Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following statement at today’s budget hearing for U.S. Forces Korea and U.S. Strategic Command:
General Scaparrotti, and Admiral Haney, thank you for appearing before the committee today and thank you for your service to our nation. I look forward to hearing from both of you.
General Scaparrotti, I commend the service men and women under your command, whose daily efforts help to maintain the truce on the Korean peninsula. Their courage and commitment contribute greatly to stability and peaceful progress in the region.
The United States will continue to offer security assurances through its forward military presence in Korea. To that effect, the Department of Defense’s strategic guidance, which highlights a rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region, emphasizes: maintaining existing alliances, expanding cooperative international networks, and cultivating long-term strategic partnerships. Our close relationship with the Republic of Korea is fundamental to fulfilling each of these strategic priorities. It promotes mutual prosperity and helps to realize the immense potential for growth in the region.
Unfortunately, the North Korean regime continues to spurn the international community, to threaten its neighbors, and to undermine its long-suffering populace. North Korea’s bellicosity and its inclination to brinksmanship demand constant vigilance coupled with a credible deterrent capability. On Monday, North Korea once again demonstrated with live-fire shelling of disputed waters that it places a premium on harassment and coercion in attempting to advance misguided policy objectives.
North Korea’s proven preference for provocation is unacceptable, as are North Korea’s nuclear weapons aspirations. North Korea should stop brandishing its military strike capabilities and immediately desist from any nuclear testing. The United States is committed to peace, and we are prepared to improve relations with North Korea. I am hopeful that the North Korean leadership will abandon its nuclear ambitions in a good faith effort toward a lasting peace on the Korean peninsula.
No one should underestimate the United States’ resolve to defend South Korea. Our strong and enduring alliance with the Republic of Korea exemplifies a commitment to peaceably improving the security situation on the Korean peninsula and, if necessary, to ably defending the peninsula against armed aggression. We must provide U.S. Forces Korea with the support it needs to uphold its part of this shared commitment.
General Scaparrotti, I look forward to discussing how we might best focus our own efforts and how we might leverage those of our partners in the region to reduce tensions on the Korean peninsula.
Admiral Haney, it is a pleasure to have you testify before our committee. I look forward to hearing your priorities with regard to the nuclear deterrent, space, missile defense, and cyberspace capabilities.
Our space assets play a critical role in ensuring robust space situational awareness and for early earning and detection. And achieving an effective missile defense capability remains critical to address potential threats from North Korea and Iran.
With regard to your chief mission of maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent, President Obama committed to strengthen national security by pursuing nuclear weapons reductions, decreasing our reliance on these weapons, while making the necessary investments to sustain a strong deterrent. We must carefully plan as we recapitalize the deterrent. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a cost of $355 billion over the next decade as a start. As we embark on decades of modernization we must have a clear understanding of priorities, costs, and affordability, with the costs of a new Ohio-Class replacement submarine, a new bomber, a new fighter, a new nuclear cruise missile, the modernization of the Inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and modernization of nuclear command and control coming due within the next 10-20 years.
In addition, strategic stability remains crucial as the United States and Russia still maintain over 80% of nuclear weapons worldwide. As we seek stability and lower risk with lower numbers of delivery vehicles and deployed strategic weapons under the New START Treaty and in potential future reductions, we must ensure that we maintain an optimally sized and structured deterrent. I am deeply concerned about parochial considerations dictating the outcome of nuclear force structure decisions. Given the importance of the nuclear deterrent and the level of investment, we cannot afford outcomes that do not reflect military priorities or that lead to inefficiencies.