tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN March 11, 2016 5:00pm-7:01pm EST
>> well, thank you. i'll talk a little about forces. and of course, there are many issues on the forces. i'll talk about one overarching theme and then look at some individual issues for the particular services. the overarching theme i think you're going to hear over the next year or so on forces is whether there is a gap between the strategy and the size of the forces that are planned. the current forced sizing was done in 2013. that was before we saw a very aggressive china in the south china sea, before you have russian aggression in ukraine and then threats to the baltics, now in syria, of course, and the battlefield successes of isis, plus in the background, of course, you have iran and north korea. so one of the arguments is that the world has changed. the administration's force plans have not changed and a gap has opened up.
sometimes you hear this discussion in code words -- posture versus presence, or capacity versus capability. you heard a little of that this morning with our panelists, and i think you heard some of the tension that exists there. the administration initially took the position that they were going to emphasize posture rather than presence, in other words, we're going to have better stuff rather than more stuff. but they got a lot of pushback on that when the cno, general admiral richardson expressed that in his guidance to the navy. there was a lot of pushback that he hadn't mentioned presence and that this was a major change in what the navy had done and was leaving maybe some of our allies uncovered, so he back-tracked. and i think you saw it in the panel in that -- i think it was mccord's slides, he talks about emphasizing posture rather than presence. but when bashar taught, he said, no, we're emphasizing both of them. so this tension i think is in the administration, and you'll
see it played out on the hill. looking at the individual services, we can start with the army, and this tension plays out in the army. general odierno, the previous chief, had been really quite outspoken about his concerns that the army was getting to be too small, and you've seen some proposed legislation on the hill to stop the army's drawdown. the active army has come down from like 530 to 490. they're going to 470, i think, this year and the plan next year is to go down to 460, ultimately 450. and there are comparable reductions to the guard and reserve. the legislation would freeze the army drawdown. now, that may not get enacted, but it indicates a concern on the hill and in the congress. the other thing i think you'll see played out in the army is maybe some easing of the civil war within the army in its components. the army, of course, has both the guard and the reserves, as
well as the active or regular forces, they're referring to it now. there's been tension there since the beginning of the republic. you can go back to george washington and he complains about the militia. so the fact that there are tensions now is nothing new, but it flared up about two years ago when some regular officers had raised questions about the use of particularly guard combat units in the kind of scenarios that they were facing and proposing or suggesting that maybe there would be some cutbacks there. the guard was being very politically connected, pushed back. there was this commission on the future of the army, and they made a number of recommendations to try to integrate the components better and to ease some of the tensions there. many of those will cost money, but if there's more money available, that might help. they had some ideas, for instance, about apaches, where they were particularly sensitive.
money can be a great lubricant and ease a lot of tensions, so i think if the congress steps in and provides a little more money for the army, that may ease this civil war. if you look at the navy, of course, they got a lot of attention when the secretary sent them a memo cutting the lcs program, and that really captured many of these concerns about posture versus presence, lcs being designed to have some war fighting capability, but i think it's fair to say that that has been a disappointment, what it has produced, but it would give you a lot of presence so that sending a, you know, a $700, $800 million ship instead of a $2 billion destroyer. the secretary had told them to cut back on that. there's been pushback because of concerns that the navy ship count is getting to be too small for all the places that the navy needs to be. this plays out also with the cruises the navy had proposed, essentially deactivating some cruises. congress has forbidden them from
doing that. the other place i think you'll see some issues in the navy is regarding carriers. and shawn talked about that a little with the new class, you know, this unmanned aircraft that the navy had designed. they decided not to produce it as a production aircraft but to turn it into a tanker called cbars. there's also some interest in calling it stingray. so i think whatever we're calling it this month, i think it will be the center of a lot of discussion about the carriers because there's been enormous debate about the role of the carriers going forward. clearly, they're very useful in day-to-day operations and continuous sea operations. a lot of questions about their usefulness in a conflict with a peer competitor, for example, one on the eastern edge of the asian mainland. so i think you'll see that played out because an unmanned aircraft would give the carrier
much greater range, as shawn pointed out. right now its air wing is very short-legged, whereas back in the '80s, the air wing used to have a range of about 1,000 miles. now it's down to about 500. and this is at a time when you're getting close to a peer competitor is going to be extremely dangerous. this new class might have bridged that gap. the navy decided it could not buy both the f-35 and this unmanned aircraft and decided to go with the short-ranged f-35. looking at some of the other services -- the air force. i think you're seeing this played out again. centers around the a-10. there's, of course, a lot of active reserve politics around that, but part of the issue is what do you want the air force to be able to do? if you want it to be able to penetrate very sophisticated air defenses against peer competitors, a-10 can't do that for you. it's much too vulnerable. you need to move to the f-35 and fifth-generation aircraft. on the other hand, if you want
to drop bombs on insurgents or environments with a less sophisticated air defense network, like north korea, a-10 can be great because it's designed for exactly that kind of purpose. the air force had wanted to retire the fleet. the congress has required them to keep them active. and you'll see the dynamics of capacity and ability played out there in the air force. finally, you've got the marine corps. i think one of the things you're seeing that the marine corps on its amphibious ships, it's a lot of innovation in the way that they use ships and they organize themselves. traditionally, the marine corps, of course, had put units on amphibious ships and deployed those around the globe. now they're using nonamphibious ships, some of the logistics ships, the afsbs in innovative ways.
they also created some special-purpose ones to meet purposes around the globe that are not necessarily tied to amphibious ships. so i think you'll see more of that as the marine corps both tries to maintain a strong amphibious ship under the classic l-class, but also take advantage of some of these other capabilities to meet the many demands that are being put on them where regular amphibious ships are not available. so with that, i'll turn it over to you. >> great, thank you very much. so i think you've heard many of the topics, and i would just, you know, add my -- absolutely, i think with forced sizing and forced structure, you're already seeing a lot of conversation on capitol hill. we had a couple witnesses just recently asked, you know, what would it take? and the price tag is $30 to $50 billion. so obviously, this is a great, outstanding question, and so,
more to come. if we're living under a cr this year, obviously, that's not going to happen, but with an incoming administration, that will get relitigated in my judgment. i agree with mark. again, on our naval forces, the ship count is always an issue, but i think a lot of concern around the 280 right now. we had some discussion about the carrier, an additional carrier. those are all huge items, big-ticket items. we touched on the nuclear modernization. we have not touched on space. there was a big ad last year recently on space. they've put another $1.8 billion for space launch in, but i think that's an area of future consideration, depending upon how our constellations hold up and what needs to be done there.
we talked about cyber. so i completely agree with the panel here, and i will add that andrew is very familiar with the gamesmanship that goes on. and if you look at the appropriations structure, it conveniently is minus six to the procurement accounts, plus six to the o&m accounts, so a little bit of standard gamesmanship going on there. so, i think those are the big-ticket items. areas of reform that are a question mark currently and for this congress are will the congress take on the next step? they took on military retirement last year. will they take a next step on health care reform? if you're -- the administration is counting about $3 billion worth of savings for their
health care proposals this year. that depends on what the congress does with it. they have attempted to simplify the tricare health care structure. but again, their assumptions and proposals are going to be looked at, i'm sure, very carefully by both committees, particularly in a political year. and again, if we end up under a cr, that is something that will probably get kicked to the next administration. so that's kind of my list of the force of the future. i know there's been a lot of talk around that, what that actually results in, in terms of savings. i think mike suggested it wasn't going to be much, and i know that many of you track the hearings. i think they've been kind of hit with a particular thud in one senate armed services committee. so who knows what will happen on that. the relationships roger talked about, and about the broader
context in the budget committees -- are we plussing $30 billion up, or are we going to reduce -- you know, it's the hawks against -- the defense hawks against the deficit hawks. so who knows how that will all turn out, but those are my lists. and i would say i'm not -- while i think the acquisition reform proposals last year were good, the question in my mind is how will the defense department make use of those proposals? are they going to be innovative? and in the last year of an administration, people are tackling many issues, and it may not get full use, but i would defer to andrew. he is the expert there. >> all right, thank you all. so i'll go right to questions from the audience. if you've got a question, put up your hand, we'll bring around a microphone to you. we've got one up here. >> st. clair retired sailor, but this is not a naval question. it's more of a joint question and is one that i guess the survey is going to be interesting to see what the results are for that. so we're talking about joint
force reform. and i've been a joint staff officer twice in my time. where do each of you think this needs to go in terms of a revised goldwater-nichols? are we talking about specifically whatever savings we might reap from northcom and southcom or africom being reunited as one? are we talking about greater ambitions in terms of reducing the number of flag and general officers because of the way we're connected now? where do you think this joint force conversation goldwater-nichols 2 will go and if you get there, how much do you think you're actually going to save over? >> mark, do you want to start on that? >> i'm just going to start, because it's a great introduction to our panel next week.
