WASHINGTON ― President Joe Biden’s nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pledged to continue his predecessor’s efforts to reform the beleaguered joint requirements process during his confirmation hearing Wednesday.
Navy Adm. Christopher Grady said he would use data and threat-based analyses to mediate between the armed services and combat the parochialism known to characterize the process. The vice chair leads the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, better known as the JROC, which defines what the weapons for each of the services must be able to do.
“Strong leadership in the JROC and consultation with my colleagues on the panel has to ensure a very disciplined approach to that, so we don’t get that mission creep, which can be very parochial at times,” Grady said during an exchange with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I.
Grady would replace now-retired Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who published strategic directives on speeding up the acquisition system for information advantage, joint command and control, fires and contested logistics. Hyten also spearheaded the department’s joint warfighting concept.
Reed pressed Grady on how he would ensure requirements are technically realistic, but push the envelope. Reed lamented the Pentagon’s tendency to build requirements to protect existing programs or to make them overly complicated ― “to build a Swiss Army knife when a simpler blade would be appropriate.”
“You mentioned a great point about simplicity. We do have a tendency to Christmas tree things too much,” Grady said.
Grady also said weapons platforms must be able to harness advances in artificial intelligence, quantum computing and software development.
“A very important element of any new system will be the ability to get past a hardware-oriented weapons system development to one that is software oriented, such that you can spin in new technologies in an app-based approach,” he said.
Grady faced questions based on the vice chairman’s membership of the Nuclear Weapons Council, which coordinates planning for the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. He affirmed support for modernizing the triad of nuclear weapons in an exchange with the panel’s top Republican, Sen. Jim Inhofe, of Oklahoma.
“A fully modernized nuclear deterrent is a No. 1 priority of the department,” Grady said.
Grady expressed concerns about China’s gains in hypersonic weapons, saying it was an area “where we have to keep pace, if not achieve overmatch.”
Grady, 58, has served as a naval officer for the last 37 years, including a number of leadership roles within the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He previously served as commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet and the deputy commander of both U.S. Naval Forces Europe and U.S. Naval Forces Africa.
Joe Gould is senior Pentagon reporter for Defense News, covering the intersection of national security policy, politics and the defense industry.