tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN October 20, 2015 7:00pm-9:01pm EDT
we are working with the countries involved, the states involved and environmentalists that are involved in order to do this in the right way to satisfy all of the constituents that are there and get our training done. >> you talked about some of our exercises we have out there. 22 nations were involved in one. 49 service ships, 2,200 aircraft, 25,000 personnel. looking -- it's a great exercise. i understand that. do you have the -- do we have the assets to continue that type of exercise for the near future? >> i believe we do, sir. you are absolutely right that it's a vital and important exercise not only for the u.s. but for the region. we believe we have the resources we need to continue conducting that. >> i would hope that would be
the case. thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you both for testifying today. admiral, in your testimony you point out that we insist that all maritime claims be deraved from naturally formed land features in accordance with international laws reflected in the law of the sea convention. are we at any kind of a disadvantage because we haven't been a signatory to the law of the sea convention? >> senator, i believe we are at a disadvantage because we don't have the moral high ground that other countries who are cigna tors, including china and russia have. so when china makes these outrageous claims in the south china sea, and the philippines challenges one of those claims and we support the philippines' right to make that claim, at the same time we're not a signatory, that looks strange. when russia makes claims in the arctic circle and they tell us,
you have no standing on which to complain because you're not a signatory to the law of the sea, it puts us at a disadvantage. >> thank you. i agree. i would hope that we would re-evaluate our position and become a signatory with most of the rest of the world of the law of the sea convention. senator reed raised the threat from north korea, second shear. earlier, they assessed north korea has the ability to launch a missal that could be capable of hitting the u.s. from a mobile launcher. we saw right before secretary carter visited japan that they launched two short-range missiles. you talked about china and their waning influence with north korea.
are there other measures that we ought to be taking with respect to north korea? should we have any sense of optimism about the recent overtures between north and south korea where they seem to be talking a little more? >> thank you, senator. that's an important question. we certainly support the efforts by the north and south to conduct senior level dialogue. as with past efforts to conduct such dialogue, i think we need to be very cautious in how we view the prospects. but i view this current effort to be a direct outcome of the very robust position the rok took in negotiations with the north to resolve the issue precipitated by the north korean provocation of august 4th. so i think it's very important that they have embarked on this
effort. we're just going to have to be very cautious. we support the rok very strongly in this effort. more generally, our approach to north korea is a combination of diplomacy and pressure. and as we go forward toward a possible north korean missile launch, for example, we're going to be engaging our six party partners and we're going to be considering what extra pressure we might put on north korea should they decide to conduct that missile launch. >> i assume you don't want to talk publically about what those pressures might be? >> we put a great many sanctions on north korea and further sanctions would be one possibility. >> did you want to add anything? >> sure. i will add that i think the key is to be ready for all outcomes regarding north korea from a position of strength.
i tend to be a pessimism when it comes to dealing with the capabilities of other countries. so, again, it's best to be cognizant of all outcomes. we strengthen south korea's ability and their bmd systems and that is why -- i personally believe that it's important. the missile defense system. >> thank you. there's been a lot of discussion today and earlier this year -- for the last decade the u.s. has flown with impunity in iraq and afghanistan with no threat to any air weapons. he noted that our capabilities to do that will be threatened in the future as china has been able to field more capabilities. i guess i would say, do you
agree with that assessment? can you talk about what that new technology that china is developing and our ability to stay ahead, how that's going to be affected by sequestration. >> we have a technological edge over them and almost every -- in almost every way. i'm confident in our ability to take the fight to china if it should come to that. i hope it doesn't. that said, we have to maintain that technological edge. they are growing in their capability and their technological capability. that's of concern to me. i think we need fifth generation fighters, for example. we need to have a lot of them. that's joint strike fighter, the f-35. we need to continue to upgrade our fourth generation fighters with fifth generation capabilities, because we have a lot of them.
i think that's important. >> secretary shear, i know i'm out of time, but you just may want to add what you think if cuts go back into affect for fiscal year 2016 what that would do to our ability to continue to have that technology. >> we're certainly concerned about the possible affects cuts may have both on current operations and our ability to develop the new technologies we need to maintain our military dominance in the region. that's something that secretary carter is extremely interested in. our defense innovation initiative is designed to develop those capabilities. we're going to need to counter area access and denial strategies and to maintain our superiority in the region. so we're committed not only to deploying our best capabilities
to the region now. we're committing to devising the technologies we need to maintain our edge. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, mr. chair. thank you gentlemen for being here today. we appreciate it very much. it was reported earlier this week that japan will be providing $832 million in infrastructure aid to vietnam and another $1.7 million worth of ships and equipment to them as well to help counter the rising of china. i am very glad that our allies are improving their relationships to counter the chinese aggression. both japan and vietnam are key allies for us here in the united states and developing that strong security and economic partnership with both japan and vietnam will allow us to better check china's aggression in that
region. so for both of you, if you would, please, how will this new agreement between vietnam and japan improve that security situation in that region? and also, under the southeast asia maritime security initiative, what specifically is the department doing to build partner capacity and capability in vietnam and in other southeast asia nations? >> thank you, senator. that's a great point. we strongly support japanese efforts to coordinate with us in building partner capacity, particularly with vietnam, the philippines and probably in the future malaysia. this is something that i worked on with my japanese colleagues while i was ambassador. i'm delighted to see that it has come to fruition for the japanese side. we're interested in taking
similar actions as you state in our maritime security initiative, which is in the fy-16 ndaa. that's a five-year $425 million program that we greatly appreciate the committee's support on this effort. under that initiative, we hope to not only improve physical capacity of our partners in, say, providing, for example, coast guard vessels, but we want to improve their institutional capacity. we want to improve their sustainability. that's something very important with the philippines. we want to improve their professionalism. so this would be a very broad program designed to raise the level of particularly of the maritime law enforcement capabilities of our partners in the region. >> senator, i was at vietnam as my previous assignment. i just returned to the
philippines a few weeks ago. i welcome japan's overtures and their efforts to improve the capacity of the -- of both countries, vietnam and the philippines. i think vietnam presents an ideal opportunity for us as we work more closely with them. i think that that is another indication of the response of the region to china's bad behavior in the south china sea where countries that previously that were at odds with us or leaders of the movement are coming to us for assistance and are opening themselves up to us. that's one of the costs that china has to bear for its bad behavior. >> very good. thank you. you have mentioned both of you,
the philippines several times. they have proven to be a great ally, whether it's the global war or terror, hurricane humanitarian relief efforts and so forth. are there specific steps that we can take or should be taking with the philippines at this time to further develop those relationships? >> you are right, senator. more can be done. when the president was in manila last year, he stated publically that our commitment under the mutual defense treaty to the philippines is iron clad. that no one should have any doubt about the extent of our commitment under that treaty. to increase capabilities to train and operate with them and to overall strengthen their ability ore cyst chinese coercion.
>> thank you so much briefing you gave me last month in honolulu. you mentioned admiral, that north korea is the greatest threat you face as pacific commander and noted that china's inpluns in north korea is waning. is there another country, ie, russia, that's stepping into this vacuum in relationships with north korea? >> i don't know any sources where they have had some relationships with them because of their histories. but i believe that today, the greatest threat i face is north korea. but today in my opinion, is not a threat to the united states as russia is. in the pacific, russia has a long coastline. at least two major naval bases
including one for their ballistic missile submarines. two major air bases and then a host of smaller operating bases in the pacific. so, those are things i worry about. >> we read that they have recently improved infrastructure projects in what the japanese call the northern territories and there have been numerous visits to these remote locations by russian leaders, so there are becoming active in that part of the world, not to mention the arctic. >> i agree with the admiral on his assessment of the activities
and let me suppress our strategy is designed to encompass russia as well as china, as well as other challenges in the region. >> what do you make of russia's russia's activities? does it have further reaching consequences? >> i confess, i'm not familiar with all the details on the kinds of infrastructure that russia is building in the north territories, but we support the japanese claim to the northern territories. and we would be concerned if the russians used this infrastructure to further militarize or to bolster their military strength in the region. >> admiral harris, i was in okinawa last month because part of the indoasia pacific rebalance to this part of the
world involvements the closing of futenma facility. and most recently the governor of okinawa prefecture claimed that he'll proceed with canceling the landfill permit for developing the alternative facility. what does this proclamation mean for the government of japan and the futenma replacement facility project we need to get on with? >> senator, we have a long-standing treaty, mutual security treaty, with japan. and part -- and our obligation in that treaty is to provide security for japan. japan's obligation, one of japan's obligations under that treaty, is to provide bases from which to operate and do that. okinawa is critical for our ability to defend japan and our posture in the asia-pacific region.
it is a japanese national effort and a decision whether to override or overcome governor onaga's objection to the futenma replacement facility. they are working on that and that's their obligations under the treaty for us. >> if i may add to that briefly, senator. we greatly appreciate the support the government of japan has given to the effort to find a replacement for futenma facility. we appreciate their effort to get construction going for the futenma replacement facility. and we were glad this week when we were informed by the japanese government their construction-related activities have begun at the hanoko site for the replacement facilities. >> so, while there may be delays as a result of the governor of okinawa's actions that you expect that the japanese government will continue to proceed with the replacement facility?
