Tuberville Questions Pentagon Nominees On Defense Spending, Border Wall Sales

Tuberville Questions Pentagon Nominees On Defense Spending, Border Wall Sales

WASHINGTON – In a Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) hearing today, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) questioned President Biden’s nominees for Under Secretary of the Air Force, Melissa Dalton, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Science and Technology, Dr. Aprille Ericsson, and Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, Dr. Douglas Schmidt. Senator Tuberville asked Dr. Ericsson and Dr. Schmidt about the military budget, small business programs, the southern border, and Israel and Ukraine funding.

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

TUBERVILLE:  Dr. Ericsson, I’m proud of what you’ve been saying about STEM. I’m from Alabama, Huntsville. You’ve been to Huntsville several times, being at NASA. We’re huge in the ESOP business, you know, employee-owned small businesses.

What’s your thoughts about those?

And again, my thoughts of just knowing what I know about Huntsville, with 400 or 500 of them, we couldn’t survive, you know, anything to do with NASA, missile defense, if we didn’t have the small businesses, and take care of them, make sure that they’re competitive?

ERICSSON:  Senator Tuberville, thank you for acknowledging our Huntsville facilities. I’ve also had the fortune of having an Alabama student this year working with me, an intern. I wrote 17 different recommendations for him, and he’s now in grad school.

So, it is critical, the small business. I believe that America is built on the back of small businesses. We don’t get to big [businesses] without small [businesses], right? And so, for me, it’s been something that I’ve been very vehemently, you know, supporting, because that community is just so important.

So, my ideas are to listen, learn and share, to create road shows and workshops, to help small businesses through this onerous process that they often have to invoke on to just get selected, and then also helping them through the valleys of death that we’ve identified.

It is critical that we are ultimately going to provide other sources of resources, like venture capital, commercial industry, partnering with them to, maybe, bring that to bid and manufacture.

So, I look at several different ways that we hopefully will support those small businesses and ultimately provide the innovative technology we need.

TUBERVILLE:  Thank you.

Secretary Dalton, I’m sure you’re fed up, a little bit with this border wall. We all are. I know people in Alabama that’s bought border wall for 10 cents on the dollar, $300,000 worth for $30,000; razor wire for 20 cents on the dollar.

The American Taxpayer, I mean, we’re all in this together. They don’t deserve this. They don’t deserve to pay this top dollar and then lose money on something we probably should be using anyway. 

And you’re getting ready to go into a job that’s going to control $200 billion in Air Force. And as you get into this job, if confirmed, hopefully you’ll look back going, “Hey I’ve got to do a better job.” Whether it’s my responsibility or somebody else’s, we all see what’s going on. And so we’ve got to protect our country. We’ve got to protect the taxpayers.

Dr. Schmidt, what is your assessment of the defense systems that we’ve sent to Ukraine and Israel, the success that we’ve had? What’s your thoughts? 

SCHMIDT:  Senator Tuberville, I have not had a chance to understand yet, because I haven’t been confirmed, what we’re actually providing to Ukraine. But if confirmed to this position, I will take a very careful look at that, especially from the point of view of ensuring that the systems that we do provide are effective, suitable, survivable and lethal. And I will be happy to meet with you and your staff.

TUBERVILLE:  The one thing I want you to look into is that recently I met with some sailors, some naval officers that have been on some of these ships shooting down some of these drones in the Red Sea. And their concern is we’re spending $1 million on a missile shooting down a $5,000 drone. And that’s something we can’t afford.

So eventually we’ve got to get to the point where we understand that we don’t need to lose any vessel; we’ve got to make sure that we protect ourselves, but we also need to be able to identify and use the right things that we need to use that are not costly. Because, as I said, we’re getting close to $1 trillion.

What’s your thoughts on that?

SCHMIDT:  Senator Tuberville, that’s an incredibly important issue. As I understand it, there’s a lot of work on lighter-weight, cheaper yet still effective weapon systems, such as directed energy. Many of those weapon systems are based on advanced R&D. I would be very committed, if confirmed, to making sure that testing procedures we use for those systems, make sure that they are in fact capable of doing their job at, as you mention, a fraction of the cost, in order to protect the warfighters who are in harm’s way.

TUBERVILLE:  Thank you. And one other thing I just want to say real quick is, [we’re] saving money, but we spend a lot of money. And we need to have the best. I will say that. But for 10 years we’ve been trying to build this KC-46. And we continue to give a company a second and a third and a fourth chance.

Talking to Admiral Aquilino in the Indo-Pacific, we need a long-range tanker. We have got to have it. And to continue to give a company second, third, fourth, fifth chances to build something that they obviously can’t build, we need some time to look at another alternative. So, I hope you would do that.

Will you, Secretary Dalton, and you, Dr. Schmidt, when you get in your position?

SCHMIDT:  Absolutely, Senator, yes.

TUBERVILLE:  Thank you for that.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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.