Skip to main content

tv   Politics and Public Policy Today  CSPAN  March 8, 2016 9:00am-11:01am EST

9:00 am
captioning performed by vitac major and minor construction, leasing and nonrecurring maintenance make up the four cornerstones of va's capital infrastructure. while congress and va need to realign s.k.i.p. process to allow va to enter into public/private partnerships both publicly and federally, the right size va footprint it must continue to fund the projects that are partially funded today and begin advance planning on the projects that we know va needs to fund in the near future. currently there are 30 major construction projects that are
9:01 am
partially funded to completely fund the 30 projects va has to invest more than $3 billion to complete them. these projects need to be put on a clear path to completion. out of next five major projects on va's priority list, two of them are seismic in nature, two of them are specialty clinics, one is a mental health care clinic, the other is a spinal cord injury center. and one is in addition to an existing facility to eliminate access barriers. the ib recommends that congress appropriate $1.5 billion for fiscal year 2017 to help close these. approximately 600 major -- minor construction projects need funding. congress provided additional funding through the choice act and va developed a spending plan that will obligate over $500 million to 64 minor construction projects over the next two hours. it is important to remember these funds are supplemental, too, and not a replacement for the annual appropriations for minor construction.
9:02 am
with that in mind, the ib is requesting $749 million for va's minor construction accounts for fiscal year 2017. this year va is requesting $52 million for fy 2017 leasing needs. congress needs to authorize the leases and the leases that were brought forward last year in their appropriations cycle. nonrecurring maintenance is not found in the construction account nrm is very critical to the va's capital infrastructure. va is investing more than $800 million in nrm projects funded with the choice act but to maintain the status quo, va's nrm account needs to be funded at $1.35 billion a year. the administration request is just over $1 billion for fiscal year 2017. the ib requests full $135 billion baseline for
9:03 am
appropriations to are this line item be appropriated so nrm backlog does not grow any larger. nca historically asked for and properly spends what it needs and the ib recommends that nca be funded at the requested level of $286 million. va also provides construction grants for state facilities and veteran cemeteries. they request $200 million for extended care facilities grants and $51 million for cemetery grants. thank you again for allowing the vfw to testify before you today and i look forward to any questions you or the committee may have. >> thank you, mr. keller. mr. sully? >> $103 billion in mandatory spending money that goes directly to veterans based on laws passed by congress for the sole purpose of attempting to make them whole again. $79 billion in discretionary spending for doctors, claims processors, administrative staff, i.t. infrastructure, hospital maintenance, out of that $65 billion will be spent
9:04 am
for health care alone. chairman isaacson, ranking member blumenthal on behalf of commissioner barnett and veterans we welcome this opportunity to comment on the department of veterans affairs budget. in 2014 kaiser permanente had an operating revenue of $56.4 billion and a staff of 177,000 employees. meanwhile for about the same amount of money va ran 150 hospitals, 819 cbox, 300 veterans central, 131 national cemeteries and 56 regional offices with a staff of 350,000. that's double kaiser's staff, and unlike private sector physicians, va providers are not eligible for overtime pay so this weekend when va is conducting its second access standdown in an attempt to zero out backlogged appointments they will incur little additional expense serving veterans. i'm not sure we the examine the
9:05 am
same level of dedication from private level doctors are. va facilitates the largest teaching hospital in the country, conducts mandated medical research, maintains emergency backup infrastructure in support of our national defense and national emergencies, processes millions of compensation claims, the appeals that result from the claims, cemeteries, processes g.i. bill payments, va home loan applications, insurance programs all while providing health care to millions of veterans in 50 states and the caribbean. this is a massive budget that's broken down into hundreds of accounts and thousands of line items. does va have enough money? they have too much money. is it wisely spent of areas where va can save money? all sal id questions. the bottom line is someone's go at to do it and to date no one has come up with a cheaper solution. in the meantime the american legion recognizes va needs flexibility in order to serve our members and the veterans of the united states of the america and there are certainly areas where va can save money. as highlighted in the written
9:06 am
