REP. HOWARD "BUCK" MCKEON, R-CALIF. CHAIRMAN
MCKEON: Committee will come to order.
I'd like to welcome everyone to today's hearing on the posture of the U.S. European Command and the U.S. Africa Command. We have two men that have devoted their lives to the service of this country, and this will be their last hearing.
Gentlemen, thank you for many years of service that we can never repay you for, but your country is in your debt.
You know, we're going to have votes about 11:15, so I'm going to just put my statement in the record. It was wonderful.
And anybody interested can read it. Mr. Smith is not with us here today and in his place, he -- that seat is looking up -- a lot prettier, Ms. Sanchez.
SANCHEZ: Smarter, Mr. Chairman, smarter.
With respect to time, of course, gentlemen, thank you for your service. I think it's the last time you're before us. With respect to that, I will submit the opening statement for Mr. Smith into the record and go straight to the hearing.
MCKEON: Very good. And with that, Admiral Stavridis?
ADM STAVRIDIS: Sir, I'll follow your lead, as I always do, and simply say three things. One is thank you to the members of the committee, the chairman, to Congresswoman Sanchez for sitting in and being part of this today.
Secondly, I think Europe continues to matter greatly for the United States and I hope in our discussion today I can illustrate why that is a bit.
And then thirdly, on behalf of the men and women of U.S. European Command and the NATO alliance, again I say thank you to the committee for the terrific support we receive.
With that, I'll, with your permission, enter a statement in the record also, Mr. Chairman, and I'll turn to Carter Ham, my very good friend.
GEN HAM: Thanks, Mr. Chairman and Congresswoman Sanchez. I had about a 20-minute opening statement, but I think I'll follow the lead of all, which makes a lot of good sense.
But it is great to have the opportunity to talk about what the women and men of AFRICOM have done. We're the newest of the combatant commands, only this year is our fifth year in existence and we've changed a lot over those five years. I look forward to having the opportunity to talk with you a bit about that.
We're in the midst, obviously, all of us, in some serious resourcing challenges as we move forward. That's going to take all of our best efforts to address those to ensure that all of us collectively can meet the national security needs of our country.
I would join with my great friend and colleague, former boss, Admiral Stavridis. We are closely joined between Africa Command and European Command in just about every endeavor in Africa. I rely on European Command for support. That support has been unwavering and enduring.
And similarly, the support from this committee for our troops, for their families, for our civilian employees has been similarly unwavering. And for that, we're deeply appreciative.
I'll depart the command in about a month and be replaced most ably by General David Rodriguez, again an old friend and exemplary leader who will take Africa Command and its women and men to even greater heights. And I look forward to that.
And again, thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ms. Sanchez, for your great support.
MCKEON: Thank you very much. Both of your records (sic), without objection, will be submitted to the record.
Admiral, you're our senior combatant commander. You'll be leaving your command shortly. And one of the things that we're hearing a lot around the Hill here is maybe we don't need forces in Europe anymore. You know, we're so far advanced there. Maybe we could pull all those troops home and it would be a big money savings, and the way things are going right now financially, that would probably be a great thing. That's what we're hearing.
I'd like you to, from your experience on the ground, tell us why it's important to have troops in Europe. And the four combat brigade teams you've supported and now that has changed, if you could tell what you think we do need there, why, and address that with - in light of the fiscal constraints that we have.
STAVRIDIS: Chairman, I'll be glad to. To put the discussion in context, I think it's worth looking back to the Cold War, when we had 450,000 troops in Europe, and we had 1,200 bases in Europe. That's the height of the Cold War.
We've reduced that by 80 percent. So we've come down very significantly in the forces in Europe.
I would argue that our current level is roughly right. And I'll give you four or five reasons why I think it is important to continue to be forward in Europe.
The first is really the most basic, it's values. We share with democracies in Europe freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, freedom of education. Nowhere else in the world will we find a pool of allies who share our values.
Secondly, it's the economy. There's a $4 trillion trade route across that Atlantic Ocean. And that binding of our economic interests will continue to make Europe our most important trading partner, collectively.
Thirdly, it's geography. You know, Robert Kaplan just wrote this terrific book, "The Revenge of Geography." Geography matters. Europe in that regard is critically important.
People sometimes say, "You know, those bases in Europe, they're kind of the bastions of the Cold War." They're really not. They're the forward operating bases for 21st century security. They allow us to support Carter Ham in Africa. They allow us to support Jim Mattis in the Levant, in the Near Middle East and indeed, in Central Asia.
So geography matters as well.
Fourthly, it's the alliance. It's the NATO alliance. Fifty-one percent of the world's GDP, 28 nations, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 ocean-going ships, 50 AWACS aircraft. This is a powerful, capable alliance that has stood with us most obviously at the moment in Afghanistan, where today we see 90 percent of the non-U.S. troops are, indeed, from Europe.
So the alliance matters.
And then fifth and finally I would say nowhere else in the world will we find so many trained, capable soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who will stand with us on missions from the Balkans to Libya to the Levant to Afghanistan and indeed around the world.
In terms of posture, we're about right now. We have reduced the numbers of brigade combat teams. But, Mr. Chairman, we're gonna rotate forces in to make up that shortfall. And I think we're about in balance.
MCKEON: Thank you very much.
General Ham, your special ops force unit was established on the 1st of October of last year. The committee's learned that this force doesn't have the necessary enablers to operate in certain environments. Obviously, if this is correct, this is extremely concerning, as it would appear that we're not postured for the next crisis in the region, like the attack in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11th of last year.
What is the projected timeline to get your special ops forces outfitted with the appropriate enablers?
HAM: Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
You're correct in that the commander's in extremis force was formally established on the 1st of October of 2012. It had been about a year or more in building that capability. Prior to the 1st of October, Admiral Stavridis and I shared a commander's in extremis force. It was assigned to European Command, but available to AFRICOM, should that be necessary.
Today, that force is home-based in Colorado, but always with an element forward stationed in Europe.
We've also deployed elements of it already to Africa on occasion.
It has most of the enablers that are required, but not all. The principal shortfalls are in dedicated special operations aviation. Again, I rely on Admiral Stavridis, on a sharing arrangement with special operations aviation forces that are forward stationed in Europe.
It is my preference to have those elements dedicated.
Then, there are some other enabling capabilities, such as special operations surgical teams and some others, that I would prefer to have dedicated exclusively for that force. And at present, we borrow those forces from other organizations.
So we have a better capability, and a quite good capability now, but not the full capability that I think is necessary in the long term.
I'm going to dialogue with Admiral McRaven at the Special Operations Command, as to when we might be able to build those capabilities and station those capabilities.
For the next year, I think we'll probably be in a sharing arrangement.
MCKEON: Thank you. I think this is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dempsey, pointed out that if we have any further cuts in defense, it will have to change our strategy. We won't be able to carry out the strategy that they devised when we were hit with the $487 billion in cuts. And then with the sequestration on top of that, we're gonna have to revise that strategy. And we will not be able to respond quickly in all parts of the world at all times.
So I think that it's a reality that we're going to have to decide, if that's what the American people want.
SANCHEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, again, Admiral and General, for being before us.
You know, I'm from California, so I've always thought that the United States was pivoted towards the Pacific. You know, but there seems to be a lot of consternation, especially among our allies in the European theaters, that somehow we're gonna slip away from this very critical alliance that is not only NATO, but all our European allies there.
