July 30, 2013
As prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming General Scaparrotti and Admiral Haney and thank them and their families for their continued willingness to serve our country.
General Scaparrotti, you have been nominated to replace General Thurman as Commander of U.S. Forces Korea. General Thurman and the men and women under his command have done a tremendous job in standing with our South Korean partners to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula. July 27th marked the 60 year anniversary of the signing of the armistice designed to “insure a complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force in Korea until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” While we hope for a final peaceful settlement, it does not appear imminent.
Instead, tensions over the last year have risen dramatically. Kim Jong Un’s belligerent behavior, including the testing of nuclear weapons and launching of ballistic missiles, threatens to overturn the peace, stability and prosperity of the entire region. Despite robust economic and diplomatic sanctions and isolation, North Korea remains intent on expanding its nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it. Continued support from China, the lack of a tangible international response to provocations, and a decline in U.S. military capabilities and influence throughout the region will only encourage further reckless behavior.
If we are to be successful in our efforts to protect vital U.S. interests, partners, and allies in the region, our military capabilities must be designed to deter North Korean aggression, and should deterrence fail, they also must be ready to punish aggression. However, these capabilities are at risk. The President’s highly vaunted “strategic rebalancing” to the Asia-Pacific has not been backed by sufficient resources and sequestration threatens to further undermine our capabilities in the region. The Obama Administration must reevaluate the major gaps it is leaving between resources and the national defense strategy. These gaps represent significant risk to our national security and will further embolden bad actors throughout the region and beyond.
Admiral Haney, you’ve been nominated to serve as the next Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM). If confirmed, your principal responsibility will be to ensure the effectiveness of our nation’s nuclear deterrent force. Put simply, our nuclear forces perform three key missions: 1) deterring potential adversaries; 2) assuring our allies of our security commitment to them and, if deterrence fails; 3) supporting U.S. political and military objectives while limiting damage to the homeland.
This requires a credible nuclear strategy backed by capable nuclear forces. There is cause for concern in both respects: not only are our nuclear modernization programs facing funding cuts and increasing schedule delays, but the President’s insistence on reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons could also undermine deterrence and make our allies nervous.
The current Commander of STRATCOM told Congress earlier this year that as the sequester impacts continue to grow, “reduced readiness and curtailed modernization damage the perceived credibility of our capabilities, increasing the risk to achieving our primary deterrence and assurance objectives.” These cuts are likely to have real, negative consequences for our ability to deal with crises around the world – which in turn may increase, rather than reduce, the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.
I will be interested to hear from Admiral Haney how he views these trends, especially in light of the fact that virtually all the other nuclear powers are modernizing their nuclear forces and placing more reliance on nuclear weapons in their national security strategy. Under these circumstances, further reductions in our nuclear arsenal would be ill advised.
We also face a growing and increasingly complex threat within cyberspace. Despite this reality, this Administration has failed to implement an effective cyber deterrence strategy that dissuades those seeking to hold our economic and national security interests at risk in cyberspace. Not a day goes by that our national security is not being exploited in the cyber domain. Nation states such as China and Iran have been exposed publically for attempting to gain access to national secrets or harm critical infrastructure, and criminal and terrorist organizations are actively pursuing and exploiting such capabilities with little resistance or consequences. More must be done to make it clear that there will be consequences for anyone who seeks to undermine our national security through cyberspace.
While the White House has been quick to blame Congress on the need for cyber legislation, it has been slow in developing and implementing the far more important strategy for exposing, countering, and deterring our adversaries. Despite this fact, General Alexander and his team have made progress over the last year in developing the foundations necessary for offensive cyber capabilities required to defend the nation and project power in the cyber domain. Certainly, more must be done and sufficient resources must be allocated; however, progress is being made and the Department is moving past its defense-only mindset.
Finally, the Department is currently debating the elevation of Cyber Command from its current position under Strategic Command to become its own Unified Command. While there are many operational benefits to be gained by the elevation such as a more streamlined decision making regime, a number of questions remain concerning cost and the appropriateness of creating a Combatant Command solely for cyber warfare. Furthermore, because the Commander of Cyber Command is also the Director of NSA, policy discussions on the appropriateness of making the NSA director a Combatant Commander will certainly be an issue for debate.
I look forward to discussing these issues with our nominees today.