WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Kevin Cramer (R-ND) questioned Dr. Colin Kahl – President Joe Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the third highest ranking position in the Defense Department – at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination today.
Senator Cramer began his remarks by addressing the controversy surrounding Dr. Kahl’s nomination, which involves controversial statements he made regarding the 2016 election. The senator followed up on a line of questioning from Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) about Dr. Kahl’s statements on debunked claims of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia.
“Russian collusion has been deemed to be untrue, basically a lie, by the Mueller report and the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report,” said Senator Cramer. “You [answered Senator Tillis’ question] pretty well, saying they were a reflection of media reports at the time. I just wish you would have continued to say, ‘now that the media have been proven to be liars, I no longer believe that’ rather than trying to rationalize it.”
Senator Cramer then asked Dr. Kahl about continued service and funding for Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program. The GBSD is the scheduled replacement for the Minutemen III ICBMs, which are housed at bases like Minot Air Force Base. As he did today, Senator Cramer has been advocating with senior military leaders to keep the GBSD timeline on track.
“I appreciate your personal view that the [nuclear] triad is important, both in the past and going forward,” asked Senator Cramer. “Do you believe the Minutemen III can continue to be serviced? … Can their life be extended without some consequence?”
“My knowledge of the life-extension programs on the Minutemen III is four years old, so I don’t have a classified analysis. I have seen the public comments by the STRATCOMM Commander and I have no reason to question those statements,” answered Dr. Kahl. “This will obviously be an issue I will dig into more if I am confirmed.”
“We really are, I think, at the end of our rope and can’t change our trajectory much,” responded Senator Cramer. “I look forward to you digging into that more. … The deterrent that the triad provides and the modernization that includes the LRSOs and the re-engining of the bombers we have at Minot and the GBSD at Minot are all important.”
Senator Cramer then brought up the Abraham Accords, asking Dr. Kahl about how they have changed the landscape in the Middle East.
“I give the Trump Administration credit for getting the Abraham Accords across the goal line,” responded Dr. Kahl. “I commend the Trump Administration for leaning in to the strategic trends in the region, and the Abraham Accords are something I think we should encourage.”
Senator Cramer concluded by addressing Nord Stream 2, tying the issue of energy security both to national security and to climate change.
“A good alternative to Russian oil for our European allies might be American Liquefied Natural Gas, which is produced and delivered with about 46 percent lower greenhouse gas emissions,” said Senator Cramer. “It’s both a national security benefit as well as a greenhouse gas emissions benefit.”