csis put out some analysis on all of the testimony that has been produced by the sasc on this question, and i recommend you take a look at that, because the bottom line that comes out is that there's a lot of concern about the agility of the department, including staff, to make strategic decisions, but there's really no consensus about how to bring that about. there are proposals to merge northcom and southcom, maybe put africom back into eucom, but there are also proposals to create new cocoms for cyber and space and others that propose taking the focus off of africom or southcom, and the same way with the joint staff, proposals to increase its reach, proposals to decrease its reach. so bottom line, i think there's
a lot of interest in improving strategy formulation but no real consensus about how to do that across the board or with the joint staff. roger? >> real quick. i've seen this through what outcome we're trying to achieve. one is we just need to have, looking at the force, more people on the tip of the sphere, the fighting force. there's too much kind of back end. so that's one outcome. i know senator mccain, they are emphasizing. methodology of how to get there and an agreement of who's not and who is doing something to bend the sphere is philosophical and not widespread agreement. then there's a cost component. i'm mindful of secretary gates, we're just going to get rid of jefcom, right? that was just waste or unnecessary and we'll get rid of it, and all of a sudden, you saw jefcom hanging out in the joint staff and there wasn't any cost savings or anything to show from it. even secretary gates, when he shows the growth of officers, general officers and flag
officers, even though commands under them have been removed or reduced, you're going, well, maybe he doesn't require four-star. i believe he achieved 10% of his goal. all right, the secretary of defense who just published a book on management, how to deal with bureaucracy and achieve outcomes essentially wasn't even close to accomplishing his goal on it. so broad notion is what we want to see. the challenges are how to execute it, and i don't think anybody has figured out how to do it. mark me down as skeptical until we get there. >> is my microphone on? thank you. for me, i think the question is, what is the problem you're trying to solve, right? i think -- and i haven't quite seen that from anybody thinking about this, which i think is somewhat problematic. they're still trying to figure out exactly what problem exists and they're focusing on as they're thinking about marking up legislation, i think, inside of the next two months. so it's a pretty sporty dynamic, uncertain dynamic. and i think it's important to
remember, look, the original goldwater-nichols legislation was about getting jointness forward. and i think it's fair to say, you know, 30 years after the fact, that that has been achieved. i think where there's room for debate is how that legislation has impacted the question of jointness in terms of inside the beltway, inside the pentagon services, joint staff, osd. and i think there the focus ought to be on, you know, how do we make sure that jointness forward doesn't necessarily come at the cost of the competition of ideas inside the pentagon. and i think that's where you see a lot of debate right now. the joint staff sat 4,000 billets, osds at 5,000 billets. these are orders of magnitude greater than they were 30 years ago, and i don't even know where the services are, and you've got
combatant commands as well, and i think that's an issue area sort of ripe for examination. the secretary was on the efficiencies task force in the early years of the obama administration, or supporting it, as secretary gates took a look at this, made some progress, but there's so much more that can be done. so my sort of advice to those folks on the hill would be to look inside the question of what we call the fourth estate inside the pentagon. and there i think there are lots of interesting things you could do, but i think it's important, the first proposition ought to be do no harm. some of this debate i'm seeing about the role of the chairman and authorities, vis-a-vis the colcoms, i think we have to be very, very careful to really game out the second and third-order effects of what i would call relatively galactic changes in how we think about the command structure. there are lots of things you could do that are relatively low-hanging fruit that i think you could look at, but i worry a little bit about this sort of push for rapid legislation that could be looking at some of these, you know, relatively, what i would think as relatively effective command relationships between the chairman and the secretary, the president and all the way down with the combatant
commands. i worry a little bit about some of the things that i'm hearing and how quickly you could potentially reset some of those relationships to address a problem statement that i'm not quite sure really is shared among the folks looking at the issue. >> andrew. >> i always say, my habit is to be the optimist. let me be the pessimist for a moment here, because i think it's not just that the objectives are unclear. i think it's that people have expressed objectives that are actually intention with one another as if they were complimentary. and i think there is an important respect at which they aren't. so, i think efficiency is a very worthwhile and valuable objective that has been put forward by many as a possible objective for this goldwater-nichols 2.0 effort. you've also had folks who talk about the incredibly complex, strategic environment they're in, which we spent most of the morning talking about, and that the need is to be more agile and
adaptive in responding to that. and i do believe that there isn't an important respect in which those two things are intention with one another. if you think about the first goldwater-nichols, where the focus was on improving joint war fighting, it took a lot of extra resources to really focus on that. you created new structures in the joint staff, new structures in the combatant commands to achieve that objective. we made new investments in interoperability and weapons systems to achieve those objectives. and it was, i think probably would not have been as successful as it has been if the focus had been, and we're going to do all that for less money, you know, than what we had done before. so i think there is -- you know, i think of the successes that we have had in being agile and adaptive -- the european reassurance initiative is a case where we were able to respond. we were caught flat-footed, but to the extent that we have responded, we've responded
largely by, let me just say, throwing money at the problem. sometimes throwing money at the problem is the right answer. so, i just think that as we go through this debate about goldwater-nichols 2, you know, if it's all about efficiencies across the board, then i think some of the problems that have been identified about being more agile, adaptive and strategically relevant will become second priorities, second bananas. and so, i think we just have to be very clear-minded in what the real thrust of this is. >> all right, next question here. >> yeah, thanks. my name's jim byrne. i'm a retired journalist who covered procurement issues in all of the federal agencies through many years. and i just picked up this morning the current issue of "the washington examiner" magazine, and they have a story here, and you talk about it just now -- fixing a national security crisis. and then it quotes mccain as saying, "the military's
technological advantage is eroding and eroding fast, precisely at the time the world's on fire." and then it's most of the time discussing some of the issues you brought up here about how comp indicated their attempt, thornberry and mccain's attempt is to upgrade or modernize the goldwater reforms of 25 years ago. so i'm wonder, a, do you think that quote of mccain's is on the money or a little extreme? and what is the outlook for getting something out of this effort to upgrade, you know, the goldwater reform? >> all right. what wants to take a shot? who wants to grade mccain's statements? i'll answer his question. i'm not sure it was a grading of senator mccain. mccain generally, you know, kind of evokes the attention of journalists, and mostly it's because of quotes like that. i think there is an element of
truth to it, even though there's some hyperbole there. but we are in a vicious cycle. you have the middle east and the challenges, the low-end threats that continue to mount, a tremendous strain on our military. it is not going away in the foreseeable future. at the same time, you have the stuff that folks on this panel and the last panel were talking about, the investments that russia and china have made that is exploiting our vulnerabilities and exposes the fact that we haven't really invested in modernization since, you know, the period that ronald reagan was in office. we can live in the fiction like we did the beginning of this administration and the previous administration before him, that those issues aren't a problem for us, right? we're just going to kind of -- we're not really concerned about russia, we can kind of rely on our economic relationship with the chinese and we're just going to withdraw from the wars in iraq and afghanistan, and you know, we'll be okay. actually, with less of an investment. and kind of reality set in.