And, you know, it's really gone from having our troops there in order to defend Europe and now, really, being pretty integrated and having their own troops doing their thing.
One of those things that's important is, you know, the interoperability and the training and the mission readiness for a decision that is made to go and intervene in places that are important for stability around the world, like Libya, for example, or other places.
So my question to you, Admiral, is, how are the Europeans feeling? Where are they with respect to their defense spending, given that they're watchin' us lower our defense and most of them have not met the 2 percent threshold over the last few years. And how is that affecting our interoperability and our readiness for mission, should new fires erupt out in an area that we would think together we should handle the situation?
STAVRIDIS: Thank you, Congresswoman.
And, as you know from our discussions in Munich at the security conference there, the Europeans are indeed watching the United States, both in regard to our rebalancing to Asia and in our potential significant reductions in defense spending.
To kind of put in in perspective, the United States spends $600 billion, roughly, on defense base budget. Europeans actually spend about $300 billion per year collectively.
So it's a very significant expenditure on their part. It is more than China and Russia spend combined. So they spend a fairly significant amount.
The bad news is in my view, and we've discussed this, and as you alluded to, they are not meeting their own targeted 2 percent of GDP, which I think is a minimum in order to continue to maintain the appropriate level, as you said, of interoperability with the United States.
So, on the one hand, we want to have a full advantage of their spending and their integration with us. On the other hand, we need to encourage them to step up and to spend appropriately, so that we are in balance with them.
STAVRIDIS: We continue to do that. I work that very hard within both NATO, in my hat as the supreme allied commander, but also in the U.S. European Command context.
Lastly, as to the rebalancing to Asia, again as you and I've both seen in Munich, the Europeans themselves are kind of rebalancing toward Asia, and I think the key is that we maintain both military integration and inter-operability as well as the diplomatic cultural connections that we have.
So, on balance, I continue to be pushing of the Europeans to get their spending levels up, but we should recognize they already spend a fairly significant amount. And they have, as you said, stood with us: Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, today the forces in Mali and Carter Ham's region are essentially all European.
So it's a balance. We need to continue to encourage them.
SANCHEZ: And with respect to Bosnia, and Kosovo and some of the, what I call the unfinished business there, can you give us an update of where are our allies there, and where Europe seems to be going and if the current economic conditions that we're experiencing and others and how that's affecting that?
What do you think we need to do to really make that -- the Balkans work?
I know that's a big question.
STAVRIDIS: It is, and I'll do it quickly.
Whenever we think about the Balkans, it's instructive to look back 10 to 15 years when the Balkans of 15 years ago looked a lot like Syria today. Fifteen years ago in the Balkans we saw 100,000 killed, we saw 2 million pushed across borders, we saw open combat across Bosnia-Herzegovina, we saw definite follow up in Kosovo, which continues today to have a lot of tension.
So we've come a long way in 10 to 15 years. At one time, collectively, there were about 50,000 allied troops in and around the Balkans. Today, here's the good news, today we're down to only about 6,000 troops total, and of those, only about 700 are from the United States. So this is now about an 85 percent, almost 90 percent European mission. There are about 2,000 to 3,000 European Union troops that are in Bosnia-Herzegovina where there are no U.S. troops.
So the good news is the Europeans have stepped up and are doing this. What we need to do is continue the dialogue, notably between Kosovo and Serbia, as well as between Croatia and Serbia, so that, in the Balkans, instead of reaching for a gun to solve their disputes as they did 10 years ago, they reach for the telephone for a negotiation.
I think it's moving in that direction.
SANCHEZ: Mr. Chairman, I'm very pleased that there are so many of our members here today for this hearing, and for that reason I -- even though I have many, many more questions, I will end and thank you so much for the time.
MCKEON: Thank you. Mr. Thornberry.
THORNBERRY: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you both for -- for being here, for your service to the country, and for your family's service to the country over -- over many years.
Let me start with just something brief that's come to my attention. I understand that we have an airfield in the Azores that we're gonna mothball by the end of 2014. Some people are concerned about that because of its proximity to North Africa, and especially not having to have overflight rights and so forth.
General Ham, are you comfortable with where we're headed with this?
Or is it on your radar screen at all?
HAM: It is sir.
We -- one of the things that we're always concerned about, is access. I think losing access to one place won't be a show stopper, but we've got to look at this more holistically. And I know Admiral Stavridis does that. He spends a lot of time making sure that we have enough points of entry, and enough redundancy so that we can have the access that is needed when it is needed.
So I'm not overly worried about one particular case, but I do think it's important that we look more broadly.
THORNBERRY: I just raised the point because I think there are some people -- some people concerned.
If I can ask you one other question right quick. We had a hearing earlier this year about the various authorities to build partnership capacity. Nowhere is that more important than your region.
If you had to give us two or three improvements in current law, whether they be tweaks or major reforms, what would you suggest we at least consider to make our existing authorities (inaudible) more effective in building partnership capacity across the region that you're responsible for?
HAM: First, I would thank the committee and all for providing authorities that you have. That is a significant improvement over past years.
I think as we look to the future though, we probably need to look at something that is akin to today's overseas contingency operations authorities and fundings that are not specifically tied to Afghanistan, and to Al Qaida, but rather give us some broader authorities to address a growing number of violent extremist organizations that don't necessarily fit neatly under the Al Qaida umbrella.
So I think that would be the first one. And secondly, probably some increased authorities for some of the geographic regions. So the global security contingency fund is a good step in that direction, and authorities to apply some of DOD's capabilities, in partnership with state in new partners. Libya is a great example of that.
So there is some minor tweaks, but I think we're moving in the right direction.
Lastly, I happen to be a fan of the so called dual key authorities, where both the secretary of defense and the secretary of state have vested interest. I think that ensures a closer alignment of Defense and State as we move forward.
THORNBERRY: Thank you.
Admiral Stavridis, you've been not only combatant commander in Europe, but in the southern region as well. This is an unfair question with such limited time, but if you were to give us, and this committee, the three things you think we ought to be focused on in the years ahead from our standpoint, not just for Europe, but for our total responsibilities, what would they be?
STAVRIDIS: Very quickly, I would actually put cyber at the top of the list. I think in cyber we find the greatest mismatch between our level of preparation and the level of danger.
I think that, in other words, we prepare an awful lot for counter-terrorism, for spread of weapons of mass destruction for many conventional scenarios we're very well prepared for, but I think, cyber, we have a lot of work to do. I mean, the big 'we', not just DOD obviously. This is something that cuts across all parts of government, and all parts of societies.
So I put cyber at the top.
Secondly, may or may not surprise you. I think trafficking is an enormous problem, the movement of narcotics, weapons, humans as in slaves, humans as in terrorists, cash, and God forbid the weapons of mass destruction. So counter-trafficking, which means ISR, intelligence, understanding what's moving in the seas and ways around you both land, sea and air, I think, is critically important.
And then I would say my third thing would be special operations. I believe that as we move forward that's going to be the comparative advantage for the United States. And I think we should continue to focus on how we can use, improve and inter-operability work with our allies in the special operations zone.
MCKEON: Thank you.
LANGEVIN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you for your service to our country, and for appearing here this morning.
General Ham, if I could just start with you. East Africa remains, obviously, a key operating and training area for Al Qaida and associates and specifically the Somalia based terrorist group al-Shabaab.
