Recent Blog Posts
Dec 08 2014
HASC Strategic Forces Committee Chairman Responds to Sen. Feinstein's Proposal in Letter to the Washington Post
Sen. Feinstein's Nuclear Proposal
"In 2013, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said, “You may all be surprised to know that nuclear weapons don’t actually cost that much. . . . It is not a big swinger of the budget. You don’t save a lot of money by having arms control and so forth.”
"As Mr. Carter recognizes, the reality is that the U.S. nuclear weapons budget only amounts to about 4 percent of U.S. defense spending and less than 1 percent of total federal spending. Ms. Feinstein’s complaint that the cost of U.S. nuclear weapons “is undermining other national security priorities” is equally unfounded. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said just last month, “Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in assuring U.S. national security, and it is DoD’s highest priority mission. No other capability we have is more important.”
"As Russia continues to violate the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, station nuclear weapons in territory stolen from Ukraine and rattle nuclear sabers at NATO, Ms. Feinstein’s call for unilateral U.S. disarmament defies common sense. Nuclear weapons are not undermining other national security priorities — they are undergirding them."
Mike Rogers, a Republican, represents Alabama in the House and is chairman of the strategic forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.
Dec 08 2014
The Sloppy Thinking of 'No Military Solution'
By Jackson Diehl
The Washington Post
December 7, 2014
"The epigram often connected to Barack Obama’s foreign policy is “don’t do stupid [stuff].” That’s inaccurate. The real mantra of this administration, enunciated over and over by the president and his top aides since he took office in 2009, is “there is no military solution.”
"In the past four months alone, the president has said “there is no military solution” to justify his policy in three places where wars are underway: Iraq, Syria and Ukraine. Because there is no military solution in Iraq, the president has rejected his military commanders’ proposals to deploy U.S. Special Operations forces against the Islamic State. Because there is no military solution in Syria, he has refused to sanction strikes against the regime of Bashar al-Assad. And because there is no military solution in Ukraine, he has turned aside the desperate pleas of its new president for supplies of U.S. weapons."
"The problem is that, as a nostrum, “no military solution” has proved harmful. In fact, it’s done much to produce the multiple foreign crises that the White House now says have no military solution.
"The thinking behind the slogan is sloppy. It’s true of most modern wars that there’s no military solution, in the sense that they usually end with political settlements. But political and military solutions are not mutually exclusive but intertwined; political solutions are often dictated by military conditions. Obama typically employs the judgement that no military solution is possible as a way to rule out even limited, tactical or indirect action — preordaining either a bad political solution or none at all.
"That repeatedly has been the case in Syria. First, Obama’s refusal to supply weapons or other military support to the moderate secular rebels fighting Assad in 2011-2012 opened the way to the creation of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State. Then, his decision to retreat from enforcing his “red line” on the use of chemical weapons caused countries around the world to change their calculations about U.S. resolve. Eastern European officials are convinced that it helped to produce Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Japanese diplomats say it contributed to China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea.
"At the moment, Obama’s failure to sanction even indirect military action against the Assad regime, such as the creation of a protected zone for rebels in Syria, is undermining the fight against the Islamic State. It is weakening rebel forces, alienating allies such as Turkey and emboldening Assad to step up his own military campaigns rather than accept a political settlement. Obama’s rejection of the use of U.S. troops even as target spotters in Iraq means that major cities held by the Islamic State can’t be recaptured. His denial of defensive weapons to Ukraine could encourage Russia, which recently sent fresh troops and armaments across the border, to launch another offensive.
"In each of these cases, Obama has been relatively isolated, even inside his own administration. In Syria, he has overruled two secretaries of state, two secretaries of defense and a CIA director. In recently dismissing Obama’s constraints on action in Iraq, former secretary of defense Robert Gates appeared to be speaking for senior military commanders. The refusal to provide arms to Ukraine is opposed by a bipartisan majority in Congress.
"One way to view that is as proof that Obama’s stance on military force is truly groundbreaking. Another conclusion, more supported by the record, is that it is profoundly misguided."