and on both accounts, we have a significant challenge. in that respect, senator mccain i think is spot on. the notion that, somehow, you needed goldwater-nichols to get there, too -- you know, i think there are a number of things we have to do first, and i think we could do a lot to get after the challenges posed by china and russia and the threat posed by isis without getting to goldwater-nichols. my concern is, relevant, important thing to do, but i think some of the resource issues as well as just getting after some of the planning and focus on war fighting as opposed to, you know, managing, you know, budget control acts from year to year. it would go a long way to stabilizing our security. >> all right. right here? next question. >> thank you. john harper with "national defense" magazine. this two-year budget agreement was supposed to bring some stability to the dod budget, but
the panel has raised the possibility of having another cr. so i was just hoping each of you could weigh in and talk about, you know, what you think the odds are that the fy '17 budget will be passed before the end of the fy '16, or whether you think there will, in fact, be a cr. thanks. >> i think it's safe to say we'll start the year on a continuing resolution, because there's a long track record of doing that with not too many exceptions. although i think, tina, when you were in dod, there might have been a couple of years where -- >> yeah, i think we had a couple regular years, yeah. but we had to manage the cash problem as well. >> so you know, given that it may be a foregone conclusion that we start the year on a cr, what is the impact this year? what do you see coming down the line? and i mean, acquisition programs are a good place to start. >> yeah, i'd be happy to start. so acquisitions, crs are particularly problematic for acquisition in a couple of ways. one is they tend to put a lot of
things on hold. so anything that was new, new starts or new, dramatic expansions, programs transitioning into production, all of that essentially is put on hold during the duration of a cr. it depends a little bit on the length of a cr. a lot of those types of things tend not to happen in the first quarter of the fiscal year anyway. that's, you know, that's maybe a little bit of an overstatement, but generally, the way omb rolls the money down the pike, you know, they apportion it to the department and it takes weeks to months to kind of really get programs teed up to get to that next stage after the budget's passed. if it's a three-month cr, i think the impacts are real but fairly minor. when you start talking about a six-month cr, which we've certainly experienced in recent years, then it becomes incredibly disruptive, because it's almost like, you know, that extra three months is almost like losing most of the year because it puts you so far behind the eight ball of getting those contracts let and getting activities started. so it's one of those rare cases.
it's also particularly hard, as i mentioned in the past, for the acquisition system, because it's a multiyear planning exercise. when you're working on an acquisition program, you've got a 30-year plan for how that program's going to roll out. and certainly, when you're in the early stages, you know, it's at least a ten-year time horizon that you're trying to plan for. so when you get these, you know, potentially year-long disruptions that come seemingly at random, it really undermines the effectiveness of the system. >> quick comment. just taking it back. so the three months or six months is certainly true, and i think anybody who manages the money in dod would agree with that. i think the opportunity -- and this is where i'll be half glass full -- is with a presidential election. we haven't had a structural change in the politics as delivered us the budget control act and sequestration since that was enacted. some thought with republicans controlling majorities in both the house and the senate, you
might actually see a different outcome. i think the reason you haven't, we've reached a 60-vote threshold. if you're looking this through the lens of the department of defense, they need a new political reality. they need a president, new president that they'll get in one form or another, and some shift in the congress. the senate's in play. depending on who the republican nominee is, and a lot of people feel the house is in play. and that will allow in the same way john boehner left and paul ryan came in and they got the bipartisan budget act, right -- it ends up just being a one-year deal because the freedom caucus came back in and kind of wanted to renegotiate again. i mean, that conduct will potentially end with a new president in place. of course, it's really -- what we haven't discussed today -- really, we're in this world, and it's 50% discretionary but really 70% of total spending -- the forces that have driven us to this budget constraint discussion are things that happened outside of the department of defense. so the question is, when you have a new administration, will that president basically have
support in congress to say, we're not going to do overhaul of medicare and social security, kind of the entitlement programs, because i'm comfortable where the economy is just to lift discretionary spending, or in the case of a republican administration, will actually put their money where their mouth is, and we'll actually see some movement on the drivers of the deficit, the drivers of the spending. and this respect, republicans are very poor on that. on. they have not shown the ability to actually even move legislation. i mean, paul ryan wants to do this. that actually hints to what the republicans may do if they were to be in the white house in 2017. that is what has to happen. otherwise, we'll be having the same conversation six to nine months from now. >> so let me follow up quickly. so one of the debates going on now with the house and budget committee is, well, the defense folks want to add more for defense. well, the way you would do that under this budget deal is to add more oco. there's nothing limiting,
there's not an enforcement mechanism. >> well, despite what mike said -- >> well, there is no mechanism to limit oco in the budget deal. >> i agree with you. >> it did say $59 billion for defense. so if you want to add another $18 billion or so i think has been talked about, in oco, the problem is in the house republican caucus right now, that some of the freedom caucus folks are saying that they won't go along with it. so the strategy has been floated that maybe you wait and have an additional oco request in the next administration. so you basically punt on oco and wait until a new administration and a new congress takes office and then try to take up a higher oco level of funding then. what do people think about that? what are the odds of success? it's very uncertain what would happen because it depends on the election. >> i mean, the trick here is whether -- just if i can go back to the cr -- the crs are costly, but the trick here is timing.
how long -- what's the risk of the wait? in a transition year, despite, you know, whoever comes in, whatever party comes in, there is always a period of time, sometimes very substantial, to do a relook. i think during the bush administration, there was actually pretty quick action to increase the defense budget, but there is a huge risk. so of course, that could be a strategy, but timing on it, who comes in, what the contents of it are, constraints, those are all risks. so i would -- you know, i'm sure the defense department would really want to get this taken care of as soon as they can within a year. >> just to flip it back, this is a strategy, this notion of somehow we're going to rely on the next president to come in. it basically means the defense
hawks in congress can't prevail. that's how you have to read it. it's basically they're submitting to one of two things, right? that they just want to put kind of fidelity to paul ryan, help that guy out and not create another headache for him, or they know they can't defeat the freedom caucus. what it doesn't mean is somehow they've made, you know, kind of -- no, actually, things are okay and we don't require more investment and resources. so everybody expects the next administration to come in and tinker with what the previous administration has left them. the way we are thinking about, you know, the case of the gop hawks, defense hawks in the house, is they are going to say, okay, let's go ahead and give them, you know, a bump so the baseline now is $20 billion higher than they would have otherwise received when the next administration came in. and so, in that respect, you know, punting it down to the next administration means they really haven't done anything to advance and set the table, as i mentioned before, for the next administration. and listen, you know, i started out talking about spoilers. the freedom caucus, you know, can't go ahead and do anything
to effectuate their budget priorities. they can only bring down paul ryan's. and the question is whether or not defense hawks are able to do anything other than to stop a budget, or will they be able to add resources? and again, we're just talking about a blueprint, because none of it will be executed, anyway, but it actually helps the next administration, if they're so inclined, to point to that budget blueprint and say, hey, that's the direction we want to go. andrew? >> yeah, todd, i would say -- i'm a notorious fan of oco, and i'm not going to depart from that position because i think it's been tremendously valuable. and certainly on this issue of adaptability and agility. but having said that, it does have a down side, and the down side is you can't -- and as you've pointed out -- it's not predictable on the future. and so, if oco is the answer, but it's the answer this year and next year we fall off the cliff again, you're really no better off than you were. so that's one point. the other point i would make is i think -- and roger has really
said it -- i think it's not so much about the identity of the next president or even that there is a next president. it doesn't answer anything, because the problem is still the caps, which are statutory. and if the congress is struggling this year to even deal with a cap that has been agreed upon and to, you know, what about those caps that nobody likes that are still in place in fy '18 and '19 and going forward? so that's the crucial -- and it is, as roger said, it's all about other than defense discretionary. it's about non-defense discretionary, it's about mandatory spending. that's where the solution will be found that will eventually feed back into the defense accounts. >> mark, a final comment. >> let me put my omb hat on, which makes me a little nervous, as i'm flanked by comptrollers. >> i was at omb. >> okay, all right.
i get some support there. the first thing is on the cr. keep in mind that because the '17 levels are essentially the same as the '16 levels, you don't have this problem about a big jump, so the amounts aren't that big a deal. there is a problem about authorities that for a short period isn't that big a deal, but when you start going six months or more, then that becomes a big deal. on the question of oco, and my observation coming from omb is that last year they added -- they proposed -- the budget committees proposed to add $38 billion to oco, and that passed the congress. now, the administration wouldn't accept it, but it strikes me that if they tried to add some smaller amounts, you know, $18 billion, what not, that that might make it through the congress. maybe the administration won't accept it, but that might be the marker that they put down. and you're nodding. i have to defer to people who know that a little bit better, but just based on what they did last year, that might be an approach. >> is the only place to add resources, it's just the bottom line.