How concerned is the Department about al-Shabaab's ability to attract and train foreign fighters, including recruits from the United States who may project violence outward from East Africa?
And what exactly is the Department doing to counter this threat?
HAM: Al-Shabaab is in my assessment significantly weakened from where they were a year ago. And that's because of the concerted effort of African forces, certainly, supported and enabled by the United States and others, but there's been good progress.
We are seeing al-Shabaab continuing to have strong linkages with Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; in Yemen, specifically. And we have seen continued effort by al-Shabaab to recruit foreigners from other parts of Africa, from the Mideast to a less degree in Europe and the United states, but there are certainly those efforts.
HAM: We are most effective in countering that approach by supporting the African-led approach to countering Shabaab by the restoration of a legitimate government, which the United States now recognizes; focusing on development; countering the underlying causes that has allowed Shabaab to gain traction.
There are some specific efforts in the information domain that we work in partnership with other nations and with the government of Somalia, again, to help convey the legitimacy of the African-led effort in Somalia. We hope that that is helping to diminish the ability of Shabaab to recruit externally.
And lastly, sir, we are seeing, because of the increased pressure on Shabaab, we're seeing a bit of a split between the foreign fighters who are there, and those who are native Somalis who are part of Shabaab. The foreign fighters are very rapidly losing influence inside that organization.
LANGEVIN: Thank you, General. I think that's so important that if we can get to some of the root causes of why al-Shabaab had been (inaudible) to adequately recruit fighters, that we can obviously further degrade their ability to be an effective fighting force. So I think that's important in (inaudible), especially working with local populations.
Let me ask you this. Do we have a sufficient amount of department resources, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets working on the problem? And is AFRICOM adequately resourced in general? Do you have to beg, borrow and steal too much from the other area commands or do you feel you're adequately resourced?
HAM: I have significant shortfalls in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. So that causes us to apply a pretty sharp prioritization. Unsurprisingly, Somalia has been near the top of that prioritization because of the effort against al-Shabaab.
So we have conducted a lot of reconnaissance missions in support of the African-led effort in Somalia. That's been pretty effective, but it has left us short in other areas across the continent. So that would be at the top of my list, sir, is shortfalls in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
LANGEVIN: Thank you, General.
Admiral, let me turn to you, if I could, before my time expires. You've previously shared and touched on something that's very important and that I spend a lot of time on, is the issue of cyber. Can you further summarize for us EUCOM's evolution in this area over the course of your tour, and where you believe more work needs to be done on cyber from a EUCOM perspective?
STAVRIDIS: I can. Very quickly, Congressman, we work very closely with my very good friend General Keith Alexander at U.S. Cyber Command to create a cyber center within U.S. European Command,- a kind of a nascent version of the Special Operations Command that we enjoy. I think having such centers in each of the combatant commands is important and we should move forward.
Secondly, we work very closely with NATO to build a NATO cyber center in Talinn, Estonia, a nation which has experienced a cyber attack, as you know quite well, being an expert in this area.
And thirdly, we're working operationally across the alliance to have an appropriate NATO cyber incident response center nearing what we have here in the United States.
So those are three quick things, and I'd like to add for the record a few more for you.
LANGEVIN: Thank you. I'd appreciate that.
MCKEON: Thank you.
JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Admiral and General, thank you again, as everyone else has said, for your service to our nation. You all are real heroes to America. You really are.
General Ham, I want to read you a statement and then I will get to my question.
"Africa cannot be thought of as a monolith. It is a hugely complex land mass with a hugely diverse population. The nature of the people, the diversity of cultures and religions, and the tribal factions all combine to make Africa far more dangerous than Afghanistan. We need to be wary of being drawn into a morass."
Would you agree with that statement?
HAM: I agree with the first part about the complexity and the diversity. I don't think that the threats that are present in Africa yet rise to the seriousness that exists with al Qaida and the Taliban in Pakistan or in Afghanistan, pardon me, and in the federally administered tribal area. But the trend is good.
JONES: OK. Your statement, and thank you, has not at this point risen to a situation where maybe would have to start thinking about committing more men and women to Africa.
As you begin to leave your service and become a citizen outside of the military, do I understand you correctly that you would not want to see this nation make such a commitment that we begin then to be in a situation, as we have been in Afghanistan for 12 years, in a failed policy that will not lead to any success at all? History says that, not me, but history.
Would you, I mean, I understand the intelligence importance of having a presence in Africa. I have no problem with that at all. But to see the footprint get larger, where we are committing more than 300 or 400 troops to be there primarily as advisers and intel offices. But to see this thing start to grow and expand, would you rather not see that happen?
HAM: Congressman, I believe that if the threat that is present in Africa is left unaddressed, it will over time grow to an increasingly dangerous and imminent threat to U.S. interests, and certainly could develop into a threat that threatens us in other places. We've already seen from some places in Africa individuals that -- from Nigeria, for example, attempt to enter our country with explosives.
I think we have an opportunity now to work preventive effort in concert with African forces and with allies and friends globally to suppress the threat, to reverse the trend, which is increasingly worrisome to me. And that does not necessitate a large commitment of U.S. forces. And I do not believe that a large commitment of U.S. forces is either necessary nor appropriate under the current circumstance.
JONES: Mr. Chairman, I want to thank the Admiral and the General again, and I appreciate you indicating that you would hope that we would not get into a situation where it would be Congress funding a larger military presence. As long as we can work with other countries, which, you know, the situation in Afghanistan of the coalition forces at best was limited.
And what I'm concerned about is we are here cutting every program for the American people and the military is getting hit very hard by sequestration. And I would like to believe that as time goes forward that we would have leaders like yourself and the admiral to say that we need to really limit our commitment to these countries, where we can let other countries come in and take the lead, instead of America.
So I thank you very much for your question (sic). My time is about up. And again, I thank you both for your service to our nation.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MCKEON: Thank you.
GARAMENDI: Thank you. Admiral and General, thank you for your service.
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to South Sudan. General Ham, could you please give us your assessment of the situation there, considering the financial near-bankruptcy of the country, the presence of Lord's Resistance Army in the southwestern part of the country, and the overall outlook as you see it for South Sudan?
HAM: I had the great pleasure and honor, Congressman, of on the 9th of July of 2011 of attending the, as a member of the U.S. delegation, the independence celebration for South Sudan in Juba. And it was an exuberant moment.
But one of the lasting memories from that was after the celebration, the chief of the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army, the South Sudan's army, we were having a discussion and he rightfully said, "Now, the hard work begins." Independence is important. We're glad the U.S. obviously has been supportive of that for a long time. There are many, many challenges that South Sudan faces. There are -- the army is far too large. It consumes and exorbitantly large portion of the national budget, upwards of 40 percent. That's obviously not sustainable.
HAM: So, one of the key priorities that we and those in the State Department are helping with South Sudan is defense structure and reform, which is very important.
At the same end, we are, in the same time, also working with the South Sudanese on some specific leader development training. We think that's probably an area where we can provide a very positive influence.
I'm concerned about the continuing inability of Sudan and South Sudan to resolve their lingering border conflicts. It is promising to see now indications that South Sudan will soon begin oil production. That will help both countries, frankly, Sudan and South Sudan.
