House Armed Services Committee: Hearing on Considerations for a Grand Strategy for the United States
For Immediate Release: Sept. 16, 2008
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO)
Hearing on Considerations for a Grand Strategy for the United States
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on Considerations for a Grand Strategy for the United States:
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Armed Services Committee hearing on considerations for a grand strategy for the United States. Appearing before us today is Dr. Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State for the Clinton Administration. Welcome, Madame Secretary. And I’d like to thank you especially for your understanding and patience as we tried to put this hearing together. It is very unusual that we have only a single witness; we like to present a variety of viewpoints for consideration. But in this case, although the staff worked very hard and both Ranking Member Hunter and I made personal appeals, we were unable to find a counterpart to sit with you. Although we won’t get them here today, we will continue to try to provide our Members with that range of viewpoints in the future.
“Today is the third in a series of three hearings on grand strategy – the first two were held earlier this summer by the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. The idea has been to provide Members with a range of insights from former senior policy officials and academics because regardless of who is elected this November, the impending transfer of administrations offers a potential opportunity to reexamine the nation's grand strategy, and perhaps make some needed adjustments.
“Today, there is a fundamental challenge affecting the national security of the United States which has not received the notice and consideration it deserves. There does not seem to be a comprehensive strategy for advancing U.S. interests. This strategic void detracts from almost every policy effort advanced by the United States Government. Our international actions can be likened to a pickup sandlot baseball game rather than a solid course of action.
“Major policies are sometimes inconsistent and contradictory and so we sometimes suffer from a splintering of national power, and an inability to coherently address threats and reassure and cooperate with allies around the world.
“The word strategy has military roots, coming from the Greek word for ‘generalship,’ but the concept of a strategy extends well beyond that. To me, it means a commonly agreed upon description of critical U.S. interests and how to advance them using all elements of national power – economic, diplomatic, and military.
“When President Eisenhower took office, he commissioned the Solarium Project to review strategies for dealing with the Soviet Union. After a competitive process in which three teams of advisers promoted the merits of three strategies, he decided to continue the policy of containment developed by President Truman, and did so with a largely unified administration.
“The next President would be well advised to engage in and personally lead a Solarium-type approach to determining a strategy for today’s rapidly changing world. To ensure that a new strategy for America can truly develop support across the political spectrum, Congress should be involved in the process. We can shape the debate, in ways such as this hearing, and in the strategy documents we require by statute. And, in order to build support for any new strategy, the general outline of the debate should be shared with and involve the American people.
“I look forward to hearing your testimony today, Madame Secretary, and I hope that my colleagues will join me in urging the next President to address this problem and join with me in a conversation, both in Congress and with the American people, about what today’s strategy should be.
“With that, I’d like to turn to my good friend and Ranking Member, Duncan Hunter, for any comments he may have – but before I do that, let me also acknowledge that while we don’t know what the rest of the year will bring, this may be the last hearing for Mr. Hunter and while we will recognize your distinguished service at another time, I did want to point that out here and thank you for your many dedicated years here on the Armed Services Committee.”