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republican primary. hillary clinton campaigns in st. louis tomorrow. she'll be speaking about economic opportunity. live coverage at noon eastern also on c-span. missouri has 21 delegates available tuesday. campaign 2016 continues on tuesday with primaries taking place in missouri, illinois and swing states, ohio, north carolina and florida. live coverage of the election results, candidate speeches and viewer reaction begins at 7:00 p.m. eastern, taking you on the road to the white house on c-span, c-span radio and c-span.org. i am a history buff. i donny joy seeing the fabric of our country and how things -- just how they work and how they are made. >> i love american history tv, the presidency, american artifacts. they are fantastic shows.
>> i had no idea they did history. that's probably something i would really enjoy. >> with american history tv, it gives you that perspective. >> i'm a c-span fan. the u.s. central africa and special operations commanders testify now on the latest developments in the u.s.-led effort to combat global terrorism and coalition efforts to defeat isis. they and last week before the senate armed services committee. >> good morning. receive testimony on posture of u.s. central command, africa command and special operations command in the context of review and oversight of 2015 defense budget. we're pleased to welcome our witnesses general austin, rodriguez and votel.
we thank each of you for decades of distinguished service and your leadership of our men and women in uniform. i'd like to extend special thanks to general austin and rodriguez as this may be their last appearance before this committee. our nation's most distinguished national security leaders have testified before this committee repeatedly. we're witnessing unraveling of the rules of national order. nowhere is this unraveling more visible or dangerous than the northeast, from north africa to south arab, state authority and balance of power are breaking down. this emerging vacuum has been filled by the most extreme and anti-american forces, sunni terrorist groups such as isil and al qaeda, shiite extremists such as islamic republic of iran and its proxies and the imperfectly ambitions of vladimir putin.
as a result, almost every middle eastern country is now a battleground or a combatant in one or more wars to wit this morning's "wall street journal"/"new york times" entitled pentagon plan to fight isis in libya includes barrage of air strikes. these are diverse, complex and transregional threats to our military confronts every day across centcom, africom and socom lines of responsibilities. as this committee continues its review of the goldwater-nichols act we're interested to hear our witnesses' views whether the current structure best enables us to succeed in the strategic environment of global and transregional threats in the 21st century and what reforms we might consider. this is critical because there are already too many obstacles to success as it is.
time and again, politically driven strategy, micromanagement and misguided reductions in defense spending have made our military's job more difficult. this has been especially true for our special operations forces. more than 15 years of continuous deployments, due in part to an overreliance on their unique capabilities, has led to unprecedented stress on the force. as the threats we face impose greater demands on our special operators and their families, we must be vigilant and provide the necessary support to maintain their vital capabilities, not just in direct action, but in building partnership capacity across centcom and africom. while we marvel at our special operations forces, we must remember they're just one part of our force and strategy. they're not a magic solution to every problem or a substitute for coherent strategy as the
administration's "light footpoint" approach in the middle east has demonstrated repeatedly. despite temporary relief from the arbitrary spending caps imposed by the budget control act, we're still placing an unnecessary burden on the backs of our service members in the centcom and africom theaters. the 2017 defense budget request does little to relieve that burden. secretary carter said the military is at a major inflection point requiring urgent and simultaneous investments in next generation technologies and current operations such as a 50% increase in funding for the fight against isil. in view of these needs, president obama should have requested a defense budget that reflects the scale and scope of the national securities threats we face. instead he chose to request the lowest level of defense spending authorized by last year's budgeg spending and submit a defense
budget less in real dollars than last year despite the fact operational requirements have grown. this comes as little surprise from an administration that, for the past seven years, has sought to scale back america's involvement in and commitment to the middle east. in moments of consequence, iran's green revolution, libya after the fall of gaddafi, withdrawal from iraq and the crossing of the chemical red line in syria, this president walked away and ignored the lessons of history that power abhors a vacuum, that wars don't end because politicians say so, that the perils of indecision and inaction often outweigh the risks of action. and that while america cannot solve the problems of the middle east, american leadership is indispensable to managing them. with major policy decisions hanging in the balance right now, our nation cannot afford to ignore these lessons again. in afghanistan, the president has told our enemies we will
proceed with a calendar based decision to cut u.s. troop presence in half by the end of this year. and he's yet to explain the consequences of reducing u.s. troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500. significant reductions to isr and close air support capacity diminished operational flexibility of u.s. counterterrorism forces and perhaps the most damaging of all, end of u.s. train, advise and assist mission at all the highest levels of the afghan military precisely when their support is needed most. all this translates to is risk. risks that problems and contingencies once addressed in days will be addressed in months, if they are addressed at all. risk that sudden tactical or operational setbacks that would have been in our power to reverse would put us on the path
to strategic failure we would be powerless to stop and risk that the gains won by the sacrifices of american and afghan troops would be squandered. in iraq and syria, the artificial limitation on troop levels ties the hands of our military commanders and makes our troops more vulnerable to attack and much less likely to succeed. the president has inched forward with incremental increases in needed capabilities, but this misguided gradualism serves only to allow the enemy to adjust before these capabilities ever make a difference. it is clear to me from my conversations with our military commanders both on the ground and in the pentagon that they've been reduced from considering what will it take to win to what will i be allowed to do, and as our troops and our national security that are paying the price. africa has emerged as the next front of the global war on terror with isil, al qaeda, boko haram and al shabab commanding territory and launching successful attacks throughout
the continent. most alarming, isil commands an army of 5,000 fighters in libya, while a threat in asia continues to metastasize, while the threat in africa continues to met metastasize with less resources and denied authorities to take advantage of battlefield opportunities and halt the advance of extremism. in the gulf the president is failing to live up to the promises made at the camp david summit in may 2015. for example, the president committed to fast tracking arms sales, excuse me, to fast tracking arms transfers to our gulf partners, but fighter aircraft sales for qatar, kuwait and bahrain that could help thwart iranian ambitions are languishing on the shelf
gathering dust. once again american credibility is disintegrating as the malign and influence of iran and russia continues to grow. it's this administration's great failure to date has not been that it makes mistakes. rather it has failed or perhaps refused to learn from them. unless we chart a new course, it may well be this administration's lasting legacy. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i, too, want to join you in thanking general austin and general rodriguez for their extraordinary service, since this is likely your last appearance before the committee. having the privilege to work for you for many years your professional, skill and commitment to the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen you lead is without parallel. thank you, gentlemen, both. general votel, we appreciate your appearance today as special operations commander and we'll
see you again tomorrow, i suspect, because you've been nominated to be the successor to general austin central commander. again, your service is also deeply appreciated. earl whier this year i traveled to iraq, afghanistan, djibouti to see firsthand some of the pressing challenges that we've been talking about. in iraq the diplomatic and military officials i met universally agreed the iraqi security forces successful retaking of ramadi in june was critical for providing momentum for upcoming operations. while isis lost considerable territory it once held in iraq the more difficult task is still ahead. in the coming months, the combination of a newly trained iraqi security force enabled by coalition intelligence and air strikes should be able to continue to make progress in evicting isil from population centers but i look forward to our witnesses' assessment what we can expect realistically in the coming months as iraqi special forces and security forces turn their attention particularly to mosul. in addition, iraq's political
leadership must confront long-standing questions of political reconciliation in iraq and general austin i look forward to your assessment of the political atmosphere in baghdad and whether you believe the conditions are set for a political dialogue which will stabilize the political situation to compliment military actions taking place. in syria, the cessation of hostilities appears to be tenuously holding and tenuously at best. it remains unclear however this incremental step will be sufficient to set the stage for meaningful political negotiations which every side said is the ultimate solution to the issue. isil remains in control of much of eastern syria, syrian kurdish fighters with the assistance of coalition air strikes and
special operations forces have made gains in northern syria but battlefield dynamic continues to present many challenges. as general breedlove explained last week, the refugees by russian activity in syria regime activity presents military, political and humanitarian issues that we have not seen in the modern era and i hope our witnesses will provide their assessment of the situation in this respect. iran continues to be a cause of significant concern to the committee, particularly as recent missile tests and ongoing support to non-state actors across the middle east, general austin i hope you'll provide your updated assessment of iran's activities in the wake of the joint comprehensive plan of actions implementation today. in afghanistan the past year is political security and transition and we must continue to evaluate how we can best protect and govern its population. i know that general nichols, the new commander of resolute support is conducting an assessment of what capabilities and associated troop levels he believes are required to achieve our objectives in afghanistan throughout the rest of 2016 into 2017, and i've said before, his recommendations must be given
most serious consideration since he is on the battlefield and the closest to the issue. general austin, genial votel your thoughts on this would be deeply appreciated. general rodriguez, one of the results of centcom's operations in isil in iraq and syria has been isil metasthesizing into libya and other places. your command has undertaken a number of operations against isil in libya, with the lack of a functioning government in tripoli makes it difficult to sustain progress and i hope you'll give us your insights on this irve u. while in djibouti i was made more familiar with the operations of somalia and as you know, general rodriguez the african mission union in somalia is becoming under increasing pressure. we've in turn been helping them. recently a significant air strike by u.s. forces to help support their efforts. so i would like your assessment of our situation there and as we go forward what we can do.