And to your point, sir, about the Lord's Resistance Army, the South Sudanese have been very supportive in terms of supporting the African Union-led effort. They have welcomed us, our advisers, and the capabilities that the U.S. team brings in terms of aviation support, logistics support and advisers.
And they've been an active and supportive participant with the other nations -- Uganda, Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo, in the effort for the Africans to resolve the Lord's Resistance Army challenge.
GARAMENDI: All right. Thank you for that.
On a different line, there are numerous violence extremist organizations in the Sahel. It is argued and pointed out by many NGO groups, wildlife groups and the rest, that the organizations are supported through the slaughter of elephants and the ivory trade.
Do you have authority to assist the governments in the Sahel in dealing with this issue? And do you need authority if you don't have it?
HAM: Congressman, we have very limited specific authorities to help with the specific challenge of poaching. But we do have some, and we work with State Department and with the U.S. ambassadors in that regard.
But where we can have an effect, and are having an effect, is many African militaries do have responsibilities within their own nations for countering poaching.
And I would cite as one example in Cameroon, the rapid intervention battalion, a special operations organization, which we have had a long relationship with. It's an exceedingly capable force. They have been designated by their president to take on a counterpoaching role.
So our support for them extends, while not directly to counterpoaching, the equipment, the training, the advising that we have provided helps enable that force. And so, I think our best efforts, again, probably will be in a more indirect approach.
The one exception, sir, would be if we see that financing has a direct relationship, financing from poaching has a direct relationship, then there are some law enforcement authorities that the United States possesses in terms of addressing the finance aspect of that which could be helpful.
GARAMENDI: I thank you. In my last nine seconds, I am told by wildlife organizations operating in the region that they do, in fact, have evidence that these violent, extreme organizations are using ivory and other animal parts as...
MCKEON: The gentleman's time has expired.
MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral, General, thank you very much for being here. I apologize for missing some of your opening statements.
General Ham, I would like to know a little bit about the cooperation of Boko Haram and AQIM, al-Shabaab. Are -- talk to me about the level of cooperation between those organizations, if you will.
HAM: Congressman, it's very worrisome to me. The three organizations which you mentioned, al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria for the most part, and Al Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, in Mali and in that region, each individually presents a significant challenge.
But when they collaborate -- and we are seeing them increasingly collaborate -- I'm very worried about that, particularly the relationship between Boko Haram and Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, as you mentioned.
We have seen indications of a sharing of financing. Al Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb is, we believe, Al Qaida's best funded, wealthiest affiliate, if you will, mostly from kidnapping for ransom, but also through drug trade. And they -- we believe they have provided financing directly to Boko Haram.
We believe that they have shared training, to include explosives training, and we believe that fighters from Nigeria, Boko Haram-sponsored fighters, have found their way over the past year to training camps in northern Mali.
So the relationship, sir, is very worrisome to me.
MILLER: Do you assess that Boko Haram has it within their desires to come to the United States and do something here, on our continent?
HAM: Sir, Boko Haram, like most terrorist organizations, is not monolithic. There are a couple of different elements within Boko Haram, some of which are exclusively focused on domestic Nigerian issues, but there are others who more closely align, while not directly a part of Al Qaida, but an Al Qaida-like global ideology.
And so, I would say that in my view, there are elements of Boko Haram who aspire to a broader regional level of attacks, to include not just in Africa, but Europe and aspirationally to the United States.
I think that's why it's important for us, in partnership with Nigeria and others to help them counter this before their capability matches their intent.
MCKEON: Thank you.
DUCKWORTH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Ham, my question pertains to Mali. My understanding is that when the coup happened, the United States -- all nonhumanitarian aid had to be pulled out of Mali because technically it is a military junta and a coup, and not a legitimate government, because there was an overthrow of the government.
I'm interested to know if there are any future training plans or any other types of engagement that we may be thinking about into the future with the military in Mali, even though it is technically not a legitimate government.
HAM: Congresswoman, we do want, we very much would like to re-engage on a military-to-military basis with Mali. But it's premature to do so.
But we are starting to think now what we would like to do when there is a legitimate government in Mali. And we've gotten some indications that the Malians are very interested in restoring that normalized military-to-military relationship.
I think our efforts probably will initially focus, perhaps, on helping the Malians develop a capable counterterrorist force. But there are other aspects of an enduring relationship that I think would be helpful.
I would just note also, ma'am, that while we are prohibited from having a direct relationship, as Admiral Stavridis mentioned, the European Union and others are already present and are working with the Malians to good effect.
STAVRIDIS: If I could, Congresswoman, just to amplify quickly, the European Union has 200 soldiers. They're gonna ramp that up very quickly. And they're stepping up in this, and I'm encouraged to hear what General Ham says about potentially us as well.
DUCKWORTH: Really, with regards to trying to use our forces more wisely and more -- with greater cost savings, and specifically I'd like to talk about the state partnership program, which in the admiral's testimony, really talks about the success of the program being used by the European Command.
What -- do you have any plans looking to the future to really capitalize on this?
I see that, for example, California, which participated in a state partnership program in 1993, 10 years later took on the role of helping work with the Nigerians. North Carolina, after 12 years experience working with Moldova, is now working with Botswana since 2008.
For a program that has demonstrated its successfulness and its cost savings by using the National Guard and the institutional knowledge in those long-term relationships that can be established by the cadre of the National Guard in particular states, are you looking to expand this program in AFRICOM?
HAM: I would like to think that you probably have the co-chairs of the state partnership program fan club seated here. It is an extraordinarily effective and low-cost effort to achieve our national security objectives.
We have eight partnerships presently in Africa. I think we're close to having a few more. We don't have any in East Africa. We have had discussions with some East African countries, and I think we're close to having a few more, and I think we're close to getting a couple to formally request. The chief of the National Guard Bureau is already, you know, working with the state adjutants general to see who might be willing to take on some relationships.
Another aspect, ma'am, that I would highlight, we have one instance where there's a couple of instances where states have state partnerships both in Europe and in Africa. And that's, I think, that's something that we can leverage to a further extent in the future.
STAVRIDIS: If I could, three I'd really highlight, Illinois, Poland is terrific, Kosovo is married up with Iowa and Georgia, imaginatively enough, is married up with Georgia.
And they are bang for the buck, one of the best things going. We had an earlier question about authorities and what we could do -- anything that enhances state partnership is money in the bank for the regional combatant commanders ma'am.
DUCKWORTH: That is good to hear, I too am a fan of state partnership program, because of two things. One, is that long term institutional knowledge. I am of course biased being from Illinois, but also because it's a great cost savings to not have to have active duty troops carry that load for the whole time.
So thank you for your answers gentlemen.
MCKEON: Thank you, Mr. Wilson.
WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Admiral, General thank you for your service.
General, each year I'm always interested in finding out what the latest is on potentially relocating AFRICOM command. I know that last October, there was a determination not to relocate because of one time relocation costs, even though there could be a savings from $130 million to $60 million to $70 million to relocate back in the United States.
I have information from the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce that puts in perspective a benefit of relocating AFRICOM back to the United States.
It's clear that in Charleston, with the joint military complex, there are assets to support the command. The Charleston Air Force Base already supports the African air cargo channel missions. It's the largest C-17 wing, and the only C-17 special operations unit. SPAWAR Charleston is already an integrator of joint communications for DOD, Department of Homeland Security, the State Department and other federal agencies.
