Thursday, March 25, 2010

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton - Hearing on the FY 2011 Budget Requests from U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton - Hearing on the FY 2011 Budget Requests from U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea
Ike Skelton, Chairman
March 25, 2010

Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton
Hearing on the FY 2011 Budget Requests from U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea

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 U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Korea:

“Today the committee will continue its posture hearings with Admiral Robert Willard, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command and General “Skip” Sharp, Commander of U.S. Forces Korea. At the outset, I want to welcome you both back to the committee, and thank you for your excellent leadership. I also want to thank the troops that you lead, along with their families, for their incredible service and personal sacrifice.

“There is an ever present danger that we in Washington are so focused on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq that security challenges elsewhere in the world will not get the attention they merit. More concretely, as a result of the last nine years of operations, the readiness posture of all the combatant commands outside the Middle East has suffered, creating heightened strategic risk. There are clear examples of these problems in the Asia-Pacific, and I believe that we ignore them at our peril.

“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 ten billion dollars. The changes being planned as part of that move will not only affect our bilateral relationship with Japan; they will shape our strategic posture throughout the critical Asia-Pacific region for 50 years or more.

“Yet the path forward remains unclear. Japan is reassessing the agreement to move troops from Okinawa to Guam. It does not appear that the budget includes sufficient funds to accomplish the agreement -- and the Environmental Protection Agency has identified problems with the rebasing plan’s environmental impacts. We must get this right, and I assure you that this committee will work to ensure that we do.

“Last year North Korea launched a Taepo-Dong-2 missile over Japan; conducted a second nuclear test; kicked out inspectors; pulled out of the Six Party Talks; and restarted its nuclear facilities. All of this occurred in the context of an uncertain leadership and succession environment that may have fed some of these very concerning events.

“At the same time, our presence in South Korea is transforming. We are undertaking tour normalizations in Korea and substantially relocating our forces, an effort we will hear today has now been postponed for several years. There are also questions about how the new U.S.-South Korea command relationship, starting in 2012, will work. I am most interested in an update on these issues during today’s discussion.

“Never to be forgotten in this region, of course, is China. China recently suspended high-level military and other contacts with the U.S. in response to a U.S. arms sale to Taiwan. While China’s announced defense budget increase for this year is less than it has been in the past, their budget is still growing rapidly and the linkage between their stated strategic intentions and their actions remains unclear in certain areas. China conducted an unexpected mid-course missile interception test earlier this year- and reports of cyber-attacks from China against Google and other large U.S. companies continue to be troubling.

“We must be proactively engaged in the Asia-Pacific region 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. At the same time, we must ensure that our force posture allows us to deter or to confront any security challenge that might emerge in this part of the world. We have difficult work to do to get there. I am pleased that the Department of Defense and Obama administration have already taken a number of positive steps in this direction and I hope to see more as we move forward.

“I now turn to my able Ranking Member, Buck McKeon, for any statement he may wish to make.”


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