WASHINGTON - 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, "Terrorism and Iran: Defense Challenges in the Middle East." For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"We welcome back to the Committee the Commander of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel. We are particularly interested in hearing General Votel's views on the changes that the new National Defense Strategy brings to his area of responsibility.
The Strategy's emphasis on strategic competition has implications for a region where Russian influence and presence is much greater now than it was before the Syrian conflict began, a region that is one of the targets of the Chinese whole-of-nation effort to increase its sway, and a region where the Iranians are aggressively expanding its wide arc of control to the detriment of its neighbors.
These developments and the continuing threat of terrorism in and emanating from the CENTCOM region suggests that the United States cannot afford to remove our attention or our presence from this vital region.
Fortunately, we have a number of strong allies and partners that are able and willing to actively defend our joint interests. But as we have painfully learned in recent years, there is simply no substitute for the United States. When we withdraw prematurely, the world, including the threats to our homeland, can rapidly grow more dangerous.
The challenge, however, is that CENTCOM has received the lion's share of military resources for some time, and while its importance remains, we have to be more active in other vital areas of the world at the same time. The recent budget agreement helps, but it will take time to rebuild and field needed capability. In these circumstances, General Votel has his hands full in making sure that U.S. national security is protected."