Chuck Hagel on key Defense issues

President Obama's choice to lead the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel President Obama's choice to lead the Pentagon, Chuck Hagel J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s pick to head the Defense Department, provided lawmakers with his take on key policy questions in a 112-page document submitted before his confirmation hearings began. Here are excerpts from that document on workforce, leadership, budget, contracting, sexual assaults and BRAC.

The workforce, leadership and Joint Chiefs

On the workforce

“We must ensure that we have a properly sized, and highly capable, civilian workforce that maintains critical skills and prevents an overreliance on contracted services. If confirmed, I will support the administration's focus on reducing inappropriate or excessive reliance on contracted support.”

On workforce planning

“If confirmed, I will ensure departmental human capital planning employs strategies for recruitment, development and retention of a mission-ready civilian workforce.”

On holding senior leadership accountable

“Improving financial management capability is very important, especially in light of the fiscal challenges facing the department and the country. I understand plans exist to continue the improvement of the department’s business processes and, if confirmed, I will ensure that senior leadership – including the chief financial officer, the deputy chief management officer, and the chief information officer – focus appropriate attention on this effort by holding them accountable for progress against these plans.”

On recruiting personnel for US CYBERCOM

“Recruiting, training, and retaining military and civilian personnel needed for cyber operations will be a challenge.  This is a high priority area for the department with regard to investment of both resources and management oversight and, if confirmed, I will review these systems and practices.”

On the acquisition workforce  

“A properly qualified and sized acquisition workforce is central to maintaining this stewardship and to ensuring that the department obtains as much value as possible for the money that it spends obtaining products and services from contractors.”

On greater latitude for the Joint Chiefs

“It is my understanding that the Joint Chiefs supported some hard choices that were made in the FY13 president’s budget in order to achieve the savings required to sustain the new defense strategy.  The Joint Chiefs need Congress to provide them the latitude to implement those changes and allow them to execute the new strategy.  I also understand that it is now a zero sum game.  If the department is not able to implement the changes proposed, other offsets must be made, while still preserving warfighting capability.”

Budget and finances

On whether massive defense spending reductions can be accomplished without significant adverse impact on national security

“Based on my review to date, my answer is yes. I believe the department’s strategy can be accomplished within the constraints of the Budget Control Act.

On the impact of continuing resolutions on the Pentagon

“A year-long CR reduces the department’s funding flexibility by putting it into a straightjacket, spending money on last year’s priorities not this year’s. Continuing resolutions force the department to operate inefficiently because it does not know what projects will be funded or at what level of funding.”

On producing an auditable financial statement

“I support the effort and will maintain the department’s commitment to producing audit-ready financial statements by the congressional deadline of September 2017, with an audit beginning by the end of calendar year 2017.”

Defense contracting

On reliance on contractors

“Although I understand that DoD has been taking steps in recent years to reduce its reliance on contractors, I believe DoD must continue to manage its workforce in a way that avoids inappropriate or excessive reliance on contractor support for basic department functions, while also meeting its obligations to perform work efficiently and effectively and to be a good steward of taxpayer resources.”

On contracting cost growth

“If confirmed, I will continue the efforts of the administration and the department to improve the visibility and accountability of contracted services by expanding and refining the data we collect from contractors, as required by statute, in order to compare it to our civilian and military workforce planning factors.”

  On further consolidation of the U.S. defense industry

“My understanding is that the department’s leadership have indicated that further consolidation at the top tier would not be viewed favorably.  I have not studied this in detail; however, my initial assessment is that this is the correct view.  I also believe that each individual case of consolidation, acquisition, or merger dealing with our defense firms must be examined carefully for what is best for the warfighter and the taxpayer, particularly with regard to its impact on competition.”

Health care management

On electronic health records

“My understanding is that significant progress has been made in linking an individual with their medical record in a central data repository, and making this information available to any Department of Defense medical treatment facility or Veterans Affairs facility. This appears to provide seamless health care to our members. If confirmed, I will continue to partner with the VA in this area.  Although I believe there is more work to be done in improving the care of our seriously ill and injured service members and their families, this issue is a top priority of the senior leadership of the department and a strength that I will continue to build on.”

On controlling health care costs

“I understand the department included proposals in the FY 2012 and 2013 president’s budgets that would slow the growth of health care costs while preserving the quality and range of health care. These proposals include increasing enrollment fees and deductibles for retirees and increasing pharmacy co-pays.  Not many of these proposals were accepted by Congress. If confirmed, I will review initiatives in this area and look for further opportunities as we must continue to look for savings in this area.

Sexual assault in the military

“I fully support Secretary Panetta’s decision to elevate initial disposition of sexual assault cases to the level of Colonel or Navy Captain, or higher. This  action helps ensure our more seasoned, senior commanders determine what actions are  appropriate in response to allegations of sexual assault.  It is my belief that military commanders are essential to making sexual assault prevention and response efforts successful.”

On the Base Closure and Realignment Commission

“I understand that the administration’s proposal for two rounds of BRAC was not accepted by Congress.  However, I also think any prudent manager has to look at all options when faced with significant budget pressures.  As with industry, the department should examine its infrastructure and eliminate excess.  The BRAC process is not perfect, but I believe BRAC is a fair and comprehensive way to right-size the department’s footprint, and is the best process identified to date.”

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