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James Mattis' confirmation hearing for defense secretary — live blog

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NewsHubLast Updated Jan 12, 2017 11:17 AM EST
James Mattis is testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing to become defense secretary under President-elect Donald Trump. After the hearing, the committee is expected to vote to give an exception to a limitation against an appointment for defense secretary within seven years of relief from active duty.
Mattis served as commander of U. S. Central Command from 2010 to 2013, commander of the U. S. Joint Forces Command from 2007 to 2010 and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander of Transformation from 2007 to 2009.
“No,” Mattis replied.
Hirono asked how he plans to deal with Mr. Trump’s tweets and she alluded to previous tweets he has posted on defense contracts.
“It’s not my role to comment on the president-elect’s statements other than to say it shows he’s serious about getting the best bang for the dollar,” Mattis said.
“This cuts to the very heart of any of us who have ordered troops into harm’s way,” Mattis said. “You have my full commitment on this.”
Blumenthal expressed concern about giving Mattis a waiver to serve because the Democratic senator said that civilian control of the military has gone back to the founding of the republic.
“If there were ever a case for a waiver…it is you in this moment in our history,” Blumenthal said.
“Senator, I’ve never come into any job with an agenda, a pre-formed agenda,” Mattis said.
Gillibrand said that Mattis had made previous statements opposing that decision, but Mattis said he made those remarks when he was not in a position to return to the government.
“I’m not coming in looking for problems,” Mattis said, adding that he’s looking for ways to ensure the department is at its “most lethal stance.”
Pressed again on whether he plans to oppose women in combat positions, Mattis said, “I have no plan to oppose women in any aspect of our military.”
Gillibrand asked Mattis if openly serving gay servicemembers are undermining U. S. forces. He said that he believes the U. S. must stay focused on a military that’s so lethal that it would be the worst day for enemies on the battlefield.
“I’ve never cared much about two consenting adults and who they go to bed with,” he added.
Retired U. S. Marine Corps General James Mattis testifies before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to serve as defense secretary in Washington, U. S. January 12, 2017.
Mattis said that the nation’s cyber policy must be addressed on “an urgent basis.”
Mattis called NATO “the most successful military alliance, probably in modern history, maybe ever.” He stressed it’s important to “maintain the strong possible relationship with NATO.” Mattis dodged questions about whether he’s concerned with the president-elect’s remarks, except he said Mr. Trump has “shown himself to be open.”
“I’d have to get back and look at that,” said Mattis, who said that he only has read about it in the newspaper. “I don’t have an authoritative view of that right now.”
Mattis emphasized that the U. S. must promote peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“I think we’ve got to restore a better relationship with Israel and with our Arab allies,” he said.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis (R) talks with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) prior to a committee hearing on Mattis’ nomination to serve as defense secretary., on Capitol Hill in Washington, U. S., January 12, 2017.
Mattis said that the Defense Department, under his leadership, would propose what is needed for OCO and the base budget at the department. He said his desire is for “everything to be in the base budget” and then to come to Congress when there are emergencies, but admitted, “We are not in a position to dictate that.”
This comes after President-elect Donald Trump had repeatedly questioned the intelligence community’s findings on Russian interference in the election.
“I believe we do, sir,” Mattis said, but added that he believes that strategy needs to be reviewed and possibly “energized on a more aggressive timeline.”
McCain asked what the U. S. should do to combat Russian aggression in the Baltics and in eastern Ukraine. Mattis said that the U. S. has tried to engage positively with Russia in the past, but it’s a short list of successes. He said that Putin is trying to dismantle NATO and that the U. S. should take diplomatic, military and joint action with alliances to “defend ourselves.” Mattis said that deterrence is necessary to fight Russia.
Asked if the U. S. military is strong enough to defend against the many threats in the world, Mattis said, “No.”
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017, during the committee’s confirmation hearing for Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis.
“If the Senate consents and if the full Congress passes an exception to the seven-year requirement, I will provide strong civilian leadership of military plans and decisions. I recognize under the Constitution it is the Congress that raises, sustains, and supports our Armed Forces through annual authorizations and appropriations,” Mattis said.
“I am mindful of the extraordinary privilege it is to be nominated for this position. I will hold service members, civilians, and their families foremost in my thoughts and work to give them the best chance for victory if you confirm me.”
Mattis said his top priorities would be military readiness, reforming the Defense Department and strengthening international alliances.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis appears before a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to serve as U. S. defense secretary., on Capitol Hill in Washington, U. S., January 12, 2017.
Reed named Iran, North Korea and Russia as threats and strategic challenges. He said he’s interested in hearing from Mattis what his vision is to improve U. S. cyber defenses.
He said he supports the move by Defense Secretary Ash Carter to open up combat positions and other positions in the military to women.
McCain slammed the Obama administration for creating a “perception around the world that America is weak and distracted,” which he said has only emboldened America’s enemies. He talked about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism and said that the U. S. will be “engaged in a global conflict of varying scope and intensity for the foreseeable future.”
“You would lead a military at war,” McCain said to Mattis.
McCain added that the central challenge in the Middle East is not the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but a breakdown in regional order and the terror group, he said, is a symptom of that.

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