TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM, TRANSCOM Commanders Testify Before Senate Armed Services Committee
Subject: "U.S. Africa Command and U.S. Transportation Command in Review of the Defense Authorization Request for FY2014 and the Future Years Defense Program"
Chaired by: Senator Carl Levin (D-MI)
Witnesses: Army General Carter Ham, Commander, U.S. Africa Command; Air Force General William Fraser III, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command
Location: 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C.
Time: 9:30 a.m. EST, Date: Thursday, March 7, 2013
SENATOR CARL LEVIN (D-MI): Good morning, everybody.
I want to welcome our witnesses, General William Fraser, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, and General Carter Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, to testify this morning on the programs and the budget that's needed to meet the current and the future requirements within their respective commands.
Please extend, on behalf of our committee, our gratitude to the men and women of your commands and their families for the many sacrifices that they've made on behalf of our nation. And thanks to both of you for your long careers of leadership and service.
General Ham, this is likely to be your final posture hearing. So on behalf of the committee, let me say that we've enjoyed working with you in various positions. We wish you and your family all the best as you embark upon another adventure in your life.
Your job as commander of AFRICOM has been truly challenging in coordinating, in conducting a major multinational effort, and in building relationships throughout the continent of Africa. You and your staff at AFRICOM are to be commended for your performance in this effort. We thank you, sir.
The multitude of security and military-related challenges across your area of responsibility have been well-known to the committee since the inception of the Africa Command. The issues associated with postwar Libya, ongoing conflict in Somalia, evolving threats in Northwest Africa, Sudan's support to Iran and its proxies, and enduring regional conflicts in Central Africa continue, and in some cases have gained momentum since the command was standed up.
Given the Department of Defense's economy-of-force effort in the AFRICOM AOR, this committee has sought to provide AFRICOM greater flexibility and broader authorities to respond to the unique threats faced by your command, General Ham. And we look forward to learning more about the challenges that you face today and how we could enhance your command's ability to conduct operations.
There are three areas I want to call out for special attention. First, the attack in Benghazi last September was a poignant and powerful reminder of our need and the public's expectation for a capability to respond in real time to crises around the world.
This committee recently heard from the secretary of defense and from General Dempsey on the department's response to the Benghazi attack. It is clear that AFRICOM continues to struggle to secure basing rights and access which would allow for such a response or allowing us to conduct day-to-day certain military operations with partners in the region.
Moreover, AFRICOM has received less in the way of resources and support than other geographic commands. And this problem indeed may grow in a resource-constrained environment.
So we look forward to learning of the action that the department has taken to ensure AFRICOM is equipped in the future to respond or, more importantly, to secure the intelligence to warn of such an impending attack.
Second, AFRICOM's efforts to combat the threat posed by al-Qaida, its associated forces and other violent extremists have seen some success, but new challenges to sustained progress seem to emerge daily.
In Somalia, AFRICOM's investments are showing promise as the African Union forces continue to expand their territorial control and the nation's Somalia government is provided additional time and space to build its capacity and its capabilities.
The committee looks forward to learning of AFRICOM's plan to consider building a more traditional military-to-military relationship with the Somali military. The military operations led by General Ham, which helped bring about the fall of the Qadhafi regime and the resulting outflow of small arms and other advanced munitions, has drastically changed the security dynamics in North Africa.
Over the past few months, al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has used its kidnapping ransoms to destabilize the nation of Mali and to threaten nations across the region. While successful French military action, enabled by intelligence and aerial refueling support from AFRICOM, has forced AQIM out of the population centers in northern Mali, the threat of terrorism emanating from Northwest Africa remains potent, and the region is likely to be a source of instability for years to come.
That instability is complicated further by key smuggling routes that move drugs, weapons, terrorists and money, which finance terrorist and other transnational criminal activity around the world. This committee looks forward to hearing your views, General Ham, on this dynamic situation, as well.
Lastly, Operation Observant Compass, AFRICOM's named operation to assist the multinational military effort to remove Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants from the battlefield, remains of great interest to this committee. This is something where Senator Inhofe has been particularly involved and taken a leadership role. This committee has sought to ensure that this mission is adequately resourced with additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as flexible logistics authorities, to better support the non- traditional composure of this operation. General Ham, we look forward, again, to your assessment of those operations and your report of, hopefully, any progress that's been during the last year.
General Fraser, we know that things have been busy for you, as well, ever since you assumed your command at TRANSCOM. TRANSCOM has played a critical role in supporting our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. TRANSCOM now faces the daunting task of returning thousands upon thousands of items of equipment and containers of material as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan. Less well-known but no less important has been TRANSCOM's role in supporting various humanitarian and relief efforts around the world. We applaud those efforts, as well.
TRANSCOM is also facing threats to its infrastructure on a day- to-day basis. At TRANSCOM, you communicate over the unclassified Internet with many private-sector entities that are central to the Department of Defense's ability to support deployment operations in the transportation and the shipping industries, in particular. Much of the other critical communications and operations of the Defense Department can be conducted over the classified Department of Defense Internet service, which is not connected to the public Internet and, therefore, is much more protected against eavesdropping and disruption by computer network attacks. You've been quoted, General, in the press as stating that TRANSCOM is the most attacked command in the Department of Defense, and we'd like to hear today about what those challenges are and any progress that you've made in dealing with the problems.
TRANSCOM is facing many, many other challenges -- the ready reserve force, a group of cargo ships held in readiness by the maritime administration, is aging and will need to be modernized with newer ships over the next 10 years. Sealift support is critical to our capabilities. We have relied on sealift to deliver more than 90 percent of the cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan. Another challenging area is the civil reserve air fleet, or the CRAF program, and I'm going to put my remarks about that program into the record.
And finally, this committee has sought to ensure that combatant commanders have what they need to succeed in their missions, and we will continue to support the requirements of our warfighters in these conflicts. However, this year's posture hearings with our combatant commanders are being held under the specter of budget sequestration, which threatens to impose arbitrary cuts on our military forces unrelated to our national security requirements.
As the committee heard last Tuesday, sequestration is already having an operational impact in the CENTCOM area, for instance. So General Ham and General Fraser, please address the impacts and the risks associated with sequestration and the expiration of a continuing resolution, which is also looming, as it applies to your commands. Senator Inhofe?
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thanks, Mr. Chairman. And I think your opening comments covered pretty much of it, and I do agree with your concerns. I know, General Ham, that it's hard for me to believe that it's been two years now that you've been at that helm, and we talked about some of the problems that were coming up when you came on the job, and some of those problems are still there. We'll have a chance to talk about that, and I appreciate it. General Fraser, thank both of you for your service.
Back when we were talking about sequestration -- it would be about six weeks ago, now -- I made the comment that if it becomes inevitable, which we didn't think -- I didn't think it would. And I know some of us had legislation that would have changed that, including some at this table. However, I said in the event that it becomes a reality and we have to live with the top line that has been dictated, wouldn't it be better if the decisions that were made to reach that were made by the service chiefs?
And I talked to all five service chiefs, and they all agreed, number one, that, that would be less devastating and, number two, that it would be something that they would have time to do and put it together. And I think that's happened, and a lot has happened since then. We know that the House has got a program that's primarily the CR -- doesn't really address the sequestration quite as much -- but I will be wanting to get a response from you on if you think that's a good idea. Hopefully, that still might be a possibility that we could get the expertise of the service chiefs making these decisions, as opposed to the president and his formula across the board.
The AFRICOM AOR is, what, 54 countries and 12 million square miles? I felt very good when we were able to establish AFRICOM as a separate command, however I still believe it's under-resourced, and I've talked to you about that in the past. As the squeeze takes place in the Middle East and we have the terrorism going down through Djibouti and the Horn of Africa, we know what's happening down there. It's not just in North Africa, but it's spreading. I know you talked about and the chairman talked about the Joseph Kony.
I know that's a tough thing to deal with, but this isn't just one madman who is mutilating kids. This is a part of a terrorist organization, and it has to be treated that way. And it's been a tough, heavy lifting for you, so I know you've done a great job and I look forward to asking some of the specific questions. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe. General Ham?
GENERAL CARTER HAM: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, Senator Inhofe and members of the committee, and thank you especially for this opportunity to discuss the contributions of the women and men of United States Africa Command. I'm honored to be here today with my friend and colleague, General Will Fraser, whose support has been so essential to our activities in Africa.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the formation of Africa Command. We have evolved considerably since 2008, driven in part by events on the ground and in part by our own rethinking about the mission. Our operational capabilities and capacities have markedly increased, and our security cooperation engagements have matured both in focus and effectiveness. Our approach seeks to address the near- term threats to our national security while simultaneously building partnerships and fostering regional cooperation, which contribute to achieving longer-term U.S. objectives in Africa.