>> i do, senator. and i want to stress that as we move forward on construction of the futenma replacement facility, we, of course, as we always do, we will continue to consider okinawan sensitivities with regard to the general issue of our presence and our operations in okinawa. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you, admiral harris and ambassador scherer for all you do. thank you for being here to answer our questions. admiral harris, you said that we need to ratify the law of the sea treaty in order to acquire some type of moral high ground particularly relative to russia and china. i'm having a hard time seeing
why it is that a country that -- like the united states, that has used its power, its blood and its treasure, to protect navigation all over the world for 200 years, has to in order to gain some moral high ground ratify this particular treaty. can you help me understand that? >> sure, senator. the lack of signing the treaty doesn't affect our ability to be the strongest nation on the earth. but the lack of signing that treaty puts us at a disadvantage in discussions with most of the other countries in the world that have signed the treaty and moral standing, if you will. so, we lose nothing by signing -- signing off on the treaty. but we lose a lot by not signing it. >> and what is the "it" that we lose? and part of what i'm asking in
connection to that, you know, you've got -- one of the claims is it might help us solve the south china sea territorial disputes. but all the nations in the south china sea, including china, you know, that have coast line along the south china sea, are members of the treaty. they're all parties to the treaty. the philippines has brought a lawsuit against china under the treaty and china, as i understand it, has basically ignored it. how does that mean that this fixes the problem if we suddenly ratify the treaty? >> well, i don't think it would suddenly fix the problem. but, as you said, the philippines has brought a case against china in the hague and the international tribunal for law of the sea, on the claim itself and the second issue is
whether the tribunal has jurisdiction to even judge that case. and we have supported the philippine right to take the claim to the international tribunal and, in fact, we've praised them for doing so. and yet we're not a signatory to the treaty itself. and if you shift to the arctic, if you look at the outrageous claims that russia has made in the arctic ocean, they're making those claims under their interpretation of the law of the sea convention. and when we criticize them for those claims, they say that we have no standing to do so. and, you know, the -- the -- i would submit that most of the rest of the world who also has
signed off on the treaty would probably share that opinion or at least part of it. on the other side, you know, we have agreed as a policy to follow the precepts in the united nations conventional law of the sea. so, we have that for us, but we're not a signatory to it. and, again, i would say in my opinion we lose nothing by signing it. and we lose a lot of moral high ground in this if you will by not signing it. >> but if we're following the precepts in the treaty, not withstanding the fact that we haven't ratified it and therefore we're not formally a party to it, i struggle with how that changes the moral high ground, particularly when i don't think there's any country on earth that has a greater claim to moral high ground particularly when it comes to navigational issues, when it comes to naval issues, than the united states, which for 200 years has kept shipping lanes open and safe. can you tell me what navigational rights, if any, does the navy lack today that it would suddenly have if we were to ratify that treaty? >> sir, the navy would lack nothing whether we ratify the treaty or not. the united states would gain standing by signing off on the treaty. >> and that standing -- how with would that standing benefit us
in a material way relative to our interests in that part of the world? >> well, in some cases under the -- the convention sets up a framework for ocean exploration, for example, and it says that, you know, without getting into some of the real particulars, you go out to 200 miles and that's your continental -- your exclusive economic zone and then out beyond that is the open ocean zone if you will. and there are companies today, american companies, that won't explore out in that region beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone because they're not sure whether any competing claim will have an effect on
them or whether they would lose in this international tribunal or other places. so, i think that we lose in economic opportunity by not signing off on the treaty because it places in jeopardy the legal question, not the -- not the military or the strength question, but it places in jeopardy the legal question of what happens out beyond the exclusive economic zone for our companies that would gain an economic benefit from that. >> okay. i see my time's expired. i don't doubt the sincerity of your feelings on this. i would take issue with one aspect of what you said, though, that regardless of what benefits you might see from this, i wouldn't say that signing on to a treaty is -- is without any cost on our part. without us giving up anything particularly whereas here the treaty sets up a system that would, however incrementally, erode our national sovereignty. thank you, mr. chairman. >> gentlemen, thank you for your public service. admiral, where we have had the near misses in the 200-mile area that china is challenging us both in ships and in airplanes, we have successfully avoided
those near misses where they have challenged us. you want to give us some insight in to what your instructions are to our pilots and our ship captains with regard to those kind of incursions. >> sure, senator. what i've told the component commanders at pacific fleet and pacific air force is to tell their pilots and crews to do, is to continue to insist on our right to operate in international airspace and in the maritime space. when challenged by chinese fighter aircraft, our aircraft are to maintain professional flight profiles, predictable flight profiles, and we have
means to record that activity, and then we'll see what happens. the last time we saw a very dangerous event was in the middle of last year where the chinese flew an aircraft over a p-8 and did a barrel roll over the top which is a dangerous maneuver, in acrobatic circles, let alone in an intercept regime in open ocean. and we most recently have seen that again, but i'll give the system credit for that intervening period of time we've seen very few dangerous activities by the chinese following that august 2014 incident. and i think that's a tribute to the military relationship and the political relationship where we've worked with the chinese to come to an agreement on the maritime and in the airspaces for confidence-building measures. >> well, that's good news.
now, is it going to be all the more strained given the 200 mile out from china area, but now when you look at that map where they're filling in all of those islands, and now they're claiming almost that entire ocean as theirs, are we going to see more and more of these incidents well beyond their 200-mile limit? >> certainly the potential exists for more incidents. if they finish building the airfields of which there's one there on fire cross reef on the side and up to two additional airfields of 10,000-foot length, then that gives me great concern in the south china sea. you know, if you look at national airport, for example, a national airport is 6,700 feet long capable of landing any airplane, any commercial airplane that we have, and china's building three runways
of 10,000-foot length which is only 1,000 foot shorter than be required to land a space shuttle. so, i think that that gives me great concern militarily. and they're also building deep water port facilities there which could put their deep water ships, their combatant ships there, which gives them an extra capability. and if you look at all of these facilities and you can imagine a network of missile sites, runways for their fifth generation fighters, and surveillance sites and all of that, it creates a mechanism by which china two have de facto control over the south china sea anything short of war. these are obviously easy targets at war. they would be what we call in the military grapes if you will,
but short of that, they pose -- the militarization of these features pose a threat. and certainly it poses a threat against all other countries in the region. >> and speaking of those countries, to what degree are they vigorously stepping up with us to object to that kind of stuff? >> well, i think they're stepping up to the limits of their capabilities. and so if you look at the philippines, for example, they're doing it in probably the best way. i mean, they're taking it to an international tribunal for adjudication. now, whether -- you know, i don't know how the tribunal is going to act or decide, and if they decided in philippines' favor as senator lee said, i don't know if china is going to follow that. but it puts china in a -- in a -- in a quandary if the international tribunal rules against china and china is a
signatory. so, it gives the philippines at least a moral high ground to make a claim. the other countries are doing what they can also. chinese behavior in the south china sea has allowed us to have a closer relationship with vietnam, indonesia and malaysia. and i think that's very important and those are costs that china is having to expend because of its bad behavior in the south china sea. >> sir, if i could just reinforce what the admiral just said. i, of course, share the address admiral's concern about the military activities in the south china sea and that's why we're calling for a halt to the reclamation and the halt to construction and a halt to the further militarization to those facilities. the chinese have not yet put advanced weaponry on those features and we'll do everything we can to ensure that they don't. this is going to be a long-term
effort. there are no silver bullets in this effort. but we're certainly complicating chinese calculations already. and if you pull back for a minute and look at our goals, which include safeguarding freedom of navigation and deterring coercion, i think we've had -- made some gains in both these areas. we continue to operate freely in the south china sea. and we continue to prevent the chinese from coercing our allies and partners into concluding deals that are not in their interests and not in our interests with regard to claims in the south china sea. >> that we freely operate in the south china sea is a success. it's a pretty low bar, mr. secretary. senator sullivan? >> thank you, mr. chairman. and thank you, gentlemen, for your service. i think it's clear just from the
testimony here and previous statements that we have a confused policy within the south china sea with regard to the built-up islands. and as you know confusion can cause miscalculations. let me just give you kind of one example of it. we were in singapore for the shangri-la dialogue. secretary reid, senator ernst, the chairman. secretary carter i thought had a forceful statement at the time. you know it, we've seen it, we'll fly, sail anywhere. and then he stated, quote, after all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime trends. pretty strong statement at a very critical place. admiral harris, you later stated i think at the aspen forum, it is u.s. policy to afford a 12-mile limit around all the islands in the south china sea and it's been long-standing policy not because they're occupied or built up by china but just in general.
