The Buzz

Ten Questions for General Mattis

5) Pentagon Spending (II): Misguided Expenditures: President-elect Trump has raised questions about the excessive costs of major procurement programs like Air Force One and the F-35 combat aircraft.  As secretary of defense, what measures would you suggest to get these programs under control?  Given that it has serious performance problems and is clearly not ready for combat, would you consider slowing down purchases of the F-35 until it can be established that the aircraft can perform as advertised?  Would you consider the idea floated by President-elect Trump of having Boeing provide estimates of the cost of producing upgraded F-18s to replace part of proposed F-35 buy?

6) Pentagon Spending (III) – Auditing the Pentagon:  As a candidate, Donald Trump said that if elected, he would order a full audit of the Pentagon.  The Pentagon is currently the only federal agency that can’t pass an audit, despite being required to by a law that was passed 27 years ago.  The Department of Defense can’t answer basic questions like how many contractors it employs or how many spare parts it has in its inventory.  Absent better bookkeeping, the Pentagon is extremely vulnerable to waste, fraud and abuse. As secretary of defense, would you make auditing the Pentagon a top priority?  What benchmarks would you propose so the taxpayers and the Congress can be assured that the Pentagon is making progress towards getting its books in order?

7) Nuclear Weapons (I) – Nuclear Strategy: President-elect Trump has generated concern with his statements about when and whether he might order the use of nuclear weapons, and about his willingness to engage in a new nuclear arms race.  What is your view on when, if ever, it would be appropriate to launch U.S. nuclear weapons? If the main purpose of U.S. nuclear weapons is to prevent other countries from even thinking of launching a nuclear strike against us, how many deliverable warheads do we need? The Pentagon itself has suggested that 1,100 warheads would be sufficient for this purpose, and independent experts put the number much lower, at anywhere from 300 to 900.  We currently have over 4,500 nuclear warheads deployed or stockpiled, and are scheduled to deploy 1, 550 of them under the New START treaty.  How much is enough?  And what is your opinion of the calls by presidents from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama to take steps to eliminate nuclear weapons altogether?

8) Nuclear Weapons (II) – Nuclear “Modernization”:  The Pentagon is currently engaged in a three-decade, $1 trillion effort to upgrade and operate a new generation of nuclear-armed bombers, missiles and submarines.  In the past, you have questioned the value of land-based ballistic missiles.  As Secretary of Defense, would you consider calling for the elimination of land-based missiles and other dangerous and redundant systems like the proposed nuclear-armed cruise missile?  Would you support a study aimed at revising the Pentagon’s excessive, outmoded list of nuclear targets?  What priority would you place on nuclear forces versus other defense programs like conventional forces or cybersecurity?

9) Conventional Arms Sales: The Obama administration has made more offers of weapons under the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program than any administration since World War II.  Many of these exports have gone to Saudi Arabia, which is engaged in a brutal bombing campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians and created a major humanitarian catastrophe, even as it has opened space for groups like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIS to increase their footholds in that nation.  As secretary of defense, would you advocate an end to U.S. military support for the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen, and take a close look at the costs and consequences of U.S. arms transfers to the Middle East?