This past year has seen significant positive developments in Africa, as well as some sobering reminders of the threats inherent in the continent's security challenges. Mr. Chairman, as you mentioned, in East Africa, al-Shabab has been weakened by the sustained operations of African forces with the support and enabling assistance from the United States and others. Somalia still faces significant political, economic and security challenges, but the Somali people now have something they haven't had for a very long time: hope for a better future. And I'm proud that we've played a role in that.
In Central Africa, African troops, advised and assisted by U.S. Special Forces, have achieved some significant tactical gains against the Lord's Resistance Army and its leader, Joseph Kony. Today, we are seeing increased levels of LRA defections, fewer LRA attacks and enhanced cooperation between the military forces in the region. In the Gulf of Guinea, maritime forces of the many nations in the region are increasingly cooperating to counter piracy, oil bunkering and illicit trafficking. Most notably, two of the African Union's regional economic communities -- the Economic Communities of West African States and Central Africa -- have, for the very first time, crafted rules and procedures that facilitate maritime security cooperation. And I'm very proud that AFRICOM has helped bring these nations and these regional organizations together.
I highlight these three -- Somalia, counter-LRA and Gulf of Guinea security -- because they, at least to me, offer great examples of what can be achieved through an African-led endeavor to which we provide support and enabling capabilities. The next area where such an approach may be useful is Mali. We've supported France's request for assistance and are actively supporting African nations deploying to operate in Mali.
Mr. Chairman, Senator Inhofe, while the increasing willingness of many African partners to actively address shared threats is encouraging, other trends in the region are deeply concerning. Terrorist organizations in West and North Africa are increasing their connectivity. The loss of four Americans in Libya and three more in Algeria underscores the threat presented by this growing network.
And although each terrorist organization individually poses a threat to regional stability, the increasing collaboration amongst these organizations increases the danger that they collectively present. And I'm convinced that if left unchecked, this network will develop into one that poses a greater and more imminent threat to U.S. interests.
Countering the spread of violent extremist organizations has been our top priority. At the same time, we're tasked to focus on prevention through a very active partnership strategy. It remains clear that Africans must solve Africa's problems. The fiscal challenges that you mentioned now place Africa Command strategy to strengthen the capabilities of our partners at increased risk.
I'm concerned about the impacts resulting from the combined effects of sequestration and a continuing resolution. We've already had to make difficult decisions based on the availability of funds such as reducing reconnaissance flights. The budget reductions we face will cut theater security cooperation engagements and will reduce important joint and combined exercises. As the chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey has made clear, we will in fact be doing less with less.
We at AFRICOM, with the engaged support of the service chiefs, though, are not idly sitting on our hands. We're looking for new and innovative ways to address the many challenges in Africa. The Army's regionally aligned force, Navy's Africa Partnership Station and the Air Force counterpart Africa Partnership Flights are programs the Services have purposely designed to help us achieve our objectives. And we look forward to the capabilities of the Marine Corps' new Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, which will bring improvements in our crisis response capabilities.
Let me conclude by simply stating that it's been my great honor to serve with the dedicated soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians and colleagues from across the U.S. government who serve so unselfishly every day to advance our nation's interests in Africa. I depart in about a month, knowing that AFRICOM is in the best of hands. General Dave Rodriguez is an exemplary leader and an old friend. It will be my privilege to see him lead the women and men of the United States' Africa Command well into the future.
Lastly, Mr. Chairman, Senator Inhofe, members, I thank this committee for its unfailing support of our troops, their families and of the United States Africa Command, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you so much, General Ham. General Fraser.
GENERAL WILLIAM FRASER: Chairman Levin and Ranking Member Inhofe and distinguished members of the committee, it's an honor and a privilege to be with you here today representing the men and women of the United States Transportation Command. Our total force team of over 150,000 men and women, military and civilian, is dedicated to providing reliable and seamless logistical support to our war-fighters and their families around the globe.
It's also an honor to be here today appearing before you with my good friend and colleague General Carter Ham. Over the past two years I've had the opportunity to work with General Ham as he and his team made significant progress on the African continent and continue to meet the challenges of that expansive, diverse area of responsibility.
Carter and I go way back. We go much further back than just the last couple of years of his service in AFRICOM. And I've always admired his commitment to his people, his dedication to solving the toughest problems, and his selfless service. Carter, on behalf of all the men and women of the United States Transportation Command, we wish you and your family all the best in retirement. God bless.
Distinguished members of this committee, our active duty members, National Guard, Reserve, civil servants and merchant mariners and commercial partners must meet the challenges of the future. They have met the challenges of the past while maintaining a high operations tempo of combat operations which they are supporting, sustainment efforts, humanitarian relief and crisis action responses.
These efforts, from support following superstorm Sandy to developing innovative ways to maximize the through-put into and out of Afghanistan, to meeting the directed 68,000 troop reduction level by 30th of September 2012 were made possible by the U.S. TRANSCOM team of dedicated professionals committed to ensuring our joint force maintains global logistics superiority.
Our component and subordinate command team, comprised of Air Mobility Command led by General Paul Selva, Military Sealift Command led by Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, Surface Deployment and Distribution Command led by Major General Tom Richardson, and the Joint Naval and Capabilities Command led by Rear Admiral Scott Stearney, and the Joint Transportation Reserve Unit, led by Major General Dave Post continue their flawless execution of our command's mission.
I've had the opportunity to observe firsthand during my travels in Europe, Central Asia, the Pacific and all around the globe the support these world-class professionals provide, and I can tell you they are doing the nation's business magnificently, without fanfare and often in stressful conditions. I could not be prouder of this total force team.
As we continue to sustain our forces abroad, we're also working toward our goal of becoming the government's transportation and enabling capabilities provider of choice. To meet that goal we embarked on a comprehensive and collaborative five-year strategic plan which will tackle the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities for continuing to project national power and influence. This strategic plan positions us to respond effectively and efficiently to a rapidly changing operating environment while accounting for the dynamic fiscal landscape that we now face.
We continue to work with our customers and our lift providers to pursue smart transportation solutions to reduce the cost of operations. Strategic guidance requires a military that is smaller and leaner, while at the same time to be more agile, flexible and ready. As the global distribution synchronizer and distribution process owner, U.S. TRANSCOM is committed to working with the military services, the other combatant commands, government agencies, our allies and commercial partners to synchronize distribution planning and synergize our distribution initiatives.
This collaborative effort will ensure that we deliver a scalable and resilient global distribution network from point of origin to point of employment, meeting the needs of all operational and operating environments.
As we look forward to the future, we're also assessing the mission impact of funding reductions for this year and potentially beyond. Since U.S. TRANSCOM requirements are driven by our customer workload and readiness needs, as their demand signals decline, our workload will also be reduced. While the impacts of these reductions will not occur immediately, the long-term results will likely affect the business face of our commercial partners and our ability to support other combatant commands in the same manner as we do today.
In the coming months we'll continue to work closely with the military services and our commercial partners to mitigate the second and third order effects of these reductions on our airlift, sealift and surface capabilities and we'll keep you informed of our progress. Preserving our readiness remains critical to maintaining our capability to project power and provide support to our joint forces around the world.
Chairman, Ranking Member Inhofe and members of this committee, I want to thank you for your continued support of U.S. TRANSCOM, of our all of our men and women, military and civilian. I am grateful for this opportunity to appear before you today. I ask that my written statement be submitted for the record and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Your statement of course will be made part of the record and we thank you. I'll start with an eight-minute first round.
General Ham, you made reference to a reduction in flight hours, I believe, that have already been -- are the result of sequestration. Can you expand a bit on that?
GEN. HAM: Mr. Chairman, most of our operations are funded by the Services through the service components, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Special Operations for Africa Command. In two of those components, Navy and Air Force, we have had to constrain our flight operations because of the Service components' funding challenges.
Two specific examples. I've asked my Air Force commander to maintain a heightened alert posture with transport aircraft to move crisis -- the posture to move crisis response forces more readily. That requires him to sustain flight crews on a short leash, if you will, heightened alert posture. That eats into their normal training and sustainment flights and that's where the Air Force component is having difficulty having sufficient money to do both of those requirements.
On the Navy side it's similar. I'd prefer, Mr. Chairman, to give you the operational details in a classified response, but suffice to say that I've had to decrease the frequency of some operational reconnaissance flights, again because of the inability to fund the normal flight operations.
SEN. LEVIN: And that's already taken place?
GEN. HAM: It has, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
General, there's been some adjustments to the African -- AFRICOM Commander's In-Extremis Force and other contingency response forces which hopefully will put you in a stronger position to respond to a contingency. Has it -- have those changes already been made, and can you tell us what improvements might be the result?
GEN. HAM: The most notable change, Mr. Chairman, was on the 1st of October, a dedicated Commander's In-Extremis Force, CIF, was established for AFRICOM. This was long in the planning, as supported by Admiral McRaven and those in Special Operations Command. The unit actually is based in Colorado as part of the 10th Special Forces Group. They always have the immediate response element forward deployed in Europe and have since the 1st of October, where we have had to station that force in a number of different places in Europe.
