Chair McCollum Statement at Workforce Development and the Department of Defense Hearing

2021-10-26 14:09

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN-04), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on Workforce Development and the Department of Defense:

This afternoon the Committee will receive testimony on the current and future needs for the Department of Defense’s workforce, both military and civilian, and the defense industrial base.

This will be a two-panel hearing.

Panel one consists of experts from academia and industry. 

We will hear from:

  • Mr. William Bonvillian, a lecturer from MIT and co-author of Workforce Education, a New Roadmap;
  • Dr. Jose-Marie Griffiths, current president of Dakota State University and a former Commissioner from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence;
  • Mr. Xavier Beale, Vice President for Trades at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries; and
  • General Hawk Carlisle, President and CEO of the National Defense Industrial Association, who will provide us the small business perspective.

The second panel will recognize governmental experts from the Department of Defense.  We will hear from:

  • Under Secretary Gilbert Cisneros, head of Personnel and Readiness in the Office of the Secretary of Defense; 
  • Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones from the Department of the Air Force;
  • Mr. Christopher Lowman, the senior official performing the duties of Under Secretary for the Department of the Army; and
  • Ms. Meredith Berger, the senior official performing the duties of Under Secretary for the Department of the Navy.

 I strongly encourage all members to stay for both panels.

Over the past few years, several studies and reports have expressed significant concern about the ability of our workforce to meet the current and future workforce gaps in skilled trades, engineering, and emerging technologies throughout the defense sector.

This challenge has been a particular interest of mine as Chair, and the Committee’s report for Fiscal Year 2022 includes several reporting requirements from the Department on this issue.

This hearing serves as a follow on to our report. And I hope it will be a genuine opportunity to start a dialogue on the issues we face in the defense workforce.

This hearing will explore questions such as: 

What types of DoD civilian and military education and workforce development programs are in place to address current and future workforce gaps?  And how does the Department coordinate academic and workforce development programs across the Services?

What programs are in place to fill in demand careers in the Department, the Services, and industry – particularly to meet the challenge of emerging technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Hypersonics, and Cyber?

How are we addressing current workforce gaps in skill trades, engineering, and emerging technologies to ensure we have enough people trained for these jobs?

What will the Department need to do not only to recruit individuals for these jobs, but also what incentive packages are required to retain them?

How do workforce gaps impact the defense industry, both large and small businesses, and the supply chain in the defense sector? 

And do these gaps impact industry’s ability to create, maintain, and sustain new technologies?

I could go on, but these are just some of the questions I hope to address today.

Our first panel of outside witnesses will provide us with their perspective on the broad scope of current and future defense workforce gaps, how they see the Department acting to address this challenge, and what they think the Department could do better.

As a former teacher, I am keenly interested to hear how public and private education ranging from kindergarten through post-secondary education is poised to meet our future defense workforce demands.

And I hope to hear how the Department and industry can collaborate to support underrepresented minority, veteran, nonprofit, and small business communities on workforce issues.

Our second panel of governmental witnesses will share their perspective on the same topics – how they view the challenge of current and future defense workforce gaps and what actions DoD is taking to address these needs.

The Committee is also interested in how the Department conveys changes in priorities, such as modernization policies, to the Services, while also ensuring that these new priorities are incorporated into civilian and military education and workforce development programs.

And in turn, how do the Services incorporate those modernization priorities into their structures and effectively execute them?

I know we have a lot to cover, so with that I want to recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Calvert, for his opening comments.

117th Congress