U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC hearing to receive testimony on United States Central Command from General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of the United States Central Command.
As prepared for delivery:
Good morning. The Committee meets today to receive testimony on the United States Central Command. I’d like to welcome our witness:
General Joseph L. Votel, Commander of United States Central Command.
Gen. Votel will hand over Central Command at the end of March, and I want to thank him for his outstanding service to our country over his 38 year career.
General, you’ve had a tough job as CENTCOM Commander.
With the rise of ISIS, the spread of Iran’s proxies, and the return of Russia to the Middle East, you and the President have grappled with some very hard decisions. Thank you for all you have done to keep America safe.
The Senate Armed Services Committee’s top priority is to ensure the effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy, which identifies competition with China and Russia as “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.”
Clearly we don’t want to be the world’s policeman. But without any U.S. presence, our strategic competitors will rush to fill the void. We have seen this repeatedly in the Middle East.
When we step away from partners, Russia steps in.
When our military pulls back, Russia pulls forward.
When we don’t enforce our red lines, Russia tries to create its own.
The NDS also makes countering terrorist threats a top priority.
Part of this strategy has been achieved: the ISIS “caliphate” has been defeated.
But ISIS and Al Qaeda are still active in the region and threaten our homeland.
Both priorities – competing w/ Russia and countering terrorists – are at stake in Syria.
As we draw down in Syria, we must continue to support our partners and friends. I am also interested in how we will prevent ISIS resurgence.
And the administration assures me that our draw down in Syria is merely a change in approach, not a change in mission.
So I hope to hear how the U.S. can pursue its mission in Syria by other means, and how this Committee can be helpful.
I look forward to your testimony, General Votel. Senator Reed.