HASC Member Discusses Secretary Hagel and General Dempsey's Testimony at Yesterday's Hearing
You can watch the whole interview HERE
Nov 13 2014
NY Times Headline: Top U.S. General Says He’s Open to Using Ground Troops to Take Mosul
November 13, 2014
by Helene Cooper
"President Obama’s top military adviser said Thursday that he would consider deploying a limited number of United States forces to fight alongside Iraqi troops moving to retake Mosul and other areas under the control of Sunni militants, opening the door to a riskier, more expansive American combat role in Iraq than President Obama has publicly outlined.
"Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee that Iraqi troops — who initially fled under the onslaught of Islamic State militants — were now doing a better job of standing and fighting. But he said he could not rule out the possibility that as operations against the Sunni militants move into more complex phases of clearing Islamic State militants out of cities and other territory they hold, American troops may have to help their Iraqi counterparts."
"The congressional testimony on Thursday underscored the challenge facing Mr. Obama as he has continued to insist to a war-weary American public that the United States is not returning to ground combat in Iraq. He has maintained that American ground troops will not be used, even as his generals have increasingly hinted that there may not be a way to defeat the Sunni militant group without at least a small number of American ground troops.
"General Dempsey has used congressional testimony before — most recently in September — to suggest a need for greater military action, particularly if the battle against the militants moves into densely populated cities, as it must do if Iraqi forces are to retake cities claimed by the Islamic State."
Oct 31 2014
Fox News Report Highlights McKeon Request for Immediate Suspension of GTMO Detainee Transfers
You can view the video of Fox's Jennifer Griffin's report
From Secretary Hagel's briefing at the Pentagon Yesterday. Full transcript HERE
Q: Mr. Secretary how concerned are you about former GITMO (Guantanamo Bay) prisoners showing up on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq?
And, General Dempsey, how many former GITMO prisoners have you -- do you estimate have shown up on the battlefield in Syria? And is this causing you to rethink the policy of trying to close Guantanamo Bay?
SEC. HAGEL: Well, we know that some of the detainees that have come out of Guantanamo have gone back to the fight, to the battlefield. We're aware of that. And we think that overall the policy of getting to close Guantanamo is clearly in the interests of the United States, as the president has articulated, which when I was in the United States Senate, I supported it.
It's an imperfect world. It's a dangerous world. This is why we pay so much attention to getting commitments from host countries in securing those commitments and doing everything we can within our power to assure that those commitments, not to allow those detainees to go beyond what is required in order to secure them in these different host countries that take them. But we do know that some have joined the fight.
Q: Does the recidivism concern you?
SEC. HAGEL: Yes, of course it does.
Oct 27 2014
A pair of recent stories in POLITICO magazine titled "Team of Bumblers" and "General Dempsey to the Rescue" illustrate how President Obama and the White House National Security Team have mishandled the threat posed by the ISIL terrorist organization from the beginning. In addition to calling for repeal of the AUMF- which they now use as justification for the airstrikes against ISIL - their request for a military training program was never vetted by military leaders at the Department of Defense.
January 4, 2014: Fall of Falluja: “Falluja is completely under the control of Al Qaeda.”… The fighting that has been going on for days has proved to be a crucial test for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government, which is facing an escalating Sunni-led insurgency that threatens to tear the country apart. The unrest and the seeming inability of the Iraqi government forces, who were trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of billions ofdollars, to quell it underscores the steady deterioration of Iraq’s security since the last American troops left two years ago. New York Times
January- February, 2014: Intel Community Warns of Growing ISIL Threat: In testimony to National Security Committees, DNI Clapper warned, “…the sectarian war in Syria, its attraction as a growing center of radical extremism and the potential threat this poses to the homeland. Let me briefly expand on this point. The strength of the insurgency in Syria is now estimated at somewhere between 75,000 or 80,000 on the low end and 110,000 to 115,000 on the high end, who are organized into more than 1,500 groups of widely varying political leanings. Three of the most effective are the Al-Nusrah Front, Ansar Al- Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant, or ISIL, as it's known, who total more than 20,000. Complicating this further are the 7,500- plus foreign fighters from some 50 countries who have gravitated to Syria. Among them are a small group of Af-Pak Al Qaida veterans who have the aspirations for external attack in Europe, if not the homeland itself. And there are many other crises and threats around the globe, to include…, the deteriorating internal security posture in Iraq, with AQI now in control of Fallujah.” DNI Clapper’s Testimony:
