February 11, 2014
Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today provided the following open statement at a hearing titled "Current and Future Worldwide Threats:"
As prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming our witnesses today and thank them for their many years of service to our nation.
I’m deeply troubled by the current state of our national security. I recently returned from a congressional delegation trip through Africa, Europe, and I visited with our men and women in uniform in Afghanistan. It was clear from talking with our troops, diplomats, and foreign partners that the global security environment is as precarious and complex as any time in recent memory and growing more dangerous by the day. Director Clapper, you stated last year before Congress: (quote) “In almost 50 years in intelligence, I don’t remember when we’ve had a more diverse array of threats and crisis situations around the world to deal with.” Based on what I’ve seen and heard over the last several years, I think you’re exactly right.
The reality is that our national security is worse off today than it was ten years ago. Around the world, as American leadership and military capabilities decline, we’re seeing the threats to our security rise. From the Middle East and Africa to the Asia Pacific, our allies don’t trust us and our enemies don’t fear us.
In Iran, the recent interim agreement has done nothing to stop the regime’s enrichment activities or pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Just last week, Undersecretary of State Sherman – the lead U.S. negotiator in nuclear talks with Iran—admitted what I’ve known all along: nothing in the agreement stops or even slows Iran’s efforts to develop a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear payload here to our shores. And let me remind my colleagues, public intelligence reports continue to say that Iran could likely have this capability by as early as 2015, less than a year away.
Further, the Administration continues its head-in-the-sand approach to terrorism by pushing the false narrative that Al-Qaeda is “on the ropes” and “on the run.” The facts on the ground tell a different story. The reality is that Al-Qaeda has evolved over the last decade. They’re no longer confined to the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Instead, they now operate in more countries and control more territory than ever before. The increasingly decentralized nature of their network doesn’t mean they’re less dangerous. On the contrary, it means that Al-Qaeda poses an even greater threat to American lives and interests around the world.
In the Asia-Pacific, our vaunted “strategic rebalance” is being undermined by massive budget cuts at a time when our security interests in the region have never been more pronounced. China’s rise and military buildup dominates regional dynamics. Its belligerent actions in the South China Sea threaten to ignite long simmering territorial disputes which appear one miscalculation away from conflict. North Korea is continuing its long history of erratic and reckless behavior, threatening stability on the Korean Peninsula and the broader region. Just last week, we learned that North Korea has restarted enrichment activities at one of its nuclear facilities and is pushing forward with the development of a road-mobile missile system. As we pursue negotiations with the Iranians, I urge the Administration to take a long hard look at what’s transpired since the failed nuclear negotiations with the North Koreans.
In the face of such a daunting set of national security challenges, we’re forcing our military –the backbone of our nation’s security – to endure a steep and damaging drop in capabilities and readiness. Drastic budget cuts over the last five years have resulted in our naval fleet falling to a historically low level of ships, the Air Force being the smallest in its history, and potentially shrinking the ground force to a size not seen since before World War II. Readiness is plummeting and commanders now use the term “hollow” to define the ability of their forces to defend the United States. In recent guidance issued to the Services, the Secretary of Defense even acknowledged this stark reality and wrote: “near-term hollowness is acceptable, but [the] force must be balanced at end-state.” This is a deeply concerning admission given that the threats we face today aren’t likely to wait until our force is rebuilt at some point in the future.
Without meaningful sequester relief to reverse these reckless national security cuts, our military will accept greater risk and be less prepared to deal with growing threats around the world. Further, these cuts will drain vital capability from our intelligence community, causing us to know less about the true nature of these threats. Given the deteriorating situation around the world today, this should be deeply troubling to us all.