There is still some work to be done. That force does not yet have all of its enablers in terms of intelligence, aviation support and some other capabilities that we would like that force to have, but it is a significant improvement from where we were prior to the 1st of October where the arrangement was that I shared the Commander's In- Extremis Force with Admiral Stavridis and European Command.
The other Services have made similar improvements. The Army's regionally aligned force -- I have a capability to, should there be an operational requirement, I can go to the Secretary of Defense and ask to use that force operationally should that be necessary. And General Amos and the Marine Corps have proposed a new Marine Corps Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force specifically tailored for crisis response in Africa that not yet formally approved, but we think that that will be available in the relatively near future, and I'm most appreciative to General Amos for making that force available.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. Now, the forward element that you've made reference to which is deployed in Europe, in your judgment, is it able to get to Africa more quickly actually from where it's deployed in Europe than it would be if it were somehow deployed in Africa? I know it sounds a little bit counterintuitive, but is it actually not the case that you can actually get from a -- particularly if it's in Italy or southern Europe -- to Africa more quickly because of the capabilities and the infrastructure than would be the case if you could find a location in Africa?
GEN. HAM: Mr. Chairman, what we're seeking to do is use the Commander's In-Extremis Force, along with the two other forces, to build a theater response capability with one element based in Djibouti where we do have an enduring presence -- that force is now stood up -- one in southern Europe that could respond across northern Africa and another in a site to be determined but that would be principally focused on response in West Africa. And I think that would give us a significantly improved posture from what we have today.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you. On the cybersecurity issue, General Fraser, have you experienced cyberattacks to the degree that I indicated in my opening remarks and, if so, with what effect? And what are your plans to address this threat?
GEN. FRASER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you've stated in your remarks, we are -- and the best as I can tell, continue to be -- the most attacked command. In fact, as I testified last year that in '11 we had over 44(,000), nearly 45,000. This last year, in 2012, that it actually had quadrupled. It is an area that we have significant concern, but we have taken a lot of action, and it is not in one area. We're taking a holistic approach as we work this specific issue.
And if I might highlight just a couple of things.
SEN. LEVIN: Please.
GEN. FRASER: First off is we had within the command a number of what I would call touch points by which industry and others can come into the command and they can connect with us. So our objective was to develop a more what we term a secure enclave and collapsing that network so that there were fewer touch points in order to get into the command. This would enhance our abilities to have defensive posture there so that if people were trying to get into our network that we would be able to see it; we could defend it. We have been successful in that as we have collapsed this to fewer touch points and have not had any significant intrusions into our network.
Another area that we're working on very closely is with our commercial partners. We have moved out in a very deliberate manner with commercial partners and have actually held three forums this last year where we brought in other agencies to include law enforcement and others, with CEOs and CIOs, who actually came to TRANSCOM and we focused on this cyberthreat that is there. They were very well attended -- upwards of nearly a hundred each time that we held one of these conferences. We were able to brief them in, to give them some information that they did not have before and allow them to further go back and take a look at their networks and how they are working with us.
From that came an agreement in working with our partners that we began to write into our contracts the need for more cyberawareness, cybersecurity. And so what we started doing then was last year in the springtime writing into our contracts the need for us to have an understanding of what their information assurance plan is. We were not directive in this, but we wanted to know what are you doing to protect your network?
Also, in that contract, we stated that we wanted to have an agreement as a part of a collaborative nature to know when their networks were (intrused ?) in which they had activity that got into their network that they were either having data that was exfilled from their network or if they had someone in that was playing with their data. So we made sure that we had in the contracts that we would have this reporting that would come back to us. When we got those types of reports then, we have a process and procedure by which we would ensure that law enforcement is advised, that we would offer any assistance that we have, and then we would stand up a team to determine what impact this might have had to our operations.
The other things that we have continued to do is to reach out to other agencies to ensure that we're not missing anything in the defense of our network. So it's a collaborative nature in working with all of our partners, collapsing the network to a secure enclave and then writing it into our contracts to better understand what the threat may be.
SEN. LEVIN: We thank you very, General. If you could furnish to the committee some examples of that contract language -- not necessarily with the names of the contractors, just the actual kind of language which you're incorporating relative to cyberattacks in your contracts -- we would appreciate it if you would do that.
GEN. FRASER: Yes, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: And also, you are aware, I believe, that we included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2013 -- it was Section 941 -- which requires certain contractors to report to the department about penetrations of covered networks and information systems. And if you could, after using that or reviewing that language, if you would let us know if there's anything else that we need to do to be helpful to you in your efforts, please let us know.
GEN. FRASER: Thank you, sir. We will, and we look forward to the secretary's guidance in accordance with the language that is written.
SEN. LEVIN: Very good. Thank you so much.
SENATOR JAMES INHOFE (R-OK): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me start off with something a little unpleasant, but it deserves to be brought up, I think, over and over again. Even though the media doesn't care about it, the whole Benghazi thing without -- it's incontrovertible right now that the second attack, the one on the annex, was one that was premeditated, is one that was a terrorist- coordinated attack.
And yet we knew that the day after the -- at the very latest, it would have been on the 12th -- we knew that; everybody knew it. They've testified even before this committee that they knew it, and yet, this administration sent out Susan Rice to lie to the American people and say this is something that is a response to a video. Now, all that's behind us now. I think it's going to go down in history as one of the really great cover-ups. That's beyond us, and again, the press doesn't care. It's really disturbing to me, but this thing just doesn't go away.
Yesterday CBS came up with some documents, and I'll read just two sentences out of this release. "The documents viewed by the Intelligence Committee members indicated numerous other changes were made to the talking points, including the removal of certain references on the attack." Now, what they're talking about here and why this is different, all this stuff happened before the attack, saying that it was going to happen. "The source who reviewed the documents also flagged several emails prior to Benghazi attacks from the officials in Libya to Washington that supposedly specifically warned of an imminent attack within days before this attack."
I only bring this up to just ask you the question, I don't believe them, but I do believe you, General Ham. I've gotten to know you very well. We've worked closer together probably than you have with any other member on your AFRICOM. Let's assume this is right. Did anyone tell you prior to this, as the AFRICOM commander, about this, that they were predicting this was going to happen?
GEN. HAM: Senator Inhofe, I've looked at the intelligence over and over, and while clearly the situation in Benghazi was worrying, I do not find intelligence that --
SEN. INHOFE: But they didn't tell you --
GEN. HAM: No, sir.
SEN. INHOFE: -- what I'm reading right now? They didn't tell you?
GEN. HAM: No, sir.
SEN. INHOFE: OK, I believe you. I believe you. All right, I'd like to ask both of you the question in my opening statement -- I talked about on sequestration, how critical this is because it's on the heels of an expanded budget that would take us down by $487 billion, and so we're all concerned about it.
And so six weeks ago, I talked to the commands of all six of them and asked them the question that in the event it becomes inevitable -- and I didn't think it would. At that time we had -- in fact, Senator McCain and I and several other of the senators here said that we thought there is a way to do this where it could have been less and less of a threat. But I said at that time, in the event we're wrong and that they end up having to do this, wouldn't it be better to take that same top line and work within that so that the commanders in the -- would be in a position to make those adjustments as opposed to just a formula that goes across -- it cuts across? They all said, yes, it would. Do you two agree with them?
GEN. HAM: I do, Senator.
GEN. FRASER: Yes, sir, I do.
SEN. INHOFE: Thank you. General Fraser, I don't quite understand how this works, and there's not going to be time for you to explain it. But TRANSCOM and its components are paid for their services by their customers, the service components in other agencies. Are they finding themselves strapped to the point where you're not getting the adequate funding through this very unique mechanism that you would really need to do the job to your expectations?
GEN. FRASER: Senator, as of right now, they are paying us for -- we are a working capital fund, the Transportation Working Capital Fund.
SEN. INHOFE: Working capital fund.
GEN. FRASER: We generate revenue. They have the resources and then we accomplish the mission that they task us to do. Then they pay for that service that --
SEN. INHOFE: Does that put you in a position where you're not really in the same strapped situation that many of the other services are?
GEN. FRASER: Sir, I am in a strapped situation because over time the working capital fund has been drawn down. I am directed to have seven to 10 days of working capital fund available to me in order to be able to respond in a timely manner, and having those resources with all of the authorities and responsibilities that I do, I can execute operations and then I go back later and then I get paid for that.
What has been happening, though, is coupled with the closure of the Pakistan border and actually having to execute different routes that have been more expensive, those bills have been higher and we've been relying on the working capital fund as one example where that's been drawing down. The services also have other problems in paying their service level bills and things of that nature, therefore drawing down the working capital fund. So we are seeing some issues there.
SEN. INHOFE: Yes. Thank you very much.
