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March 16, 2021

Inhofe Opening Remarks at Armed Services Committee Hearing on U.S. Northern Command, Southern Command

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 United States Northern Command and United States Southern Command. 

Witnesses included: General Glen D. VanHerck, Commander, United States Northern Command; and Admiral Craig S. Faller, Commander, United States Southern Command. 

As Prepared For Delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you for calling this important hearing to examine our military posture in the Western Hemisphere.

I also want to thank our two witnesses, NORTHCOM Commander General VanHerck and SOUTHCOM Commander Admiral Faller, for being here today.

As you know, my top priority remains ensuring 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.”

However, the growing influence of China and Russia isn’t limited to Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

Both countries have shown that they view the Western Hemisphere as critical terrain for fulfilling their global ambitions and challenging the United States. 

Admiral Faller, China and Russia are expanding their access and influence in your AOR through increasing arms deals, military deployments, and economic and diplomatic coercion. 

At the same time, much of the drugs poisoning American cities are coming from Latin America through vast illicit networks operated by multi-billion-dollar criminal organizations.  

General VanHerck, you have operational responsibility for defense of the United States homeland.

We’re facing a lot of challenges from growing Chinese and Russian missile capabilities, including advanced cruise missiles and hypersonic missiles.

I’m concerned that shifts in the Department’s investments over the past few years have not focused on this critical mission.

I hope you will discuss any emerging gaps you foresee in our homeland defense, and offer your recommendations for addressing them.

Specifically, I am interested in your views on whether waiting another decade for new ground-based interceptors makes sense, or if we need to act sooner given the growing threat from our adversaries.

Meanwhile, we are also seeing a new crisis brewing at the southwest border. 

According to the New York Times, approximately 78,000 migrants tried to cross the border in January 2021 – double from the year before – and 100,000 apprehensions were made in February of this year.

I’ve always said border security is national security, and my visit to the border in August 2019 confirmed this belief. These new statistics are alarming.

So I hope you will address whether NORTHCOM’s border support mission is sufficient, and what we can do to better ensure that our laws are enforced.

Finally, Gen. VanHerck, I want to recognize NORTHCOM’s life-saving response to the COVID-19 pandemic this past year.

Our men and women in uniform have built alternate care facilities, transported medical supplies from abroad, and provided medical support since the pandemic began.

The pandemic is far from over: more than 500,000 Americans have been killed, and thousands more are still infected every day.

But I am grateful for NORTHCOM’s latest efforts to speed up the administration of vaccines, which provide the clearest pathway out of this nightmare.

I thank you both again for your testimony today. Mr. Chairman.

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