so, to me that's a dramatic contrast. you have the commander saying something very different than the secretary of defense. that's confusion. we obviously have three policymaking centers going on here. the uniformed military. dod civilians led by secretary carter and the white house. in your professional opinion, admiral harris, what should we sail or fly inside the 12-mile area? with regard to those islands as secretary carter stated we should? >> senator, i believe that there's only one policymaking center, not three, and that runs through the secretary of defense and the president. >> no, but i'm asking your professional opinion as a military person. >> and i believe that we should exercise -- be allowed to exercise freedom of navigation and flight, maritime and flight in the south china sea against those islands that are not islands.
>> inside the 12-mile limit. >> depending on the feature, you know, if -- >> what about that one? >> that one, yes. we should -- we should be able to fly. >> if you or secretary carter asked the white house for permission to do that? >> senator, i have given policy options -- military options to the secretary, and i would leave it to the secretary or the ambassador to address whether -- >> what has the white house said when you've asked permission to go within the 12 -- within the 12-mile zone of a feature like that? >> senator, pacom along with the department of defense are options generating institutions. and the secretary's particularly interested in options with regard to the south china sea in general. >> but i just asked a simple question. what did the white house say if you asked for permission to go within -- inside the 12-mile limit? what did the white house say?
>> conducting that kind of freedom of operation -- freedom of navigation operation is one of the operations we're considering. >> you're not answering my question. did you ask the white house for permission to do this, and what did they tell you? >> sir, i'm not able to discuss current policy deliberations, but i can assure you that that's one of the -- >> you're not being forthright here. >> -- options that the administration is considering. >> okay, i appreciate you just answering the question. >> again, i'm just not able to go into the details of policy issues. >> i think when the secretary of defense makes a definitive statement like that at a very important meeting of defense ministers in asia and then we don't follow-up on it, it undermines our credibility and lets something that we can't afford anymore, our credibility is undermined everywhere in the world and we do it here. it would be good if you could give me an answer to that question. you're obviously dodging it
right now. >> sir, i'd be delighted to give you the best possible answer, and i think that is that i'm just not able to -- >> i want to turn real quick to the alaska incident that the chairman mentioned. i thought our reaction was almost -- it was immediate, it was muted, it was almost apologetic relative to the way the chinese respond when we come within 12 miles of one of their islands. you know, the president of the united states was in alaska at the time. do you believe that that was a coincidence that he was there, or do you believe that was a provocation? that the chinese were aggressively off the coast of alaska when the president of the united states was visiting. >> well, i'm not in a position to describe chinese thinking on this but -- >> what's our analysis, either of you, from your perspective? >> senator, they were conducting an exercise with the russians in the northern pacific. and i believe, my opinion, is they went into the bering sea to demonstrate their capability to -- to operate that far north, and then they decided to go
home. >> do you think it was timed to coincide with the president of the united states -- >> i don't think it was -- my opinion, i'm not going into any intelligence matters at all. they were having an exercise with the russians, and i think that exercise was long planned. and then they decided to go into the bering sea, they were near there anyway, and then they turned south and headed home. i think it was coincidental. but i don't know that for a fact. and their transit south was an expeditious transit, innocent passage through to aleutian islands. that's their right to do under international law as is our right to do in international law wherever we operate. >> thank you. mr. chairman, i thought it was more of a provocation and a -- and a demonstration of their interest in the arctic. i'm not sure that this white house would recognize a provocation if it was slapped in
the face. and we need to be aware of that. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator. on behalf of the chairman, senator tillis. >> thank you, senator reid. admiral harris, thank you for the time that i was allowed to spend with you out at headquarters. we got a very thorough brief, so i'm not going to cover that ground, but i appreciate it, and i know in your public statement or in your opening statement and in the conversation you've covered some of it. but i do want to get back and maybe build on questions that senator inhofe asked and it had to do with the rebalancing where we're going out and we're putting more assets as a percentage of the base into your area of command. but we continue to miss the point that the base is shrinking. so, part of what i'm trying to do is get my head around a number of different variables that really let us measure the gap between china and the united states and our allies. you said when we were out there in the briefing that quantity has a quality of its own.
and so that right now we still continue to enjoy an advantage over the chinese in terms of the assets we have in the region. when you start trending out to 2020 and beyond and you take into account that they may have more ships but their survivability doesn't compare to our own and the technology on board doesn't compare to our own. at what point does the gap, if you were projecting, assuming sequestration was going to be place, i hope that's not true, but let's say that we are and the current plans for downsizing. at what point do we really reach a point it's a fair fight or we may be at a disadvantage? >> i don't want us to be in a fair fight incidentally so i want to know when it is and then at what point does it erode to where we have a quantitative or qualitative disadvantage in the -- against china. >> yes, sir. i'm all for having unfair fights, and i think that those
fights ought to be unfair in our advantage. i believe that if we are -- if we are continuing to be sequestered through 2021, 2022, and china continues the pace of its building, that their quantitative advantage will be significant in the mid-2020s. >> to a more qualitative advantage? >> i think we will always have a qualitative advantage if we maintain the trajectory we're on. we have better trained people. better equipment. and all of that. but as you said that, you know, quantity has a quality all its own, and their weapons systems and their ships and airplanes bristle with weapons. and they probably view them -- view the loss of those ships in a much different way than we would view the loss of our ships and the sailors on them.
so, i'm worried about the pace of the chinese buildup against the likelihood or the possibility that we're going to be continued -- we will continue to be sequestered. and i think that would pose a very real problem for us in the 2020s. and i think that we should look at that very closely, sir. >> has there been work done to try and put that on paper? may not be appropriate for an open setting, but to take into account our own unilateral capabilities in the regions, the added capacity of our allies, that's another advantage that we share there. we have allies. they don't really. but has there been anything at that level that i can put my hands to really understand that and then the trending out to the mid-'20s? ambassador? >> i think with regard to china
we put out the annual china military power report and i think that's a good measure of where the chinese have been and where they're going with regard to military modernization and their capabilities. >> does that include a matchup against our projected capabilities, including sequestration and the other policies that are a given right now? >> it does not, sir. >> that's more or less what i'm talking about to find out where the gap is and to sound the alarm that we're letting the margin of advantage erode. >> senator, the u.s./china commission, a body chartered by congress puts out an annual report that's exceptional in reading about china's capabilities. i would commend that to you as well. >> thank you. >> as far as the allies go we have five treaty allies in the pacific of varying degrees of capability. but whether they would be with us in every fight is -- is a matter for them to decide and the fight at hand.
so, you know, while i count the delta in numbers between us and china, i try not to count the quantity of assets our allies have. because depending on the situation at hand and their own national decisions, you know, we're going to have to -- we might have to fight alone. >> thank you. and, senator, reid, if i may, i don't think it came up in the discussion either for the ambassador or for admiral harris, to what extent do you believe that the trade agreement in this particular case, the tpp, and our partners there, is another key part of our military strategy down in the south china sea and the pacific? >> it's definitely a key part of our strategy, senator. the tpp is not just economically beneficial, but it's strategic. and i think our partners understand that. the vietnamese certainly understand it. when i was ambassador in vietnam through last year, the vietnamese had an acute
understanding of the strategic importance of tpp. and it will be one of the ways in which we further knit together southeast asian integration and asean strength. not all asean members are tpp partners but it will raise economic activities among the region and vietnam are among the tpp partners that will benefit the most. >> thank you. >> thank you, senator tillis, i've been informed that some of our colleagues are returning from the vote on the floor and it will give me a few minutes to ask some questions. admiral harris, we've spent a great deal of time talking about the south china sea but india and australia are conducting maritime exercises in the indian ocean, actually anti-submarine exercises, and presumably that's because of the presence more and more often the presence of chinese submarines in that area.