portion of my testimony the american legion would like to draw attention to three areas, consolidation of outside car, ensuring adequate va staffing and the growing number of pending appeals. with the enactful of the choice act, congress added yet one more layer to an already complicated system of eligibility and payment structures. the time is now to fix it by organizing all of these programs under one umbrella with the single point of entry and a logical physical reimbursement system that's streamlined and easy for primary care teams to use. this would not only save va money but provide betterer and faster health care for veteran patients. va is a service-based industry. as an all service based industry most expensive line item is employee burden. the fastest way to start saving money today is reduce employee turnover. va has a terrible problem filling vak says in their mid and upper level and worse in succession planning. if va successfully keeps their positions filled they must do a better job with succession
9:07 am
planning. it's rare if it happens at all a depp auto you the is promoted to the position of departing director. this practice leaves little insei incentive for the deputy to remain loyal to the organization. va has 550% temporary fill-ins. employee turnover is expensive and a waste of money when it can be avoided. finally, claims. every time a claim goes into the appeals process it costs money. adjudicate the claim correctly the first time and the rate of appeals will be reduced to a trickle. we address the appeals today because va has included a request to revamp the appeals process in their budget submission. as submitted the american legion does not support this plan. that said va has been working closely with the american legion and vso partners to look at ways to improve timeliness and quality of the appeals roh cess and we're excited aand encouraged by the proing we made early on in the discussion and the openness va has shown seeking input from vsos by
9:08 am
treating them as valued partners. my time before you is short today so i'll be has. i to try to address any questions you may have following my opening statement but more importantly we look forward to our continued to work with you and your very dedicated professional staff. >> thank you, mr. sully, thanks so all of you for testifying and thanks to your organizations for your advocacy. mr. varell and mr. sully, let me get right to the point. both of you commented direct ly on objections or concerns about reforming the appeals process and the va's plans and how they may do that. we can't continue to do what we're doing now. we have a backlog of claims almost half a million. some 25 years old that continue to build up. we need your help to come up with a solution that we support and the va can implement. we all commit to work with the secretary to try to make such a recommendation. >> we already have and we
9:09 am
continue to commit to working with the secretary. we've already had several meetings now who works with our vso partners and i'd like to associate my comments with their comments as well. >> your comments were very timely, very appropriate. excuse me, i got a frog in my throat at the wrong time. but being timely means we need to move forward. secretary needs some tools in his toolbox he doesn't have and one of them is getting this whole backlog straightened out so let's work towards a date at the end of march trying to come together on some kind of consolidated agreement. would you work with us on that? >> we agree. >> excuse me again. mr. varel you commented on the fact your testimony recommends 158 full time employees in voek rehab and employment services and once again this year the va has asked for 9. is that correct? >> that's correct mr. chairman.
9:10 am
>> are you familiar with the workforce innovation and opportunity october wioa? >> yes i am. >> are those funds available to the va commissioners in the various states to utilize for vocational rehabilitation? >> i don't know that offhand. >> i would suggest you would check that out. when we did the about wioa act we gave them flexible training as a source of funding and personnel that could be dedicated, wouldn't add personnel to the va but would add the service to the va's whole quiver so i appreciate your checking on that and being sure. >> will do. >> mr. blake, i'm going to read this to make sure i get it right unless i pass out first. your testimony recommends 75 million in direct funding for million veteran program, mvp, independent or supplemental funds imposed by medical and
9:11 am
prosthetics. would you explain the recommendation for the funding for the genetic research program? >> mr. chairman, that's a special program genomic muscle study the va is doing a longitudinal study of all veterans for research purposes that you can evaluate the wide variety of issues unique to veterans. i think our concern is it's a heavy lift to fund that program out to function in the way it's intended and the va does a good job of expending much to all of its resources already dedicated for the existing medical and prosthetic research account and unfortunately this year i think the va is projecting to draw about 60 or $65 million out of its appropriations request just for mvp, that would bring the medical prosthetic research count number back below what was just approved in the appropriations bill back in december. so we think it would be better served to actually direct funding for that program independent of the medical and prosthetic research line item.
