March 25, 2021
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today delivered opening remarks at a SASC hearing on the posture of U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Cyber Command.
Witnesses included: Christopher Maier, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; General Richard D. Clarke, USA, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command; and General Paul M. Nakasone, USA, Commander of U.S. Cyber Command, Director of the National Security Agency and Chief of the Central Security Service.
As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for calling this important hearing to examine the posture of U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Cyber Command. I also want to thank our witnesses for being with us today.
My top priority continues to be ensuring the effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy (NDS), which prioritizes competition with China and Russia while maintaining pressure on global terrorist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.
As I said on the floor on Tuesday, we need to match budget with strategy. It takes at least 3-5% real growth in the defense budget, above inflation, to implement the NDS.
Military advancements and expanding global ambitions by China and Russia pose new and increasingly complex challenges to our national security.
In addition to growing their conventional military capabilities, China and Russia are expanding their use of irregular warfare tactics involving cyber, disinformation, proxy forces, and economic blackmail around the world.
They’ve proven these tactics are effective in places like Ukraine, Syria, and the South China Sea, and now they’re exporting them to Africa and the Western Hemisphere.
This reality makes implementation of the Irregular Warfare Annex to the NDS critically important. It also requires that special operations forces are organized, trained, and equipped to compete in this domain of warfare.
At the same time, ISIS and al-Qaeda have proven resilient and still pose a threat. History has shown that without sustained pressure, this threat will grow.
I understand President Biden is reviewing U.S. counterterrorism policy and, according to media reports, has issued interim guidance requiring White House sign off on operational military decisions that were previously delegated to DOD.
Let me be clear: I would have serious concerns with a decision to return to the Obama-era policies that tied the hands of our military commanders and made it harder to keep pressure on ISIS and al-Qaeda terrorists.
I expect this committee will be consulted often during the administration’s review.
Another critical component of implementing the NDS is developing robust capabilities to counter growing threats in cyberspace.
The 2018 Cyber Strategy provides a roadmap for how we will do this. Significant efforts have occurred in recent years across the DOD to implement the strategy and to build the capabilities of Cyber Command and the Cyber Mission Forces.
Today, I look to our witness to detail progress in meeting the strategy’s objectives as well as address any gaps in our cyber capabilities.
In the last two months, we have learned of two major cyber attacks where foreign actors were able to breach thousands of computer networks across the government and private sectors. The scope of these breaches is very concerning.
We must do everything possible to counter aggressive cyber activities by our adversaries. I look forward to hearing how the DOD and Cyber Command are responding to these attacks and working to prevent future attacks.
Again, thanks to our witnesses for being with us today. I look forward to their testimony.