The U.S. military must accelerate development and quicken moves to build a joint force ready for the challenges of tomorrow, Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown told the Senate Armed Services Committee July 11.
Brown testified before the committee as part of the confirmation process to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If confirmed, Brown would be the 21st man to hold the position and the first Airman since Richard B. Myers stepped down from the post in 2005. He would also be the second African American in the position. Army Gen. Colin L. Powell served as chairman from 1989 to 1993.
If confirmed, Brown would succeed Army Gen. Mark A. Milley in the position.
"I come before you today, having served the last three years as a service and joint chief," Brown said in his opening remarks to the committee. "But for the 11 years prior, I served in seven assignments across four combatant commands." The general served in the European Command, Africa Command, Central Command and Indo-Pacific Command.
"I've held leadership positions focused on our five national security challenges: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and violent extremists," he said.
Brown's experience is with fielded forces and dealing with allies and partners. "Having led to warfighters abroad [has] shaped my thinking," he said. "As a result, I'm mindful of the security challenges at this consequential time and a need to accelerate to stay ahead of the growing threat."
The U.S. military is the most powerful in the world today, but leaders must make changes to ensure DOD can "implement the National Defense Strategy and prepare a joint force that can win the next war if called upon."
A prepared and capable joint force, simply, is the guarantor of deterrence and the key to peace, he told the committee.
Brown is fully aware of the role of Congress and promised to work closely with members on the Hill to invest in national defense and strengthen national security.
He also promised to work to sustain "faith and confidence with our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, guardians and DOD civilians and their families."
Beyond that, the general vowed to sustain and build the faith and confidence of the American people in their military. "Above all, I will dedicate myself to this proposition: That the American people should understand and know their military and its service members solely as unwavering defenders of the Constitution and our nation," he said.
Brown discussed — generally — some of the lessons learned from the Russian invasion of Ukraine. "Strategically, the thing I do think about is how the value of information early before the … conflict started, and how that was able to bring not only a NATO closer together, but also to bring together allies or partners around the world," he said.
This emphasized to him the need to build relationships long before they are needed.
The Russian invasion also reemphasized the crucial importance of logistics. "I think the Russians learned, if you don't pay attention to the logistics, it's hard to win, and hard move forward," he said. More than that, he said, all operations take longer than planned.
"I think the other piece that I would highlight is just that the will to fight," Brown said. He said the determination and will of the Ukrainian people and their leadership was hard to measure before the conflict. "But it pays a huge dividend," he said.
His last observation is the value of air power. "Having watched what either side has been able to do, or not do, [emphasized] the value of air defense and integrated air defense, and how that's been helpful to the Ukrainians in defense of the nation," he said.
There is a problem with recruiting in the military and Brown addressed that as well saying he wants to ensure "that young people and their influencers understand the great opportunities provided by serving in the military."
Americans need to understand that the military provides great experiences. "There are many that have served in the military [and] have gone on to be successful, whether they stay for a full career, or stay for one tour," he said.
Potential recruits need to hear the personal experiences of those who have served in the military, he said. They need firsthand stories to understand what to expect as a member of the armed forces and why it matters. "It's hard for them to be part of an organization if they don't fully understand or appreciate it," Brown said. "We have a responsibility to reconnect with the nation, to talk about the opportunities and for all of us that are interested in national defense and national security. And we need to share the stories of what inspired us to join."