9:12 am
>> thank you for your testimony and for your organization. i want to repeat what i said at the beginning, this applies to you as well. if we can form a goal to get this appeals process worked out in terms of va claims and va's appeals, that would be a major move forward. your organization supporting doing that would be critical. we're at a point where the committee is prepared to move forward on some major legislation to improve some of our problems. let's not let them know another year goes past kicking the can down the road. let's make the reforms to get the va straightened out. senator blumenthal? >> thanks to all of you for being here today. thank you for your service. poll jiz i wasn't here earlier but this is my fourth committee meeting today and one of them was the armed services committee where we're assessing the capability of our military force in the south pacific, an issue i know you feel is important as
9:13 am
well. so thank you to the men and women who serve with you and thank you for your advocacy here. i want to come back to a topic i asked the secretary about, the capacity of our va to deal with women's health care and although we have an all male panel here, or maybe because we have an all male panel i want to ask how you feel the va is doing, judging by what you're hearing of members of your organization. >> if you don't mind i'll start. the american legion has a program where we visit va hospitals around the country. one of the things we specifically look at is women's health care. female veterans as we know are the fastest growing population of veterans and while va has had a very difficult time standing
9:14 am
up women's health care programs, lately they've come a long way. there are several new women's health care clinics spread out across the country, does every cboc and every hospital have a women's clinic, they do not. do they have women's sections, they do. can they be improved? yes they can. they're moving in that direction and need to maintain the flexibility and spending in the funding to create that and also on that we also need to make sure we continue to keep an eye on child care. there are a lot of veterans who will forego their medical appointments because they don't have sufficient health care. va has a program by which they can stand up some child care clinics within the women's health care clinic center, we need to make sure those remain funded. >> the point about women's child care is very, very important. i've heard this repeatedly in connecticut. we have a new facility a new clinic in connecticut. it is a tremendous improvement,
9:15 am
but the issue of child care, the issue of transportation, the issue of taking off from work, which may affect men as well as women, but particularly so for women. i'd welcome any other comments. >> mr. blumenthal one of the things i would mention is while we obviously can't speak from the perspective of how women are experiencing the va, we appreciate that the va has dedicated new and additional resources to the tune of about $40 million for their programs, but we believe that more could even be done, the va -- i mean the ib actually recommends about 90 million in 2017, and an additional $100 million in 2018. i would also offer that while i think it would be unfair to say there aren't still some challenges in delivering health care to women veterans one of the areas where we clearly see some difficulty that's still out there is in meeting the needs of women veterans who have catastrophic disabilities particularly women with spinal
9:16 am
cord injuries like our membership. if it's a challenge to deliver care just to women veterans when you add on the aspect of complicated services and specialized services program that adds a whole new element that i don't think they've thought completely out of the box on yet. >> as quick as i can, we just commissioned a survey, and got the results back, and we're going to be sharing those on capitol hill when our folks are here next week but just as a recap, women veterans who access va are by and large pleased with it. we want better access to women health cakacare providers, only of them are provided access to a female provider if they ask for it. also it goes much further than just access to health care. you mentioned child care. one of the leading causes of lack of ability to get the health care services and also employment services that va has is the lack of child care. it is a hindrance.