can you describe the operations? does that represent another challenge to the existing security arrangements in the area? >> senator, we're seeing chinese submarine deployments extend further and further. almost with every deployment. it has become routine for chinese submarines to travel to the horn of africa region, north arabian sea in conjunction with their counterpiracy task force operations we're seeing their ballistic missile submarines travel in the pacific at further ranges and, of course, all of that is of concern. with regard to india and australia, australia is one of our principal allies in the -- in the indoasia-pacific region. certainly an ally with a tremendous capability. india presents a terrific
opportunity for us, and one of the pacom lines of effort is an improved relationship with india. i'm excited by the opportunities we have with india, by the work that the secretary of defense has done and assistant secretary of defense kendall has done with regard to the dtti, the defense initiative with india, to help them build up their military and help them build an aircraft carrier and aircraft carrier capability. so, india presents a wonderful opportunity for us. they share our values and our norms. and one of my objectives -- one of my objectives is to improve that relationship with india. >> this increased activity by chinese submarines both attack submarines and ballistic submarines, is that further
stressing your submarine fleet in the pacific, those ships that available to you? >> it is. it is clearly stressing it. and the new russian submarines that are moving into the pacific fleet area, their pacific fleet area, also places a stress on limited assets that we have. >> so, the -- we have to continue honestly to keep a robust submarine fleet both attack submarines and ballistic missile submarines. >> absolutely. >> sir, i'd like to -- if i may, i'd like to add a little more on india. when president obama was in india with meetings with prime minister mohdi in january, we're in the process of devising ways of implementing their joint strategic vision. i was in india through last saturday, for discussions with my counterparts on how to -- how to implement that vision.
we already have a robust program as the -- robust bilateral cooperation with the indians. the admiral mentioned dtti. we also have a carrier cooperation working group that has begun to meet. i think cooperation in carrier technology and design as well as in carrier operations offers us a terrific opportunity to improve our ability to work with -- work with the indians. and we'll be looking at other ways of strengthening our partnership. we conduct an annual exercise, the malibar exercise which we have decided to include the japanese. that will be every year now. that will be a strong trilateral exercise in the region. and we're looking at other ways particularly in maritime domain awareness to strengthen what we do with the indians because we have very strong common interests. >> well, thank you, mr. secretary. just a further point, senator ayotte, if he is ready, i'd be
happy to yield. >> that would be great. you want to finish your question? >> no, no. thank you, let me on behalf of chairman mccain, recognize senator ayotte. >> i want to thank the ranking member, appreciate it. first of all, admiral harris, i want to thank you for following through and visiting the portsmouth naval shipyard. i know roinle at the shipyard was very appreciative for you taking the time to see the incredible work being done there on our attack submarine fleet. thank you. we're grateful. i wanted to ask and follow-up on some of the questions that you have been asked, admiral. and just so -- i think i understand from the testimony you've given, but i want to make sure that we're clear. because i know that you've been asked about the asia-pacific maritime security strategy that, you know, china's artificial islands could at most generate a
500-meter safety zone and that, of course, the department of defense had released a statement saying that these features under international law don't generate any maritime zones because you believe that they're not legitimate. what this means in practice is that the navy actually can, as you know, sail its ships within 500 meters of the new landmasses without violating the law because they're not legitimately there under international law. so, i wanted to understand is the navy sailing within 500 meters of china's artificial islands at this point? >> no, ma'am. >> okay. and has the pacific command at least sent navy surface ships within 12 miles of china's artificial islands? >> we have not. >> okay. so, i guess the big question i think many of us are trying to
get at at this point, and i don't know, admiral harris, whether you or ambassador shear are the appropriate person to answer the question, but why not? saying we are going to sail and fly where international law permits and then not doing it, i'm concerned leaves china with the impression that we're again going to say something but not follow through on our actions and we are going to invite more aggression by the chinese with the activities they've been taking that are in violation of international law in building these artificial islands. so i wanted to get your answer to that. >> let me elaborate a little on what the admiral said. in recent years we have challenged every category of chinese claim in the south china sea. as recently as this year.
and we will -- we will continue to conduct freedom of navigation operations in the south china sea. but let me be clear on this point. freedom of navigation operations are important for demonstrating our rights under international law, but freedom of navigation operation alone won't stop chinese activities on these features. preventing the chinese from further militarizing those features is going to take a range of options, including freedom of navigation options, and we're in the process of considering those options now. >> admiral, did you want to add to that? >> i'll just add that pacom presents options, military options, to the secretary, and those options cover the full range of opportunities in the south china sea. and we're ready to execute those options when directed.
>> so, you're waiting for obviously the administration to make the call on that. >> well, i mean, freedom of navigation operation itself as ambassador shear said is not a military-only device. you know, it has a military component obviously because the military executes it. but it has other elements to it which are -- which are derived by the -- by the secretary and the white house. so, we're waiting for direction, and i'm comfortable and confident that the options that we presented are being considered equitably. >> well, as i look at this situation, though, i appreciate obviously, admiral, that pacom as a commander you'd be waiting for direction from the white house. and -- but as i look at it the chinese have to be looking at this situation saying, the united states has declared that under international law this is
not legitimate and that we have the right to obviously put our vessels in these areas and -- so but the navy has not sailed within 12 nautical miles of the chinese artificial islands at this point, and so i think they get it both ways. they're saying we're saying one thing but we're certainly not willing to address where we have a free right to navigate, so i hope that we follow up with our actions and our words on this. otherwise i fear that the chinese will continue their actions, because otherwise they think, hey, why not. and my time is up. but i'm going to submit for the record, admiral harris -- >> senator, if you'd like to take some more time. >> thank you. i just had a follow-up on a totally different topic. thank you. i appreciate it. i wanted to ask both of you on a different topic which is about our p.o.w./m.i.a.s and our recovery efforts.
and this is a very important issue, i know senator mccain and senator mccaskill have been very focused on this as well and i've been appreciative in working with them. but obviously the department of defense has reorganized its recovery efforts and stood up the new defense p.o.w./m.i.a. accounting agency the dpaa in january of 2015, just the beginning of this year. and one of the explicit purposes of this new organization is to effectively increase the number of missing service personnel accounted for from past conflicts. so, i wanted to ask, of course, with your mission in pacom this is incredibly important because of our fallen heroes in the asia-pacific region including according to dod over 83,000 americans are missing in action, 73,000 from world war ii, 7,500 from korean war, and we just had
in new hampshire we had someone who was able to welcome home the remains of his uncle. and this really moved me because we know how important it is to family members to have that kind of closure and also 1,600 from vietnam including 42 from my state. so, admiral harris, i know this came up in your advanced policy questions. can you give me an update on how dpaa is doing, what efforts we're taking and if both of you could let me know your commitment as we look at this china has a very important role here in helping us recover our fallen heroes. so, could you help me on this? >> yes, ma'am. as you stated at the beginning, the joint p.o.w. accounting command, the chain of command was changed. now it's dpaa. and the chain of command now it no longer reports to pacom.
it reports directly to an agency under dod. my responsibility as pacom is to be in support of dpaa. and the people in hawaii who actually work at the facility there, the dpaa facility now, they're the same people. and i think they're doing a great job. they just recovered a bunch of remains in one of the pacific island battles including the remains of a medal of honor recipient. and pacom's responsibility was to provide support for the airlift and all of that. and -- and i think that's a tremendous effort by them. i acknowledge the importance of going after every p.o.w. and m.i.a. case that's existent. i think china, we need to continue to work with china and with north korea and the other countries over which our fallen
are from all the wars. >> one thing i wanted to also clarify, ambassador shear and admiral harris, i appreciate your commitment to this. as i understand it we had a commitment that was formalized with the chinese but at this point we've been somewhat stymied about getting information that they may have about korean war p.o.w. camp records. and i understand that the director of the dpaa has -- has or will be interacting with the chinese government and wanted to know what efforts the administration would be making in supporting his efforts to facilitate that communication as add admiral harris says to be able to bring those -- our
soldiers home. >> ma'am, i strongly support the efforts of the dpaa to make the fullest of possible accounting of our missing personnel. and as ambassador to vietnam, i participated -- i visited recovery sites. i participated in recovery ceremonies. and as assistant secretary, i hope to support the -- i support the efforts of the dpaa just as strongly. i'm aware of director linington's efforts with regard to china and more broadly. and i support those efforts in discussions with my counterparts. >> great. thank you, both, for that commitment. i appreciate it. we do not want to ever forget and make sure that we can bring as much closure to our families and bring our soldiers home. thank you. >> thank you very much. gentlemen, thank you for your testimony this morning. on behalf of chairman mccain, let me now adjourn the hearing. thank you. >> thank you, sir.
