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March 10, 2009

Inhofe Questions Top Intelligence Officials on National Security Threats

Seeks commitments on AFRICOM and North Korean Ballistic Missile Threats

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today pressed Dennis Blair, the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), and Lieutenant General Michael D. Maples, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), on the status of threats to our national security. While Sen. Inhofe received assurances from both Directors that steps are being taken to mitigate threats to our national security, he remains concerned about our ability to not only detect and assess emerging threats, but also provide our nation’s leaders with the accurate and timely information necessary to maintain our country’s safety.

"We require more from our intelligence agencies today than ever before," Senator Inhofe said.  "The efforts of the men and women in our intelligence agencies are essential to our national security. While the intelligence community has come a long way since 9/11, taking the lessons learned from the intelligence failures before 9/11, it must continue to build on the improvements made in intelligence collection, analysis, coordination, and information sharing.  The future threats to our nation will be varied and numerous, requiring our intelligence community to remain vigilant and proactive with its collection efforts. 

“I have been particularly concerned about the rise of terrorism in the Horn of Africa, as this area is critical to the stability of the entire continent of Africa and is a national security concern to the United States. We have seen a rise in piracy in the Gulf of Aden, militant attacks in Nigeria, lawlessness in Somalia, continued tension in Sudan, and rebel activities in northern Congo.  Africa has the majority of the world's failed or failing states and is becoming more desirable as a terrorist safe-haven. I think it is of vital importance that our security and intelligence efforts remain focused on the threats in Africa.  

“While many African governments have improved their cooperation and strengthened their efforts in the War on Terror, terrorist organizations are still growing in strength and influence throughout the region. U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) provides African nations and regional organizations a coordination point to help address security and related needs.  I strongly support General Ward, and his efforts as the AFRICOM Commander to focus on working alongside Africans to help to build their preparedness and ability to respond to security issues, humanitarian crises and development in government and economy.  However, we must ensure this new African Command is adequately resourced.  Admiral Blair and Lt. Gen. Maples both assured me that they would maintain the focus on the emerging threats within Africa. 

"I am also concerned with China’s increasing influence on the continent of Africa.  China has embarked on a new form of colonialism in Africa, grabbing as many natural resources as it can while disregarding the effect it has on the people of that continent.  For example, China is currently Zimbabwe's largest investor, including arms sales, but watches from the sidelines as President Mugabe destroys the future of Zimbabwe.  Since 1995, trade between Africa and China has dramatically increased from $4 Billion to $100 Billion.  This disproportionate economic influence by China in Africa is troubling as Africa’s smaller developing competitors are being undercut.

"I also questioned the Directors about their plans for intelligence gathering regarding North Korea.  North Korea has continued its sale of ballistic missiles and associated material to several countries, including Iran.  It also continues to pursue its nuclear ambitions in an effort to de-stabilize East Asia.  In 1998, our nation was caught off-guard by the ballistic missile capabilities of North Korea.  That year, the CIA issued a report claiming that North Korea would not have a long-range ballistic missile capability for at least 10 to 15 years.  [Retired] General Shalikashvili testified under oath to the same. And then, about two weeks later, Kim Jong Il, operating under his own timeline, sent a ballistic missile over Japan.  The responsibility for protecting the United States against a ballistic missile attack is an increasingly important role. We need to remain vigilant across the globe to ensure we are never caught off-guard again. 

“We must continue to fight extremism wherever it exists.  I was glad today to have the opportunity to question Admiral Blair and Lt. Gen. Maples, and appreciated their candor and commitment to ensuring the intelligence community meets this goal.  I will continue to lead the effort in Congress to ensure we have the resources necessary to achieve this vision.”


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