February 02, 2021

Hirono Calls for DOD to Focus on Public Shipyard Modernization, Sexual Harassment and Assault in Military During Confirmation Hearing for Deputy Secretary of Defense Nominee Dr. Kathleen Hicks

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) questioned President Biden’s nominee to be Deputy Secretary of Defense, Dr. Kathleen Hicks, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today. 

“I view our shipyards as a national concern. I chatted with you about the importance of the four public shipyards—of which there is one in Hawaii. The modernization of these shipyards is a very important concern for a number of us, and I hope that I have your commitment that you will continue to support the funding for the modernization of our shipyards. As you acknowledged, it is not enough to just build ships—we actually have to repair and maintain them,” Senator Hirono said. 

In response, Dr. Hicks noted that sustainability is critical to the nation’s entire force.

Senator Hirono also asked Dr. Hicks about how she would determine if real progress is being made to address the scourge of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and retaliation for reporting such offenses in the military. Dr. Hicks said transparency and data are the most important tools for making reform decisions and that people must be held accountable and resources must be provided at all levels to encourage the reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment. Dr. Hicks noted the Fort Hood investigation found significant underreporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Senator suggested that the Department of Defense should directly survey servicemembers to better understand if they have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault, or racial discrimination while in the military.

The Senator also questioned Dr. Hicks about the potential for additional collaboration within the Pacific Deterrence Initiative, specifically with the Freely Associated States – the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Dr. Hicks indicated her openness to working more with the United States’ partners in the Pacific. Senator Hirono and Dr. Hicks also discussed the need for the Department of Defense (DOD) to address climate change through energy security and resilience at military installations.

In January, Senator Hirono questioned now-Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the military’s response to sexual assault and harassment. She also stressed the importance of military training areas, and secured a commitment from Secretary Austin that DOD will have a transparent process and open dialogue with the community in Hawaii as a variety of military leases are set to expire in 2029. 

Click here to download broadcast quality b-roll of Senator Hirono’s questioning of Dr. Hicks during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

###