the one issue that cut across all the areas i visit and that was the, with he seem to be losing the information war, messaging, of getting our message to the people of all these countries about our support for legitimate government, for reasonable decent government, that is ironic to say the least so your comments about how we can reverse this tide and in fact, win the information war and win the population would be appreciated. general votel finally as the chairman noted your special operations forces have sustained extraordinary tempo over the last years. we know what they've done. they've done extraordinary work and we appreciate your leadership but also would like you to commend them personally
and their families to are what they do and i would be remiss if i didn't recognize the senior enlisted personnel here. thank you for your leadership. >> good morning, chairman mccain, ranking member reed, distinguished members of the committee i want to thank you for the opportunity to appear here today to discuss the current posture of your united states central command. i'm pleased to appear here this morning alongside general david rodriguez and general joe votel. today's global security environment is incredibly complex. most of the challenges that we face transcend borders and i could not ask for two better teammates than the gentlemen beside me to work through these challenges on a daily basis. ladies and gentlemen, this past year has been an especially challenging one for the governments and for the people of the central region. we have seen an almost unprecedented level of turmoil and conflict among regional, state and non-state actors,
along with increasing involvement by external state actors such as russia and china. at the same time, many of the countries that make up the central region are under growing economic pressure. and of course a combination of these and other factors makes this strategically important region vulnerable to conflict and to increase instability. presently the united states central command is involved in or supporting multiple military operations, and they include the campaign to counter isil in iraq and syria and our resolute support mission in afghanistan. we're providing limited support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen, and we continue to prosecute the fight against terrorism and extremism throughout our area of responsibility. we are also dealing with the mischief we see throughout the
region that is caused by iran. i'll talk briefly about a few of these situations in particular as they continue to demand a large portion of our attention and our resources. i'll start with the fight against isil. ladies and gentlemen, we are defeating this enemy in iraq and syria and we are pressuring isil on more fronts than in any other point in time since they marched into mosul some 18 months ago. we're doing so by degrading the enemy's military capability, by taking back territory, by diminishing his economic resources, and by removing his senior leadership from the battlefield. we're also slowing the flow of foreign fighters joining its ranks. and all of these actions in combination are contributing to a force that is less capable and increasingly demoralized and paranoid and prone to defections. while we are defeating isil in iraq and syria, we see increased efforts by this enemy to expand into other areas of the globe,
namely north africa, the arabian peninsula, and south asia. and he is expanding into these and other areas in part because he knows that he's losing in iraq and syria and he needs to find other ways to maintain its legitimacy. halting this expansion will require a concerted effort by the international community going forward, in the meantime, iraq's security forces are performing better with time through our capacity building efforts. of note, the kurdish peshmerga remain critical to our efforts on the ground in the northern part of the country. they are irreplaceable and remust do all that we can to support them. in syria, we continue to work with indigenous forces including syrian are bees, kurds, turkmen and others as they take the fight to the enemy. together they are achieving tremendous results including securing more than 18,000 square kilometers of territory previously held by the enemy. ladies and gentlemen, the fight against isil in iraq and syria remains incredibly complex, and
while the defeat of isil will take time and it will not be easy, you can rest assured that we will get it done. meanwhile in afghanistan, the security forces continue to hold their own. they've come a long way over the past 14 plus years and we want to ensure that they maintain momentum going forward. this past year, the afghans underwent multiple transitions that, together have shifted the operational environment. i still assess that the afghan forces are capable of holding their gains against the tell ban or with any plan changes conditions on the ground may require a reevaluation of our planning assumptions. we have invested a great deal in that country. it is an important country for a number of reasons, and we want to do what's necessary to help the afghans be successful long term. finally, with respect to iran, we're hopeful that the
implementation of the agreement and the results of the recent elections will lead to more responsible behavior by the iranians. the fact we mains that iran, today, is a significant destabilizing force in the region. ladies and gentlemen, some of behavior that we seen from the iran of late is certainly not the behavior that you would expect to see from a nation that wants to be taken seriously as a respected member of the international community. we do see progress being made in a number of areas. our decades of investment are paying off and we're seeing regional partners assure greater responsibility in the region. they are effectively dealing with extremist threats in their own countries while conducting military operations as a part of
the counter isil coalition in iraq and syria. so, we're encouraged by what we're seeing and we remain committed to working with our partners in support of our shared goals and objectives. ultimately we want to see the important central region move in a direction of increased stability and security. we must be properly resourced to do what is required to effectively protect and promote our interests. we appreciate this economy's strong continued support. in closing, chairman mccain, members of the committee, i want to thank you for the strong support that you continue to show to our service member, civilians and their families. i am proud of them and i know that you are as well. thank you for the opportunity. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you. john rodriguez. >> thank you for the opportunity
to update you on the efforts of the united states africa command. africa is an enduring interest of the united states and it's importance continues to grow as african economies populations and influence grow. small but wise investments offer disproportionate benefits to africa, europe and the united states. african solutions to african problems are in the best interest of africans and indeed the world. in the most trouble spots in the continent, africans have an understandable fear and distrust of the governments charged with promoting and guarding the welfare of the people. predatory practices and exclusion of population as well as inconsistent adherence to the
rule of law combined crushed the hope of the future. they represent a threat not only to africa but our european allies and the united states. effectively addressing the threat before, during or after a military crisis requires a approach for defense to address causes of extremism and replace fear and uncertainty with trust and confidence in african institutions. africa commands contributions lies in encouraging and enabling the professionalism of the african institutions which will secure national populations, cooperate in addressing regional security concerns and increasingly play a role in sustaining global security.
threats and challenges remain. in east africa, we're helping to set the conditions for the transfer from the african union mission in somalia to the somalian government. in north africa, libya's insecurity has negative consequences for its people, its neighbors, europe's southern flank and our piece and security objectives in africa and the
middle east. an international coalition to support the libyans, to counter the islamic state of libya would support a functional government accord and reduce the risks of the expansion of isis. further instablility in north africa and emergence of direct threat. stability in libya is a long term proposition that will require an appropriate long term strategy. across west africa, our partners and allies are countering terrorist organizations through the multinational joint task force. the multinational joint task force is a collabrative effort. non-governmental organizations and military forces, the resistance army no longer
threatens regional stability. today, we estimate less than 200 fighters remain and local communities are better prepared to protect themselves. elections and transition of power remain a source for political instability in many african nations. despite a decline, challenges to the electoral process threaten both new and established governments. currently our requirements are increasing faster than our resources but within the command we seek innovative ways by refining priorities and deliberately improving resources to our strategy. success, however, requires team work, extended well beyond the command itself. close cooperation with our african partners, allies, non-governmental organizations and international organizations will, over time strengthen
democratic solutions and advance african peace and security to a degree that u.s. military efrts alo efforts alone cannot achieve. i want to thank you for your continued support to our mission and the soldiers, sailors, civilians, contractors and their families a with continue to advance our nation's defense interest in africa. thank you very much. >> thank you. >> good morning. thank you for the opportunity to appear this morning along side my teammates on any given day, nearly 10,000 soft men and women are deployed or forward station to over 80 countries around this world. they fill command requirements that span the range of our core activities from behind the scenes information gathering and
partner building to high end dynamic strike operations. every success they achieve reenforces what we already know. our people are our greatest asset. they are adaptive, bold and innovative. they allow us to see opportunities early and they routinely deliver strategic impacts with the smallest of footprints. perhaps nothing makes this story more clearly than the story of two operators you have likely heard about in the past days and weeks. more recently, army green beret matthew mcclintock provided care to a teammate. his courageous actions cost him
his life but saved the lives of his teammates and turned the tide of the engagement. while the stories of these two americans heroes are known, it's the stories of south operators from all of our services. quiet professionalism and absolute excellence in accomplishing our most challenging military missions. allow me to emphasize my strongestrong est point. thank you for your devotion to the men and women and their families. their emotional, social, psychological and physical health is in good hands thanks to you. we're very grateful for your support. while command priorities remain unchanged from my testimony last year, we still learn, evolve and
adapt. actors who are increasingly ambiguous. as a result, this past year we focused on gaining a deeper understanding of today's gray zone challenges. we've restructured operational rhythm to focus on the transregional nature of violent extremist organizations. given this complex environment, the demand for soft skill sets remain high. therefore, your support is more important than ever. it's a truth that soft cannot be mass produced this times of need. consistent investment in our people and capabilities is very important. as good as our men and women are, we remain with capacity to perform our mission. i ask for your strong support for them as well. we could not perform our mission
without service provided capability, infrastructure and institutional programs. we're grateful for the budget stability forged out of last year's agreement and remain hopeful for similar stability beyond 2017. i'd like to thank the committee and congress as a whole for your outstanding support in funding authorities and encouragement. we look forward to continuing this great relationship. i pledge to you we will remain transparent, engaged. i look forward to your questions today. >> thank you.