March 5, 2014: CENTCOM Commander Warns Of Growing ISIL Threat: "Nearly all partners, both in and out of the region, have expressed growing anxiety with respect to the violent extremists operating from ungoverned space within Syria. The flow of foreign fighters and funding going into Syria is a significant concern. When I took command of USCENTCOM in March of 2013, the intelligence community estimated there were ~800-1,000 jihadists in Syria. Today, that number is upwards of 7,000. This is alarming, particularly when you consider that many of these fighters will eventually return home, and some may head to Europe or even the United States better trained and equipped and even more radicalized. At the same time, extremists are exploiting the sectarian fault line running from Beirut to Damascus to Baghdad to Sanaa. Left unchecked, the resulting instability could embroil the greater region into conflict." Gen. Austin Testimony
June 10, 2014: ISIL Takes Mosul: Insurgents seized control of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul…a powerful demonstration of the threat posed by a rapidly expanding extremist army to the fragile stability of Iraq and the wider region…ISIS fighters seized large quantities of weaponry from the security forces when they overran their bases, including vehicles, arms andammunition that will help the group to press further offensives. The Washington Post
July 25, 2014: Rice Requests AUMF Repeal: In a letter to Speaker Boehner, and without consulting the military, National Security Advisor Rice requests the repeal of legal authority the White House will later rely on: ”The Iraq AUMF is no loner used for any U.S. government activities and the Administration fully supports its repeal. Such a repeal would go much further in giving the American people confidence that ground forces will not be sent into combat in Iraq.” Letter from Rice to Speaker Bohener
Request Never Vetted Through DoD: The AUMF that Rice wanted withdrawn is now part of the very authority the administration says it is operating under, along with the 2001 AUMF against al Qaeda. The Pentagon was not given a heads-up about that letter either, according to multiple sources. “We didn’t know it was going over there, and there were significant concerns about it,” said the senior defense official. “We had these authorities to go into Iraq under the 2002 AUMF, which is what she wanted repealed. We believed the authorities were still needed.” Politico
August 6, 2014: General Dempsey Urges President Obama to Intervene in Iraq: “We have a crisis in Iraq, Mr. President... ISIS is a real threat,… Dempsey outlined the militants’ rapid military gains in western Iraq and warned that ISIL fighters were threatening Baghdad. “It’s that bad?” Obama asked, according to this person’s account. Dempsey was blunt. “Yes, sir,” he said, “it is. Politico
A “Rare” Face to Face Between The President and his Chief Military Advisor: —the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—rarely has opportunities to get face time with the president. So when he does, he presses his advantage. One of the few times this happened was during the early evening hours of Aug. 6, when Dempsey joined Obama in his limousine at the State Department, where the president had been attending a session of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The ride to the White House allowed Dempsey his first one-on-one with Obama in several weeks. Politico
August 19, 2014: James Foley is killed. "The video concludes with the fighter threatening to kill Steven Sotloff, another American freelance journalist, who was being held alongside Mr. Foley. Mr. Sotloff is seen kneeling in the same position, in the same landscape and wearing the same style of orange-colored jumpsuit. “The life of this American citizen, Obama, depends on your next decision,” the fighter says." New York Times
August 28, 2014: We don’t have a strategy yet. President Obama
September 10th, 2014: President Obama unveils his ISIL strategy : “At this moment, the greatest threats come from the Middle East and North Africa, where radical groups exploit grievances for their own gain. And one of those groups is ISIL -- which calls itself the ‘Islamic State….ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way.” President Obama
Again the Request is Never Vetted Through DoD: The White House transmits a request for the Military to train and equip Syrian forces that HAS NOT been coordinated with the Department of Defense: “The Pentagon was surprised by the president’s timing, according to a senior defense official. ‘We didn’t know it was going to be in the speech,’ he said, referring to Obama’s Sept. 10 address to the nation. Second, the White House neglected to give Pentagon lawyers a chance to revise and approve the proposed legislative language before it went to the Hill, which is considered standard practice. Staffers working for Rep. Buck McKeon, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said they were appalled by what they saw: language so sloppy that it failed to mention adequate protections against so-called ‘green-on-blue’ attacks by trainees on American troops, and effectively left the Defense Department liable for funding the mission against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)—even though the president was telling members of Congress he didn’t need money for this new mission, since the Saudis were putting it up. ‘What came over would have not have been a mission the DoD could have executed,’ says a senior Republican committee staffer.” Politico
September 11th, 2014,Chairman McKeon offers an alternate strategy to combat ISIL: "I want our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later. I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow.Fortune favors the bold. ISIL is a threat that we all share. They are an enemy of the free world and must be stopped..... History punished us once 13 years ago today. It is the responsibility of us all to ensure it doesn’t happen again."
