The following is Sen. Jim Inhofe’s opening statement at the oversight hearing for PACOM, US Forces, Korea.
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral Locklear: thank you for your many years of service and for what you do every day to defend the nation. On behalf of the committee, please convey to the men and women standing watch on the Korean Peninsula and around the Pacific how grateful we are for their sacrifice, and that of their families.
“The recent belligerent actions of North Korea highlight the stark disparity between the Obama Administration’s triumphant declaration that the tide of war is receding and reality. Old threats are being replaced by new and more dangerous ones. North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong Un, brutally represses his people and has engaged in recent provocative statements, military exercises, and nuclear tests that have escalated tensions and pushed the region to the brink of conflict. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with our allies in the region and be ready to respond to any contingency incited by this irrational actor.
“General Thurman and Admiral Locklear are implementing prudent steps to this end. This includes continuing to train with our South Korean partners in exercises like “Foal Eagle”; practicing strike missions with F-22, B-52, and B-2 aircraft; moving Aegis cruisers closer to the Korean peninsula; and installing Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) capability in Guam. Our increased military capabilities in the region are designed to deter North Korean aggression, but should deterrence fail, they also stand ready to punish aggression to protect vital U.S. interests. And, while I’m encouraged by the President’s reversal of his previous decision by acquiring fourteen additional ground-based-interceptors for the West Coast, I remain deeply concerned that our ability to defend against a growing threat from Iran is inadequate without a third site on the East Coast. The threat is real and the need for a third site to better protect the East Coast is growing every day.
“Additionally, the growing defense capabilities and aggressiveness of China demand that we understand our capability to defend Taiwan and how PACOM intends to tailor our Pacific engagement with allies including South Korea, Japan, Australia, Thailand and the Philippines as well as with growing regional powers such as India. Given the Administration’s focus on the Pacific region, we should have a clear long-term plan that details adjustments to our force posture including the Marine presence in Okinawa, Guam, Hawaii and Australia, the basing of Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore, and progress of planned basing changes in South Korea.
“It has been over a year since the publication of the defense strategic guidance, and I look to Admiral Locklear to provide the committee with a detailed description of what the “rebalance” to Asia means in military terms, and how he intends to implement it as the commander on the ground. I also look forward to his frank assessment of how the ongoing budget crisis will impact his ability to effectively handle Pacific challenges, mitigate risks to our forces, and whether the current strategies being executed are still tenable given budget realities. I’m deeply concerned that there is a growing divide between what we expect our military to accomplish and the resources we provide to them.
“And while the President naively sees the tide of war receding, I see the continued need for a strong, able, and well-resourced force that remains engaged in the Asia Pacific and beyond. We need a force squarely focused on the major security risks we face that is engaged in shaping events today and postured for combat tomorrow. The insistence by this President to drastically slash the defense budget puts the future of such a force at risk. I can’t recall a time in my life when the world has been more dangerous, yet, due to planned budget cuts and sequestration, we are poised to cut our defense budget by a trillion dollars over the next ten years. These short-sighted cuts to defense capabilities will not protect our national interests. Instead, a weakened U.S. military will only embolden adversaries like North Korea, undermine our allies, and threaten the safety of our citizens both at home and abroad. Furthermore, the Obama Administration’s plan to have the Defense Department, which makes up only 18 percent of the federal budget, endure 50 percent of federal budget cuts, is the height of irresponsibility.
“The reckless course of action pursued by the regime in Pyonyang underscores the importance of our forward military posture and presence in the Asia Pacific. Our presence helps to shape events and underpin stability, in this case very concretely through deterrence. But should deterrence fail, make no mistake; our military forces stand ready to defend the nation.”
“Admiral Locklear, thank you again for appearing before us today and I look forward to your testimony.”