9:17 am
it's leading to homelessness, people sleeping on other people's couches, with no way out. so we need to tackle that as a larger issue, and also women veterans who are over the age of 55, use va, at a much lower rate than the current generation of veterans, we need to figure out how to do outreach to that generation of veterans to let them know the services at va are there for them as well. >> before we go to mr. varell and i welcome your comments, too, mr. kelley the survey that was done, is that of vfw members or of women veterans generally? >> we send it through our membership data pool and shared it within the community for them to send out to their membership as well, so we have active duty, guard reserve, veterans from multiple organizations and walks of life. >> and the number that you mentioned, 40%, that is the number of women veterans who
9:18 am
want to see a woman health care provider and maybe you could just expand. >> yes, it's 40% of those who are seeking health care through the women's health care clinics, 40% of them are being seen by a female provider. by and large all of them want to be seen by a female proifr. >> but only 40% are now. >> yes. >> in addition to the other challenges that the va has in recruiting more professionals, female professionals to deal with women's health care issues. >> right. in va's defense, they're doing a great job of training their doctors that they have for the particular needs of women veterans. but when asked, would you prefer to have a female doctor by and large they want to have that as well. >> and that may be a key to involving more women in seeking health care through the va system, the availability of
9:19 am
women physicians. >> absolutely. >> thank you. mr. varell? >> thank you, senator blumenthal. i'll align our comments and sentiments with those of the vso panel up here but i would also add the women veterans that we hear from, they routinely say they don't want better care, they want comparable care, and we do believe that the va is moving in the right direction but more can be done. >> and i'd just like to finish with the chairman's indulgence, i know mr. blake you said that the va's dollar amount for health care for fiscal '18 is lower than you would like to see, is that correct? >> that is correct. >> sorry, go ahead. >> no, sir, you. >> what is the number that you think it should be? >> the ib recommends for 2018 overall for medical care our recommendation is about $77 billion for medical services
9:20 am
alone. it's about $64 billion. one of the things i would point out, though, just looking and this was a touchy subject even for our membership but looking at the community care account alone the va projects to spend $12.2 billion in '17 on all community care through choice and through its community care account yet their projection for 2018 reduces that projection by almost $3 billion. i'm not here advocating for expanding community care but i'm not sure how they can square that fact. >> thank you very much. i think that's a very, very important insight. i want the record to show that secretary macdonald and his team are here. they're listening to you. i want to thank them for remaining here, not always the case, as you know, that the head of an agency stays to hear panels afterward but i think it is a mark of the expertise and experience and insight that this panel brings to this process,
9:21 am
that he and his team have stayed and so i want to thank all of them for being here and thank you particularly for again, your service to our nation, in uniform, and afterward in the organizations that you serve in now. thank you. >> thank you, senator blumenthal. senator boseman? >> thank you, mr. chairman. i echo the ranking member, we appreciate your service in so many ways to your country and fellow veterans. we have your written testimony and we've heard your spoken testimony. lots of issues today, lots of concerns. if you'd just take a second and go through, tell me if you had to summarize, you know, the top one or two things that you're really concerned about the budget, that's really what we're talking about today. what's at the top of the list? what are your real concerns
9:22 am
regarding the numbers that we're seeing on the budget? as to whether they're going. yes, sir, mr. blake? >> senator boseman from va's perspective our concern is projected escalated growth in community care spending. i recognize the need to address access but that doesn't improve access for pva's members. by and large our members don't use the existing choice program. they don't use pc3 and don't avail themselves of the community programs because they're best served by sci in va. those people are and our members pva's members feel like are maybe being left out in the cold in that discussion. va is certainly committed to making sure there's access for our members in the sci system of care but there's certainly more that can be done. >> very good. >> i'd like to include capital infrastructure. if you just look at the way the
9:23 am
s s.k.i.p. has been put together in between, around $60 billion in construction and infrastructure needs that va would need to do under the current model to close that out over the next decade. that's a tremendous amount. we need to look at ways to afford va the opportunity to enter into public/private partnerships, do sharing agreements with other federal agencies to ensure we can reduce some of that backlog on new construction, but also get us out from underneath some of these older buildings that have non-recurring maintenance costs, they're outrageous because they're so old. i mean, as mentioned in the first panel, if you're trying to maintain a building that's 90 years old, the nonrecurring maintenance value of that is much, much higher than a building that's 10 years old. we need to give them the ability to do those things and need to clearly look at where are we going with construction in the future, and then try to align that $60 billion, what can we
9:24 am
carve off of that, if we have these other opportunities afforded to va in the future. >> very good. >> i think by far recruiting and retenti retention. the independent assessment clearly highlighted some leadership deficiencies within the department of veteran affairs that everybody recognizes needs to be fixed immediately. if you've got a skeleton crew working you're not going to be able to serve veterans. if you've got people filling in, in jobs they're not going to be keeping, you've got a leadership that is unwilling to make decisions and which then goes ahead and contributes to whistle-blower retaliation, people being dissatisfied with their jobs. we've got to get the positions filled. i heard the secretary and dr. shelkin talk a little bit about reviewing the infrastructure to find out how many positions are needed. we can't make that decision. they'll have to do that assessment, but if they do eliminate those positions, the people that are filling those positions that have been pulled from other positions, those positions will go back.