General Ham, you and I have talked about this before. We did something pretty smart on this committee, way back in 9/11 or shortly after that, when we recognized with the squeeze that's going on in the Middle East and the -- a lot of the terrorist activity going down through Djibouti and the Horn of Africa to assist the Africans, not to do something for them but to assist them in building their African brigades, five African brigades. It started off as it was anticipated, at least in my mind it was, and then it seems to have slowed down. I'd like to know if -- I know you have the same commitment to complete those standby brigades, but are you getting there as fast as we ought to get there?
GEN. HAM: We are not, Senator. Each of the five regional economic communities of the African Union has a plan to establish a regional standby force. Those plans have not progressed, in some cases, in any material way, and today none of the five regions has, in my military view, the capability that they ought have to be able to respond in short order to regional crises.
SEN. INHOFE: Yeah, I think that's right. I know that ECOWAS was, I guess, among the first ones to -- and a lot of that was under the leadership of President (John Kufuor ?); they were a little bit ahead. But it hasn't reached that, and I regret that you're going to be stepping down in April and will be replaced, I guess, by General Rodriguez. And we're going to be trying to give new attention to that.
The LRA -- any update you'd like to give us on that? And I'd like to mention -- I think I did in my opening statement -- that a lot of people think this is just one guy that's mutilating kids, and that was true the first time that I saw the product of his labor, where they would cut the ears and the noses off these little kids and force them to kill their parents and all that. That has expanded into a major terrorist group, and so I think it's one that has gotten little pockets of followers around now where it's not quite as one general unit. Are you satisfied that we're doing what we should be doing? And I think your answer is going to be yes because I know you're working very hard on it? Any comments on that?
GEN. HAM: Senator, work does continue. Again, as I mentioned in my opening comments, I think it is a pretty model of a way in which we can provide -- for lack of a better term -- unique U.S. military capabilities to enable an African force. We do a lot of intelligence, we help them with funding for a rotary and a fixed-wing aircraft, mobility, information sharing, communications, leaflets that have elicited numerous defections and the like. Just in terms of money, sir, over the last year, we spent $138 million on counter-LRA, expect it be about $157 million this year. It's not an inexpensive proposition, but in terms of achieving the desired state of minimizing the effectiveness of the LRA, bringing Kony to justice and simultaneously building capacity of the African forces, I think we're doing OK.
SEN. INHOFE: I do too. I think you're doing a great job there. And while you say it's not cheap, it is pretty cheap when you consider the other operations that are going on. You might occasionally have a helicopter or something like that, but it's primarily intelligence, communications and coordination, and I think you're doing a great job. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Inhofe.
SENATOR JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. First, let me thank and commend General Ham for his extraordinary service to the nation and the Army. You've done a remarkable job, sir, and we thank you. And I know foremost in your thoughts has always been the men and women you lead, and it's been evident in your contributions to the nation. Thank you, sir.
Let me ask the question, first, with the collapse of the Gadhafi regime in Libya and turmoil in the Maghreb, there has been the fear that weapons, particularly men that are filtering through and proliferating. Can you give us a sense in open session of your take on that particular issue?
GEN. HAM: I would, Senator. The details probably ought to be in a separate session, but it's very clear that in the collapse of the Gadhafi regime, weapons -- man-portable air-defense systems, crew- served weapons, individual weapons, explosives -- have gone really in two directions.
We thought initially that most would transit into northern Mali, and we certainly have seen significant evidence that that has been the case. Al-Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, other organizations, are significantly better armed now than they were before. What we didn't see quite so quickly, but now believe certainly to be the case, is movement of weapons in the other direction, some of which we believe have ended up in Syria.
General Mattis, you know, more qualified to speak on that than I am, but certainly that proliferation of weapons, I think, poses a continuing destabilizing effect across the region.
SEN. REED: And you are -- and not just the United States, but NATO and all of our allies have a proactive program to interdict these systems and to obviously prevent their dispersal.
GEN. HAM: Senator, there's a multifaceted approach for the U.S. government. It is principally led by the State Department in terms of strengthening border security and helping the host nations deal with this. There's a small component that is a weapons buy-back program. We have a small role, along with others in the U.S. government, to facilitate that program.
I would characterize it as having, frankly, modest success. Still many thousands, particularly, of the MANPADS that we believe existed in Libya prior to the revolution remain unaccounted for.
SEN. REED: This leads to another issue, too, is that in your mission in AFRICOM, a great deal depends on local governance -- policing borders, interdicting weapons. And that role is a shared role, not only with you, with the Department of State, with NGOs in certain cases. And we frequently talk about the impact of sequester and other budget restrictions on DOD operations.
Are you seeing significant impacts on your State Department and those non-DOD assets that you depend upon?
GEN. HAM: Not yet, Senator. We haven't seen it manifest itself. But clearly if sequester continues for the balance of this year, I believe that there will be some very real consequences in what our brethren at State are able to deliver.
SEN. REED: And that'll have an impact on issues like we just talked about, the --
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir, certainly.
SEN. REED: Let me just -- a final question with respect to Mali. We engaged, over the course of several years, in trying to develop a professional military force in Mali. We did tactical training. We had Special Operations, Special Forces there, et cetera. And then there was a coup. And we talked with General Rodriguez about this.
As we go forward, we're going to have to continue to partner with indigenous forces, but we also have to emphasize the proper role of the military. That's something. Can you comment upon that, since, you know, you observe sort of some of the effects of our training and our lack of training when it came to the roles of government?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir, certainly. In Mali, both good and bad, I suspect. The unit with which we were primarily engaged was not a unit that participated in the coup. It was the parachute regiment, which was actually repressed by those who did lead the coup. But we did have interaction with others in the Malian government -- or in the Malian military.
My greatest disappointment is the senior leaders in the former Malian military, with whom we interacted. While they didn't support the military coup, they took no action to resist it. I think there are some lessons learned in that for us; that in our training, as you mentioned, Senator, we have to focus not only on technical and tactical training, but more on values and the professionalism that is required of a military in a democratic society. And we can improve and need to improve in our engagement in that area.
SEN. REED: Thank you very much.
General Fraser, Senator Levin and I were in Afghanistan and Pakistan about six weeks ago. And I got the impression that the retrograde operations were picking up momentum significantly. The land lock, the GLOC, was opening up in Pakistan. Can you comment on sort of where we are in terms of that retrograde operation?
GEN. FRASER: Yes, sir. Thank you very much.
It is continuing to accelerate. We have multiple lanes that we're able to use out of Afghanistan now because of the agreements that have been struck with a number of different nations.
The proofs of principle that we have executed are showing us that we have the right process; we've got the right procedures in place. Do we have the level of velocity that we want to have? Not yet. It will continue to improve as time goes on.
I was in Pakistan last month and had very good discussions with them; shortly after that, all the agreements in place, all the processes for getting the right permits. It was not long after that, though, that we executed our first proof of principle of exporting items from Afghanistan. It was containers initially. The processes went very smoothly. The containers arrived down at Karachi. And the next level that we're going to is some wheeled armored vehicles. So that is continuing to move in the right direction.
I am encouraged by what I am seeing; also encouraged by what's going in. As you know, when the border closed, the Karachi port was full of over 7,000 pieces of equipment, containers, things of this nature. We are less than 2,000 now. So we have been moving that into Afghanistan since last year. So that continues to get better.
The other one that we did was a new import process by which we moved some containers that were shipped in the local area into Karachi and has now moved in. This is going to open up the foreign military sales equipment that has been held in a couple of locations. And so just last week we sent a booking notice to our commercial partners that we're going to start booking more cargo for the foreign military sales equipment.
Additionally, in the agreement we agreed that we will not take a pause. The border crossings there will continue to ramp up. And we've continued to increase the number of bookings that will come as far as export goes.
So I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing, especially on this last visit out there, that the capacity is built. We need to now continue to accelerate the velocity.
SEN. REED: Thank you much, sir. Thank you, gentlemen.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Reed.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I want to thank the witnesses.
And General Ham, I'd like to echo the views of my colleagues and the American people in thanking you for your outstanding service to the country. And I'm sure you feel some sense of relief from not having to appear before this committee again.
General Ham and General Fraser, very briefly, we talk about the sequestration effects on our ability and our readiness and our capabilities. What is the effect that you're seeing and foresee that we will see on the morale and eventually retention of the men and women who are serving today of this profound uncertainty that affects their lives?
GEN. HAM: Senator, you captured exactly the right word. It is uncertainty in both the military ranks and in our civilian workforce. They're not sure what to expect of their government; you know, the looming threat of furlough for our civilian employees. For our military members and for their families, for the programs that this committee and this Congress have supported, will those be sustained?
I don't think we yet understand what effect this uncertainty may have in the recruiting and retention of our civilian workforce and, perhaps even more importantly, on the recruiting and retention of what I think is the crown jewel in all of this, and that's the sustainment of the incredibly talented all-volunteer force we have.
I think there are a lot more unknowns right now, sir, than knowns.
SEN. MCCAIN: But there could be some -- all of that could be in some jeopardy.
GEN. HAM: I believe it is, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: General Fraser?