The port of Charleston provides approximately 50 percent of import-export sea-going container traffic between the United States and Africa. The Department of Homeland Security's project Sea Hawk Command and Control Center in Charleston integrates nearly fifty federal, state and local law enforcement, intelligence agencies, technologies and assets.
With two-thirds of Africa's nations having sea access, Sea Hawk could be a major contributor to AFRICOM's training and security missions. The Charleston federal law enforcement training facility can accommodate maritime and law enforcement training for African nations, and currently operates an international training site at Botswana.
Charleston and the state of South Carolina already have close ties with African nations in the field of medicine, agriculture, education, religious institutions, business, as well as a shared heritage with a large percentage of the low country Charleston population originating in West Africa.
In light of defense cut backs, particularly sequestration, will this be looked at further to relocate the AFRICOM command?
HAM: Congressman, I'm uncertain.
As you are aware, the Congress did require the Department of Defense to conduct a study. They did. That was led by the office of the secretary of defense. Obviously, Africa Command had an operational role in that.
The Department did respond, and it was the department's determination that the command is best retained in its current location in Stuttgart, Germany. But, clearly with having been part of the discussion, the cost factors were a significant aspect of this, and I know that Secretary Panetta, as he was in office at the time, wrestled hard between many of the attributes that you spoke of, the cost savings, and the operational impact, but the Department's conclusion was that the command is best retained at its current location.
WILSON: Well, and do understand that we appreciate what you've done so much and recognize how important it is, that's why we would love for you to relocate to South Carolina. And we like to point out we have the right climate. It's meteorological, and you would appreciate that. And then the people are very warm and would be very supportive.
Admiral, at the last several posture hearings, before this committee, you strongly advocated for obtaining four Army brigade combat teams in Europe. How has the decision to withdraw two of the brigade combat teams effected your ability to meet operational and training requirements?
STAVRIDIS: Obviously, it decrements them.
What we're doing to substitute for them, Congressman, is instituting a rotational policy, so we can bring a brigade combat team that's located back in the United States -- as you were just talking about, Charleston is a good place to be located, we're rotating out of Georgia -- they'll come to the European theater. They'll train, operate, inter-operate, be part of NATO exercises and be part of assurance, reassurance and deterrence.
So we're substituting a rotational structure and, you know, so far, so good.
WILSON: And would it be rotating out of Fort Stewart, or...
STAVRIDIS: Initially that's the indications we're getting. It'll probably bounce around within the United States, but we'd like to see it centralized in a particular unit so we can build the experience base working that piece of it.
WILSON: Thank you, very much.
STAVRIDIS: Thank you.
MCKEON: Thank you. Mr. Castro.
CASTRO: Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Admiral and General.
The question I have is one that I asked on my other committee, which is foreign affairs, and the answer there was that it would be more appropriate for you guys at defense; And that is, as we try to understand the emerging terrorist groups in North Africa, in particular, how do we distinguish between those with legitimate ties to Al Qaida, and those who are simply poseurs trying to take advantage of the credibility and the prestige that comes to wrongdoers who (inaudible) Al Qaida?
HAM: It sometimes can be a tough challenge, Congressman, because again many of these organizations have multiple personalities.
So some of them are relatively easy. So Al Qaida in the lands of the Islamic Maghreb, they are very clearly an Al Qaida-associated organization. They've said so. Al Qaida senior leaders have said so, so that makes it pretty easy.
But others have not quite so clear views. Some of them originate with dissatisfaction with the host government. And then sometimes an element of that, that group might get co-opted by an ideologically motivated entity.
And so there are a number of those types of organizations that operate in North Africa that make it very, very difficult.
What that necessitates for us is that we cannot paint with too broad a brush to say that every VEO (ph) has an Al Qaida-like ideology. We really have to be very precise in our application.
It requires us to work very carefully with host nation governments, particularly with their intelligence organizations so that we can more clearly understand, you know, where are the hardcore ideologically committed extremists that require one approach, and where are those others who have perhaps unfulfilled expectations or have been a long disaffected population whose concerns can be addressed by non-military means.
STAVRIDIS: If I could add a thought on that, it's the importance of cyber and the social networks as tools that allow us to do the kind of discriminatory analysis. So it's another aspect of this traditional intelligence has its merits obviously, but here you can learn more about these groups by getting inside them because so many of them are using the cyber world in articulating their vision as well as actually conducting operations.
You know, thank you, gentlemen. And I thin we all agree that our understanding of those relationships affects the United States' engagement with those different groups and the level of resources and energy we attend (sic) to those groups.
Thank you all very much.
MCKEON: Thank you. Mr. Turner?
TURNER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral Stavridis, I thank you for being here. And I want to thank you also not just for the confidence that we here in this committee have in your, but also the confidence that you have earned with our NATO allies. And it certainly is, I think, very important both to the credibility of the United States and for our relationships that you have such high regard from our NATO allies.
I want to talk about an issue of which I have concerned about that relationship with our NATO allies. The -- I have served as -- I serve on the Strategic Forces Subcommittee and have served as chair. And missile defense is one of those areas where you have worked very diligently to obtain support from our NATO allies for adding missile defense as a NATO mission.
As you and I have talked previously, I was very concerned with the way the Obama administration ended the Bush plan to put ground- based missiles in Poland, both because I thought it was going to be essential for the protection of our mainland United States, but also because of the way in which the Poles were treated in that retreat. They had made a political commitment, and I think it was done in a way that was detrimental to our relationship.
Now we're to the phased, adaptive approach, which I have some concerns about, and the GAO has recently issued a report that the SM-3 IIB missile may have -- I believe their view is very little national missile defense contribution from land-based sites in Poland and Romania. My concern from that report is it begins to signal, again, that perhaps we could disappoint our allies in commitments that we've made.
The -- Secretary Miller recently said in remarks at the Atlantic Council that the Pentagon, in view of the internal DOD reports, we’re looking very hard at the future of the SM-3 IIB missile, and I'm concerned about the DOD commitment to this missile and the administration's commitment to this missile. Now, I don't see this as an alternative to ground-based sites, because I believe that they're complementary and they can be both used together, but in looking at the SM-3 IIB, I mean, this Republican House has always funded the IIB missile. The Senate Democrat appropriators have cut funding for that, and when the Department of Defense in the conference report issued its objections of the appeals with respect to the appropriations, defense of the SM-3 IIB was not there.
So we have the administration saying they're going to the SM-2 -- the SM-3 IIB, funding being cut from the Democrat-controlled House, the administration not objecting. The Republicans in the House side funding it, and now technical issues having been raised, I'm concerned about the DOD's commitment, both to our allies, the Romanians and the Poles, with respect to this missile, but also the protection of the mainland United States.
What is the Department of Defense's commitment to the SM-3 IIB? And how do you see its role both with our allies and in protecting the homeland?
STAVRIDIS: Well, as you know, Congressman, from our long conversations about this, let me start with the Poles and the Romanians. At the moment, in my conversations with my interlocutors, military to military, and, indeed, conversations with ministers of defense, ministers of foreign affairs, they appeared to me to be comfortable with the EPAA and the upcoming addition of shore- based sites, as you know, coming into Romania and then into Poland in '15 and '18 and so forth.
So my sense is, the allies have adjusted to EPAA, and they are, in fact, looking for ways to contribute. The Dutch, the Spanish, the Italians are all looking at maritime-based contributions. The Germans and Italians are looking at point defense solutions. Germany is providing command and control. So I think the structure under the NATO hat that you know from your time as a NATO parliamentarian, sir, is, in fact, coming together.
