Washington D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Congressman Adam Smith (WA-09) released the following statement on today’s hearing on the Fiscal Year 2012 National Defense Authorization Budget Requests for U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Africa Command:
“General McNabb, General Ham, welcome. We have two separate subjects before us: the posture of U.S. Transportation Command and the posture of U.S. Africa Command. Welcome to you both. I look forward to your testimony.
“Let me start with TRANSCOM. With the challenges on materiel distribution routes inside Pakistan growing because of insurgent attacks, border delays, weather, road conditions, labor issues, theft and pilferage, what options is TRANSCOM considering regarding the Northern Distribution Network? In light of increased requirements for transport into Afghanistan, I’d also like to hear how TRANSCOM is ensuring a steady flow of equipment retrograding out of Iraq and Kuwait at the same time.
“Previously, the Air Force had stated that the minimum number of strategic airlift assets required was 316. Recently, the Air Force has reassessed that number and has concluded they now have an excess to need in regard to strategic airlift. I am interested in hearing what TRANSCOM’s position is on what the appropriate number of strategic airlift assets are and what level of risk that assumes.
“Turning to AFRICOM next, events of recent weeks have certainly put Africa at the forefront of our minds. The ongoing NATO operation in Libya, and before that, the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt (although technically not in AFRICOM’s area of responsibility) are just the most recent reminders that turbulence on the continent can have international implications. General Ham, I want to commend you and the command on your performance in the Libya operation before you passed responsibility over to NATO.
“Looking beyond Libya, AFRICOM’s challenge is how to develop the military-unique portions of the larger inter-agency process that translates broad U.S. national interests on the continent into a policy appropriate across a widely diverse geo-political landscape, and then execute it with austere resources. It is clear that we have an interest in the wellbeing and stability of the continent. Global poverty, which affects hundreds of millions in Africa, is a major destabilizing force.
“Developing countries are more likely to become mired in destabilizing conflicts, or worse, become havens or recruiting grounds for terrorists. Violent extremists have footholds stretching from the Maghreb to Somalia and points both north and south. International crime, including narcotics trafficking, human trafficking, trade in illegal weapons, and piracy destabilize countries and regions. Unchecked pandemics could spread across borders and oceans and threaten entire populations and local conflicts can ignite wider conflagrations and destabilize entire regions.
“There are any numbers of examples of war, or poverty, or human suffering in Africa. The ongoing conflict in Cote d’Ivorie and the fragile state of affairs in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo that is held together by a huge peacekeeping operation are but two illustrations. But we do not posses unlimited capability or an unlimited mandate.
“Therefore, AFRICOM’s approach, to largely work in concert with our African partners to identify mutual areas for security cooperation, is a proactive way to address national security concerns and prevent future conflicts in Africa. With American assistance, our African partners can professionalize their militaries, become more accountable to the people they protect, and strengthen the civilian governance structures that control them. In that way, they become more able to deal with the security challenges we share.
“Without a robust inter-agency process in Africa, AFRICOM’s efforts will never reap their true potential return so I hope you’ll take the time today to discuss how you are building the security capacity of our partners within the framework of the inter-agency process.
“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”