SASC Nominations Hearing for Dr. Kathleen Hicks and Mr. Derek Chollet

Thursday, April 26, 2012

This morning the Committee considers the nomination of Dr. Kathleen Hicks to be Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and Mr. Derek Chollet to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.  

Dr. Hicks and Mr. Chollet, welcome.  Both of our nominees have demonstrated their commitment to public service in their careers.  We appreciate your willingness to continue to serve.  We also appreciate the support that your families have provided, which is so essential.  As is our custom, we hope you will take the opportunity to introduce any friends and family who are here today to support you at the time of your statement.  

Our witnesses today are nominated for policy positions that deal with some of the most complex security challenges confronting the Department of Defense.  

The Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy advises and assists the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy on the full range of policy matters, including strategy formulation, contingency planning, and the integration of DOD plans and policy with overall national security objectives.  Dr. Hicks has been nominated to replace Dr. Jim Miller, whose nomination for Under Secretary of Defense for Policy is presently pending before the Committee.  Since 2009, Dr. Hicks has served as the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Forces.  In this position she has helped lead efforts within the Department to develop and implement strategic guidance, including the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review and the Department’s recent Strategic Guidance issued in January.  

Derek Chollet is nominated to be the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, the principal advisor to the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and the Secretary of Defense on international security strategy and policy on issues of DoD interest relating to Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and for oversight of security cooperation programs and foreign military sales in those regions.  Since 2009, Mr. Chollet has held positions at the State Department and on the National Security Council where he has worked on many of the issues he will confront at DOD if he is confirmed by the Senate.

One of the primary challenges that both our witnesses will have to wrestle with, if confirmed, is maintaining progress in Afghanistan as the lead for security transitions to the Afghan security forces and U.S. and coalition forces are reduced in number between now and 2014.  Key to the success of this transition will be the Defense Department’s policies and efforts to build the capacity of the Afghan Army and Police and the sustained commitment of our NATO allies and other coalition partners to the goal agreed at the NATO Lisbon Summit of having Afghan forces in the security lead throughout Afghanistan by 2014.

In that regard, I am deeply concerned about news reports regarding an Administration proposal to reduce the future size of the Afghan security forces after these forces assume the lead for security throughout Afghanistan.  It has been reported that the United States is advocating a proposal in NATO to cut the future size of the Afghan security forces by one third, from 352,000 this year to less than 230,000 after 2014.  Yesterday Ranking Member McCain, Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham, and I sent a letter to President Obama stating our concerns about these proposed reductions in the Afghan security forces.  These cuts appear to be based primarily on current presumptions regarding what the security situation will be in Afghanistan several years from now.  We believe this is the wrong approach.  It is too early to decide that conditions two or three years from now will allow a one-third reduction in the size of the Afghan security forces.  I would ask that our letter to the President be made part of the record of this hearing.  

Our NATO and international partners share an interest in a secure and stable Afghanistan and should invest some of their defense savings from drawing down their forces in sustaining the Afghan forces over the long-term.  But we should not jeopardize the hard-won gains of the past years by failing to help fund and sustain the Afghan security forces with what they need to provide enduring security in Afghanistan.

Other major security challenges that our witnesses will share responsibilities for, if confirmed, include: countering a potential Iranian nuclear threat and Iran’s broader efforts to destabilize the Middle East; ensuring adequate policy and resource support for our ongoing counterterrorism and counter proliferation operations; pressuring the Assad regime to end its murderous campaign against its own people; managing our changing security relations in the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the Arab Spring; establishing clear policies and priorities for building the capacity of partner nations to address security challenges on their own, and to support the Department’s operations to advise and assist the Ugandan effort to eliminate the Lord’s Resistance Army and to remove Joseph Kony and his top lieutenants from the battlefield.

If confirmed, Dr. Hicks will also play an important role in implementing the Department’s recent Strategic Guidance, which she helped craft.  That Strategic Guidance sets the goal of reshaping the U.S. Joint Force to be smaller and leaner, and at the same time more agile, flexible, and fully capable of meeting the Department’s global challenges.  That includes rebalancing our global posture and presence, pivoting more toward the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East.  

This week Secretary Panetta and Secretary Clinton will be meeting with their counterparts from Japan in the so-called two-plus-two meetings to continue work on arrangements for the future presence of U.S. Marines in Okinawa and Guam, in light of U.S. plans for the U.S. Marines Corps presence in the Asia-Pacific region under the new Defense Strategic Guidance.  Senators McCain, Webb, and I wrote to Secretary Panetta earlier this week to express our concerns regarding the affordability, executability, and timing of the realignment of Marines.  Also, it is important that we understand how this planned distribution of the Marines throughout the Pacific supports and complements the broader U.S. strategy and force posture in this important region.

Other challenges include countering transnational threats, ensuring the effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent, addressing the spread of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction, and strengthening the capabilities of our allies and friendly nations to provide their own security.  
On the issue of protecting our cyber operations, this new but increasingly important and complex mission area affects not only the Department of Defense, but the government and the economy as a whole.  The committee needs to understand the dimensions of the threat of industrial espionage being waged relentlessly against U.S. industry and government, predominantly by the Chinese security establishment, and its impact on national security and prosperity.  This committee has focused for some time on the need to develop comprehensive policies and frameworks to govern planning and operations in cyberspace.  The administration has made some progress in these areas, as reflected in recent strategy statements and in the development of comprehensive legislation to improve cybersecurity.  But much more needs to be done.  These cyber issues will be among Dr. Hicks’ many duties, if confirmed, and should be a top priority.  

Both our witnesses this morning bring strong qualifications to the positions for which they have been nominated.  I look forward to their testimony and hope the Committee can act promptly to confirm them.