In terms of where we're going through this progress, as you know, SM-3 IIB is scheduled to come online in 2020. So that's seven years from now. I suspect there will continue to be technical discussions regarding it.
What I would like to do is take that for the record and come back to you with a defined departmental position that includes some technical analysis, because I sense that's what you're hungry for. And I'll obtain that from MDA and come back.
TURNER: Admiral, I would appreciate that, but the other aspect of this is, is that -- as we look to the, you know, emerging threats, we're going to need to make certain that we have every technological available means to address it. The SM-3 IIB certainly has additional capabilities. I'm concerned by the press reports that seem to indicate that Congress is the one that's cutting it, because this arm -- this side of Congress has been funding it. The administration -- if it really wants it -- certainly has influence with the Democratic Senate to be able to obtain it.
MCKEON: Thank you. Mr. Johnson?
JOHNSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral, good to see you again, sir. We were just recently in Europe, visited EUCOM headquarters, and I want to thank you and your staff for your outstanding support during that trip. And I also have a little egg on my face, because I think I assured you that no chance that sequestration would kick in. And, you know, I've got egg on my face. Really, it's more like manure on my face, I feel.
And so it is what it is. But the chairman asked you during his questioning about the need for troops in Europe. And you mentioned that, from the height of the Cold War, we have decreased by 80 percent the troop strength in Europe. I've heard questions from those
who would question why we need those other 20 percent troops in Europe. Why can't we just bring them all home and let Europe take care of itself? Can you rebut that assertion?
STAVRIDIS: Sir, I think I can give you the view from U.S. European Command. I mentioned earlier values, the economic base we share, the significant geography and access we enjoy in Europe, as well as the alliance itself, which is a treaty obligation which goes back and forth across the Atlantic for mutual defense, and finally, this very pragmatic reason, that Europe is this largest pool of allies we have in the world, trained, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, as well as high technology. So I think that basket of reasons is very strong.
JOHNSON: Well, what threat, though, is posed to our allies and ourselves that require us to maintain such a presence in Europe?
STAVRIDIS: I think as you look around the periphery of Europe, particularly, as Carter Ham knows extremely well, look to the south, along the Sahel and the northern rim of the Mediterranean, as well as the Levant, looking...
JOHNSON: And the Levant, for those who don't know, is, what...
STAVRIDIS: Near Middle East, Syria and that region, sir. So that arc of crisis, if you will, that runs today from Syria down through and access the northern part of Africa, I think, represents threats to the United States, as well as to our allies.
So I would argue that we continue to have enduring presence needs, enduring interoperability needs, and a treaty obligation that would require some level of forces in Europe. Again, we've come down 80 percent. I think that's probably about right for the moment, but we should keep looking at it as we go forward.
HAM: Mr. Johnson, may I?
HAM: Sir, I would make two points to that, partly as a guy who's reliant upon Europe-based forces to a large degree, and I would make two points. One, in terms of near-term response, when the president -- when our president made the decision to commit forces initially in Libya, that simply would not have been possible on the timelines that were required absent Europe-based air and maritime forces.
Had those forces been in the continental United States, the timelines would have been significantly different, and we don't know what might have happened if we had not been able to respond on timelines.
Second is one of the many missions which combatant commanders are given is to assure access for the United States and for others in global trade. And so as we look to Europe, the Straits of Gibraltar, a strategic chokepoint, the Suez Canal, further down, the Bab-el-Mandeb, access through the Gulf of Guinea, all important economically not just to our country, but to many others, and the presence of U.S. forces nearby helps assure that access that is vital to our economy.
JOHNSON: Thank you. I'll yield back the balance of my time, Mr. Chairman.
MCKEON: Thank you. Mr. Rogers?
ROGERS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And, gentlemen, thank you both for your service and for being here today.
Admiral, could you give us a rough order of magnitude as to the size of our nuclear weapons in Europe, forward deployed?
STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir. If I could, that's classified, so I'll take that for the record and provide you with a precise number.
ROGERS: Let me ask this, then. Can you tell us how many so- called tactical or non-strategic weapons that Russia has that are forward-deployed in Europe?
STAVRIDIS: I think you will find press reports that Russia possesses some low number of thousands of tactical nuclear weapons. They are on Russian territory. The United States possesses orders of magnitude smaller numbers. And again, I'll respond on a classified basis.
ROGERS: I understand that and I appreciate it. You painted the picture that I was after.
STAVRIDIS: OK, sir.
ROGERS: As you know, I've taken over the chairmanship of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir.
ROGERS: So I'm concerned about press reports about the administration's intent to pursue reduction talks with the Russians and not through a treaty structure, which I find disturbing. Would you -- is it your professional opinion that if those talks were to proceed, that they should include tactical weapons as well as strategic weapons?
STAVRIDIS: I would obviously defer to the State Department for negotiations of treaties. I will say from a military perspective, we have a small number of weapons, as you know, that are in Europe and that we -- any changes to that structure would need to be first and foremost negotiated within NATO, so we had an overall position before we could even more to a discussion with Russia.
ROGERS: Well, it's my observation that as we continue to discuss reductions in our strategic weapons, not only with Russia, but our position in the world, Russia, China and other countries continue to dramatically increase their tactical weapons, and we don't seem to ever take account for that. And I think that's mistaken.
But next question. On the subject of tactical weapons, are you familiar with the presidential nuclear initiative of 1991 between President Yeltsin and George H. W. Bush?
STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir, in general terms.
ROGERS: In 2006, then-Assistant Secretary Stephen Rademaker noted, "President Yeltsin committed to similar reductions in Russia -- Russian tactical nuclear weapons, but considerable concern exists that the Russian commitments have not been entirely fulfilled."
What are your thoughts about that? Do you think the Russians are fulfilling their commitments? And are we able to verify that?
STAVRIDIS: Well, you're correct that we are not able to verify that. With some treaties, as you know, in a treaty structure, you have verification regimes -- think Nunn-Lugar. Here, we don't have that. So it's difficult to say with certainty.
I think you're correct in the assumption that there is a wide disparity in terms of numbers of such weapons. And at the moment, there's no mechanism for monitoring, verifying or following up on those discussions.
ROGERS: I appreciate that.
I do want to follow up on a couple of things. Mr. Turner talked about the SMD to be. I completely concur with his position. I think that it appears that the administration and some in the Congress on the other side of the Hill have lost their enthusiasm for that program. And my concern is that the DOD may be in a similar situation.
When you do respond to him in a followup, I'd appreciate a copy of that...
STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir.
ROGERS: ... to know what your perspective is about the DOD's long-term commitment to that weapon system.
And then lastly, you talked a little bit about Romania and Poland. I fear that what happened in Poland is about to happen in Romania. I'm very concerned about that and our credibility going forward to negotiate with our European allies. So, I would urge you to be sensitive to making sure that we don't leave the Romanians feeling like that we've left them at the altar, as we did the Poles.
ROGERS: With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
MCKEON: Thank you. Ms. Davis?
DAVIS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to both of you for your extraordinary service. I've enjoyed working with you.
