Army Gen. Mark Milley said Tuesday that he believes military recruiters should be armed in some cases amid mounting calls on Capitol Hill for service members to carry personal weapons for defense.
“We should seriously consider it. In some places, I think it’s appropriate,” Gen. Milley told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee at a hearing considering his nomination to be the Army’s next chief of staff.
Several lawmakers have called for the military to arm it’s recruiters after a shooting last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, killed four Marines and a sailor. At least half a dozen governors have already ordered their National Guards to carry weapons in the wake of the attack.
The Defense Department does not support arming all personnel, according to Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon.
“We hold this position for many reasons. Some of the top reasons are safety concerns, the prohibitive costs of use-of-force and weapons training, qualification costs, and compliance with various weapons screening laws,” she said in a statement.
Gen. Milley acknowledged that arming recruiters would be “complicated legally,” but Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, said that the law could be changed if officials felt it would better protect service members to allow them to carry firearms for protection on military installations.
Lawmakers also asked Gen. Milley his views on how proposed cuts to force structure will effect Army readiness, how he will work with leaders of the National Guard and reserve to have a balanced total force and how he will cut waste among headquarters and administrative staff. Members of the committee also took the chance to call for a repeal of sequestration to give the military more resources as the country faces a more unpredictable security environment.
“The Army is facing a downward spiral of military capacity and readiness that increases the risk that in a crisis, we will have too few soldiers who could enter a fight without proper training or equipment,” Mr. McCain said.
Mr. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also asked for Gen. Milley’s commitment to reforming the military’s acquisition process and taking more responsibility if confirmed as the Army’s service chief, an effort the senator has been fighting to keep in this year’s defense policy bill.
“To provide our soldiers the equipment they need to defend the nation, we simply cannot continue to have blurred lines of accountability and evasions of responsibility inside the defense acquisition system,” Mr. McCain said. “If that does not happen, Gen. Milley, we will be calling you.”
Questioned about his views on how the acquisition process should change, Gen. Milley said he supported Mr. McCain’s plan to empower the service chiefs and hold them accountable for cost overruns.
“In my view, I think the service chiefs should have an enhanced role across the acquisition process,” he said. “Service chiefs are not as engaged as we could be with respect to the resources and decisions of actual acquisitions.”
Gen. Milley also joined other top military brass in naming Russia as the greatest threat to the United States, citing their nuclear power that could destroy the United States. Earlier this month, Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the nominee to be the next chairman of the joint chiefs, also said Russia is the top threat to the country.
If confirmed, Gen. Milley would replace Gen. Ray Odierno, the current Army chief of staff.