GEN. FRASER: I would agree with General Ham. We hear this from our workforce, both on the military and the civilians. Most certainly I would highlight our civilian workforce and the significant concerns that they have at this time of a potential furlough. The loss potentially of 20 percent of their income between April and the end of September is undue burden, undue stress upon them and their family members.
It also goes into other areas about security from a perspective of their job. And the reason I highlight this is because the workforce has begun talking to us that if they have issues with financial obligations -- and we understand the fact that they've got security clearances, and financial responsibility is a piece of that -- this could be an unintended consequence of that.
Now, there's ways to adjudicate that, but I think it shows this uncertainty, the concern, and the stress that's upon our family members and the other things that General Ham --
SEN. MCCAIN: So over time, both you and General Ham agree, this could affect morale and retention and, over time, recruitment.
GEN. FRASER: Yes, sir, I agree.
SEN. MCCAIN: General Ham, prior to the attack on Libya, were you aware of the multiple attacks against western interests in Benghazi, including the British ambassador, the Red Cross, the U.S. consulate, and the British pulled their mission out of Benghazi and the Red Cross suspended operations? Were you aware of all that?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: So what was your assessment of the threat?
GEN. HAM: That the threat in Benghazi, and more broadly in eastern –
SEN. MCCAIN: Benghazi.
GEN. HAM: -- in eastern Libya was growing, that there was a renewed presence of extremist organizations that posed a threat not only to Western interests, as exhibited by these attacks, but also to the fledgling Libyan government.
SEN. MCCAIN: Did you make -- recommend any changes in force posture or alert status based on this threat picture, particularly on the date of September 11th?
GEN. HAM: Sir, as 11 September approached and there were the obvious concerns of the anniversary event, we did posture Marine forces afloat in West Africa, fleet antiterrorism support teams in Southern Europe, the personnel recovery team with aviation in -- at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti; and we ensured that we had access to the shared European Command/Africa Command Commanders In-extremis Force, which was at that time based in Europe.
SEN. MCCAIN: But General Ham, seven-and-a-half hours went by, and we were unable to get any forces there. And as you are well aware, two of the Americans were killed in the last hour. That doesn't seem to me that you had forces there capable of responding. Certainly they didn't respond.
GEN. HAM: Sir, they didn't. As I replayed the events of that evening over and over in my mind, when the first attack commenced and then essentially ended shortly -- about an hour or so after it began, I didn't know at that point that there was going to be a second attack. So we -- I mean, if I could turn the clock back, I'd do different, but --
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I say with respect that if an attack had taken place that already we didn't know the whereabouts of the ambassador at that time, it seems to me that would bring some urgency to getting some forces there. Did you discuss this with Secretary Panetta or General Dempsey or the president during these attacks?
GEN. HAM: We did, sir. I happened to be in Washington that day and did meet personally with General Dempsey and with then Secretary Panetta shortly after the first attack began.
SEN. MCCAIN: Were any of your recommendations -- were you told not to execute?
GEN. HAM: No, sir. I requested forces be placed on alert both in -- overseas and in CONUS. The chairman and the secretary approved that.
SEN. MCCAIN: Did you believe at the time that given the nature of the weapons used in this attack that it was a coordinated terrorist attack?
GEN. HAM: In the first attack, I will admit, during -- as the events were unfolding, it was unclear to me, but it became clear within a matter of a few hours that this was a terrorist attack, at least in my opinion.
SEN. MCCAIN: And see, this is the conundrum we face here, is that you and General Dempsey and Secretary Panetta all testified that they knew right away that it was a terrorist attack. And yet the American people, literally for weeks -- at least two weeks -- were told we don't know. And this disconnect between the assessment that you, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and then secretary of defense all immediately concluded -- as those of us who are not nearly as knowledgeable as you are, because we don't believe that people bring rocket-propelled grenades and mortars to spontaneous demonstrations -- for two weeks in the height of a presidential campaign, the American people were told by the president of the United States, quote, "we don't know."
Well, of course we did know. Of course we did know. And that's why some people are a little bit offended that some of us continue to pursue this issue. But four people died. And four people's families deserve to know exactly what happened and what transpired -- particularly, again, two of those brave Americans died in the last hour of a seven-and-a-half-hour attack. And so it seems to me that given September 11th, given the warnings, given the entire situation, why we were unable with all the forces -- you just enumerated to many of them -- why with all the forces that we have in the region we were unable to get forces there at the -- in order to save especially the last two individuals' lives, is something that I think the American people deserve to know.
And I thank you both for your -- my time is up, but thank you, Mr. Chairman. I -- could -- General Ham, would you want to respond to that? I'd be glad to hear that?
GEN. HAM: Mr. Chairman, if it's OK -- yes, sir. As I began to say, Senator McCain, that night stays with me, as I know it does with you and with others. As I said, we didn't know that there was going to be a second attack. And we thought, frankly, that after the, what we felt was the culmination of the attack at the special mission facility that, frankly, the effort now shifted to recovery of Ambassador Stevens, who was then the lone unaccounted-for American. And again, in the context of then, not now, with the dispatch of the small team from Tripoli to Benghazi, we thought assurances from the Libyans -- which obviously proved to not be fulfilled, that that recovery mission was going to proceed in good order. It did not.
Sir, if I could turn the clock back, I would make different decisions based on what I know now as opposed to what I knew then.
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I thank you, General, for that very candid response. And again, I thank you for your service, and we're very grateful for it.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain.
SENATOR JOE DONNELLY (D-IN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And to General Ham and General Fraser, thank you for your service. And General Ham, thank you so much for everything you've done for our country in your career.
General Ham, has the AFRICOM region become as central a center for terrorist activities as the CENTCOM region has been?
GEN. HAM: Sir, I don't think it quite yet rises to that level, but it certainly is trending in that direction.
SEN. DONNELLY: And as you look at it, do you see it as an increasingly -- as you said, increasingly growing area, that we may look at this in a few years and see this as equal to or more even than the CENTCOM region at this time?
GEN. HAM: It's hard to predict into the future, Senator, remembering that it is in the Central Command region that is the home of al-Qaida --
SEN. DONNELLY: Right.
GEN. HAM: I don't see any indication that al-Qaida main, if you will, or al-Qaida senior leadership, seeks to reposition to Africa. But certainly their associates and affiliates and an increasing number of people who adopt that al-Qaida ideology are present in Africa.
SEN. DONNELLY: Now, as we look at lessons learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, is our plan in AFRICOM -- you talked about the five regional forces that are developing over there between the countries and the military side -- is our plan to have them stand up and be the main force with us guiding behind the scenes in the AFRICOM region?
GEN. HAM: Sir, countering the effects of these violent extremist organizations, terrorist organizations, has to be a very broad approach. There is a military component, and that's what I am principally engaged with. But I recognize that the military component will not be decisive. There is a military component that has to contribute to security and stability. But it really is the U.S. government's interaction with African nations and the regional organizations to address the underlying causes -- good governance, economic development, health care, education -- all of those programs, I think, will have a longer and more lasting effect. But the military component helps set the conditions under which those longer-term operations and activities can take place.
SEN. DONNELLY: Now, as we look at this, I know the French are -- have a presence in Mali. Are we primarily on our own other than that, or are other nations in there with us?
GEN. HAM: Senator, there are a number of nations, both African and from outside the region, who are contributing in meaningful ways to the operations in Mali. A number of European countries have pledged training through the European Union and also bilateral relationships. Many of them are already on the ground in Mali and in other West African countries. But I think in principle there is broad agreement that while the initial reaction and activity -- operation by France was necessary, this must transition to an African- led activity as quickly as the conditions allow.
SEN. DONNELLY: Are --
GEN. HAM: And I think -- on the next transition point.
SEN. DONNELLY: And are we the point of the spear in coordinating all the other nations on these efforts?
GEN. HAM: No, sir, we're not. The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, is the principal coordinating organization. We and many other nations are supporting ECOWAS in their efforts.
SEN. DONNELLY: How do we -- how do we increase, as we look at this, the chance for success of those regional armies? You had talked about they are not where we had hoped they would be, and -- but, you know, we look toward a path forward. How do they stand up quicker, better, more successfully?
GEN. HAM: I think it requires a multi-pronged approach. Part of it is our bilateral efforts and the bilateral efforts of other contributing nations, many of which are in Europe but increasingly Brazil and India and others, to build the capabilities of individual African states. But there has to be, in my view, a more focused and coordinated effort from the African Union headquarters, directing the regional economic communities and establishing standards and expectations for the regional standby forces. And I think that principally is a diplomatic effort in engaging the African Union. But I'm encouraged, because there is for the first time a memorandum of understanding between the African Union and the U.S. government that kind of formalizes our relationship. So I'm hopeful that we can make some progress in the near term.
SEN. DONNELLY: And do we have metrics as we look forward -- you know, there's no guarantee it can hit numbers or plans or whatever, but here's where we hope to be next year in Africa, here's where we hope to be the following year, here's where we hope this to have expanded in five years so that we can start to turn the tide back on this?
