Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988
Washington D.C. –Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, today released the following opening statement for the House Armed Services Committee’s posture hearing on the budget requests for the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), U.S. Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO):
“Today, this committee will consider the challenges and opportunities that face U.S. European Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The range of possible topics today is as broad as the vast reach of General Craddock’s area of responsibility. Thank you both for joining us today to update us on your operations and initiatives, and to explain how these efforts relate to the President’s budget proposal.
“I especially hope that we can talk about how our global partners – particularly nations within the European Command – are stepping up to commit their military forces to coalition operations and invest in their own military capabilities. I am also interested in hearing how U.S. forces are working with other partners, such as interagency players and non-governmental organizations, to advance U.S. national security interests around the world.
“While he was the commander of European Command and the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Jim Jones predicted that 2006 would be a pivotal year for NATO. And indeed, the Alliance has entered a new era. It has launched and sustained a significant deployment outside of Europe. It has taken the lead for security and stability operations in the entirety of Afghanistan. Some 37 countries are working together to help build a peaceful and stable Afghanistan through the International Security Assistance Force.
“Generals, both of you have key roles to play in our important NATO Alliance. I would be very interested in hearing your perspectives regarding allied views on this critical effort – in particular, what will be NATO’s role with respect to Afghanistan’s long-term security requirements? Understanding the important impact of counter-narcotics and alternative livelihood efforts on the security situation, what is – and what should be – NATO’s role in these efforts? What are we doing to persuade other nations to reduce or eliminate the caveats that they have placed on the use of their forces in Afghanistan?
“NATO has also answered the call in Iraq. Earlier this week, I returned from a tour of U.S. operations in Fallujah, Ramadi, and Baghdad. This trip only strengthened my strong conviction that a successful hand-off of security responsibilities to the Iraqi Army and police forces, allowing U.S. forces to rotate out of the battlefield, is possible – but Iraqi forces must be ready and willing to accept such responsibilities. The NATO Training Mission in Iraq is helping to professionalize Iraqi Army officers toward this end.
“It is gratifying to see NATO demonstrate its continuing commitment to the common values of freedom and democracy, even as it proves its flexibility and its continuing relevance. I would appreciate your thoughts on how our NATO Allies and partners view their current and future role in addressing long-term security, stability, transition, and reconstruction needs in Iraq.
“On the topic of investment, I find it interesting that despite NATO’s “requirement” that allies spend at least two percent of their Gross Domestic Product on their militaries, only a handful of nations actually do so. Over the last several years, many of our allies have argued that the European Union’s growing focus on security and defense could result in increased military spending and improved capabilities of member nations.
“However, it appears that fiscal realities have not supported this argument. Moreover, it seems that the Alliance’s emphasis on transformation – including leveraging the experiences and expertise of Joint Forces Command – has not resulted in noticeable increases in expenditures or capabilities. In fact, NATO nations have recognized a significant shortfall in strategic airlift. Yet these nations’ combined acquisition of C-17s relies in large part on U.S. contributions. So I wonder – How can we more effectively persuade our friends to transform and modernize their militaries?
“Finally, we will all be watching with interest the development of Africa Command. As we have seen, ungoverned and under-governed spaces can become safe havens for terrorists. By partnering more closely with nations on the African continent, we can help to develop more secure borders, more responsible and capable military forces, and security institutions that are more responsive to national governments – and we can help to close the doors of any safe havens located there.
“I note that General Craddock’s predecessors in European Command had worked with these nations. I look forward to hearing how standing up a new command may expand upon those efforts – without creating dangerous seams with existing commands along important security corridors found along the Mediterranean and in the Horn of Africa.
“Generals, this is a pivotal time for the men and women under your command. Their work will continue both to strengthen U.S. military forces and capabilities and to foster the United States’ vital relationships with multinational organizations, other nations bilaterally, and non-governmental organizations. Thank you for appearing before us today.”