September 17th, 2014: House Passes updated Syria Train and Equip authority: “The authorization is limited in scope to training up to 5,000 members of the Syrian opposition in Saudi Arabia. It provides no new funding and requires the administration to provide status reports to Congress. The Obama administration said the mission may be funded by international contributions, but the resolution authorizes the Pentagon to shift funds from other accounts if necessary.” USA Today
September 23rd 2014, Coaltion air campaign over Iraq and Syria begins. President Obama relies on the 2002 Iraq Authorization to Use Military Force that Ambassador Rice asked the House to repeal just 2 months before. War Powers Notification
Oct 27 2014
"the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims."
Mr. Obama's Half-Hearted Fight Against the Islamic State
The Washington Post Editorial Board
October 25, 2014
"AN UNLIKELY consensus is emerging across the ideological spectrum about the war against the Islamic State: President Obama’s strategy to “degrade and eventually destroy” the terrorist entity is unworkable. It’s not just that, as some administration officials say, more time is needed to accomplish complex tasks such as training Iraqi and Syrian forces. It’s that the military means the president has authorized cannot accomplish his announced aims.
"The limitations to the U.S. effort, which were mostly imposed by Mr. Obama, are prompting blunt assessments from senior Pentagon officials. “We need a credible, moderate Syrian force, but we have not been willing to commit what it takes to build that force,” one told The Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Said another officer: “You cannot field an effective force if you’re not on the ground to advise and assist them.”
"Some on both the left and right in Washington are arguing that the appropriate response to the campaign’s deficiencies is for Mr. Obama to lower his ambitions; he should seek merely to prevent further expansion by the Islamic State or attacks on the homeland. The problem with a policy of containment, however, is that the infection of the Islamic State is spreading. Militant groups around the region are rallying to its cause, volunteers continue to travel to Syria, and popular support for it is dangerously evident in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.
"But the United States will have to broaden its aims and increase its military commitment if the terrorists are to be defeated. At the least, Syrian rebel forces must be protected from attacks by the Assad regime and both Syrian and Iraqi units provided with U.S. advisers and air controllers. The longer Mr. Obama delays such steps, the greater the risk to vital U.S. interests."
Oct 22 2014
"The F/A-18s needs spare parts and in too many cases they’re being taken from brand new jets. This is a risk to national security and pilots’ lives."
Fighter Jets Cannibalized Due to Budget Cuts
Navy Grounds Top Guns
By Dave Majumdar
The Daily Beast
October 17, 2014
"The U.S. Navy’s elite cadre of fighter pilots—made famous by Top Gun—are not flying nearly often as they would like. Instead, many of the Navy’s elite Boeing F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter squadrons are sitting on the ground with only two or three flyable jets available. The rest of the jets are awaiting maintenance for want of critical spare parts—and some of those parts are being cannibalized from brand new jets in an increasingly vain attempt to keep squadrons flying.
"“It’s pretty bad, ” said one veteran F/A-18 fighter pilot. “Some squadrons have found it difficult to keep more than a few jets up, while other squadrons are spending a tremendous amount of operational time away from home base, creating what Air Boss has called ‘the haves and the have nots.’”
"The ‘have not’ units are those squadrons based at home in the United States that are not immediately preparing to deploy. The ‘haves’ are those either flying combat missions over Iraq and Syria or those from high-priority areas like the elite Japan-based units that are always kept at a very high level of readiness thanks to China and North KoreaWhile that’s great for the units that get to fly on a regular basis, it is very bad for those squadrons that are not able to take to the skies. Pilots need to fly a certain number of hours per month in order to keep their skills sharp—that is the advantage of American aviators over foreign countries. Often, it’s less about the technological advantages of American aircraft and more the skills of that man or woman flying that jet that makes the real difference in combat.