GEN. HAM: Sir, we at African Command have developed each year and refined each year, in concert with the U.S. ambassadors, what we call a country plan that does in fact establish specific programs with measurable that says, where do we want to go.
We don't yet have that same kind of arrangement with the regional organizations. And I think that's a next step for us.
SEN. DONNELLY: And General Fraser, you had talked about cybersecurity before in regards to TRANSCOM. Do you know the source of the cyberattacks that are taking place?
GEN. FRASER: Sir, a number of them are scanning the network; they're just hackers trying to come in. So we see a myriad of attacks. There is also some advanced persistent attacks out there that we continue to defend against.
SEN. DONNELLY: Are any of these of country of origin elsewhere that you know of?
GEN. FRASER: Sir, we continue to do the analysis on the various threats that we have out there. And some of these are passed over actually to another agency to actually delve deeper into that because of the sophistication that is used.
SEN. DONNELLY: And in working with our contractors and suppliers, is there or have you detected any effort that these cyberattacks, using the contractors and suppliers, to be a backdoor into your systems?
GEN. FRASER: Sir, I have -- I've had one report, where we are working with the company, but that was principally a download of data and activity that occurred on their network. It was not a backdoor attack into us.
SEN. DONNELLY: OK.
And General Ham, in regards to Benghazi, one of the great concerns of everyone, including you and everyone else, has been the time it took for response. So as we look forward, are there -- are there plans being made with State, with the consulates, with the embassies to see how we can reduce that time level of before you are there?
GEN. HAM: Those discussions are under way, Senator, in a number of different ways. One is, you know, should there be an increased presence of Marine security guards at diplomatic facilities in Africa and other places around the globe? That discussion continues.
But I think the fundamental discussion that's occurring between Department of State and Department of Defense and, in fact, more broadly across the government is the fundamental nature of the Department of Defense's security role with regard to diplomatic presence. As you know, the primary responsibility has been with the host nation. And if we're going to alter that, that has some consequences. If we're going to posture forces that can respond in crisis on very, very short timelines in a geographic area as large as Africa, then that also has some consequences.
We've taken some initial steps in that, as I outlined, in terms of having an east, west and north response force. But even that, the distances involved and the times involved preclude response within an hour or so. I mean, this will take us, I think, some further study and then some hard choices, some hard resourcing choices, about how quickly must DOD be postured to respond in response to a State requirement.
SEN. DONNELLY: Well, thank you both very much. And General Ham, again, thank you for all the years of service to our men and women.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Donnelly.
SENATOR DEB FISCHER (R-NE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you both for being here today.
General Ham, I'm concerned about the threats in Africa as we see them growing and they continue to grow. With the reductions in funding that have been talked about here previously, do you believe that we're going to have to start to rethink our strategy and maybe look for more direct involvement by the United States in that area?
GEN. HAM: Senator, I think with sequestration, I do believe we will have to revisit the defense strategic guidance of January 2012. I don't know that that will necessarily shift us to a strategy that gives primacy to U.S. intervention as opposed to building partner capacity and reliance upon other nations. That will be a difficult choice to make. It's perhaps faster for us to respond, but in the longer term, I think that increases the demands on U.S. military forces rather than what we seek to do through building partner capacity, is eventually reduce the global demand for U.S. forces, by increasing the capabilities of others.
SEN. FISCHER: What areas do you think that we need to start to focus on? If we are looking at cuts then, besides the partnerships, what areas? I believe that General Rodriguez testified before the committee that he felt we needed to see increases in surveillance aircraft, satellite imagery. Do you agree with that assessment? Or where would you look to change the focus then?
GEN. HAM: Senator, I would agree. The most significant shortfall I have at present and projected into the future is intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; the ability to see, know and understand the operating environment. So I think that shortfall will continue to have the greatest impact on the command.
SEN. FISCHER: Do you see other areas where we need to focus on as well?
GEN. HAM: I think one of the programs I like a lot that this committee and the Congress has supported are the so-called dual- key authorities that Department of Defense and Department of State -- that those two secretaries can control together in an effort to help build partner capacity in nations. I think that's an area where we can probably operate more efficiently, and with greater prioritization.
And I think in general, Senator, that's what the budget constraints are going to cause us to do, is to take a much sharper prioritization to our military-to-military engagements in Africa. There are some exercises and other training opportunities that we have been doing in past years that, frankly, will probably fall by the wayside.
Secondly, I think it will drive us to increased multinational approach to building partner capacity as opposed to our almost exclusively bilateral building-partner-capacity activities to date.
SEN. FISCHER: Senator Inhofe and Senator Donnelly both alluded to this, and you answered in response to their questions about the -- about your timing in able to respond to crisis within your command.
As we see the terrorist networks are overlapping across commands, how do you think the coordination works between the regional commands that we currently have today, and is that going to help us at all in responding quicker to crises?
GEN. HAM: We have some good examples recently in our collaboration with both Central Command and European Command. The secretary of defense has given us in Djibouti and Yemen some authorities to do very rapid sharing of forces between the two combatant commands -- the geographic boundary exists right there. That allows General Mattis and I to very, very quickly transition a military capability that was dedicated to me to operate in support of him in Yemen or someplace else, or vice versa.
I think we will need more of that kind of flexibility because the threats that we face of course don't respect our boundaries -- they work trans-nationally and regionally -- and we've got to be increasingly flexible in applying our authorities and our capabilities across those boundaries. But I'm encouraged, Senator, by the direction in which we're moving.
SEN. FISCHER: Thank you, General. General Fraser, thank you for coming to my office to visit with me, and I appreciated the information that you provided. You said that the number of attacks has increased I believe fourfold, is that correct, in the last year?
GEN. FRASER: Yes, ma'am. That's correct.
SEN. FISCHER: And you talked about the collaborative nature that you have with regards to those cyberattacks with private sector partners, correct?
GEN. FRASER: Yes, ma'am.
SEN. FISCHER: This interaction with your private sector partners, do you believe that's the most effective way to share information, and is it -- is it a good approach to take?
GEN. FRASER: Ma'am, we are -- it's not the only thing that we're doing. As I mentioned earlier, and in coordination with the newly stood-up cyber center that we have on our operations floor in what we call the fusion center, this neighborhood watch capability that we have where everyone is working together in a collaborative nature is actually enhancing us all, from our commercial partners as well as us just in TRANSCOM, and our ability to maintain the connectivity that we need to accomplish our job.
So it's all of that working together that is making us as effective as we are. And why we're able to get together and work this in a collaborative nature is because everybody understands the importance of it. And so I'm encouraged by what we're doing. We continue to move forward in a partnership with them, and sharing this information.
SEN. FISCHER: Why are you such a prime target?
GEN. FRASER: I believe it's because 90 percent of what we do is on the unclassified network. We do have a number of things that we can do, from sensitive operations or movement of sensitive or classified cargo -- we do that on the SIPRNet, on the high side and through other means -- but because of how much business that we do with industry and with our commercial partners, that's done on the unclassified side. So therefore, I also think that that's one reason.
Another reason is, too, because there's no other nation that can do what we do and do it the way we do it in order to deploy, sustain and then redeploy our troops and respond in a timely manner for support of a humanitarian crisis to save lives, decrease human suffering, or respond to a crisis in another region where we've supported other COCOMs, and so I believe there is a learning that others want to know.
As I visit other countries and I talk to them about it -- they don't have a Transportation Command; they don't have the collaborative nature that we have here, as we reach across and are actually developing a Global Campaign Plan for Distribution which synchronizes across all the COCOMs to be able to be agile, flexible and responsive with our forces. And so I think there is a learning that's also going on to get an understanding as well as they try to collect the data.
SEN. FISCHER: And just briefly, without the investment of TRANSCOM, are your private sector partners viable? And if not, what happens?
GEN. FRASER: There's significant concern in the industry right now, and we are working through both the land, air and maritime executive working groups to understand what the future is going to look like.
Because of the budget uncertainty that we have with a continuing resolution, we see that we are not doing the level of work that we had anticipated and programmed and forecast for the future. So when '13 was billed, rates were billed, they expected a certain amount of business both organically, with respect to all the services -- but they're under pressure, and so the inability to do things such as exercises that have been changed, revamped and consolidated -- there's also a reduction, and further, that's going to be taken with sequestration. So this lack of predictability, the lack of flexibility that's there, they are feeling the pinch.
And they have come to me and they've talked to me, which is why we're bringing this into the executive working groups to make sure that we're all on the same sheet of music and have the same understanding of what the business is going to look like for the future. And that lack of predictability and stability right now creates great uncertainty that we have already had as a result of the change in operations in Iraq -- all very positive; but because of capacity that had been built in -- on the air side of the business, we have had several companies that have actually had to go into bankruptcy and intro restructure. There is one that has had to shutter their doors; they are no longer in the -- in the business.
