Durbin Questions Secretary Of Defense And Chairman Of Joint Chiefs Of Staff At Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today questioned Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley at a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense hearing about the Department of Defense’s Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23) budget request.  Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, began his questioning asking about Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine.

“I can recall the early briefing on what we might expect in Ukraine…now most of Ukraine has not been conquered by Russia, thank goodness. Certainly the courage and resilience from the Ukrainian people first and foremost is the reason for what we have seen.  I wonder what we’ve learned about Russia’s military strength and what we anticipated they delivered in the field and what they actually delivered…[and] a [Russian] declaration of war—what would that mean in terms of Putin’s capabilities?” Durbin asked.  

Secretary Austin answered by stating the Russians made many mistakes in the beginning of their invasion due to a lack of leadership at the lower level.  General Milley said a Russian declaration of war would allow Russia to mobilize additional forces.  General Milley also confirmed that Ukraine’s leadership is strong – from President Zelensky down – and that is the difference between Russia and Ukraine.  He also explained there is a significant amount of intelligence flowing to Ukraine from the United States.

Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, also asked about Poland and the Baltics.

“They [Poland and the Baltic States] were there every step of the way.  I hope you’ll address that,” Durbin said.

General Milley stated that Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and other partners in the region currently have U.S. troops stationed domestically to ensure a strong commitment to our allies.  

Last month, Durbin and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced bipartisan legislation that seeks to replace weapons, ammunition, and other defense equipment provided to Ukraine by certain NATO countries.  Specifically, the bill would authorize the Department of Defense (DoD) to transfer equipment to lower-income NATO countries to quickly fortify their defense capabilities as an incentive to donate additional capabilities to Ukraine.

Durbin and Grassley previously introduced the Baltic Defense and Deterrence Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to effectively codify the Baltic Security Initiative effort and create a complementary initiative at the U.S. Department of State.  Jointly, these two efforts will enhance and strengthen U.S. security and economic cooperation with the Baltics amid Russia’s continued aggression toward the Baltics and heightened tensions with China.

Video of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks from the hearing is available here for TV Stations.