WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, made the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at the Full Committee's hearing entitled, "The Military and Security Challenges and Posture in the Indo-Pacific Region." For testimony and other information and to watch the hearing click here.
"With us today is Admiral Harry Harris, the Commander of United States Pacific Command. As Admiral Harris nears the end of his military service, I want to first thank him for that service and for the insights and perspectives he has shared with us, both here in Washington and as Members have traveled in the PACOM region.
Remarkably, forty years of service to our nation is not enough for Admiral Harris. Last week, the President announced his intention to nominate him as our Ambassador to Australia.
This hearing comes at an opportune time. Last week, we heard Secretary Mattis and General Selva testify on the new National Defense Strategy and on the Nuclear Posture Review. Also last week, Congress passed and the President signed into law legislation that raised the spending caps so that repair of readiness shortfalls can begin in earnest.
Admiral Harris has had to grapple with that full range of issues. In the Indo- Asia-Pacific region, the United States faces a near-term, belligerent threat armed with nuclear weapons and also a longer-term strategic competitor. In fact, four of the five key security challenges -- China, Russia, North Korea, and terrorism -- reside in the PACOM area of responsibility. Unfortunately, the region has also seen the tragic loss of life of American service members in naval and aircraft accidents and has felt some of the consequences of our inadequate defense budgets.
Despite North Korea's recent charm offensive at the Olympic games, the threat posed to U.S. service members, our allies, and the American homeland has not diminished. We have an urgent need to ensure that we are ready for whatever course that situation may take.
The challenge posed by China has also not lessened. China is rapidly transforming its military, continuing to militarize artificial islands in the South China Sea, and expanding its presence through political influence campaigns and economic coercion. According to the National Defense Strategy, "China is leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce neighboring countries to reorder the Indo-Pacific region to their advantage."
Critical to meeting all of the challenges in the region is our relationship with our allies and also with countries with whom we share interests. The FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act includes more for training and exercises with partners, as well as establishing the Indo-Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative, which, in part, is designed to show our allies that we stand by them with more than just words.
We all look forward to Admiral Harris's candid assessment of these and other issues."