WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services (SASC) Committee, today delivered the following opening statement at the SASC hearing on U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM):
As prepared for delivery:
Now, more than ever, the threats we face are no longer confined to the geographic boundaries that divide our Combatant Commands. What happens in Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa directly impacts the security of the United States. General Jacoby, this reality is reflected in your prepared remarks where you state that the U.S. “homeland is increasingly vulnerable to an array of threats around the world.”
This is particularly true with regards to Iran and North Korea. North Korea continues to escalate tensions in the region through provocative statements, military exercises, nuclear tests, and the development of a road-mobile missile system. Additionally, the recent agreement with Iran has done nothing to halt the regime’s pursuit of a nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it here to our shores or those of our allies.
I’m encouraged that the President has decided to bolster our homeland missile defense system through fourteen additional ground-based-interceptors (GBI) on the West Coast. However, I remain concerned that our ability to defend against a growing threat from Iran is inadequate. That’s why I remain committed to pushing efforts to increase the reliability of our GMD system, including the development of a new kill vehicle for the GBI as well as an additional radar system for the East Coast. General Jacoby, I look to you to provide the committee with your thoughts on the importance of improving the reliability of the GMD system.
In our hemisphere, violence is escalating throughout Central and South America and Mexico as a result of ruthless transnational criminal organizations. These groups command multi-billion dollar networks that smuggle drugs, weapons, humans and just about anything that will make money. Today, their reach extends far beyond Latin America. They now operate in West Africa, Europe, and Asia and have a presence in more than 1,200 cities in the United States. I look to both of our witnesses today to update the committee on the growing threat from these groups and what’s being done to combat their spread.
General Kelly, SOUTHCOM has long suffered from resource shortfalls. Sequestration has only made your situation worse. You say in your statement that budget cuts over the next ten years will have a “disproportionately large impact on [your] operations, exercises, and engagement activities” and that our relationships, leadership, and influence in the region are “paying the price.” I hope you talk in more detail today about what the continued under-resourcing of SOUTHCOM means for our security interests in the region.
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