Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member, Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09), made the following statement at today’s posture hearing for US Central Command, Special Ops Command and Transportation Command:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I would also like to thank our witnesses for appearing here today. General Mattis, Admiral McRaven, and General Fraser, it is good to see you before our committee once again. Thank you all for your testimony and your service. In particular, General Mattis, as I know you will be stepping down from your position as the Commander of CENTCOM soon, I would like to take this opportunity to once again thank you for your many years of hard work and sacrifice. I know our nation is grateful for all you have done.
“It is appropriate that these three commands appear together today. For the last twelve years, since the attacks of 9/11, the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, and the invasion of Iraq, these three commands have been operating together nonstop. As our nation redeploys our brave men and women out of Afghanistan, that pace of operations will diminish, but I do not expect it to end.
“General Mattis, the litany of challenges you face in the Middle East remains extensive. Picking just a few, the war in Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear problem, the numerous challenges posed by and in Pakistan, and the civil war in Syria all pose substantial challenges to our nation and the region. I will mention just a few now and we can explore them all during the hearing.
“In Afghanistan, the President has rightly announced the redeployment of about half of our remaining troops over the next year. However, not only have we not decided on the post-2014 enduring presence in Afghanistan to continue training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces and conducting counterterrorism missions, but considerable debate remains about the level of support for the Afghan government over the forthcoming years. You made news yesterday, suggesting that you believed that we should leave about 13,600 troops in Afghanistan, and I hope you can explain that reasoning to us. It remains important to our interests that we be appropriately postured in Afghanistan to defeat the remains of al Qaeda and prevent them from reestablishing a safe haven there.
“Admiral McRaven, it’s very good to see you again. We get an enormous return on what is a relatively small investment in our Special Operations Forces. SOF’s contributions to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are renown, but the lesser known roles in training the Philippine Armed Forces to deal with their violent extremists, and our African partners in AMISOM to fight al Shabbab in Somalia are just two examples of how very valuable our SOF is. Columbia’s success against the FARC is a third. I think we will have even more opportunity to build on those examples of a light touch with outsized impact in other places across the globe in the future, especially with Afghanistan drawing down. That won’t do much for your optempo, I understand, but those opportunities, combined with your force’s expertise, provide a real chance to reduce the factors that cause instability well before there is a crisis. Of course, our military is only one part of those efforts and I’ve spoken at length about the importance of a robust diplomacy and development strategy elsewhere, but today we’re focusing on what SOF can do. To that end, then, I’d like to hear how you’re going to meet that demand and what we can do to help you.
“Furthermore, we know that every part of the Department of Defense will face budget pressure and I am interested in how you think these cuts will impact SOCOM. Please, take a moment to discuss any concerns you have about this and those steps you are taking, and believe we should take, to address these concerns.
“General Fraser, TRANSCOM is a critical enabler, and at the moment you are facing an enormous challenge in helping get our troops and the tens of billions of dollars of equipment out of Afghanistan. I don’t think I am overstating things by saying this is the most complex logistics challenge we’ve ever faced. I hope you can update us on how that is going, the steps you’ve taken to make this happen, where you see remaining challenges, and where we can help.
“For example, you rely heavily Air Force planes and Navy ships to move cargo. I am concerned that as the budget situation negatively impacts Air Force or Navy procurement or readiness, this will have an impact on you. I hope you can take a few minutes to address this concern and your other financial concerns, including challenges with the Transportation Working Capital Fund.
“Finally, I hope all of you will spend some time discussing the current budget environment. I would like to hear how sequestration or having to operate under a continuing resolution for the remainder of the year will affect you. General Fraser, will sequestration force you to raise rates for cargo shipment? General Mattis, what concerns do you have about the availability of aircraft carriers or readiness of forces to be deployed to your area of operations? Admiral McRaven, how do across the board cuts affect your operations?
“Thank you again for your appearance here today.”