9:25 am
it's a ripple effect. so we have like i said roughly 50% over the vha landscape of leadership that is either in a temporary position or vacant, if those individuals that are filling in those leadership positions are just plugging the gaps so that the operation can move forward, their positions are now vacant. so it's a very difficult situation that needs to be fixed and needs to be fixed immediately. >> yes, sir. >> thank you, senator. if i could comment on the vba portion within my area of oversight within the ib our serious concerns lie within the amount of personnel they've requested for vba particularly to process appeals as we said, we think about 1,000 ftees should be dedicated to processing appeals only and i would say we've tempered that request not saying we need to hire 1,700 new ftee for that program specifically but temper that with hiring on a temporary basis maybe a portion of that so that once we get the backlog
9:26 am
managed and once we get the inventory managed we may not need all of those people. also, within vrne, one of the most important programs within the va you take wounded, injured and ill veterans, help them overcome their obstacles and put them back into the workforce. how does the program continue to increase each fiscal year, yet their staffing levels do not. that's a major concern for us. >> very good. thank you, mr. chairman. thank you, guys. >> thank and i thank the secretary for staying. and to the vsos, we depend heavily on what you have to say and your participation actively as we all work together for the best benefit of our veterans. thank you for your testimony today and thank you for what you do. remember what i said about our goal, we really want to take action by the end of march and have a consolidation of bills put together that give the flexibility and direction and the fleximent the sability he n
9:27 am
reducing the backlog of claims by streamlining the process to make sure it's faster and more accountable to the veteran. we thank you all for your testimony and we stand adjourned. >> good hearing. >> it was a good hearing.
9:28 am
9:29 am
9:30 am
we are live on capitol hill this morning. the senate armed services committee is gathering to hold a hearing on combating terrorism. the commanders of central command, u.s./africa command and special operations will be testifying regarding their efforts against isis, al qaeda, and other terrorist groups and talk about the latest in the war in afghanistan. this is live coverage an c-span3. should start in just a moment.
9:31 am
good morning, the senate armed services committee meets this morning to receive testimony on the posture of u.s. central command, africa command, and special operations command in the context of our review and oversight of the fiscal year 2017 defense budget. we're pleased to welcome general austin, general rodriguez and general votel. we thank you for dedicates of distinguished service and for yourership of our men and women in uniform. i'd like to extend special thanks to general austin and
9:32 am
general rodriguez, as this may be their last appearance before this committee. our nation's most distinguished national security leaders have testified before this committee repeatedly, and we're witnessing the unraveling of the rules-based international order, and nowhere is this unraveling more visible or more dangerous than the middle east, from north africa to south asia, state authority in the balance of power breaking down, this emerging vacuum has been filled by the most extreme and anti-american forces, sunni terrorist groups such as isil and al qaeda, shiite extremists such as the islamic republic of iran and its proxies, and the imperial ambitions of vladimir putin. as a result, almost every middle eastern country is now a battleground or a combatant in one or more wars to wit this morning's "wall street journa /
9:33 am
journal"/"new york times" entitled pentagon plan to fight isis in libya includes barrage of air strikes. these are diverse, complex and transregional threats to our military confronts every day across centcom, afri com and socom lines of responsibilities. as this committee continues its review of the goldwater-nichols act we're interested to hear our witness witnesses' views whether the current structure best enables us to succeed in the strategic environment of global and transregional threats in the 21st century and what reforms we might consider. this is critical because there are too many obstacles to success as it is. time and again, politically driven strategy, micromanagement and misguided reductions in defense spending have made our military's job more difficult.
