Opening Statement at SASC Hearing on TRANSCOM and AFRICOM for FY 2014
Thursday, March 7, 2013
I want to welcome our witnesses, General William Frazer, Commander of US Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) and General Carter Ham, Commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to testify this morning on the programs and budget needed to meet the current and future requirements within their respective commands.
Please extend, on behalf of the Committee, our gratitude to the men and women of your commands and their families for the many sacrifices that they have made on behalf of our Nation. And thanks to both of you for your long careers of leadership and service.
General Ham – this is likely to be your final posture hearing. On behalf of the Committee, let me say that we have enjoyed working with you in various positions, and we wish you and your family all the best as you embark upon another adventure in your life. Your job as Commander of AFRICOM has been truly challenging in conducting and coordinating a major multinational efforts and in building relationships throughout the continent. You and your staff at AFRICOM are to be commended for your performance in this effort.
The multitude of security and military-related challenges across your Area of Responsibility (AOR) have been well known to this committee since your command’s inception. The issues associated with post-war Libya, ongoing conflict in Somalia, evolving threats in northwest Africa, Sudan’s support to Iran and its proxies, and enduring regional conflicts in central Africa continue, and – in some cases – have gained momentum since that time. Given DOD’s economy of force effort in the AFRICOM AOR, this committee has sought to provide the AFRICOM greater flexibility and broader authorities to respond to the unique threats faced by your command. General Ham, we look forward to learning more about your challenges today and are prepared to further enhance your command’s ability to conduct operations.
There are three areas I want to call out for special attention. First, the attack in Benghazi last September was a poignant and powerful reminder of our need – and the public’s expectation – for a capability to respond in real-time to crises around the world. This committee recently heard from the Secretary of Defense and General Dempsey on the Department’s response to that attack. It is clear that AFRICOM continues to struggle to secure basing rights and access allowing for such a response, or allowing us to conduct day-to-day certain military operations with partners in the region. Moreover, AFRICOM has received less in the way of resources and support than other geographic commands, and this problem indeed may grow in a resource-constrained environment. We look forward to learning of the action the Department has taken to ensure AFRICOM is equipped in the future to respond or – more importantly – to secure the intelligence to warn of such an impending attack.
Second, AFRICOM’s efforts to combat the threat posed by al Qaeda, its associated forces, and other violent extremists have seen some success, but new challenges to sustained progress emerge daily. In Somalia, AFRICOM’s investments are showing promise as the African Union forces continue to expand its territorial control and the nascent Somali government is provided additional time and space to build its capacity and capabilities. The committee looks forward to learning of AFRICOM’s plan to consider building a more traditional military-to-military relationship with Somali military.
The military operations led by General Ham, which helped bring about the fall of the Qadhafi regime and the resulting outflow of small arms and other advanced munitions, has drastically changed the security dynamics in North Africa. Over the past few months, al Qaeda in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, has used its kidnapping ransoms to destabilize the nation of Mali and to threaten nations across the region. While successful French military action – enabled by intelligence and aerial refueling support from AFRICOM – has forced AQIM out of the population centers in northern Mali, the threat of terrorism emanating from Northwest Africa remains potent and the region is likely to be a source of instability for years to come. That instability is complicated further by key smuggling routes that move drugs, weapons, terrorists, and money, which finance terrorist and other transnational criminal activity around the world. General Ham, this committee looks forward to hearing your views on this dynamic situation.
Lastly, Operation Observant Compass – AFRICOM’s named operation to assist the multinational military effort to remove Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants from the battlefield remains of great interest to the committee. This committee has sought to ensure this mission is adequately resourced with additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as flexible logistics authorities to better support the nontraditional composure of this operation. General Ham, we look forward to your assessment of these operations and a report on any progress during the past year.
General Fraser, we know that things have been busy for you as well ever since you assumed your job at TRANSCOM. TRANSCOM has played a critical role in supporting our war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. TRANSCOM now faces the daunting task of returning thousands upon thousands of items of equipment and containers of materiel as we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan. Less well known, but no less important, has been TRANSCOM’s role in supporting various humanitarian and relief efforts around the world. We applaud those efforts as well.
TRANSCOM is also facing threats to its infrastructure on a day-to-day basis. At TRANSCOM, you communicate over the unclassified Internet with many private-sector entities that are central to DOD’s ability to support deployment operations – in the transportation and shipping industries in particular. Much of the other critical communications and operations of the Defense Department can be conducted over the classified DOD internet service, which is not connected to the public Internet and is therefore much more protected against eavesdropping and disruption by computer network attacks. You have been quoted in the press as stating that TRANSCOM is the most attacked command in the Department. We would like to hear today about any progress you have made in dealing with these problems.
TRANSCOM is facing many other challenges. The Ready Reserve Force (RRF), a group of cargo ships held in readiness by the Maritime Administration, is aging and will need to be modernized with newer ships over the next ten years. Sealift support is critical to our capabilities. We have relied on sealift to deliver more than 90 percent of the cargo to Iraq and Afghanistan, which is similar to previous contingencies.
Another challenging area is the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, or CRAF program. DOD relies heavily on the CRAF program to provide wartime capability, depending upon CRAF to provide as much as 40 percent of wartime needs. TRANSCOM and DOD need to ensure that the CRAF participants can continue to provide that surge capacity in the future.
This Committee has sought to ensure that our Combatant Commanders have what they need to succeed in their missions and will continue to support the requirements of our war fighters in these conflicts.
However, this year’s posture hearings with the combatant commanders are being held under the specter of budget sequestration, which threatens to impose arbitrary cuts on our military forces unrelated to our national security requirements. As the Committee heard on Tuesday, sequestration is having an operational impact in the CENTCOM area. General Ham and General Fraser, please address the impacts and risks associated with sequestration and the expiration of the Continuing Resolution as it applies to your commands.