On Tuesday, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz used his five minutes of questioning of the nation’s top military leaders to accuse them of being so preoccupied with embracing ‘critical race theory’ and socialism that they failed to predict the Taliban’s rise, overestimated Russia’s performance in Ukraine, and allowed the United States to fall behind China.
When Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin came before the House Armed Services Committee, the result was a tense exchange.
Austin argued that the United States still had the world’s most effective fighting force.
‘Again, this is the most capable, the most combat critical force in the world. It has been and it will be so going forward,’ he said as Gaetz challenged his leadership. ‘This budget allows us to do that.’
‘Not if we embrace socialism,’ interrupted Gaetz.
‘The fact you are embarrassed by your country… ‘ continued Austin, before being cut off again.
‘Oh, no, I’m embarrassed by your leadership,’ said Gaetz. ‘I’m not embarrassed for my country. I’m sorry we’re losing to China.’
Austin was on hand with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to field questions regarding the Pentagon’s projected $773 billion budget for the coming fiscal year.
Gaetz, on the other hand, used the hearing to ask about ‘wokeism’ and socialism, bringing up the title of author Thomas Piketty’s recent lecture at the National Defense University, ‘Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism,’ before questioning whether the Pentagon was focusing on the wrong things.
‘You guys said Russia couldn’t lose,’ he explained.
‘You told us that the Taliban couldn’t immediately win.’
‘And so I guess I’m wondering what in the $773 billion that you’re requesting today is going to help you make assessments that are accurate, in the face of so many blown calls.’
Austin took a long moment to evaluate his response.
‘You’ve seen what’s in our budget,’ he said. You’ve seen how the budget aligns with the strategy, so I’ll leave it at that.’
‘I’ve also said we’re behind in hypersonics, we failed to deter Russia.’
Austin questioned the premise of his question, inquiring as to where he had obtained his data.
Gaetz remained undeterred as he returned to Afghanistan’s sudden collapse and Russia’s failure to seize Kyiv quickly.
‘You totally blew those calls, and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defense University actually worked a little more on strategy and a little less on wokeism,’ he said.
Austin replied: ‘Has it occurred to you that Russia has not overrun Ukraine because of what we’ve done, and our allies have done.’
They were also confronted with difficult issues about plans to reduce the size of the US Navy.
The budget shows the Pentagon purchasing nine ships while retiring 24, reducing the Navy’s size to 298 ships as part of a strategy to reduce the fleet to 280 ships by 2027.
This comes as the Navy’s top officer has stated that he requires 350 ships plus another 150 unmanned or minimally manned vessels to combat rivals such as China.
Milley defended the numbers when asked about them by Rep. Mike Wittman.
He claimed that the nine ships being retired were unsustainable due to excessive maintenance costs. The ships being acquired, on the other hand, were among the most contemporary in the world. ‘I’m always in favor of large numbers.’ That’s fantastic, in my opinion. However, I would prioritize capability over mere quantity,’ he said.
It’s a valid point to make regarding the number of ships the Chinese have, and it gets much worse when you consider our global commitment vs, say, the US fleet in the western Pacific or the Pacific.
The ratios are even worse than the figures. But, once again, it’s a question of capability against capacity.’ And I’d warn people not to get too deep into the details of what our ships can do, what our sailors’ training can do, what our tactics are, and what technology isn’t aboard our ships, because I believe we have a fundamental and considerable advantage over China on that capability.’
The Pentagon’s budget plan for 2023 includes $4.7 billion for hypersonic weapons research and development. It includes plans to have a hypersonic missile battery operational by next year, a sea-based missile operational by 2025, and an air-based cruise missile operational by 2027.
According to people acquainted with the proposal, the US declared on Tuesday that it was joining up with the UK and Australia to create hypersonic weapons in order to catch up with China’s rapid expansion of its military arsenal.
President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed the next phase of the A.U.K.U.S. security partnership.
With its rapid development of hypersonic weapons – capable of flying five to 25 times the speed of sound and outmaneuvering air defense systems – and Artificial Intelligence, a number of senior officials have cautioned that China has stolen a march on the US.
The Financial Times was the first to report about the joint venture shortly after the Pentagon revealed that it had executed the second hypersonic missile test.
It was tested last month, but the results were kept secret for two weeks to avoid further escalating relations with Russia.
A B-52 bomber launched the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC).