Sen. Tuberville asked, “General, I think most of us up here agree that other than foreign countries, 32 trillion dollars in debt is one of our biggest threats to national security. We are broke. In the past, you have criticized the Department of Defense complex bureaucracy and have expressed a desire to improve its inefficiencies. By laws, the Joint Staff is capped at around 2,300 personnel with some exceptions. Can you clarify at this time how big is our staff as we speak? Do you have a number on that?”
General Brown answered, “I don’t have that number. I will have to get that for you. I know it is somewhere around 2,000.”
“Thank you, I’d appreciate that,” Tuberville responded. “The House NDAA included a study to look at reducing the size of the office. Do you have any suggestions of where we could look to cut staff and budget to help but not cut back efficiency?”
“Not at this moment. If confirmed, it will be one of the things that I do take a look at across the Joint Staff and across the aspects of our military department,” said Gen. Brown. “There are things we can do to increase of efficiency and capability and capacity – those are things I will focus on.”
“You know the FY23 Budget for the Joint Staff was around 1.2 billion, and the proposed FY24 budget is 1.3 billion. I guess you are familiar with that?” Tuberville asked.
“Not the level of details of the Joint Staff budget because I have been focused on the Air Force budget,” Brown answered.
“Okay, thank you, it’s pretty high,” Tuberville continued. “But I’d like to, you know, give us kind of a run down the next time we see you in hearing in terms of where we are with that…is it too much? Not enough? You know we do not want to cut back our military, it is so important, but we also want to be efficient in what we use, so I appreciate anything that you could do for us in terms of giving us an update on what you are going to set your team up as because you are going to be the new leader. So, I would hope you keep an eye on that because it is a lot of money. I got an article yesterday that says, “Air Force delays some moves, bonuses as inflation cuts into personnel budget.” Could you explain that? That came from the Stars and Stripes.”
“Sure, Senator. As we built our budget a couple of years ago based on the facts of if you add the economic factors as well as force mixed factors based on different career fields and different rank structure, we typically will come back and ask for reprogramming,” Brown responded. “We are working through the process of reprogramming, so we don’t go through an anti-deficiency act and not spend money we don’t have. And so, part of this is for us to be able to work with Congress to get the reprogramming in place so we can actually uphold the programs and impacts that are outlined in that article that we communicated to the Force here recently so we can reverse and minimize the impact to them and their families throughout the rest of this fiscal year.”
“Yeah, and we all know how important it is, and I think most of us have talked about it with recruiting – you and I talked about it yesterday – our recruiting is in a tailspin in most areas, unfortunately,” Tuberville continued. “And with an all-volunteer military, we are going to have to do better. We’ve got to do better with salaries and incentives and all of those things to get our young men and women involved and interested in our military – it’s so important. We can have all the upper echelon we can get, but unless we have the people that actually do the job on the ground and the planes and the sea, we are going to have huge problems because we live in a dangerous world. Thank you for taking this on, it is going to be a hard job, but anyway, we can help you. We are here to help. Thank you, General.”
The Chairman of the Joint Chief is the highest ranking oﬃcer in the United States armed forces and the primary advisor in military matters to the President, Department of Defense, Homeland Security Council, and the National Security Council.
During the hearing, Brown denounced Tuberville’s hold on military promotions.
“We have strong deputies, but at the same time, they don’t have the same level of experience going forward,” Brown told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “In addition to the senior officers, there’s a whole chain of events that goes down to our junior officers, and that has an impact.”
“We will lose talent,” Brown concluded. “The spouse network is alive and well, and the spouses will compare notes.”
Some groups have expressed concerns about the appointment of Brown. Specifically, Brown has been criticized for his support of diversity, equity, and inclusion programs (DEI) in the armed services. The widespread adoption of DEI principles in the military has coincided with the worst drop in recruiting numbers since the 1970s.
Tuberville is the senior Senator from the State of Alabama and represents Alabama on the Senate Armed Services Committee.