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March 19, 2013

INHOFE OPENING STATEMENT AT OVERSIGHT HEARING FOR EUCOM, NORTHCOM, SOUTHCOM

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  Admiral Stavridis, General Kelly, and General Jacoby: Thank you for your many years of service to our nation, and on behalf of our entire committee, please convey to the brave men and women you lead how grateful we are for their sacrifice, and that of their families. 

Admiral Stavridis, this will be your final time testifying before this committee in uniform.  I want to personally thank you and your family for your 41 years of distinguished service, including your time as a Combatant Commander over the last six years. I know you will continue to contribute to our nation as you enter the next chapter of your life. 

General Jacoby, we discussed during our meeting in my office last week that we no longer have the luxury of operating in a bipolar world as we did during the Cold War—where the threats to the homeland were clear.  Now, more than ever, the threats in AOR’s around the globe are interconnected.  What happens in Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, the Asia Pacific and Africa has the potential to directly impact the security of the U.S. homeland. The geographic boundaries that divide our Combatant Commands have become more porous and no longer are barriers to the propagation of threats.

This is particularly true with regards to Iran and North Korea.  The new leadership in North Korea has escalated tensions in the region through provocative statements, military exercises, nuclear tests, and the development of a road-mobile missile delivery system.  In Iran, despite growing international pressure, the regime remains determined to develop a nuclear weapons capability and as public intelligence reports have told us, could have a ballistic missile capable of reaching the East Coast of the U.S. by 2015.

I’m encouraged that the president has reversed his earlier decision and is now seeking to bolster our homeland missile defense system through fourteen additional ground-based-interceptors on the West Coast, though I remain deeply concerned that our ability to defend against a growing threat from Iran is inadequate.  The Department of Defense’s announcement is a step in the right direction, but is late to need and does not go far enough.  That is why I strongly supported efforts in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act to require that the Department of Defense study the feasibility of establishing a third site on the East Coast.  The threat is real and the need for a third site to better protect the East Coast is growing every day.  Should a ballistic missile reach a population center in the United States, the impact would be catastrophic and far outweigh the costs to develop and field additional capability to defend the Homeland.

Coordination across the Combatant Commands has very positive and tangible benefits as exemplified by the troop contributions of over 50 nations from around the globe to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.  NATO has been an invaluable partner in contributing troops and military capabilities to operations in Afghanistan, while at the same time participation in operations in Afghanistan has transformed the expeditionary capabilities of NATO.  Our investment in NATO yields security dividends through contributions to operations in Afghanistan, in Libya, and in counter piracy missions off the Horn of Africa.   

Closer to home, violence continues to escalate throughout Central and South America and Mexico as a result of increasingly capable transnational criminal organizations.  These groups command multi-billion dollar illicit networks that are no longer confined to Latin America.  They now span through West Africa, Europe, and even right here in the United States.  The increasing sophistication and international reach of transnational criminal organizations requires whole-of-government solutions and international partners.  We continue to work with our partners in the region to build their capabilities.  Yet many still struggle against adversaries that are often more capable and better equipped than the forces trying to stop them. 

And while the threats that our witnesses are tasked with confronting are growing in scope and complexity, the resources available to deal with them are decreasing.  I don’t remember a time in my life where the world has been more dangerous and the threats more diverse. Yet, due to planned budget cuts and sequestration, we are poised to cut our defense budget by a trillion dollars over the next ten years.

This reality underscores the glaring need for a national military strategy that accurately reflects the global security environment we face.  I’m greatly concerned that given the declining resources available to our military and the growing budget uncertainty, the current strategy is untenable and the U.S. lacks a comprehensive strategy. 

Starting with the Strategic Guidance issued in January 2012, it seems we are falling into the trap of creating strategies based almost entirely on how quickly we can cut the defense budget, rather than as a result of an honest assessment of the threats we face and the resources required to address these threats. We have a national government first and foremost to protect America’s security.  As a Senator, I consider protecting that primary capacity; protecting the ability to secure the homeland and our vital national security interests abroad, as my first and most important responsibility.   

I look to our witnesses to provide the committee with their assessment of how the ongoing budget crisis will impact their ability to effectively address the challenges within their areas of responsibility and whether the current strategies that they are operating under are still executable given the budget realities.

Thank you again for appearing before us today and I look forward to your testimony.

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