you're watching c-span 3. next a panel on the syrian refugee crisis in europe. then the white house daily press briefing followed by a senate foreign relations hearing on climate change. on the next washington journal, florida congressman david jolly talks about the gop leadership races and the highway transportation bill. congressman jolly serves on the transportation committee. then chris van hollen on the
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mass atrocities and war crimes against christians and other minorities and likewise targeted and killed shia and sunnis muslims who reject its ideology and its brutality. fleeing for safety, more than 4 million syrians are refugees. the largest refugee population in the world. another 7.6 million syrians are displaced inside their home country. countries are hosting most of these refugees. before the syrian crisis, these countries struggle with high rates of unemployment. since the conflict began, syrian refugees are a quarter of lebanon's population and iraq is hosting almost 250,000 refugees from syria. until this past summer, few
syrian refugees went beyond countries that border their homeland. syrian refugees and migrants from a range of countries have since come to europe in such large numbers and so quickly that many european countries, especially greece, serbia, and germany have been challenged and even overwhelmed. the u.n. high commission for refugees reports that more than 635,000 refugees or migrants have arrived in europe by sea in 2015 alone. 53% of these people are from syria. 16% from afghanistan. 6% from eritrea and 5% from iraq. only 14% of them are women, 20% are children, and the remaining 65% are men.
the european crisis requires a response that is european, national, and international. and the united states, we believe, is essential to it. there must be effective communication and coordination directly between countries as well as through and with entities like the usce and the european union. individual countries also must have the flexibility to respond best to the particular circumstances in their own countries. the response must address push factors like economic challenges age shortfalls in countries like syria's neighbors that have been hosting refugees. as a matter of fact, shelly pitterman said that one of the triggers, if not the trigger, as he put it, the last straw for some, was the humanitarian short fall, especially the world food programs cut of 30% in recent months. also, again, we must address the
pull factors. like decisions individual european countries have made in attracting refugees. there is real human need and we all need and know it. there's also a higher risk of human trafficking. i am especially concerned about the risk of abuse, exploitation, and enslavement of women and children. we are hearing reports that some european countries are failing to protect women and girls from sexual assault and forced prostitution. the lack of separate bathroom facilities, for example, for males and females, rooms that can be locked, and other basic measures enable such attacks. there's no excuse for such failures and everything must be done to ensure that women and children are safe. there's also the real threat that terrorist groups like isis will infiltrate these massive movements of people to kill civilians in europe and beyond. i am deeply concerned that the screening at many european borders still -- and again, this is a crisis that was thrust upon them -- will remain inadequate,
putting lives at risk. all of us must be responsive to the humanitarian needs now compromising one iota on security. european response plans should include specifics about strengthening security screening throughout the european region. during the conflict in kosovo, i traveled to a refugee camp in macedonia. crs was leading the effort there. and then was at the mcguire air force base in new jersey later on to welcome some of the 4,400 people brought there from there to the united states. one refugee, however, was apprehended and sent to jail in 2008 for supplying guns and ammunition to the fort dix five, the group of terrorists who were also sent to prison for plotting to kill american soldiers at the
ft dix military installation also in new jersey. given secretary curry's announcement that the u.s. intends to resettle at least 5,000 refugees in fiscal year 2016, putting at least 10,000 syrians and at least 100,000 refugees in fiscal year 2017, the united states and europe must be on high alert to weed out terrorists from real refugees. because religious and ethnic minorities often have additional risks and vulnerabilities, even as refugees, they should be prioritized for resettlement. this hearing will examine who, why they are coming to europe, and the what has been done and should be done in response. european governments, entities like usc and the eu, religiously-based entities in civil society, all have critical roles to play. the united states has been a leading donor to the humanitarian crisis inside syria and refugee crises in the region. we have also had the largest refugee program in the world. however, according to testimony of shelly, a regional rep for
high commission of refugees, we will soon -- and we will hear from her shortly. the current interagency regional resilience plan for 2015 is only 41% funded, which has meant cuts in food aid for thousands of refugees. humanitarian system is financially broke. we are no longer able to meet even the absolute minimum requirements of core protection and life-saving assistance to preserve the human dignity of the people we care for. the current level of funding, he goes on to say, for the 33 u.n. appeals to provide humanitarian assistance to some 82 million people around the world is only 42%. in other words, almost a 60% shortfall. unhcr expects to receive just 47% of the funding they need in the next year. again, this hearing will look at how the united states can best work with our allies in europe to meet humanitarian needs and prevent security threats. in the 20th and 21st centuries, the united states and europe
have come together to address the great challenges of our time. this is an opportunity to do so again. before we begin, and before i yield to dr. burgess, i'd like to recognize an ambassador who is present with us in the room today. thank you for joining us for this hearing. i'd like to yield to dr. burgess. commissioner pitts? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, fellow commissioners and distinguished panelists and guests. i want to thank all of you for your participation here today on this hearing on europe's refugee crisis. the term crisis does little justice to the dire situation that refugees are facing. the war in syria, where more than half of the population has either been killed or displaced, has been raging for over four years now.
the war's ensuing expansion and related brutality in neighboring countries have left millions of victims with no choice but to leave the lands that some groups have called home for thousands of years. many have observed this to constitute the greatest migration and refugee crisis since world war ii. and this is especially troubling when you factor in the relatively small scale of the populations and regions in conflict. however, the roots of this crisis go far beyond the war in syria, as witnessed by the participants in the migration flows. people from across the middle east, africa, afghanistan, even the balkans are contributing to this mass exodus from areas of strife. among them are economic migrants, refugees, asylum
seekers and stateless people. the numbers of migrants are increasing. it's estimated that over 500,000 have crossed into eu borders this year alone. fatalities too are increasing at alarming rates. more than 3,500 perished in the mediterranean last year. and this year, possibly more than that will perish. the osce can play a unique role in addressing this crisis and help alleviate human suffering and mitigate related human rights abuses. the organization is uniquely equipped with tools, mandates, and a neutral framework that can help member states addressing an array of issues. with russia's direct entrance into the war in syria, the osce's neutral framework could be of great use in reporting in syria and the surrounding region. furthermore, its relationship
with the unhcr can be of great significance to u.s. interest, as we rely on that for our own domestic resettlement processes. i look forward to hearing about greater areas of cooperation in tackling this crisis. i want to thank all of the panelists here for their participation. we must not forget that people are dying. as the u.s., the eu, and osce debate this issue, we must not let fear be the greatest motivator of our responses. the united states and the west must offer start contrast to isis and the assad regime. and other governments or terrorists that wreck havoc on religious and ethnic minorities or other countless victims of human rights abuses that drive
this crisis. we must carry a firm resolve that justice and charity is done under our watch. i want to thank the chair again for holding this hearing and i yield back. >> thank you very much, commissioner pitts. dr. burgess. >> thank you for having this hearing. i'll keep my remarks brief, because the numbers have been very well-stated by other people. but we all recognize the conflict in syria is moving into its fifth year. the islamic state controls large areas of both syria and iraq. russia has now intervened militarily on behalf of the syrian government, further exacerbating tensions among the armed resistance groups, terrorist insurgents and those loyal to president assad. these factors have contributed and created the staggering number of displaced persons that we are seeing. and at least 710,000 refugees have reached europe's borders just this year. syrians are the largest group by nationality. most of them are hoping to reach germany, sweden, france, the united kingdom, and many ultimately the united states.
i think chairman smith said it very, very well when he gave the breakdown of the numbers, and when you just look at the pictures of the people occupying the rail stations awaiting transport to different destination, yes, you see women, yes, you see children. but you see an awful lot of young men of military age who are fleeing. this raises questions in the minds of the constituents i represent back in texas. why is this particular subset of the population leaving so quickly, leaving so willingly, sacrificing the safety of their loved ones that they leave behind? why aren't these individuals defending their country and giving access to women and children? the populations who may be most eligible for exploitation by the islamic state, why not give them the opportunity to lead first and to be safe? are these young men leaving to avoid conscription or worse?
