Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: March 18, 2009
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO): Posture Hearing on U.S. Southern Command, Northern Command, Africa Command, and Joint Forces Command
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s posture hearing on U.S. Southern Command, Northern Command, Africa Command and Joint Forces Command:
“The committee will come to order. Today’s hearing is part of our annual series of posture hearings with Combatant Commanders. I am very pleased to welcome Admiral Stavridis of the U.S. Southern Command, General Renuart of the U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, General Mattis of the U.S. Joint Forces Command and the Supreme Allied Commander Transformation for NATO, and General Ward of U.S. Africa Command. We are honored to have all four of you with us today.
“I also want to extend my gratitude and appreciation to all the servicemen and women whom you command. They provide an invaluable service to our country, and we are in their debt.
“Every day, each of your commands takes on intractable challenges that are not always part of the morning headlines but are, nevertheless, vital to our national security. For the sake of brevity, I will mention only a few of these key issues.
“In Latin America, narco-syndicates have stained the streets in Juarez, Tijuana, and elsewhere in Mexico with the blood of criminals and innocents alike as drug lords struggle to survive against a Mexican government-led crackdown and inter-gang warfare.
“The impact of this violence on our border communities concerns me much more than the near-term stability of the Mexican state, which I consider to be fundamentally sound. I would like to hear from Generals Mattis and Renuart about the nature of the threat and what we have been doing to help our Mexican neighbors fight this scourge.
“Turning to the rest of the region, over much of the last decade, a growing number of countries seem to have removed their welcome mats, leaving the United States with fewer allies with whom we can continue to build strong military-to-military partnerships.
“The implications of this trend for our ability to conduct counter-narcotics and other operations merit careful monitoring. Admiral, I welcome your thoughts on this trend as well as places where we might have opportunities to partner in new ways.
“General Ward, congratulations on your efforts so far. In short order, you have brought Africa Command from being little more than a concept to becoming a fully operational combatant command with robust interagency participation.
“As AFRICOM continues to plan and execute its mission set, it seems to me that improving the COCOM’s strategic communications is your primary challenge. Your task is to explain how working with our African partners to promote stability and security on the continent is consistent with our core national security interests. It is tough to draw the linkage from the work you do today to preventing the coups, regional wars, and man-made disasters that hopefully will never happen in the future, but that is precisely what you must do.
“Beyond your strategic communication challenges, the work of AFRICOM has raised other concerns. A lot of the requirements inherent in promoting stability and security within the African continent do not at first glance appear to be military tasks. Your command must be careful that just by virtue of its size, it does not squeeze out efforts by our civilian agencies and organization, such as the State Department and USAID. If those organizations lack capability or capacity, the answer is not to fill the void with a military-led effort, but instead grow those organizations to meet the requirement.
“And, where your command is present, you must act in a manner so that your efforts are not misconstrued to be heavy-handed or neo-colonial. To do otherwise is to risk a setback that not only complicates a potentially friendly African nation’s development, but causes us undue risk in our national security.
“I now turn to my good friend and colleague, our distinguished Ranking Member from New York, John McHugh, for any opening remarks that he would like to make.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)