Subscribe to Our Daily Brief

Subscribe to our Daily Brief

* indicates required

Articles | | Africa, Congress Watch, Counterterrorism, Defense, Defense Budget & Programs, Foreign Policy, Nuclear Deterrence, [Defense & Deterrence Policy], [Strategic Defense & Deterrence]

Email Print

Congressman Steve Russell represents the 5th district of Oklahoma. He is a member of the House Republican Steering Committee, member of the House Committee on Government Oversight, member of the House Armed Services Committee and the founder and owner of Two Rivers Arms, a small rifle manufacturing business:

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Welcome back, I couldn’t be more pleased to say we are joined by Congressman Steve Russell. He is the representative of the people of the fifth district of Oklahoma. He has a very storied history as a member of the U.S. Military, as a Lieutenant Colonel along with other accomplishments in his combat tours, being instrumental to the capture of Saddam Hussein. He is the author a memoir on the subject entitled We Got Him! A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein. Congressman Russell is these days a member of the House Armed Services Committee and the House Committee on Government Oversight and Reform on whose National Security Subcommittee serves as the Vice Chairman. Congressman Russell, it is so good to have you back, thank you for taking a few minutes to talk with us.

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

Well thank you Frank, it is always my pleasure.

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Well, let me ask you a question: you serve on the Readiness Subcommittee in the House Armed Services Committee. Our colleagues at the Heritage Foundation have just completed a new book, they call it The 2018 Index of Military Strength, it’s a very comprehensive assessment of where we are. One of the findings is: “in the aggregate, the U.S. Military posture is rated marginal and is trending toward weak.” Congressman, I just wonder, does that square with what you have been seeing both in uniform I guess as well as in your time in the Congress, and if so is it acceptable?

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

It is a grave concern right now and I think you’ve seen Secretary Mattis make numerous public comments in terms of readiness and posture and the damage that’s being done by sequester. These are all real issues and it’s not just political speak and the sad thing is we saw this past summer just in training, 40 plus members of the military lose their lives to training accidents, planes going down…

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Yeah, and I think the Navy has found in the case of these two most recent accidents at sea that training readiness, exhaustion all contributed to the loss of lives. In terms, just a general statement, if the readiness of the U.S. military is not where it needs to be today, are we taking steps as you see it, to remedy the situation?

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

What I would hope is that the same Heritage Foundation would put out statements that would help us separate the defense hawks from the budget hawks because all too often what happens politically is that the budget hawks do not have these things held dear to their heart and appreciation, and I’ve often made the statements Frank, we can cut everything to include the entire defense budget and still not get there but one thing that we absolutely have a constitutional requirement to do is defend the country. And our priorities are out of whack when it comes to that. We are continuing to cut. I was able to work with former Representative Chris Gibbon on the Posture Act and we were instrumental in keeping 30,000 army troops more and 8,000 Marines from being cut from the force. But they also have to be equipped, they have to be able to train, they have to be able to deploy. And so what I would hope is that we would value the defense of our nation more than free cell phone, more than free chicken or whatever it might be out there.

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Well, I appreciate your leadership on this so much Congressman Russell because I think you’re absolutely right. I am sensing for what it’s worth that there is now a recognition across the spectrum of conservatives at least that we’ve gotten to a point where the budget caps on defense are simply intolerable. Let me switch gears if I may Congressman, a related subject on which I know you’ve been speaking is the role that the green berets have been playing in Niger has come into considerable public focus as the result of the loss of 4 of our personnel in that country in an ambush by jihadists. And I wonder should we concerned about some kind of untoured expansion of our military operation or is this really the sort of thing we need to be doing at least as much of if not more of?

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

Well I think what most Americans don’t realize is since the creation of special forces by President Kennedy in the early 60s, these training and assist missions have been at the core of what they’ve always done, and we have had troops serving in Niger for two decades plus. What’s vitally important is that we look at what’s at stake in these sub-Saharan African countries that are in the middle of the continent. If we lose this firewall of largely stable and peaceful countries where you’ve got transnational terrorists and criminal elements that are trying to ignite old political rivalries and destabilize these countries. If that breaks past the firewall we’ve got incredible problems, we are talking about disease, we are talking about famine, because of fragile economies that can no longer sustain their own populations…

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

To say nothing of the Sharia supremacists filing the vacuum…

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

Well that is it. And that’s what they want to do. It’s the third group of the special forces which sadly they aware the ones who took the causalities and our hearts go out to third group and I’ve had the privilege to work with them in Afghanistan. We have to realize that these commitments that our warriors in uniform are doing day in and day out and America is just really not aware of it. And the case that’s going on in Niger and Cameroon and Chad, the whole lake Chad basin, thank god for the cooperation that we see with some of our long-standing allies. If it weren’t for the actions of the French, the Brits and our own special forces and Military, this thing would be completely out of control.

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Hey Congressman, very quickly, just because you’ve got both the responsibilities in the readiness business you’ve got this extraordinary background and you also serve on the Personnel Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, I did want to ask you about the advisability of what this Judge has just done to stop president Trump from preventing transgender individuals from serving in the U.S. Military.

REP. STEVE RUSSELL:

I think this continues to be politically motivated. My contention on these issues from the beginning and on the statement I’ve made in the past is that we’ve not had a single hearing to determine how the readiness of our military is enhanced, that you have folks that are wanting these therapies and surgeries or whatever it might be, they are not qualified for deployment, they aren’t qualified to help or enhance the units or are they? We don’t know because we have not had a single hearing on this issue instead decisions have been made in a purely political fashion and so I think what you saw is that President Trump was trying to address this issue and put out the statements that he did, and I also find it interesting that this Judge did not object to the President’s actions with regards to the medical or the surgeries or any of those things, those were not contested. And so once again we have convoluted, politically motivated policy rather than looking for what is best for the readiness of our military. And the other point I would make with regard to this issue is that it is also very disruptive, I just read from the guidance handbook from the U.S. Army that was being put out to commanders in hearings last spring when we were doing the National Defense Authorization where they were trying to construct commanders with how to deal with male pregnancies, I mean these things are bizarre you are thinking, okay, do we want our commanders dealing with these things or do we want our commanders to deal with the defense of the republic?

FRANK GAFFNEY:  

Your leadership is critically important Congressman Russell and I look forward to working with you on the outside to try to help create the demand for hearings like these and real oversight by the Congress in all of these areas and more. I hope you come back to us again Sir, it’s great to talk with you as always and I look forward to doing so in the near future. Christian Adams joins us and we will talk about the diversity lottery and voter fraud among other things. Straight ahead.

Tagged with →  
Copyright © 1988-2018 Center for Security Policy | All Rights Reserved