are they leaving to carry on the fight in other fronts? recently, european countries pledged to accepting increased number of syrian refugees and other asylum seekers. in response, on september 20, secretary of state john kerry announced the refugee ceiling in the united states for fiscal year '16 would be 85,000. previously, the administration announced the united states would admit at least 10,000 syrian refugees in fiscal year '16. other reports that have come out have suggested that number could be as high as 100 or even 200,000. and i would just suggest to the state department that the differences in the discrepancies in these numbers are leading to a certain amount of unease for the constituents i represent back in texas. given the large and sudden increase in the admittance of refugees from one particular war-torn area, some would-be
terrorists are bound to try to exploit any deficiencies that occur within the barriers that are set up to prevent their arrival in this country, and of course as a member of the commission but also as a member of congress, i have a constitutional obligation to have as my number one goal the defense of my nation, and i must not -- i must not forget that responsibility. how much authority and control does the administration actually have over this process? and is europe the first stop for these refugees implementing appropriate vetting processes before the individuals are moved elsewhere, particularly to the united states? i don't want to diminish the incredible hardship that these individuals have endured, but we must be certain that we aren't inadvertently admitting members of the islamic state or other terrorist organizations into our country. i thank the chairman for convening this hearing.
i look forward to the testimony of our witnesses. i yield back. >> thank you very much, dr. burgess, and welcome -- the commission is very pleased to welcome anne richard, the assistant secretary for the bureau of refugees population and migration. prior to her appointment, ms. richard was the vice president of government relation and advocacy for the international rescue committee. she also -- and i'll put your full resume into the record without objection. but from 1999 to 2001, ms. richard was director of the secretary's office of resources, plans and policy at the state department from '97 to '99. she was deputy chief financial officer for the peace corps. she served as a senior adviser in the deputy secretary's office of public policy resources at state, and as budget examiner at the u.s. office of management and budget. thank you for being here and the floor is yours. >> thank you very much, chairman
smith. thank you, members, of the helsinki commission. for holding this hearing and for the opportunity to appear before you, to discuss the refugee and migration emergency in europe and the middle east, i have just returned from a series of meetings overseas, including my fifth visit to turkey and my eighth visit to jordan in my tenure as assistant secretary. it's a very challenging situation. and i would like to briefly outline the steps taken by the population refugees and migration bureau and others at the state department and u.s. agency for international development and in the obama administration to help provide humanitarian assistance to innocent civilians and to assist the governments of other countries to deal with this crisis. as you know, in early september, the tragic photo of a little boy's body on a beach in turkey awakened people to the plight of syrian refugees in ways that years of grim statistics, bleak images, and climbing casualty figures could not. what started as unrest in syria in 2011 has developed into a multi-front war and spilled over
to become a regional crisis, and now the crisis has reached europe as hundreds of thousands of young men, women, and sometimes entire families seek to reach that continent by boat, bus, train, and foot. they are joined by refugees and migrants from other countries, chiefly afghanistan, eritrea, and iraq. they are taking pathways to europe that migrants have always used, but the scale of this migration is much bigger than before and has caught the attention of the world. americans want to understand what is causing the crisis, how we are responding, and what more we can do to help. while there has always been migration to europe through africa and across the mediterranean, the numbers began to rise noticeably in mid 2013. smugglers took advantage of the breakdown of law and order in libya to profit from and exploit refugees and migrants desperate to reach europe. the numbers have grown steadily. so far in 2015, more than 600,000 people have crossed the mediterranean and agean seas.
some come by boat from libya to italy. others come the western balkans route from turkey by boat to greece and then onward. as the numbers of migrants have risen, so too have we seen an increase in drownings. more than 3,000 so far this year. syrian refugees in jordan, turkey, and lebanon are losing hope of ever returning to their homes. they are worried about the reliability of food and assistance programs that are being reduced for lack of funds. as you mentioned earlier, mr. smith, they don't have regular work to sustain their families. rents are high. and their children are missing out on school. today, an estimated 6.5 million syrians are internally displaced and nearly 4.1 million are refugees. more than half of these refugees are children. along with so-called push factors, what's going wrong that's pushing them out of the region, there are undeniable
pull factors, prompting individuals and families to make this trip. these include the summer weather, a perception that europe was certainly open to unlimited refugee arrivals, fear that the policy would change without notice, and borders would close, and desire to join friends and relatives who had already made it to europe. it is important for us to remember and acknowledge that the vast majority of syrian refugee families, 96%, remain in the middle east. the u.s. government is very much engaged in responding to the crisis and has been for some time. we have a three-pronged approach. strong levels of humanitarian assistance, and for this, we have to thank bipartisan support from the congress. active diplomacy. and expanded refugee resettlement. the u.s. government is a leading donor of humanitarian assistance to people in need inside syria, in the surrounding countries and to others caught up in crises
around the world. through contributions to international organizations such as the u.n. high commissioner for refugees, international committee of the red cross, international organization for migration, the world food program, unicef, and leading non-governmental organizations, u.s. funds are being used to save millions of lives. on september 21st, the white house announced that the united states would provide nearly 419 million in additional assistance for those affected by the war in syria. that was our last large announcement for that fiscal year. and this brought our total of humanitarian assistance and response to the syrian conflict to more than 4.5 billion since the start of the crisis. without our support, i believe more people would be making the dangerous voyage further north. however, even with our sizable contributions, u.n. appeals for humanitarian aid to address this crisis in syria remain underfunded. and mr. smith, you presented a lot of those numbers. and you made the completely accurate point that we see that about 60% of the response to the appeals inside syria and in the
surrounding countries goes unfunded, and if that's the case, across the board with all of the major humanitarian emergencies right now. it's a major frustration. it's not because the u.s. isn't doing its share. the u.s. is a major funder of all of those humanitarian operations. but even though we're doing more than we've ever done before, it's not enough relative to the need. contributions are urgently needed. the second prong of our response is diplomacy on humanitarian issues. for several years, we have engaged government officials in the region to encourage them to keep borders open, allow refugees to enter their countries, authorize the work of leading humanitarian organizations, and allow refugees to pursue normal life, as normal as possible given what they have been through. we are part of a chorus of nations that call for the respect of humanitarian principles, even inside syria in wartime.
diplomacy on humanitarian issues means working constructively with other nations to find solutions. the issue of the refugee and migration crisis was taken up again and again in recent international forum, such as the u.n. general assembly in new york in september, the executive committee in geneva in early october, and the just concluded global forum on migration and development in istanbul. all provided opportunities for countries to come together in a common effort. i attended the first and led the u.s. delegation to the others. all of these venues, we met on the sidelines with government officials involved in the crisis, from sweden and germany, to lebanon, jordan, and turkey. diplomacy also includes pushing when needed those who can and should be doing more to do so. many countries choose to provide assistance outside the u.n. system. however, we are deeply engaged on encouraging other countries to contribute to the u.n. appeals to syria to help prevent
du dupe -- duplication and ensure that precious and scarce humanitarian assistance is provided to those who need it the most. we are also encouraging countries to identify opportunities for refugees to pursue livelihoods and become more self-sufficient in ways that do not exacerbate existing unemployment issues in host countries. the third prong of our response is resettling refugees in the united states. the u.s. has welcomed over three million refugees from all over the world under the u.s. refugee admissions program. in fiscal year 2015, nearly 70,000 refugees of 67 different nationals were admitted for permanent resettlement to the united states. this was the third year in a row that we reached our target of 70,000. so in fiscal years 2016, the president determined we should increase that number to 85,000, including at least 10,000 syrians. and as you know, we would then
strive if successful to reach 100,000 refugees from around the world in the following year. we need to continue to expand our efforts, and we seek to work even more closely with the european union and its member countries, as well as those countries not part of the european union, to help shape a comprehensive and coordinated response, and we have already started that process. in the middle east, we are working on an initiative to get more refugee children in school in turkey. education for children who have been displaced, whatever their status and wherever they land, is essential for their own futures and for ours. we support the no loss generation campaign to educate and protect syrian children and youth. given the protracted nature of this crisis, we are also looking at new ways to better link our relief and development assistance. with roughly 85% of refugees now living outside of camps in cities and villages throughout the middle east, we need to be working to help refugees become self-sufficient and support the communities that host them. so, once again, the u.s. must join with enlightened leaders in europe to take action, and this builds on the work the obama administration has been doing
for more than four years to help the countries neighboring syria and address the needs of innocent people caught up in the syrian crisis. i know it was said the u.s., europe, and the osce are debating what to do. i think europe is debating, but the u.s. is very much doing. we're doing a lot. and we're seeking to be as helpful as possible. and that is the message that in recent weeks we've been telling european ambassadors and leaders, foreign ministers, prime ministers. and this builds on what we've been saying to the leaders of lebanon, jordan, turkey, iraq in the previous several years. so i'm very happy with that, to answer your questions about my testimony and related issues. >> thank you very much, madam secretary. let me ask first, i'll throw in
a few questions and then yield to my colleagues because we all have many, many questions. in terms of the number of people potentially going to be resettled here in the united states, the unhcr suggested 10% of the syrian refugees are some 400,000 persons in total are in need of resettlement. in the testimony that will be provided today, mr. pitterman says units have already referred more than 45,000 syrians with refugee resettlement with more than 20,000 of those referrals made to the united states. although syrian a rival -- arrivals to the u.s. have been fewer than 2,000 persons so far, he notes they are encouraged by the intent to admit at least 10,000 in fiscal year 2016. my question is, the 2,000 that
