Tuberville Questions Pentagon INDOPACOM Nominee

WASHINGTON – In a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) questioned President Biden’s nominee for Commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel J. Paparo, Jr. Senator Tuberville asked Admiral Paparo about KC-46 tankers, U.S./Philippine cooperative agreements and aggression in the Philippines, United States-Vietnam relations, the protection of Guam, and the Chinese spy balloon incident.

Senator Tuberville’s speech can be found below, and his full remarks viewed here

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Admiral, for being here. Congratulations. Good visit yesterday. 

375,000 military and civilian people now. That’s a huge, huge undertaking. We’re glad you’re willing to take that on. 

We talked about the KC-46. So we have about 10 or 12 135’s in my state in Birmingham, looking forward to the KC-46. Given with the issues and delays with delivering the forty-six, what concerns do you have about the availability and the quality of these aircrafts?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “No concerns about the quality. And I’m not yet in the duty position, but for the airmen who maintain them. I have perfect faith that no aircraft is going to fly until it’s ready to fly. I do have concerns, if confirmed, about the ability of the joint force to refuel what will be a dynamic force operating in the air from bases on land and at sea. And we’ve got to have a consistent critical eye. And if confirmed, I’ll work with you and with the members of the committee to be clear about the requirements are and we can close those gaps.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “Do you think the forty-six has a range that we’re going to need in the Indo-Pacific.”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “With all refueling aircraft, tankers can bucket brigade themselves. I’m not savvy on the on the precise range, and it’s always a choice between how much gas it takes to get to the point where you’re refueling and how much give there is at that point. But I am concerned about the Joint Forces’ ability to refuel a dynamic force operating in the air.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “Yep. We will switch gears a little bit. We talked a little bit about the Philippines. What’s your biggest concerns at the moment there? What do we need to do more or less for the Philippines?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “The Philippines are under intense pressure with aggression against their lawful sovereign rights in their EEZ. And because the Philippines are a sovereign partner, our charge is to be ready to come to their aid as they desire, as they navigate that problem along with us. For them to know that we have their back at all times, and we’ve got capability that is ready to assist them in their defense of their lawful claims, and they’re not claims, they’re rights, and they are settled in law.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “How’s the U.S. Vietnam Security Corporation regarding what’s happened in the South China Sea, how has that changed? In your eyes?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “We applaud the essential double elevation to strategic comprehensive partnership with Vietnam. The main areas for our cooperation presently right now are in the manner of medical and unexploded ordinance removal. And medical training. We stand ready to partner with them more deeply and we’re ready to partner with Vietnam as deeply as they want.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “I remember asking Admiral Aquilino, when he was getting ready to take over, what his number one want and need was for the Indo-Pacific. And he said an Aegis system at Guam. Do you have any thoughts?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “A multilayered effective, capable, integrated air and missile defense system from the surface of the sea to the heavens to defend the 175,000 Americans in Guam, the American homeland, it would be my number one priority if confirmed.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “Being the PAC Commander what are your thoughts? And when did you first find out about the balloon that came from China, I guess, about a year ago?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “Represents aggression. It was brazen. It was collecting information to give the PRC an advantage. It violated the sovereignty of the United States. It was deeply concerning.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “When did you first find out about where was it? Where was it located when they when you got to call ‘Hey. We got a balloon flying over?’”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “I was the Pacific Fleet Commander and, accordingly, was not in the air defense business. And it was over the continental United States when it came to light, and that was a different area of responsibility.” 

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “So, it was over the United States when you found out? Not in the Pacific?”

ADMIRAL PAPARO: “I did not have a close view of the balloon’s trajectory.”

SEN. TUBERVILLE: “Thank you, Admiral.”

Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.