General Ham, I wonder if you could just take a moment and talk about our (inaudible) partners -- partnership capacity. We have certainly dealt with that on this committee. But I'm referring particularly to our humanitarian assistance missions. And I know that San Diego was very proud last evening, or I guess Wednesday evening. They honored the USNS Mercy for its work. This was the Center for Conflict Resolution, which usually honors individuals, but in this case they honored the Mercy. And certainly, from my experience in working with them in Papua, New Guinea, I really appreciate that honor to them.
But I also know that the USNS Comfort has not been deployed to the coast of Africa. And I'm wondering, you know, number one, where you feel that this humanitarian mission lies in terms of the needs that we have to support our friends around the world. We've already talked about the importance of cyber, trafficking, special operations. I know that those are certainly, you know, high priorities, but I wondered where humanitarian assistance lies in this, but also whether or not we should be using the tools that we have better, and particularly the USNS Comfort as part of that growing partnership.
HAM: Both ships and their crews are extraordinary. And Comfort and Mercy have been great symbols for the people of the United States in a wide variety of contingency operations and other engagements globally. And so I think they do offer a great capability.
It is also a capability that is best applied when there is some post-nation capability to reciprocate and can build upon the capabilities that Comfort or Mercy provide. So we looked at, we do look at that and we look for opportunities to deploy those ships. We haven't found, frankly, quite the right circumstance just yet. Were it in an engagement purpose, it might be useful.
But rather, our humanitarian assistance -- and I would wrap into that umbrella also disaster response -- is a high priority for us in Africa. There are many circumstances in which African military forces are required for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And a large number -- the preponderance of the exercises that we do both bilaterally and regionally with African forces are built on a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief scenario.
We've seen some improvements in theirr regional capabilities and I think that's an area of enduring effort for us. I think there are ways we can improve that. We have a good relationship with USAID. We have exchanged -- I have a senior development adviser at my headquarters; also folks from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. They're hugely beneficial. I've got a planner embedded at USAID that helps as well. And we've got to tighten the relationship with the many nongovernmental organizations that do such good work in disaster -- in humanitarian assistance missions.
So I think there's significant room for improvement. And for us, the trick is how do you bring the African militaries and capabilities so that they are increasingly capable of responding.
I think Admiral Stavridis had a point.
STAVRIDIS: In my previous life when I was commander of U.S. Southern Command for three years, I was lucky enough to have Comfort deploy several times to Latin America and the Caribbean. I cannot overstate the impact of that. When you see a little eight-year-old boy who's hiked through the jungle with his mother for three days to get to the Comfort, put on his first set of eyeglasses, and say, "Mama, veo el Mundo" -- "Mom, I see the world." Multiply that times 400,000 patient treatments -- that creates security for the United States because it portrays us in a very different and positive way.
DAVIS: As we grapple with budgetary concerns, is this a place that you think people would naturally go to and think we should just cut out this kind of assistance? And how would you respond?
HAM: I don't think so. Because for us on the military side, it's pretty low cost. I mean, it's typically small teams of medical experts, whether they're preventive medicine or veterinarians or, as Admiral Stavridis mentioned, eye -- you know, teams -- deployable eye surgical teams that can go into the heart of Africa. I think we'll be OK, ma'am.
STAVRIDIS: And can I add that on the Comfort, about a third of the personnel are volunteers from the private sector. This is a good example of private-public partnering.
DAVIS: Right. Thank you. And the Mercy as well.
MCKEON: Thank you. Thank you. Mr. Franks?
FRANKS: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen. You know, we always want to take the opportunity to express appreciation because we know that American freedom is anchored in the freedom that's alive in your hearts, that you dedicate yourself to that end for your whole lives.
FRANKS: Admiral Stavridis, I know that it's difficult to kind of have a dual hatted challenge of being in the role of SACEUR -- the supreme allied commander of Europe. That's not an easy challenge. And I would commend you on that. And I'm like so many others on this committee, committed to seeing a robust missile defense capability against whatever enemies might challenge us.
And with that in mind, would you provide us with an update on your command's missile defense capacity and force structure requirements, specifically highlighting any concerns that you might have about our ability to meet the European phased, adaptive approach policy and its requirements?
STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir. As you know, we are in phase one, which means we have an Aegis ship deployed typically to the eastern Mediterranean. We have what's called a TPY-2. It's a phased-array radar that's hosted by Turkey. The command and control that lashes it together is in Ramstein, Germany. It's a NATO command-and-control structure at the moment. It is manned by the nations of NATO, with a very strong U.S. underpinning to it, so that's phase one. And it relies on the SM-3 IA missile system, which can be launched from the Aegis ship.
The next phase, phase two, will add a land-based site in Romania, which we discussed earlier this morning. It will upgrade the missile. That will come in, in about 2015. And it will include an enhanced command-and-control structure, tying more exactly to overhead systems.
The third phase, which will come in, in 2018 will include a land- based site in Poland, another upgrade to the missile, a further upgrade in the overhead sensor system. And then it gets a little less defined as you get into that fourth phase, but the current plan, as we've been discussing this morning, is to add another upgrade to the missile system. So that's kind of the flow of this over the next seven years, sir.
FRANKS: Well, thank you. And let me -- if I could -- ask you about the Russian missile defense system. Is it true -- and I'm asking these questions sort of like a lawyer does. You know, you have some perspective of the answer already, but for the sake of the record and the committee -- is it true that Russia is undertaking a significant modernization of its system? Is it true that they use nuclear-armed interceptors? And have we -- you know, the United States gotten assurance that Russia's missile defense system is not aimed at our nuclear deterrent?
You know, I suppose that's a pretty relevant question, since we witnessed Russia's hysteria about our relatively small non-nuclear- armed missile defense system when Russia deploys one that seems so clearly aimed at deterring ours. So I've given you a lot to shoot at there, but I might not get a chance to rephrase the question.
STAVRIDIS: Well, let me begin by saying I will respond for the record in a classified manner to several elements of what you say. It is very true that Russia is expanding generally in their defense spending to include missile systems, sea-going systems, as well as advanced air and so forth. So Russia is increasing their defense budget by about 12 percent this year, for example. I'm sure that will include enhanced systems. Beyond that, we probably get into a classified realm that I'd like to address for the record.
I want to state for the record that the U.S. missile defense system and the, therefore, the NATO missile defense system poses no threat to Russian strategic systems. And the science and the kinematics of that are very clear.
FRANKS: Yep. Well, Mr. Chairman, I guess I would just close by suggesting that, you know, during the Bush and Obama administrations, both of them have spent much time and political capital in trying in good faith, in my opinion, to assuage the Russian concerns or stated concerns about our missile defense system. At the same time, Russia has this extensive missile defense system in place that seems clearly aimed at our deterrent. And at some point, we need to realize that Russia may be playing us to some degree.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
MCKEON: Thank you.
The vote has been called. It looks like we're going to be 45 minutes to an hour. What I'm going to try to do is get Mr. Enyart and Mr. Conaway, if we can get those questions in, and we probably will conclude the hearing at that time.
ENYART: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. General Ham, it's good to see you again. Admiral Stavridis, good to see you again.
You know, I was sort of glad to hear that you're the co-chairs of the state partnership fan club, and I'd like to think that that may be in large part due to the great partnership you saw between the Illinois National Guard and Poland.
I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about the state partnership program. And I know it's a very small part of the budget. You know, $22 million, it's really dust, but I think it's a very effective program, and I know that you do, too. So I'd ask that you relay your thoughts on that to your incoming commanders when you get replaced eventually.