it's deteriorating. do you agree with that? >> you heard me say in my opening statement, i do think the environment in the country has changed because -- >> he said the situation was deteriorating. we really would like straightforward answers. i only have a few minutes here. he said that the situation is deteriorating. do you agree that assessment? >> in part i agree. i think that the taliban has become more active, and the ansf have been challenged over the last year. >> thank you. would that argue for not having further reductions in troop strength there in afghanistan, would you think?
>> as i mentioned earlier, you start with plan and that plan's based on facts that you know at that time and assumptions you make in order to continue planning. when the situation changes so the facts are no longer valid or the assumptions are no longer appropriate then you have to revisit your plan. i would agree that a review of the plan is in order. >> do you agree with general breedlove that putin is deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm european structures and break european resolve? >> what we've seen with the use of bombs and the massive number of refugees, i think it's awful.
there's no logical reason he would choose to employ this weapon over and over again. what he's done with this is awful. >> actually, he's not barrel bombing. assad is but he's bombing targets without regard to precision, weapons or precision targets, isn't that true? >> i misunderstood you. i thought you said assad. >> general breedlove said that putin is deliberately weaponizing migration in an
attempt to overwhelm european structures and break european resolve. i'm sorry if i didn't make that clear. >> i misunderstood you. the approach the russians have taken is irresponsible. they have inflicted extraordinary numbers of civilian casualties. again, it is indiscriminate. i really poor approach to war fighting. >> well, again, general breedlove said it's an attempt to overwhelming european structures and break european resolve including breaking up the eu. do you support the sale of fighter aircraft to cutter, and bahrain? >> i do. >> do you think it increase risk to u.s. forces and operations in the region? >> certainly, that will enable
them to have greater capabilities and our adversaries. i would say that gcc countries have spent some $10 billion in military hardware on military hardware during the same time period. it would aim a cripple blow outside of iraq and syria. it's a quote. would you recommend barrage of air strikes such as described in the new york times? >> that answer would be better in a classified setting. i'll get that to you and your leadership, sir.
>> do you believe vigorous action should be taken in response to the mestasizing of isis? >> i think the international community has to take action to defeat it, yes, sir. >> do you think we're doing enough now to stop the spread expansion in libya? >> the spread in libya continues to be a challenge as well as the break up of the military and the multiple malitias on the ground. we continue to develop our situational understanding -- >> my question was do you think we need to do more? >> the international community and -- >> i'm not asking about the international community. i'm asking about the united states of america. >> we as part of that international community have to do more. >> senator reid. >> thank you very much. general austin, one of the
issues in iraq is the potential consequences of failure of the mosul dam. it's not often in the headlines but potentially serious consequences. can you give us a status of the situation and also the planning that's going into the consequences of some type of failure of the dam. >> yes, sir. we remain concerned about the a status of the dam since the conflict started. as you know when dash captured the dam the employees initially le left. to make sure that they are doing the right things to go about
repairing the dam to ensure it doesn't fail. they have most recently hired an italian company to perform maintenance on a dam. it may be several weeks or months before the company is up and running. there is a time period that we're concerned about. there will be limited to know maintenance being pulled on the dam. if the dam fails, it will be catastrophic. it will thousands of people downstream that will either be injured or killed. certainly displaced. the damage could extend all the way down to close to baghdad or into baghdad. we have worked with the iraqis to ensure they are doing the right things to warn people about this. in the event it does fail, what actions they should take to get to safety.
>> thank you. general rodriguez, we focussed a great deal on resurgence, the abilities to concentrate forces and pick owith the african alli we have in place. i presume you're taking this seriously and trying to disrupt their ability to attack and to support kenyas and ethiopian forces, is that fair? >> yes, it is. any indication this our african
colleagues are waving or are they committed to the mission? in they are committed to the mission. they continue their activities that they've been doing for the last several years. because of the adjusting tactics they need to start making adjustments too. that's what we're working with them on. >> a question to general votel and general austin. given the years we've been suggesting, encouraging the pakistan forces to take action along the border, recently have. they have driven a significant number of terrorist forces into afghanistan which have seemed to increase the counter terrorism demands on forces there. is that fair assumption in terms of the ground?
>> i think it is. it has increased the turbulence it's provided us an opportunity to address the threat as well. >> general austin, your comments. >> it has increased opportunities and demands on special operations forces. >> a final question, general austin. there was a program and it was terminated. the reality though and you may check or dispute this is that in order to hold ground, once we capture, we need indigenous forces not just kurds but syrians. are we revising in some way on the smallest scale and provide that kind of support?
>> we are. i've asked to restart the approach. we were slow in getting started and generating the numbers we needed to generate. we were trying to take large numbers of people out of the fight and keep them out for training for long periods of time. we have adjusted our approach. as we look to restart our efforts and really focus on smaller numbers of people that we can train on specific skills and as we reintroduce those people back into the fight, they will be able to enable the larger groups that they're a part of. the training would be shorter but again, i think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they are
reintroduced. >> thank you very much. thank you. >> i want to thank you. you talked about iran and said they are having a stabilizing effect on the region and there's no indication they are following a different path than they have previously. we know impren press reports, i fact just tuesday this week, iran test fired several ballistic missiles from silos across the country and defying recent u.s. sanctions and this follows on afterthe jcopa was signed. are you concerned about their continuing pursuit of testi ini
ballistic missiles? >> i am. >> what are the implications of that? >> we hope the jcpoa will prevent iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon in near to mid term in forever. this is something we'll continue to watch. >> clearly the jcpoa is not continuing to deter them on the missile program. would you agree with me? >> i would agree on that. they already have overmatch with numbers of ballistic missiles. the people in the region remain concerned about their cyber capability and we see malign activity not only throughout the region but around the globe as well.
there's a number of things that lead me to believe that they're behavior is not -- they haven't changed any course yet. this is something we'll continue to watch. >> i would argue the sanctions the administration did put in place, which i've said from the beginning are pathetic and weak and having no impact given that they are now continuing to test missiles. i would hope we would up our gain and post real sanctions on their missile program. this is something i've asked both your predecessors about, my concern is where will we detain these individuals under long term law of detention. most importantly to interrogate
them and find out all we need to know about al qaeda and isis. he said i'm going to need some help on answering that one. i guess my question to both you have is if we capture these individuals given the phenomenal work given the men and women who serve underneath you do every day, where will we interrogate them? >> in my experience as we looked at operations where we will
detain somebody, we have had a plan in place before we actually conducted the operations for how we were going to detain them and what their legal disposition would be whether that was back to the u.s. -- >> we just captured someone in isis. as i understand it, they are being held short term and being turned back to the kurds. what about long term detention? you would agree it was helpful in gathering the information we needed to get bin laden. that's what worries me. what do we do in a long term setting? >> i would agree there's a requirement for long term detention. >> do we know where that is? >> i think it's a policy decision that's being debated. >> i think it's a policy decision that's never been made under this administration. it's been left up in the air which means it's left up in the air in way that undermines our
national security interests. i think you all need to know what would happen tomorrow. we hope they capture these individuals and we interrogate them and find out what they know so we can prevent attacks on this country and dismantle these terror networks. thank you. >> thank you all for being here this morning and for your service to the country. general austin, i want to follow up on some of the questions about afghanistan. i saw reports over the weekend isis was defeated in the eastern part of the country following a 21-day operation by afghan forces. do we agree with the analysis of what's happened there? >> i think we've had some good initial effects. i think there's more done.
