Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz used his five minutes quizzing the nation’s top military leadership on Tuesday to accuse them of being so busy embracing ‘critical race theory‘ and socialism that they had failed to predict the rise of the Taliban, overestimated Russian performance in Ukraine and allowed the US. to fall behind China.
The result was a bad-tempered clash with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin when he appeared before the House Armed Services Committee.
Austin insisted the U.S. still had the most effective fighting force in the world.
‘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 wish we weren’t losing to China.’
Austin was appearing with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley to answer questions about about the Pentagon’s proposed $773 budget for next year.
Republican Matt Gaetz clashed with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as the Florida representative accused the Pentagon of being so focused on ‘wokeism’ and socialism that it had blown a string of forecasts on Afghanistan, Ukraine and China
Austin appeared before the House Armed Services Committee with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley to answer questions about the Pentagon budget
But Gaetz quickly used the hearing to ask about ‘wokeism’ and socialism, bringing up the title of a recent lecture given by author Thomas Piketty at the National Defense University, entitled ‘Responding to China: The Case For Global Justice and Democratic Socialism,’ before asking if the Pentagon was focused on the wrong things.
‘You guys told us that Russia couldn’t lose,’ he said.
‘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 gave a long pause as he considered his answer.
‘You’ve seen what’s in our budget,’ he said. You’ve seen how the budget matches the strategy and so I’ll let that speak for itself.’
‘I’ve also said we’re behind in hypersonics, we failed to deter Russia.’
The military leadership also faced questions about why it was shrinking the size of the Navy – decommissioning nine vessels including the USS Fort Worth – when threats were growing
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen Mark Milley said the U.S. Navy remained far more capable that its Chinese rival, with better ships and better sailors
Austin queried the premise of his question, asking where he had got his information from.
Gaetz was not to be deterred as he returned to the unexpected collapse of Afghanistan and the failure of Russia to take Kyiv rapidly.
‘You totally blew those calls, and maybe we would be better at them if the National Defence 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 also faced pressing questions about plans to shrink the size of the U.S. Navy.
The budget shows the Pentagon buying nine ships while retiring 24, shrinking the size of the Navy to 298 ships – part of a plan that would eventually see the fleet contract to 280 vessels by 2027.
That comes against a backdrop of the Navy’s top officer saying he needs about 350 ships plus another 150 unmanned or lightly manned vessels to counter adversaries such as China.
When quizzed on the numbers by Rep. Mike Wittman, Milley defended the numbers.
He said the nine ships being retired had high maintenance costs that made them unsustainable. In contrast, the ships being purchased were among the most modern in the world
‘I’m always in favour of great numbers. I think that’s great. But I would bias towards capability rather than just sheer numbers,’ he said.
It is a fair argument about the number of ships the Chinese have and it even gets worse if you think about our global commitment versus say the US fleet is in the western Pacific or in the Pacific.
The numbers are even the ratios are even worse. But again, its capability versus capacity.
‘And I’d caution folks to go down into the detail about what our ships can do, what the training of our sailors can do, what our tactics are, what technologies aren’t on our ships I think is a fundamental and significant advantage to us, relative to China on that capability.’
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced on Tuesday it completed a free flight test of the Lockheed Martin version of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept. It reached a cruise speed of more than five times the speed of sound at 65,000 feet
The missiles, which are launched from a bomber jet and accelerated by a booster before detaching, are able to be guided to a precise target. Above, a rendering of a missile
China’s testing of a 25,000mph hypersonic nuclear-capable missile has indicated that Beijing’s missile programme is more advanced than previously thought, amid an intensifying race for the next generation of long-rang weapons that are harder to detect and intercept
The Pentagon’s 2023 budget request already includes $4.7 billion for research and development of hypersonic weapons. It includes planning that would have a hypersonic missile battery fielded by next year, a sea-based missile by 2025 and an air-based cruise missile by 2027.
On Tuesday the U.S. announced it was teaming up with the United Kingdom and Australia to develop hypersonic weapons as they play catch-up with China‘s rapid expansion of its military arsenal, according to sources familiar with the plan.
A string of senior officials had warned that China has stolen a march on the U.S. 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.
Details of a joint venture – first reported by the Financial Times – emerged soon after the Pentagon confirmed that it had conducted the second test of a hypersonic missile.
It was tested last month but it was kept quiet for two weeks in order to avoid ramping up tensions further with Russia.
The Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC) was launched from a B-52 bomber.