There is also concern in the maritime industry now, as the amount of cargo that we're moving starts to come down. So they're looking to shift their business into different lanes, and going in different areas. The other impact is -- the second-, third-order effect -- is potentially because of the high cost of crews, there's been some discussion about reflagging some of the ships from U.S. flags, and this could result in a change-out of the crews as well. So there is concern across all the industries.
SEN. FISCHER: OK. Thank you, sir, very much.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, with thanks to Senator King for his courtesies. Senator Graham?
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): Well, I want to thank Senator King, too. We've got a markup in Judiciary about the assault weapons ban, which is obviously an important topic to everyone in the country, and I'll try to get to that. But Senator King, thank you very much. And Mr. Chairman, thank you for allowing me to go out of order here.
General Ham, thank you for your service to our country. I want to get right into some questions I think are important, at least in my mind. Do you know Lieutenant Colonel Wood?
GEN. HAM: Sir, I met him briefly, and yes, I do know who he is.
SEN. GRAHAM: He was assigned to the Site Security Team in Benghazi, Libya. And General, is that correct?
GEN. HAM: In Tripoli -- yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: In Tripoli -- 16-person team providing additional security to our ambassador and our State Department officials in Libya; is that correct?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir, it is.
SEN. GRAHAM: And he says that he reported to you three times a week, or someone in your command, through VTC about the situation in Libya. Is that an accurate statement?
GEN. HAM: Partially, sir. The Special Security Team, a DOD entity, operated exclusively under what we call chief of mission authority, meaning they took all of their direction from the chief of mission at the --
SEN. GRAHAM: Right, they were under their operational control. But he told you, or your command, what was going on in Libya, is that correct?
GEN. HAM: Yeah -- yes, sir, there was -- there was frequent communication --
SEN. GRAHAM: As a matter of fact, I want to complement your organization for informing the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the secretary of Defense.
My point is that through Lieutenant Colonel Wood's interaction with your command, he was able to know of the August 16th cable from Ambassador Stevens telling the State Department we cannot defend the consulate if attacked in a coordinated way. And Secretary Panetta and General Dempsey said that they knew of all of the communications coming out of Libya to the State Department regarding the threat environment in Benghazi and Libya in general. I think it has a lot to do with your command, and I want to complement you on that.
Do you have any idea how the secretary of Defense could have known of the reporting from the State Department about the threat condition in Benghazi and the secretary of State be unaware?
GEN. HAM: Sir, I don't have any insight into that.
SEN. GRAHAM: OK, thank you. And just for the record, Lieutenant Colonel Wood requested an extension to go past August 2012, to help the ambassador. The ambassador wanted his team to stay there. Would you have approved that request if it had come before you?
GEN. HAM: Sir, it would not have been mine to approve, but --
SEN. GRAHAM: Would you have supported the request?
GEN. HAM: I would, and I did. And I explained that to Ambassador Stevens, that if there was a -- such a -- if there were a request to extend the team, we were -- we at AFRICOM were prepared to do so.
SEN. GRAHAM: And he was sent home in August at the same time these cables were coming from our ambassador, we cannot defend the consulate from a coordinated attack.
Now, let's get to the -- and he said on 12 October before the Congress -- Lieutenant Colonel Wood said it was only a matter of time until we were attacked; we were the last flag flying. Now -- so hats off to Lieutenant Colonel Wood.
Do you know a Representative Jason Chaffetz?
GEN. HAM: I do, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: He visited you on October the 5th at your headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Do you recall that visit?
GEN. HAM: I do, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: You went together on October 6th to Tripoli to visit the embassy country team. Do you recall that visit?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Do you recall him asking you what military assets you ordered deployed to Libya once you learned that the embassy special mission compound in Benghazi was under attack? According to Representative Chaffetz, you responded that you could have deployed assets; however, it was not requested. Do you recall saying that?
GEN. HAM: Not in those specific terms, Senator. I recall having a discussion about the forces that were available; the forces I requested of the secretary of defense be placed on heightened alert, in some cases --
SEN. GRAHAM: Did you ever recommend to Secretary Panetta, General Dempsey, the president or anyone in authority to move assets into Libya?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir. And they approved that, and the teams did move.
SEN. GRAHAM: So what was the closest team?
GEN. HAM: The team that was best postured to move was the Fleet Antiterrorism Support Team in Rota.
SEN. GRAHAM: So when did they begin to move?
GEN. HAM: I don't know precisely when they began to move. They arrived in Tripoli about 24 hours after the attack.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, I guess my point is, was there -- were fighter aircraft available in Aviano that could have gotten into Libya within 24 hours?
GEN. HAM: They could have been, sir. I did not so request.
SEN. GRAHAM: Did you ever suggest that we deploy any military asset quicker than 24 hours?
GEN. HAM: I did not. I considered but did not request the deployment of fighter aircraft.
SEN. GRAHAM: Did anybody ever ask you, General Ham, what do we have to get to the aid of these folks quickly? Did anyone ever suggest that we use an F-15 or F-16 to buzz the compound once the ambassador was found missing?
GEN. HAM: Not to my knowledge, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Were you ever told to stand down in any of your efforts to move people into Libya because we were concerned about violating Libyan airspace?
GEN. HAM: No, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Were you ever tapped on the soldier -- shoulder by anyone who said you're going ahead of yourself here? No one ever suggested to you that -- to stop what you were doing?
GEN. HAM: No, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: So how could it be that, given this threat string -- and you didn't -- did you know when the attack was going to be over when it started?
GEN. HAM: Oh, certainly not.
SEN. GRAHAM: What kind of reaction was there in the system when the ambassador was found missing?
GEN. HAM: Shock, to be sure; an all-out effort to find him, hence the diversion of the unmanned system, to get that overhead as quickly as possible.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, an all-out effort -- did we have air assets within two to three hours of Libya? Was there any 130s available to go in? Were there any AC-130 gunships?
GEN. HAM: I know for a fact there were no AC-130s in the theater. I would have to check if there were any C-130s --
SEN. GRAHAM: Could you do this? Could you give this committee in writing a detailed analysis of the military assets available that could have gotten into the Benghazi area within 12 hours?
GEN. HAM: Yes, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: And please tell us what you recommended, and who you recommended to, what to do with those assets.
GEN. HAM: I will, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: Did you ever talk to the president of the United States?
GEN. HAM: Not on this matter, no, sir.
SEN. GRAHAM: When the secretary of defense turned to you and said there's really nothing we can do within 24 hours to help these people, what was his reaction?
GEN. HAM: Sir, it wasn't that kind of a conversation. It was what's -- the initial discussion was about the initial reports of an attack, trying to gather information, what's happening, what forces are available to respond. That's what precipitated the alert to the Fleet Antiterrorism Support Team, to the Commanders In-Extremis Force.
SEN. GRAHAM: Well, just finally, did you -- did it become apparent to everybody in the room there's nobody can get there within 24 hours?
GEN. HAM: Pretty quickly; not necessarily 24 hours, because the Fleet Antiterrorism Support Team and the Commanders In-Extremis Force could have arrived earlier. But then again, knowing what we knew then, different than what we know now, the attack culminated and --
SEN. GRAHAM: Did you stop their deployment?
GEN. HAM: We did not. We timed the deployment, then, in concert with the embassy to say when do you want this -- when do you need this team to arrive?
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you. My time has run out. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Graham.
SENATOR ANGUS KING (I-ME): General Ham, just for the record, you used a term that gave me a start. You said al-Qaida Main. Can we make it clear that there's no "e" on the word "Main" in that phrase?
GEN. HAM: Certainly, Senator, yes.
SEN. KING: (Laughs.)
GEN. HAM: Al-Qaida senior leaders.
SEN. KING: I appreciate that.
The question has been asked -- and I think Senator Graham's questions were around this -- I'm less interested in the details of what happened and more interested in what do we learn from it. And I think the question has been asked several different ways. I don't want to prolong it.
But it seems to me the strategic challenge -- and it's fortuitous that you two fellows are here at the same time -- is how do we increase response time while still maintaining a relatively small footprint? And that's really, it seems to me, the ongoing strategic issue. And I know you've talked about it. I don't expect a lengthy answer. But I think it has to do with transportation, because we don't want a big base in Africa, I don't think.
But on the other hand, as we learned in Benghazi, we want to be able to get people, and not necessarily in the context -- I mean, the Benghazi case was a State Department emergency. There may have been -- there may be other emergencies where American interests are threatened on a short-term basis. And I just suggest to you I hope that's something that's in the planning and discussion stages, because I think that's the strategic challenge that we face. Either one of you guys want to address that?
GEN. HAM: I'll start, Senator, if that's OK. And I do agree with you. The challenge for us, I think, begins -- first of all, we're much better at prevention than we are at response. Prevention is a lot cheaper. But that necessitates better understanding of the operating environment, and hence my concern for increased intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance so that we have that better understanding and we can perhaps, as we have done in some places, a preventive deployment, if you will, a reinforcement, to prevent an activity from occurring rather than responding to crisis.