9:34 am
this has been especially true for our special operations forces. more than 15 years of continuous deployments due in part to an overreliance on their unique capabilities has led to unprecedented stress on the force. as the threats we face impose greater demands on our special operators and their families, we must be vigilant and provide the necessary support to maintain their vital capabilities, not just in direct action, but in building partnership capacity across centcom and afri com. while we marvel at our special operations force we must remember they're just one part of our force and strategy. they're not a magic solution to every problem or san stut for coherent strategy as the administration's "light footpoint" approach in the middle east has demonstrated repeatedly. despite temporary relief from the arbitrary spending caps proposed by the budget control act we're playing an unnecessary
9:35 am
burden on the backs of her servicemembers in the centcom and afri com theaters. the 2017 defense budget request does little to relieve that burden. secretary carter said the military is at a major inflection point requiring urgent and simultaneous investments in next generation technologies and current operations such as a 50% increase in funding for the fight against isil. review of these needs, president obama should have requested a defense budget that reflects the scale and scope of the national security threats we face. instead he chose to request the lowest level of defense spending authorized by last year's budget spending and submit a defense budget less in real dollars than last year despite the fact operational requirements have grown. this comes as little surprise from an administration that, for the past seven years, has sought to scale back america's
9:36 am
involvement in and commitment to the middle east. in moments of consequence, iran's green revolution, libya after the fall of qua dafie, withdrawal from iraq and the crossing of the chemical red line in syria, this president walked away and ignored the lessons of history that power abwho ares a vacuum, that wars don't end because politicians say so, that the perils of indecision and inaction often outweigh the risks of action and that while america cannot solve the problems of the middle east, american leadership is indispensable to managing them. with major policy decisions hanging in the balance right now, our nation cannot afford to ignore these lessons again. in afghanistan, the president has told our enemies we will proceed with a calendar based decision to cut u.s. troop presence in half by the end of this year. and he's yet to explain the consequences of reducing u.s.
9:37 am
troop levels from 9,800 to 5,500. significant reductions to isr and close air support capacity diminished operational flexibility of u.s. counterterrorism forces and perhaps the most dangerous mission at all the highest levels of the afghan military presis eye when their pore is needed most. all this translates to is risk. risks that problems and contingencies once addressed in days will be addressed in months, if they are addressed at all. risk that sudden tactical or operational setbacks that would have been our power in reverse would put us on a path to strategic failure we would be powerless to stop and risk that the gains won by the sacrifices of american and afghan troops would be squandered. in iraq and syria, the artificial limitation on troop
9:38 am
levels ties the hands of our military commanders and makes our troops more vulnerable to attack and much less likely to succeed. the president has inched forward with incremental increases in needed capabilities, but this misguided gradualism serves only to allow the enemy to adjust before these capabilities ever make a difference. it is clear to me from my conversations with our military commanders both on the ground and in the pentagon that they've been reduced from considering what will it take to win to what will i be allowed to do, and as our troops and our national security that are paying the price. africa has emerged as the next front of the global war on terror with isil, al qaeda, boko haram and al shabab commanding territory and launching successful attacks throughout the continent. most alarming isil commands an army of 5,000 fighters in libya, while a threat in asia continues
9:39 am
to me tas they size while a threat in africa continues to metasthesize with less resources and denied authorities to take advantage of battlefield opportunities and halt the advance of extremism. in the gulf the president is failing to live up to the promises made at the camp david summit in may 2015. for example, the president committed to fast tracking arms sales, excuse me, to fast tracking arms transfers to our gulf partners, but fighter aircraft sales for qatar, kuwait and bahrain that could help thwart iranian ledheeic ambitio are lan wishinging on the shelf collecting dust. once again american credibility is disintegrating as the malign and influence of iran and russia continues to grow. it's this administration's great
9:40 am
failure to date has not been that it makes mistakes. rather it has failed or perhaps refused to learn from them and unless we chart a new course, it may well be this administration's lasting legacy. senator reed. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. i too want to join you in general general austin and general rodriguez for their extraordinary service since this is likely your last appearance before the committee. having the privilege to work for you for many years your professional, skill and commitment to the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen you lead is without parallel thank you both and general votel we appreciate your appearance today and see you tomorrow as you've been nominated to be the successor to general austin central command. again your service is also deeply appreciated. earl whier this year i traveled to iraq, afghanistan, djibouti