have come here, this referral of some 20,000 that have been made, what state of process of going through their case, cases, where are we on that? where are they right now physically, and with regards to the robust efforts to ensure that isis and other potential groups of lone wolves or wolf packs, groups of individuals who come here with malice on their mind -- i know we have a very robust way of doing our screening. i've looked at it very carefully. a congressional research service of several paragraphs describing that will be made part of the record because i think it is very robust. but it's very hard to do a background check on people about which you know very, very little, and there's very little database available anywhere to ascertain what their motives might be. i'm wondering how we bridge that gap to ensure we are not unwittingly welcoming them into this country. i mentioned the young man who came in during the kosovo
crisis. i'm sure he wasn't the only one, but it happened right inside my own district. i was there, plane loads of people were coming down. people from the community in mercer county, burlington county, and ocean counties met them with a great deal of affection. and yet included among them was a man who would seek to work with the ft. dix five to murder service members and their families at ft. dix. thankfully, that plot was thwarted and they are now in prison. at least the five from the ft. dix five. so your thoughts on that. then i have a couple other questions and then i'll yield to commissioner pitts. >> thank you, mr. chairman. we have brought nearly 2,000 syrians to the united states as part of the u.s. refugees admissions program since 2011. the numbers have climbed very slowly. last year we brought in 2015 1,682. so almost 1700. >> is that because of vetting issues? >> well, there were a couple of things. first is that when there's a
crisis and people flee, you don't automatically start a refugee resettlement program. our hope initially is that they'll be able to go home again. quite candidly, in the first year or so of this crisis, i really thought that it would be over soon and people would be able to go back. so when that did not become the case, in 2013, unhcr started to think about a resettling program for syrians who had fled to neighboring countries. that's where most of the refugees who have been referred to us are. they are living in the countries that neighbor syria, and some -- the top four countries are turkey, jordan, lebanon, iraq, and also some are as far afield as egypt. and we already were resettling refugees from this area because we were settling iraqi refugees who had fled to these countries
including syria. so the other reason it takes a while to bring people here is our process currently takes between an average of 18 to 24 months, because refugee applicants have to go through a series of steps. the most important thing i can say related to security is that no one comes here who hasn't been approved by the department of homeland security. so no foreign entity or organization is deciding for us who comes to the united states, who crosses that border. and as you noted, there have been nearly 22,000 referrals made. so there are a number of people who the unhcr has determined would potentially be good applicants for our program. so who's a good applicant for our program? we tend to take people who are particularly vulnerable, people for whom going home to syria is just not in the cards. it's just likely never to happen again. so these are people who have
been, for example, torture victims, who would be traumatized by returning to what once was their homes. these are people who have lost family members, sometimes they've suffered bodily harm. families with children that have burns or been traumatized. people who could benefit from some of the advanced medicines, medical technology that we can provide here. people who need to make a fresh start. and this is in keeping with the way we've been running the program for some years. and the amazing thing is that these people who are among the most vulnerable turn out to make perfectly fine residents in the united states. and often are able to come back to support themselves. the kids do extremely well in school. and they go on to thrive. we've seen this with so many communities over the years, so i'm fairly confident that this will be the case for syrian refugees.
in terms of the security process, the refugees have helped in putting together their story a case file on who they are, why they had to flee, and what their own personal histories are. and this is either individual or family will have a case. and then we have organizations that we fund in the middle east to help them put that story together, and then be prepared for an interview by a department of homeland security interviewer. the interviewers from dhs are very well trained so even if there is not a lot of existing information about these individuals in u.s. files, they can see whether their stories hold up. whether they say they were at the right place at the right time, they can look at their documents. they can sort out what's been forged and what's actually authentic. they take their time on these
interviews. they're very patient. i've sat in on some of the interviews. they had me sit in on the ones maybe that were particularly well run. but still, i came away very impressed by how our dhs colleagues walk very carefully through these stories and double check and recheck. and then they also -- we run the names against the national security and law enforcement databases that the united states maintains. and essentially, we're weeding out people who are liars, who are criminals, who are would-be terrorists. and so this is partly why the program, the three million people we've brought here. we have very few cases of people ending up getting into trouble, or threatening trouble. that doesn't mean that we should let our guard down. i think we can only run this program taking every possible step to keep out bad guys. i completely agree with that. i know the entire state department agrees with me on this.
we have to do both. we have to run a program that is as efficient as possible, that provides us humanitarian pathway to a new life for a number of the refugees, and we have to keep out the people who are up to no good. >> just a few final questions. we know what the amount of money -- the unmet need that's being provided by the international community in percentage terms. what is it in actual dollar terms? what is the unmet need for this crisis? secondly, are you considering the designation of any p2 groups for syrians, including christians and other minority religions? is that under active consideration? and on the trafficking issue, there have been a number of reports. as you know, i'm the author of the trafficking victims
protection act. i'm the special representative for the osc, the parliamentary assembly on trafficking. we know it's a huge problem in the united states, in europe, around the world. but it's often exploited by traffickers, or situations in this -- obviously it's both. we've heard reports that in places like bavaria, there's one refugee camp there where one worker described as the biggest brothel in munich, and pointed out that again, women -- 80% of the camp residents are men. and the women have very, very risky life just living there. they are trafficked and exploited and raped. if you believe enough is being done in europe to ensure that this kind of exploitation of women does not occur, and whether or not our tip office is collaborating with people in europe who i know personally carefully about the trafficking
issue, and then i'll yield to mr. pitts. >> the first question was about the funding. the second question -- could you just remind me? >> it was about the p2. whether or not you are actively considering designating christians and yazidis and other minority religions for immigration purposes to bring these folks over. >> the appeal for last year, for both inside syria and around syria, was around $8 billion. i believe it was funded at about -- we're looking at four or five. it's on a calendar year basis. we'll see how much is brought in by the end of december. most of the funding i think has been provided. on the p2, the advantage of the p2 category is that it helps unhcr -- it helps us get referrals. it facilitates that. since we have 22,000 referrals right now, it's not a problem for us. so it's not something that would benefit us right at the moment. we can always take a fresh look at that.
but behind your question was a concern about minorities. and certainly we definitely define the vulnerable people to include religious and ethnic minorities, and that includes christian minorities and the yazidis in iraq. 40% of the refugees we've brought from iraq have been christians or other ethnic or religious minorities. now, with the syrians, i don't think we'll find those large percentages. because we just don't have such large percentages in the groups of refugees that have fled the country. so we'll be certainly looking at protections for those groups. but they're not as prevalent in the refugee flow as they have been for iraqis. we have heard the stories about the exploitation taking place in germany. we're very concerned about it.
yes, our trafficking persons office has been involved in the administration's refugee response. they've been integrated in our response through participation at senior and working levels and working groups focused on refugee flows as well as law enforcement surrounding human smuggling. we, like you, share our horror at what happens to women and girls. when any big migration or refugee flow happens, we have worked hard to agree with the organizations we fund that we shouldn't wait for the evidence. we should just assume bad things are happening and put in place early steps to prevent sexual and gender-based violence. so i don't have evidence of a specific situation in germany. we have a very close working relationship right now with the germans. i accompanied secretary kerry when he visited germany and met with syrian refugees there and talked to their foreign minister. i met with them in new york.
so we can follow up and find out -- >> i would note the munich example is only one of many that we have here. so i'm hoping that the tip office is collaborating not just with the state, but also with the europeans? >> i don't know, they're very involved. and so i'll go back and find out to what extent. we're tracking down some of these stories. because we don't have evidence of the specific things that we've seen on the web taking place, but i believe bad things could be happening. because they always do. and so i think we have to run down these stories with working with the german government. >> okay, thank you. >> very happy to work with the tip office. >> commissioner pitts? >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, madam secretary, for coming today. i want to emphasize that i think you should prioritize christians and ethnic minorities for the p2 resettlement program because i
think they're most at risk. let me go back to this question about all the young men in the refugee flow that dr. burgess raised. and the type of vetting processes that are utilized before admitting refugees to the united states. i heard you say there are stories. you checked the international criminal database. what other steps do you take to vet these refugees? >> well, if you want to get in deep to the details, we can have a classified briefing, which we've been giving more often now to members of congress. and dhs are really the experts on it. but the steps include then the referral from unhcr, so they weed out people who are not appropriate to refer to us. the preparation of their case,
very importantly the interview by dhs examiners, and then checking their names and their biometric data, their fingerprints against u.s. law enforcement and national security databases. when there's a question, sometimes applicants are put on hold while further investigations are carried out. so nobody comes to the united states about whom there are any open questions. dhs is -- they take their role extremely seriously. >> and how long will this vetting process continue? how long does it take? >> right now, the average is 18 to 24 months. there's a sense in the administration this is too long. and part of it is we want it to be as quickly as possible for the sake of the refugees, but we also want to make sure we don't cut any corners that would relate to security.