>> do we expect forces to follow up in the area or are we working them directly on what's happening there. can you elaborate a bit on what's going on? >> as you know, we're add vising and assisting the afghan special operations forces on a daily basis and yes, we're helping them to identify these threats and also advising them on the best means to go after these threats. >> what does that -- if in fact, they are performing well with respect to isis, what does that mean for the continued fight against the taliban. i saw reports about what's happening there in and having had the opportunity to visit there back in 2010, 2011. saw some really amazing work
that had been done by the forces to engage the local population to get kids in school to do very positive things. it's very distressing to see what's happening now. can you talk about whether there's benefits from the efforts of isis that carry over to the fight with the taliban. is there any -- i don't want to use the word propaganda but is there messaging that's helpful in terms of the taliban's recuring activity in afghanistan? >> it's been a very challenging environment to work in because of a number of transitions.
transition of power for the first time in the young government's history. you had a new government standing up. we reduced our footprint. that caused the taliban to begin to fracture a bit but also gave rise to a new leader who set out to prove himself with increased activity. all of this work together to prove to be very challenging for the afghan security forces and there were some set backs. those set backs were due to a number of things. leadership, inappropriate techniques and that sort of business. general campbell and now general nickelson are working to address those setbacks. they put measures in place that should improve the performance. the president has embraced these suggestions and moving out and
making corrections. we expect to see some improved performances. one of the key things that's transpired is because the afghans were overextended they have adjusted their footprint to give more flexibility. smaller footprint that allows them to project combat power at will in places to project combat power to. >> i know in 2016, resources were provided for technologies to support our information operations and communications activities.
can you elaborate what you're doing to what's going on with isis but also to putin in russia? >> thank you. i agree with your assessment. i think it's critical and must be an integrated aspect of all of our operations from start to finish. i'm very grateful for the support we have gotten. what we have done is we have looked at publicly available information. to use that information to help us understand the threat so we're dealing with. so, we are looking at how we can experiment in that area. the different things we can do and bring to bear for our forces. publicly available information and being able to work in that environment is an area in which we hope to improve our capabilities in the future. >> thank you. my time is up. i would be interested in hearing what we're doing to work with
other agencies within the federal government so that we're coordinating our messages across all of our activities. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. gentlemen thank you for your service. general austin, with regards to the challenges surrounding the retaking of mosul and raqqah, you've got about 4,000 ground forces available, if i'm correct. is that enough? do you have enough right now to assist in your plans to be able to retake mosul and raqqah? >> the approach that we have used and will continue to use, senator, is to use the indigenous forces to conduct the operations on the ground and enable those forces with our
aerial fires and other enablers. as we look forwards raqqah and mosul, clearly there will be things we'll want to do to increase the capability a bit, to be able to increase the pace of operations. that will require some additional capability and we've gone through and done some analysis to see what types of things we need to provide and we made those recommendations. >> could you share those recommendations with this economy committee? >> i would not care to do so because i have just provided those to my leadership. >> you have made the recommendations and awaiting a response to your recommendation? >> yes, sir. it will work its way up the chain here. >> if you're allowed to have more ground troops, what would be the capabilities that you
could accomplish or what could you accomplish if you had more individuals on the ground there at this time? >> we could develop more better human intelligence. we could perhaps provide more assist teams at variety levels. we could increase our assistance in terms of providing help with some logistical issues, and we could increase some elements of operations foot print. >> assuming we could be successful in retaking both of those two towns, what then? it's broken. you need to reestablish civil order. do we have a plan in place. do we have plan that we want to execute to bring back in a sense of order to those communities
and what does it look like right now and what part would we play? >> the short answer is yes, senator. first of all, we will, the iraqis will take back mosul and we'll work with the syrian indigenous forces to take back raqqah as well. the effort has been to reestablish security in those places and then immediately try to do what's necessary to repair damage and make sure that we're taking care of the people. the people are able to move back in and resume their lives. we have done -- we built
incrementally as we move forward. there's a mountain of work to be accomplished to get that back to some reasonable state. in mosul and looking forward to raqqah, the same types of things apply. establish the security and when that's done, bring in the humanitarian assistance, do the reconstruction activities to get things back to normal. >> do you believe the current structure in iraq with the government that's there now, do they have the capabilities and competencies to provide that to those communities in iraq? >> i think they do. i think it will require some, a lot of work and it will require the government to work together much more, much better than what we've seen them do up to this
point. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you. it would been sightful to get your opinion on the current situation in iraq and syria. the question would be who's the greatest -- who poses the greater threat to the region isis or iran? >> i think my answer would be isis does because they are inspiring and they are orchestrating attacks that could impact our people. i think we have to take that extraordinarily seriously. that said, as we kind of discussed already, despite the disagreement that's been made, we shouldn't -- we should
understand iran is not ambiguous in their activities and focus on the united states and certainly on our allies in the region. i think they do pose a long term threat as well. >> general austin, do you agree? >> i would say clearly the most dangerous near term threat is isil or dash. we will deal with that threat as part of an international coalition. i would say the greatest mid to long term threat to the region is clearly iran. >> the additional revenue has come because oil is starting to flow and the revenue from that. do you see that increasing the
problem? >> it adds a little fuel to the problem, sir. they were going to spend money on their military and buy weapons any way. this gives them some capability to do more. the gcc is working together in ways they probably haven't done in the past. they continue the buy healthy dose of our environment as well. they are increasing the capability as well. >> also with the change of regime with the last election, it showed a lot of moderates got elected and extremes got pushed out of office. do you see that as a promising factor? >> i think it is too soon to tell. what we saw leading up to the elections is we saw a lot of moderates get disqualified from the plexs.
the folks that are now classifying themselves as moderates, are they really moderates or just another flavor of hard liners? we'll see as time passes here. >> general rodriguez, regarding u.s. strike in somalia that occurred saturday, i read the flighters that were targeted had just completed training for a large scale attack against american forces. the question would be can you give me a sense of number of camps like that and how big of a karn that there are other camps in this region that we don't know about. >> the camps are transitory. they pop up and mover in different places throughout somalia. it is a concern because the last three times they did something similar to this, they had ability to conduct a devastating attack on the amazon forces.
>> general votel, a national guard states partnership program has been successful at building extremely strong relationships between the guard and 70 other countries for over 20 years in some cases. it's been long going on. in your testimony you indicated one of your major priorities is to continue to build relationships with international and domestic partners through sustained security cooperation, expand communication and lasting activities. it seems to be something national guard has been successful with. do you see the role for the state partnership program in helping advance this priority in your -- >> i absolutely do. west virginia has played a very key role in sponsoring for our polish soft partners that was very successful.
we have national guard bilateral officers. i think it's a wonderful program. we're going to try to leverage it in every way we can. >> i appreciate that. e think it's been very successful and very cost effective for us too. thank you for that. my time is up. >> thank you very much. gentlemen, thank you for being here today. i appreciate your many, many years of service. i'd like to start general austin and general votel. in your professional military opinion, you have served while in our armed services. i was going to say over 40 years of service, but we'll say many, many years. thank you for that. what are the implications of russia's actions in syria and the world's response or lack of response with russia and syria
and their international behavior? i guess what i'm trying to get at, what lessons do you think putin is taking out of syria and what concerns should we have about what putin is doing in syria. we've heard discussion about weaponization of the migrants. can you give me a little input on that, please? russia's entry into this problem set has made a very complicated problem even more complicatcomp. when you consider the actors a part of this, the regime, russians, turks, ypg, the iranians, lebanese, hezbollah, dash, all of these elements
interacting with each other fairly confined space. although they say they came to counter terrorism, to counter dash, what we've seen them do is bolster the assad regime. i don't think they can be there for a long time because of the impact it will have on their economy. clearly, they've tried to use this to demonstrate muscle.
