Ike Skelton, Chairman
March 10, 2010
Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton: Hearing on the FY 2011 Budget Requests from the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Joint Forces Command
Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget requests from the U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Joint Forces Command:
“Welcome ladies and gentlemen, to the posture hearing for the Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for U.S. European Command, U.S. Africa Command, and U.S. Joint Forces Command. Appearing before us today is Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN Commander, U.S. European Command; General William E. “Kip” Ward, USA, Commander, U.S. Africa Command; and General James N. Mattis, USMC, Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command.
“Welcome, gentlemen. As has been the practice the last several years, a very compressed hearing calendar forces us to consider your testimony together in a group, when really I feel that each of your commands deserves its own separate hearing.
“Certainly, I wish I could devote the entirety of my opening statement to one command at a time, but the schedule does not allow it and so we’ll have to make the best of it.
“First, U.S. European Command: Europe remains critical to our national security. Strong trans-Atlantic ties have endured difficult times over the years, and challenges in those relationships present themselves today as well.
“Today, we tend to think of our European friends and allies solely as partners for operations outside of that theater. But we should not so quickly put aside what the Russian incursion into Georgia two summers ago reminded us – real regional challenges do exist in Europe, and many of our allies rely on us to guarantee security and stability of Europe.
“One shining example of our commitment to security is in the Balkans, where after nearly 15 years, the U.S. presence in Bosnia-Herzegovina is down to a handful and the NATO mission in Kosovo has brought genuine stability.
“We are all watching the NATO mission in Afghanistan very closely. Many of our allies are making considerable contributions to that effort and sadly suffering the casualties to prove it. Some, however, are not able to perform all missions. Where this is a matter of concern regarding capability, and not national will, I encourage you to continue to find ways to build their capacity, and I’d like to hear your ideas along those lines.
“Next, U.S. Africa Command: After a beginning of fits and starts, it looks to me like AFRICOM has finally gotten its feet underneath it. You have worked very hard to bring together parts of three other combatant commands. And until President Obama laid out a clear vision of U.S. national policy towards Africa last July, you had been operating under somewhat vague policy guidance. Now, it seems like things are finally coming together. And none too soon, from Al-Qaeda in East Africa, to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb to Al-Shabaab in Somalia, we see that violent extremism on the continent is on the rise.
“AFRICOM has done some impressive things while working with its African partners to promote African stability and security, and that is a worthy effort. The effect the U.S. Navy and its Africa Partnership Station has had on developing African maritime security is a great example.
“Still, I have thought for some time, General Ward, that when it comes to your command’s activities that are not clearly counter-terrorism, your challenge has been to describe them in terms of a clear linkage to U.S. national security interests. I hope you’ll emphasize that point during your testimony today.
“Last but not least, is U.S. Joint Forces Command. JFCOM is perhaps one of the most opaque commands for an outsider because so much of what you do is conceptual. Sometimes, it feels like one has to be an experienced practitioner of the art of war to understand it. Still, that intellectual space is exactly where the next war is going to be won, before we even know who we’ll fight against.
“At last month’s hearing on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, I observed that the QDR did not pay enough attention to the operational needs of our ‘muddy-boot warriors.’ The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made clear that the superiority of individuals and small units engaged in close combat is essential if the United States is going to win these sorts of wars. These are our most effective weapon systems.
“I understand Joint Forces Command is making great strides in developing innovative tools to make sure our small units are fully, realistically trained. I think we owe our ground combat teams the same sort of preparation, in terms of simulations and other training tools, that we give our pilots, for instance, and I hope you’ll talk about your efforts in that regard today.
“Now, I’ll turn it over to the Ranking Member, the gentleman from California, Mr. Buck McKeon for any comments he’d care to make.”
HASC (House Armed Services Committee)