"If pilots are not flying, their skills atrophy and that could put their lives in danger. That’s especially true when Navy pilots are flying over Syria and Iraq.
"Sources tell The Daily Beast that there are dozens of jets awaiting maintenance—and most of the planes are less than 10 years old, which by aircraft standards is practically brand new. Effectively, dozens of brand new jets worth billions of dollars are sitting on the ground useless.
"Some drop in readiness is normal. Whenever a Navy squadron comes back from a deployment onboard a carrier, it loses some of its roughly 12 jets and readiness plummets before building back up. There is a rough floor of about six aircraft that a unit is supposed to have even at low readiness levels. “They have gone below that minimum,” one source said.
"The result is that the Navy’s fighter pilots are not getting necessary training to operate their pricey machines in combat should the need arise. Given that the nation is once again at war, that need could arise again sooner than anyone expects.
"One of the main causes of the problem, according to multiple sources, was the congressionally mandated sequester that automatically cut the Pentagon budget.
"Money that was cut during 2012 budget year is only now having a real impact because the skilled engineering force of engineers and technicians at various government contractors were laid off and found other jobs since then. The result is a massive backlog of aircraft that must be repaired.
“There are only so many people who have that expertise,” one source said.
"The only real long-term solution, sources say, is to buy more airplanes more quickly to replace old worn-out jets so they don’t need this kind of extended and expensive overhauls. Sources said that aircraft need to be thought of as consumables that run out after a certain number of hours—typically 6,000 hours for Navy jets and 8,000 hours for Air Force planes.
"If the Pentagon does nothing, the Navy’s pilots will spend a lot more time on the ground than flying."
Sep 29 2014
HASC Chairman Pens Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post warning of three mistakes that must be avoided in any new authorization for use of military force or "AUMF."
"Any authorization should stand on its own merits, after lengthy and open debate, and not be a rider to an omnibus appropriation or a defense bill."
Be considered by a "Lame Duck" session of Congress
"Lame ducks, with little accountability, should not make an AUMF the final vote of their term. Incoming representatives will oversee this conflict, and they should bear the responsibility for authorizing it — even if that means a vote can’t take place until January. The commander in chief could devote the intervening period to filling the gaps in his strategy, being candid with the American people and building a political consensus and commitment to see this through."
Sep 17 2014
Crocker, Ford, Keane and Petraeus Pen Letter of Support for McKeon Amendment on Syria Train and Equip
"urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort"
Washington - Ambassadors Ryan C. Crocker and Robert S. Ford as well as Generals Jack M. Keane and David H. Petraeus, have written a letter of support for the McKeon Amendment on Syria Train and Equip Mission to HASC Leaders.
In the letter to Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith, the authors express strong support for the Syria Train and Equip Mission as well as the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.
Full text below:
September 17, 2014
Dear Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith:
We write to express our strong support for Congressional authorization of the provision of assistance and training to properly vetted members of the Syrian opposition.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is simultaneously fighting both the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and the barbaric Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Providing greater assistance to FSA is the United States’ best opportunity to develop a moderate force that is capable of defeating ISIS and bringing about a post-Assad Syria that is free of terror.
As you may know, FSA forces have recently achieved some successes on the ground against ISIS forces in northern Syria, but their effectiveness is limited by their lack of sufficient assistance and training.
Building up the moderate opposition in Syria will be a key element of any successful strategy against ISIS. To be sure, after three years of war, it will take a long time to build the moderate opposition. But there is no viable alternative. The United States must set to this task immediately.
Finally, we note that approval of this measure should not prevent or circumscribe Congress from considering a properly scoped authorization for the use of military force in the future, or from otherwise revisiting or revising its position on this issue as conditions on the ground evolve. But time is of the essence, and we are convinced of the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.
Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker
Ambassador Robert S. Ford
General Jack M. Keane, USA, Retired
General David H. Petraeus, USA, Retired