>> dwroup s >> do you say that's his overall goal with the alignment with himself and has he achieved that? >> i think he wanted to gain greater, certainly they wanted access to a port in the mediterranean. they want influence in the region and wanted to increase the influence in the region by doing some of the things that they've done. i think at the end of the day, they'll probably have the opposite effect of what they wanted to do. >> thank you, sir. general votel. >> i agree. i would add one additional point. the lesson we're learning out of this is this ability to operate in the gray area. this area between normal state
competition that we normally expect and open warfare. in my view this is an area in which russia is engaging and syria's another example. eastern europe is another example. they are challenging the short of the open warfare but they are challenging our interest, influence and challenging the interest of many of our allies. for those of us, we're paying close attention to this and trying to understand the gray zone and how that is going to impact our future operations and how we can contribute in that particular area. >> okay. i appreciate that. my time is short. very quickly, if you could just, general austin, talk about the sunni fighting force in iraq. why is it taking so long to develop a force that will keep that region stable? >> one of the things, i think, that must be done, senator, i think you probably feel the same
way, is that the sunnis have to be a part of solution going forward. and, so, we have worked with the leadership, with the prime minister to enlist and hire and train and pay sunni tribal elements that can help us. they have, across the board, enlisted 15,000 or so of these sunni tribal elements. they have proven they are reliable troops. the reason it's taken a long time is because there are hard liners in the environment that don't want to see a large sunni force armed and equipped because of the bad experience with dash. nonetheless, the sunnis have to be a part of solution going forward. we see the prime minister doing
some things to enlist their help and we just need some more activity here. >> okay. gentlemen, i appreciate very much. thank you for your service. thank thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. general rodriguez, regarding libya, you mentioned in your written testimony that the lack of stability and security in libya threatens our peace and security objectives in the middle east. of course, whatever we do in the middle east is fraught with all kinds of peril and unintended consequences. so while the libyan government of national accord established by agreement on december 2015 as you note in your testimony is an important step, it will take time to establish its authority. so can you talk more about what's supposed to happen under this agreement and what happens -- what is to be expected to happen in libya and what kind of timeframe are we talking about to establish stability and security in libya? >> thank you, senator.
the agreement that the u.,. brokered to build the government national accord was supposed to bring together both the house of representatives in the east and the general national congress in the west. and build a central government that could then begin to govern libya. this will, you know, be a long time coming as they work through this, and we are continuing to press on all the diplomatic fronts that the u.s. and international community can to get this thing moving, and it has continued to move along slowly. as far as the second part of your question, to build the stability in libya is going to take a long time because of the lack of institutions that are there. the fractured society and the multiple competing militias and spoilers from all sides of the libyan society. >> what would you say is maybe
the one or two most important steps that must or conditions that must occur for this process to proceed in a way that will result in stability in libya? >> i think they have to get -- the government and national accord has to come together and have enough legitimacy in the eyes of the libyan people that it can function well enough to be -- to move forward and help to begin the building the stability. >> and is that happening? >> it has not happened yet. >> beginning to happen? >> yes. >> so when you say it's going to be a long time, do you have any kind of a sense? are we talking about ten years, 15 years? >> for long-term stability, yes, it's going to take ten years to build that society up, yes, ma'am. >> at least. thank you. general votel, north korea's nuclear threats are increasing and becoming more by the day.
what efforts is centcom engaging in that we hope will eliminate this threat and do you think peaceful resolution is possible at this point? >> thank you, senator. i don't know if a peaceful solution is possible at this particular point. what we are doing, of course, we are is retaining our capability to deal with those types of weapons in the venues in which we are asked to deal with them, which are fairly peculiar. that said, the other thing we have done over the last 18 months is increase our presence and partnership with our south korea partners. i'm pretty proud to say right now today there are more soft men and women on the peninsula than we've had at any time in the past. and we are continuing to maintain a robust presence there with all our capability, air, maritime and ground soft forces. >> and even as we speak, aren't
we engaging in some exercises with south korea and our marines? >> we actually are. of course, there are major exercises that occur at various times of the year. there is one going on right now. we are extraordinarily well integrated into that. through our special operations command korea, we are supporting general scaparoti and his objectives. >> thank you. again, to you general votel, regarding our rebalance to the asia pacific is a key strategic goal, particularly as we see what's going on with north korea and china, with what you can say in this unclassified setting, can you comment on the capabilities of socom in the asia pacific region? do you have a special operations force structure to meet the growing demands of this region? does this year's budget request provide the resources necessary to meet the demand? >> senator, to the last part of your question, we absolutely do have a structure.
it's formed around special operations command pacific that is under the control of admiral harris under my combatant command, and we are sourcing them. they are a fairly robust headquarters. and so they have the ability to exercise command and control and coordination and interrogation with admiral harris' staff. with regards to the other things that we're doing, i guess i would like to say that socom never left the pacific. we have always been engaged out there. most of our activities are bilateral. we certainly had some success in the philippines in the past. in support of many of admiral harris' objectives out there, we are working very closely with a large variety of partners to reassure them, to develop their capabilities and to show we are committed, we remain very committed to the area. >> thank you very much. i thank all of our testifiers today. mahalo. thank you, mr. chairman.
>> thank you, all, for many years of great service. syria. general votel, are you responsible for training the syrian democratic forces? >> we are providing some -- >> some -- >> we are providing forces to -- >> got you. i know. >> what percentage of the syrian democratic forces are kurds? >> probably about -- about 80%. >> is it possible for the current construct for these forces to take raqqah away from isil? >> well, of course, there are -- i don't know. i think that they are capable. as we've seen in some of the things that they have done without getting -- >> is there a plan to take raqqah back from isil using these forces? >> we have a strategy to get to raqqah -- >> i said is there a plan -- >> there is currently not a plan. >> okay. is there a plan to hold raqqah once we take it?
>> i would say, no, there is not a plan to hold raqqah. >> okay. general austin, is it fair to say when russia and iran came in to assist assad that changed the balance of power on the ground militarily in his favor? >> it is, senator. if i could make a comment on a question that the general just answered. as you know, senator, as we continue to work with the forces in theater, the indigenous forces, our goal is to recruit more arabs and turkmen and others -- >> will the recruitment require them to fight isis alone and not go after assad? >> we will recruit, train and equip forces to focus on daesh, on isil, yes. >> part of the conditions will be we're not going to support you when it comes to assad?
>> that's correct, sir. we'll only support those elements -- >> what happens when assad bombs the people we train? what do we do? >> well, we will defend the folks that are we are supporting. >> have we defended them against russians and assad, the people we've previously trained? >> in terms of forces that i have trained, we've not had that issue. >> well, the forces that the agency's trained has been bombed by the russians and assad, is that correct? >> i would not want to address that in this forum. >> i think it's pretty common knowledge that the people we have trained have been hit by the russians and assad. is it fair to say going into negotiations that assad is in pretty good shape because russia and iran is behind him militarily and we are not behind the opposition militarily? >> i certainly would say, senator, that russia's support and iran's support of assad emboldened him and empowered him
to a degree u you have been to iraq a listening type. thank you for your years of service to all of you, i sincerely mean that. in 2010 i had an exchange and you were there, too. we were changing over from general petraeus. here's what i said. i think you indicated we are probably on the 10 yard line when it comes to iraq. i did sir and i think we are on the 10 yard line. i think the next 18 months will determine whether we get on it get to the goal line or really give the iraqis an opportunity to get to the goal line by 2011. did you recommend a residual force? >> i did, sir. >> okay. if we were on the 10 yard line in june 24, 2010, using football analogies, where are we at today in iraq? >> clearly, we are in a completely different game with
respect to where we were then, sir. and nobody knows this better than you because you have spent so much time over there. >> it is a different game i think is a good way to say it. >> absolutely, sir. >> what is the strongest ground component in iraq? is it the iraqi security forces or the shia militia? who has the most capability right now? >> the shia militia have a lot of numbers. in my opinion they are not good fighters. they don't have good trade craft. they don't -- >> is it fair to say they cannot be used to liberate mosil? >> i would say if we go down that path, senator graham, we will make a significant mistake. >> i couldn't agree with you more and we're relying on the iraqi security forces and i think that's a long way away. libya, general rodriguez, thank you for your service, what