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February 13, 2020

SASC Chairman Inhofe Remarks for the Record at NORTHCOM and STRATCOM Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, submitted opening remarks for the record this morning at a SASC hearing on United States Northern Command and United States Strategic Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2021.

Witnesses included: Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command; and General Terry O’Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

As Prepared for Delivery:

Good morning. The Committee meets today to receive testimony on United States Strategic Command and Northern Command.  I welcome our witnesses and thank them for their service: Admiral Charles Richard, Commander of U.S. Strategic Command; and General Terry O’Shaughnessy, Commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command.

This Committee’s top priority is ensuring the effective implementation of the National Defense Strategy, which identifies competition with China and Russia as “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security.”

The military lost $550 billion under sequestration – $550 billion compared to what the Obama Administration thought DOD needed, even before we acknowledged the need to compete with Russia and China. We can’t make up for lost time, but adding back that lost money over the next four years is the bare minimum we need to implement the NDS.

Thanks to President Trump’s leadership, we reset defense spending in 2017, and we are beginning to rebuild the military after many years of neglect. But the hole is so deep, work has just begun.

One of the most neglected areas in the last two decades is our nuclear enterprise. While Obama claimed to fund nuclear programs to meet the commitments made during the New START debate, his administration artificially kept budgets low by delaying and scaling back nuclear programs. What’s worse, they underfunded infrastructure, people, and research – and our nuclear enterprise is paying the price for that now. 

I am grateful to President Trump for restoring the required levels of funding and attention to these programs in order to make sure we do not fall even further behind Russia – and in some areas, China – than we already are.

Admiral Richard, as commander of U.S. STRATCOM, you are responsible for the operation of U.S. nuclear forces, but you are also a senior advocate for nuclear programs.

A major recommendation of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review was to field a low-yield warhead for ballistic missiles, to strengthen deterrence against Russia. Last week, the DOD announced that the Navy has fielded the low-yield warhead on U.S. submarines. I commend the DOD and the National Nuclear Security Administration for moving from policy recommendation to deployment in two years. I hope we see more of this collaboration and speed in the future.

General O’Shaughnessy, you have operational responsibility for defense of the United States homeland. The Missile Defense Review was released about a year ago now, and I look forward to your assessment of our progress toward effective defense against North Korean missile threats in particular.

Given the recent delays in some missile defense programs, I am also interested in your views on whether we can afford to wait another decade to delay new ground-based interceptors, or whether we need to act sooner.

I also know that defense of the homeland requires extensive use of the electromagnetic spectrum. We must balance warfighter and commercial use of spectrum to preserve our national interests.

General O’Shaughnessy, I would also like to hear your assessment of the situation along our border with Mexico, where President Trump has succeeded in encouraging Mexico to improve border security on its own side.

As you know, last August, I traveled to Matamoros, Mexico, where senior Mexican military officials briefed me their enhanced border security efforts, including deploying thousands of new personnel.  It is my understanding that Mexico has continued to increase its presence along our shared border since then.

Finally, General O’Shaughnessy, I want to commend NORTHCOM’s efforts to assist other agencies in slowing the spread of novel coronavirus here in the United States.  I know that we are in the early stages of this challenge, but NORTHCOM’s assistance in providing housing for quarantines has allowed our health system to stay ahead of the curve.  It would be useful to hear your assessment of what role you expect to play moving forward.

I look forward to your testimony, gentlemen. Senator Reed.


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