting june 9th, tune in as committee members question key witnesses about what transpired and why. during the assault on the us capitol. watch on live coverage beginning thursday june 9th on c-span. c-span now, our free mobile video apps or any time online, c-span.org. c-span, your unfiltered view of government.
>> at least we 6 presidents recorded conversations while in office. here many of those conversations on c-span's new podcast, presidential recordings. >> season one focuses on lyndon johnson. you will hear about the 1964 civil rights act, the 1964 presidential campaign, the gulf of tonkin incident, the march on selma, and the war in vietnam. not everyone knew they were being recorded. >> certainly johnson's secretaries new because they were tasked with transcribing many of those conversations. in fact, they were the ones who made sure the conversations were taped as johnson would signal to them through an open door between his office and there is. >> you will also hear some blunt talk. >> i want a report of the number of people assigned to kennedy the day he died and the