so in the coming months, we will be carrying out a review of the program. the senior white house officials have asked us to make sure we bring a fresh set of eyes to this, so we will be working probably to bring in consultants to see if there are ways to speed up the process without cutting corners. >> do you ever turn anyone down for lack of information? >> i'd have to refer you to dhs on that. but no one comes -- if they have any question about their safety. >> to what degree do european governments share this concern about the potential for islamic terrorists to exploit the crisis to gain a foothold in europe? >> well, they 100% share the
concern, but they're no in the position to run the kind of program we are as they have people walking across borders to reach their countries. so i was recently speaking and met the number two from the german embassy here. he said i wish we had the luxury of taking 18 to 24 months to vet people before they cross our borders. so we are working with -- to support unhcr. to help make sure that at the borders, as many people as possible are screened and registered. a determination is made, are they bona fide refugees, are they people who are perhaps economic migrants who had just come for a job and are not fleeing persecution? i think on this next panel, this is a good question to put to some of the european witnesses, to get at what they are able to do and what they are unable to do with the flow currently coming from the middle east. >> and where are these individuals held while you're doing this screening? where are they? >> some of the refugees are in
camps in turkey, in southern turkey and in northern jordan. many live outside of camps, as i mentioned, so they're living in apartments or in homes, sometimes with relatives. they're living on their own. they come to unhcr offices to apply for the program where they're referred by unhcr or ngo staff who know about their situations and think they might make good candidates for resettlement in a third country. >> secretary kerry announced the refugee ceiling in 2017 will be 100,000. what nationalities do you anticipate admitting in significant number next year? >> well, in the past, it's been the three top nationalities were burmese, butanese, and iraqis. that's changing, because we've brought so many from nepal that the numbers are now going down.
we will still see significant numbers of burmese, iraqis, and now we'll be adding somalis are climbing in terms of their percentage coming. so that will continue to be the case. i think what you'll see is about half of the people coming will be from africa, and half will be, roughly, 40%, 50% from the middle east. >> and what are the most common root causes for displacement in africa? >> well, in terms of becoming a refugee, you have to prove that you're fleeing. you have a well-founded fear of persecution for one of five reasons, which are race, nationality, religion, political belief, or membership in a particular social group. displacement in africa, of course, happens for more than that reason. some people are fleeing famine. some people are fleeing, you
know -- at one point ebola. but right now, we see big displacement because of poor governance and fighting in south sudan. people have been living outside of somalia in nearby countries for years now as that government -- first for the violence, and now as that government tries to get its feet under it. we're seeing more and more people coming from west africa who are fleeing boko haram in northern nigeria, and they're going to several countries nearby. so we also have unrest causing people to flee. often it's poor governance, fighting. >> you haven't mentioned syria yet. how many syrian refugee cases has unhcr referred to the u.s. program? >> it's about 22,000 now. >> 22,000. and at what stage are these cases in the u.s. resettlement consideration process?
>> they're at all stages of the process. because it takes a couple of years, we are only just now seeing large numbers arrive. and so that's why we're anticipating that this year, we can climb from nearly -- let me see. nearly 1,700 last year to more like 10,000 this year. >> okay. and where will the united states process syrian refugee cases this year? >> so the top places will be in jordan, in jordan, and in turkey. we also have some other facilities in the region. we would like to start bringing people out of lebanon, but we're delayed doing that at the moment. so let's see. so jordan is number one.
turkey, egypt are the other countries where we can bring sizable numbers right now. >> all right. finally, osce. could you elaborate on the role that osce could have in monitoring the treatment of refugees as they transit from osce countries? >> i'd like to answer that question. i would just say, because i didn't know this until i saw it on the piece of paper in front of me, that of 18,000 referrals we have right now, 4,000 have been interviewed by dhs already and 14,000 are awaiting their interview or getting ready for their interview. on the osce, we welcome any efforts by the organization for security and cooperation in europe, and any of its institutions or field missions to coordinate with unhcr and other international organizations to provide assistance to countries dealing with refugee and migration crisis in europe. the secretary and institutions such as the office for
democratic institutions for human rights and the high commission for national minorities have experienced helping countries respond to crises. the osce has a history of working with unhcr. just last year, the osce and unhcr issued a detailed protection checklist, outlining the types of actions that organizations could take in response to types of various crises. osce is hosting a conference with its mediterranean partners, so that's algeria, egypt, jordan, morocco, tunisia today and tomorrow to discuss common challenges to european security, including the migration protection and trafficking persons concerns. we support efforts by osce in this regard. and u.s. ambassador is leading the u.s. delegation to the conference. we also believe osce will be putting together an appeal, so that our europe bureau colleagues will be taking a look
at funding. >> thank you, madam secretary, thank you. >> i just returned where many refugees are coming in. and then we visited germany. one of the things we heard from officials that we talked with. again we met with officials from unhcr, people at reception centers who are dealing with the crisis, was that they hoped that the united states would be able to do more to help. so you've talked a little bit about some of the challenges that we have in terms of vetting refugees. but can you elaborate a little bit on the obstacles to bringing refugees in and then also to the challenge of providing
humanitarian assistance? u know that the united states is one of the cop countries in terms of providing humanitarian assistance. but my understanding is that the u.n. appeal is only 41% funded. and are there other ways in wh which we can urge countries to be more support i of those humanitarian efforts? >> thank you for your trip to the region which i heard about when i was in turkey. i'll be very interested -- >> we learned a lot. >> i'll answer the questions but i'll still curious to hear how your trip went. the challenges of bringing refugees in is that we want to be certain we're bringing the right people. >> sure. >> and so getting this balance right between determining who are the people who will benefit the most from restarting their lives in the united states and also ensuring that our security
measures are good so that we keep out anyone with bad intentions. that's the tricky think to do. and it involves several u.s. government agency, involves a couple of major international organizations and it involves many not for profit nongovernment mental organizations on both sides of the ocean. so it's -- many hands help the refugees along the way. and that takes time. the good part is that it's a very successful program that works year in and year out. we've brought, you know, 70,000 refugees to the united states from all around the world in the past three years. i meet refugees all around the united states and i ask them, is this a good program, should we continue to run it. and they feel it is a life saving program that has given their whole family a chance for a new future. and personally i feel that it strengthens the united states to have such diverse population and be bringing in people from all
around the world. and it adds to our culture, to our fabric. so i am convinced that the program should continue and should be strong and will likely be strong. but it does take a lot of steps and it's also a public-private partnership. the life of a refugee coming to the united states is very challenging. it's not a luxurious program. within one to three months of arriving refugees have to get -- able bodied refugees have to get a job. and many refugees, if they don't speak english well they have to start over at the bottom of the economic ladder. but they do it and they're very -- employers tell us they're very good, highly motivated workers. children get enrolled in school. the younger the kids are, the more quickly they adapt. older kids take a little longer. but generally the program is
great. >> sure. i'm sorry to interrupt but i actually support the program. the question i'm really asking is are there ways for us to be for efficient, do the same kind of vetting but to do it in a way that is more efficient, better coordinates all of the various players that are part of the effort so that we can more effectively respond when we see this kind of a crisis? >> the process that has had a lot of scrutiny from the national security council and the white house over the course of this administration. and so a lot of steps have been taken, a lot of the easier steps have been taken to tighten up the program. but my sense is that few of us are satisfied, that it still takes an average of 18 to 24 month to bring people. we've been asked to take a fresh look. and in the coming months to have consultants come in and review the whole process and see if we can shorten the timespan that it
takes to bring refugees without cutting corners on security. >> can you respond on the 41% of funding that's actually been produced for humanitarian efforts? and if you could also speak to some of our allies in the middle east, in arab countries and their commitment to help with the refugees. >> so even though we're providing sort of what i see as the foundation of the humanitarian assistance that goes to the most effective operational organizations overseas, and we get very solid support, bipartisan support from the house and senate. it's not enough funding. we need other countries to provide assistance and do more.