GEN. FRASER: Sir, if I might add, on TRANSCOM's part, one of the things that I find that is good about the command is the flexibility and the agility that we have, so that we have a rather robust intelligence shop. We maintain constant contact with all of our combatant commands, so that when there is an event, whether it's an attack, whether it is a natural disaster, an earthquake, a tsunami, whatever it may be, one of the things that we initially do and is a part of our processes is to start looking at what is in the system and what do I have available.
And as soon as we know that, then we're able to take action. And, depending upon what it is that we may be responding to, we have authorities, for instance, to start putting aircraft on alert, to put crews into crew (rest ?), so that they'll be immediately able to respond. We have different levels of alert postures.
And those are some of the things that we start doing right away. Numerous times they're never called upon. But immediately within the system and the global nature of the mission and the fact that we're around the globe somewhere, we're able to put our hands on assets, depending upon what the combatant commanders need. So there's a lot flexibility and agility in the system.
If I might add, I do have a concern as we move to the future. Because of the cuts that are occurring, there's going to be an impact, I think, long term, second- and third-order effects, of this readiness and this posture level. And so will we have that flexibility and agility in the system if the readiness levels begin to lower to lower levels?
And what risk will that present to the system and the rapid response that is required in the future?
So it is something we're going to have to keep an eye on. It's something that we'll make sure that we continue to work with our combatant commands and our commercial partners.
SEN. KING: I appreciate it. And I think that -- to me, the Benghazi situation gives us an opportunity to learn. And one of my principles in a situation like this is after action, assessment; and say, what could we have done differently? And I'm sure you've done that. But to me, the fundamental question is, how do we get assets where they're needed in a fairly short time, whether it's two hours, four hours, six hours -- it depends on the circumstances, but I'm sure you're working on that, your command is working on that.
General Ham, I certainly appreciate your service to the country and wish you the best of luck. And I'll join in Senator McCain -- I'm sure the one thing you won't miss is appearing before this committee. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator King. Senator Ayotte.
SENATOR KELLY AYOTTE (R-NH): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank both of our witnesses that are here today for their distinguished service. And I very much want to thank you, General Ham, with your impending retirement, for everything that you've done in AFRICOM.
And I want to reiterate what you also heard from some of my colleagues. You -- I was deeply impressed with when General Dempsey testified before the committee certainly the level of briefings that you had provided up the chain of command with regard to the deteriorating security situation in eastern Libya. So I very much appreciate that.
And I have -- I have a follow-up question to what -- excuse me -- Senator Graham was asking you about with regard to what happened in Benghazi. When General Dempsey testified before this committee along with Secretary Panetta, he said that essentially you had recommended the extension of the site security team in Libya; in other words, the 16-person team that Senator Graham was asking you about, the security team that was present that was not extended; it went there till August 5th. And when General Dempsey testified before this committee, he said that you personally had recommended the extension of the special security team. You were aware and briefed on the August cable that the ambassador had indicated that the consulate could not withstand a coordinated attack. And according to General Dempsey's testimony, you were told no, that there wouldn't be an extension.
So how did that come about? Who told you no? Who made the call that the site security team should not be extended?
GEN. HAM: Senator, to the best of my knowledge, there was no request from the Department of State to the Department of Defense to extend the team. That's how the process began, was a request from State to Defense for this augmentation -- as you know, Senator, twice extended. But I'm unaware -- I do not believe there was a request for a third extension.
My support for the extension was, first we were postured to do so, that if State so requested, we had the people ready to -- some of them were those who were already deployed that would be extended, some would be replacement persons. So we were ready to respond to an extension, should one be directed.
But there was also, I will admit to, a selfish motivation. Though the team operated exclusively under the ambassador's authority, it was good for us to have military people in Libya, who were establishing contacts, building rapport, building relationships, building -- or building their understanding of Libya that we knew would pay off for us in establishing a military-to-military relationship with the Libyans. So I had a selfish motivation in the DOD presence.
SEN. AYOTTE: So as General Dempsey told us -- he said that you actually called the embassy to ask whether they wanted an extension of it. Do you recall doing that?
GEN. HAM: I do, Senator. I had numerous conversations by phone or by secure video teleconference with Ambassador Cretz and with Ambassador Stevens. And Ambassador Stevens visited the AFRICOM headquarters on the 20th of August, and we had face-to-face discussions then as well.
SEN. AYOTTE: So when you had these conversations, what were you told in terms of why they were not asking to keep the security team there?
GEN. HAM: We -- I did not have that discussion with Senator -- or with Ambassador Stevens. It was simply my point to him to say, you know, if State asks and the secretary of defense -- obviously my boss -- would -- you know, approved it, we were postured to support the team.
SEN. AYOTTE: And did you think it was a good idea that the team remain longer?
GEN. HAM: In my personal view, yes, ma'am.
SEN. AYOTTE: And did you express that to the State Department?
GEN. HAM: Only to Ambassador Stevens and previously to Ambassador Cretz and then certainly to Chairman -- to General Dempsey.
SEN. AYOTTE: And just so we understand, this team, when the British ambassador's convoy was attacked, actually helped recover and help them when they were attacked, as I understand it. So it had provided substantial assistance when there had been other attacks in the area and particularly on our allies.
GEN. HAM: Senator, some members of the team did occasionally travel into Benghazi at the request of -- and direction of the ambassador. And as you might expect from U.S. military personnel, if there's a mission to be accomplished, they're going to find a way to try to do that.
SEN. AYOTTE: Just trying to understand what occurred and also what lessons we can take from this -- as I understand it, you have -- at the headquarters, AFRICOM headquarters, you have interagency representatives, so -- where you have from nine different federal agencies that meet together to talk about and coordinate AFRICOM's activities. Could you explain what that is? And how does that working group work together and thinking about it in light of a situation like this, where what we don't want is DOD thinking this is what we should be doing to protect the consulate and this is the best course of action but Department of State not taking that information. And could you tell me, does that working group take up the security -- does it take up security issues? Did it in this instance?
GEN. HAM: Senator, in one of the directions given to United States Africa Command is the mission set very similar to other geographic combatant commands, but there's a special direction that says that in Africa we will give particular attention to a whole-of-government or interagency approach to achieving the United States' interests in Africa.
That's resulted in a presence within the command, as you mentioned, from multiple different U.S. government agencies. They don't sit as one body. But rather they are interspersed throughout the command. And what those non-DOD personnel bring to us for the most part is African expertise and experience and the particular experience and expertise of their home organizations, be it Homeland Security or Agriculture or Treasury -- certainly State and the foreign service, USAID and many other organizations.
What -- they're coordinated by a very senior foreign service officer, who serves as my deputy commander for civil-military activities, a very senior foreign service office, three-time ambassador. And he coordinates the interagency role in the government. So what that says is that we have an opportunity because of the presence of those interagency personnel and the command to have a very strong connective relationship with the U.S. country teams, who are also multi-agency, but also back to the agency headquarters in Washington. And that gives us some great benefits.
SEN. AYOTTE: I mean, it sounds like a very good working group. In the context of what happened in Benghazi and thinking about the protection of the consulate, the prior course of attacks that, of course, you reported up the chain of command -- was that ever discussed in that interagency working group in terms of, you know, the deteriorating security situation and what actions we should be taking to ensure protection of personnel and to deal with the situation there?
GEN. HAM: Yes, ma'am. It was a serious point of discussion for a number of months: growing concern over the increasing presence of individual extremists, some of them with strong al-Qaida links; growing concern over an expanding network, particularly in eastern Libya, and this caused us to concentrate our intelligence collection efforts, which were few, frankly, but those that we did have to coordinate our collection efforts in eastern Libya to better understand the emerging situation.
SEN. AYOTTE: And I know that my time is up. One of the things that I'm struggling with -- I think about that group, and I know that the -- as I understand it, your deputy in that group is a pretty senior-ranking official in the State Department -- why that -- why we wouldn't have thought about having the communication of extending the site security team in light of all these discussions and the situation as it was unfolding in Benghazi. Was that just not an issue taken up by that group?
GEN. HAM: Well, ma'am, we did have that discussion. And as mentioned, Senator, we were prepared to extend the team. I do not know the decision-making process within State that led to an extension not being requested.
SEN. AYOTTE: So this was discussed with this team. There was a -- as I understand, Ambassador Chris Dell is your deputy on that team, who's a pretty high-ranking official in the State Department. But when you had these discussions, you don't know why they didn't go up in the decision and the State Department wasn't made to extend the team?
GEN. HAM: I do not, Senator.
SEN. AYOTTE: OK. Thank you, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Ayotte.
Now we have finished our first round. Is there anyone who wishes to ask any additional questions at this time? If not, we thank you both. A special thanks again to those who work with you, and a special good luck to you, General Ham.
And we'll stand adjourned.