You know, the state partnership program has been such a great success because what we tried to do was take those Eastern European nations that were formally part of the Warsaw Pact and bring them closer to the West and eventually integrate them into NATO, which we've successfully done.
Do you believe -- and, of course, we align states like Illinois with Poland because of cultural ties. Chicago is the second-largest Polish city in the world. And so we had some very firm bases there to work with. Do you believe that that model would translate also to Africa?
I do, Congressman. And we have some clear examples of that with the eight partnerships that we do have. And I think you're exactly right. The real benefit in the state partnership program is the enduring nature of the relationship, that sergeants and lieutenants and captains grow up together and have multiple engagements. So I think the premise is exactly right.
STAVRIDIS: If I could, because I've seen state partnership both in Europe and in Latin America and the Caribbean, I can tell you, it's easily transportable from significant and advanced to developing nations. It's a very powerful tool, and bang for the buck, it is unmatched.
ENYART: Has there been any thought given to what's called a multilateral partnership, where you would take a long-established partnership like Illinois and Poland, which has been in existence for 20 years, and pairing that partnership then with an African nation? Has there been any thought given to that?
HAM: There has. And we have one good example of that, with Michigan and...
HAM: ... Estonia? And Liberia. And so they're -- so that three-part relationship I think is a model for what might be possible in the future.
ENYART: Admiral Stavridis, you indicate that the brigade combat teams that are leaving and will be replaced on a rotational basis, can you tell me how long a period of time you're talking about rotating BCTs into Europe?
STAVRIDIS: Very much still under discussion. We're starting with a big exercise later this year, called Steadfast Jazz. We'll bring in headquarters elements and probably company-level size formations to do this. Then we'll build it up to a battalion level phase the following year, and then we're hopeful to bring in the first brigade-sized unit in about three years.
So we're building up to doing this. I'm very confident in the support from the U.S. Army. They're enthusiastic about this. And we'll mature the process as it goes along and makes sure, Congressman, that it plugs into the NATO exercise schedule, so we're getting the maximum bang for the buck, both bilaterally, as well as within the alliance.
ENYART: Any thought to using National Guard BCTs as part of those rotation forces?
STAVRIDIS: I think it's a terrific idea, and I'm sure the Army's looking at a wide variety of different units to support this over time.
ENYART: All right. It sounds like what we're talking about is essentially a two-week, maybe a three-week training exercise, not any kind of permanent rotational...
STAVRIDIS: Correct. Correct. Probably longer than two to three weeks so that we'd get the efficiencies out of bringing them over, but probably a couple of months on the ground type of thing.
ENYART: The Kosovo and Sinai peacekeeping missions have been a National Guard mission for the last 10 years. And I think that's saved -- that's done -- been great for the Guard in terms of training. It's also saved our country money, when you consider the fully burden (ph) cost.
Do you envision those missions continuing to be a Guard presence? Or are those going to become an active-duty?
STAVRIDIS: I think that's up to the Army to sort through that. I noticed that the next rotation in Kosovo is going to be an active- duty unit. You're correct that for the previous decade it's been National Guard. I think the Army really values that flexibility.
MCKEON: The gentleman's time expired. Mr. Conaway?
CONAWAY: Yeah, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you both for your long, distinguished service to our country, and just it's a heartfelt thank you.
General Ham, the -- you've had forces in Congo and Uganda for a little better than a year now on the hunt, or helping hunt some folks. Give us a quick couple of sentences on whether that's working or not or how you see as the value of those resources.
HAM: Congressman, I think the U.S. presence, both in terms of the hundred or so special forces advisers, some other enabling capabilities -- aviation, intelligence, logistics, medical -- I think has provided a valuable service.
We have seen significant increases in the number of defections from the Lord's Resistance Army. We have helped enable the Ugandan People's Defence Forces to conduct long-range patrols that have resulted in capturing some, to include some senior leaders from the Lord's Resistance Army.
So positive step, but Joseph Kony remains at large.
CONAWAY: Right. The dust-up in Mali, the collapse of the Mali armed services, what appeared to be in the face of whatever fight (inaudible). I don't know who trained them, if we were involved in any of the training of that regard, but are there lessons learned from what happened with the Mali forces that we can extend across Africa, say, here's how we train; here's how we don't train; here's what works or doesn't work?
HAM: There are, Congressman. And certainly we looked introspectively in the aftermath of the military coup, first of all from an intelligence perspective, did we miss indicators? We don't think so. We think this was very much a spur of the moment thing.
Secondly, did we miss something in our training, our engagement? I am glad to say that the units with which we were primarily engaged in Mali did not participate in the coup.
CONAWAY: But how did they -- how did they perform in the fight with the...
HAM: They didn't. The units that we were mostly engaged with were largely suppressed by those who did participate in the coup.
My greatest disappointment, though, sir, is with the senior leaders, the senior military leaders in Mali, who neither supported the coup, but they didn't resist it, either. And this goes from the former chief of defense and to some other senior leaders.
It is my belief that because this was not long planned, this was a very junior-level-led coup, it could have been stopped, relatively quickly, had senior leaders in the Malian armed forces taken positive steps to counter the coup. They didn't.
And that's a failure on their part.
We're looking at ourselves, to say, in our engagements with leaders, we've got to continually emphasize the military ethos, the professionalism, the subordination to a legitimate civilian control, operating according to the rule of law, and that military coups are not anywhere within the realm of possibility of a professional military.
CONAWAY: Will you take one for the record on the fight that they had with the Tuaregs and extremists in the north? That was really the sub-focus of the question. Great answer to the other part, because that was a big deal as well.
Your forces in extremis, given the tyranny of distance and geography, that someone -- Stavridis mentioned earlier with respect to Africa, is it rational for you to have the kind of enablers and other forces available to respond to the next Benghazi-like event in Africa?
HAM: Congressman, what we're seeking to do is to have forces postured regionally, to one in East Africa, Djibouti; one in West Africa, maybe maritime based, maybe something ashore, and then a southern Europe force that can respond to North Africa.
In conjunction with the State Department, the Department of Defense is looking at, you know, what are the other capabilities? Do there need to be more Marines in more places at U.S. diplomatic facilities?
CONAWAY: Have we dealt with the with the chain of command issues and the ability of whoever has AFRICOM's command that you'll be able to use when you need them, without having to go through other layers?
HAM: Yes, sir. The secretary of defense is my boss, and that's who tells me where and when we can use forces. There is always a diplomatic aspect in terms of access. But I think we're clear on chain of command has never, in my view, never been a...
CONAWAY: So in the Benghazi issue and in the excitement about trying to respond there, there was clear lines of authorities and clear operational issues that didn't -- or were there, they got in the way of the response?
HAM: Sir, there was no lack of clarity on my part as chain of command, and no impediment.
CONAWAY: Right. Thank you. Yield back, Mr. Chairman.
MCKEON: Thank you. If we hurry, we can make the vote.
Gentlemen, thank you very much. And if you could leave your entire statement, it will be taken into the record.
But I would also like staff to make copies and get 'em to all of the members of the committee.
Because you did -- were so expeditious, I know I had requests from members that they wanted to hear that whole testimony, so that we'll get it to them so they can read it.
Thank you, again, for your great service to this nation.
This hearing is adjourned.