Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: March 24, 2009
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Posture Hearing on U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Forces Korea
Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s posture hearing on U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. European Command, and U.S. Forces Korea:
“Today the committee will continue its annual series of posture hearings with Combatant Commanders. I’m very pleased to welcome Admiral Timothy Keating, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command; General Bantz Craddock, Commander of the U.S. European Command and Supreme Allied Commander of NATO; and General “Skip” Sharp, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea. At the outset, I want to thank you all for your leadership. I also want to thank the troops that you lead, along with their families, for their incredible service and personal sacrifice.
“Over the last several years, we have been so focused on Iraq that a broad range of security challenges and potential flashpoints elsewhere in the world have not gotten the attention they merit. The readiness posture of all the combatant commands outside the Middle East has suffered, creating an unacceptable level of strategic risk. There are some clear examples of this across the Asia-Pacific region’s rapidly changing landscape and in Europe as well. We ignore these risks at our peril. We must ensure that we get our level of strategic risk back within acceptable limits and restore our ability to react quickly to unforeseen crises.
“Let me review just a few of the daunting challenges ahead in the Asia-Pacific. The rebasing of U.S. Marines from Japan to Guam is one of the largest movements of military assets in decades, estimated to cost over $10 billion. Yet it is not clear that DOD has fully thought through its plans to support the Marines on Guam, or those remaining on Okinawa. As Admiral Keating knows, a delegation from this committee recently returned from Okinawa and Guam. The changes being planned as part of that move affect not only our bilateral relationship with Japan; they will shape our strategic posture throughout the critical Asia-Pacific region for 50 years or more. I am deeply concerned that the current plans do not address all the concerns that would impact our ability to train fully and also to operate and fight in the region if we must. We must get this right and this committee will work with the Department to ensure that we do.
“In Korea, the plans for relocation appear solid, but there are remaining questions about how the upcoming transformation of the U.S.-South Korea command relationship will account for the range of scenarios that could emerge on the Korean peninsula. At the same time, North Korea has threatened to test a missile that could theoretically reach the west coast of the United States, and serious concerns remain about the regime’s nuclear capabilities. China has just announced another double-digit increase in its military budget, and security relations with China remain strained following the harassment of a U.S. naval vessel by Chinese ships in the South China Sea. India’s relations with Pakistan remain strained following the Mumbai terrorist bombing last year. Throughout Indonesia, the Philippines and much of Southeast Asia, the threat of terrorism, violence and instability remains extraordinarily high. And while we’ve been preoccupied in the Middle East, China and others have been expanding their influence in Latin America, Africa and around the globe.
“In Europe, the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia was a stark reminder that our security challenges in the region are still very real. It is a region with real and latent frictions, including the ever present instability in the Balkans. EUCOM plays an important role in the stability and security of the continent. NATO is also as important as ever. Still, we have come to regard NATO chiefly as a resource to be employed elsewhere. We shouldn’t forget its original purpose. While closer ties with Russia are to be encouraged, Russia’s actions in Georgia, its ties with Venezuela, and its involvement in the natural gas crisis this winter remind us that NATO is first and foremost an organization for collective security in Europe.
“I continue to be deeply concerned about NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. The administration will shortly put forward a strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. What is clear to me is that, while additional American investment and leadership is needed, our allies must do more as well. The problems from that region affect us all. I know NATO allies have increased their contributions to that mission in recent years, but I remain concerned about the restrictions some nations put on the employment of their forces. In some cases this is a question about national will, but to the extent those decisions reflect concerns about capability, I encourage EUCOM to continue to do the sorts of capacity-building efforts that have shown such a positive impact over the years, both with our NATO allies and with other regional partners.
“This is a time when we should be proactively engaged in the Asia-Pacific region and in Europe on multiple fronts, and realize that our own actions may well influence the choices and actions of others. We must be able to pursue opportunities for security cooperation with regional allies and partners, and ensure that our force posture will allow us to deter or to confront any security challenge that might emerge in these parts of the world. I am pleased to see the Department of Defense and the Obama administration already taking a number of positive steps in this direction, and I hope to see more as we move forward.
“However, before we begin testimony, I turn to Ranking Member John McHugh for any statement he may wish to make.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)