9:41 am
to see firsthand some of the pressing challenges that we've been talking about. in iraq the diplomatic and military officials i met universally agreed the iraqi security forces success we're taking in ramadi in june was critical for providing momentum for upcoming operations. while isis lost considerable territory it once held in iraq the more difficult task is ahead, the combination of a newly trained iraqi security force enabled by coalition intelligence and air strikes should be able to continue to make progress in evicting isil from population centers but i look forward to our witnesses' assessment what we can expect rel realistically in the coming months as iraqi special forces and security forces turn their atenlgs to particular limo sul. the leadership must confront political reconciliation in iraq and general austin i look forward to your assessment of the political atmosphere in baghdad and whether you believe the conditions are set for a
9:42 am
political dialogue which will stabilize the political situation to compliment military actions taking place. in syria, the cessation of hostilities appears to be tenuously holding and tenuously at best. it remains unclear however this incremental step will be sufficient to set the stage for meaningful political negotiations which every side said is the ultimate solution to the issue. isil remains in control of much of eastern syria, syrian kurdish fighters with the assistance of coalition air strikes and special operations forces have made gains in northern syria but battlefield dynamic continues to present many challenges. as general breedlove explained last week, the refugees by russian activity in syria regime activity presents military, political and humanitarian issues that we have not seen in the modern era and i hope our witnesses will provide their assessment of the situation in this respect. iran continues to be a cause of significant concern to the committee, particularly as
9:43 am
recent missile tests and ongoing support to non-state actors across the middle east, general austin i hope you'll provide your updated assessment of iran's activities in the wake of the joint comprehensive plan of actions implementation today. in afghanistan the past year is political security and transition and we must continue to evaluate how we can best protect and govern its population. i know that general nichols, the new commander of resolute support is conducting an assessment of what capabilities and associated troop levels he believes are required to achieve our objectives in afghanistan throughout the rest of 2016 into 2017, and i've said before, his recommendations must be given most serious consideration since he is on the battlefield and the closest to the issue. general austin, genial votel your thoughts on this would be deeply appreciated. general rodriguez, one of the results of centcom's operations
9:44 am
in isil in iraq and syria has been isil metasthesizing into libya and other places. your command has undertaken a number of operations against isil in libya, with the lack of a functioning government in tripoli makes it difficult to sustain progress and i hope you'll give us your insights on this irve u. while in djibouti i was made more familiar with the operations of somalia and as you know, general rodriguez the african mission union in somalia is becoming under increasing pressure. we've in turn been helping them. recently a significant air strike by u.s. forces to help support their efforts. so i would like your assessment of our situation there and as we go forward what we can do. the one issue that cut across all the areas i visit and that was the, with he seem to be losing the information war, messaging, of getting our message to the people of all
9:45 am
these countries about our support for legitimate government, for reasonable decent government, that is ironic to say the least so your comments about how we can reverse this tide and in fact, win the information war and win the population would be appreciated. general votel finally as the chairman noted your special operations forces have sustained extraordinary tempo over the last years. we know what they've done. they've done extraordinary work and we appreciate your leadership but also would like you to commend them personally and their families to are what they do and i would be remiss if i didn't recognize the senior enlisted personnel here. thank you for your leadership. >> yen ral tus anyone. >> good morning, chairman mccain, ranking member reed, distinguished members of the committee i want to thank you for the opportunity to appear
9:46 am
here today to discuss the current posture of your united states central command. i'm pleased to appear here this morning alongside general david rodriguez and general joe votel. today's global security environment is incredibly complex. most of the challenges that we face transcend borders and i could not ask for two better teammates than the gentlemen beside me to work through these challenges on a daily basis. ladies and gentlemen, this past year has been an especially challenging one for the governments and for the people of the central region. we have seen an almost unprecedented level of turmoil and conflict among regional, state and non-state actors, along with increasing involvement by external state actors such as russia and china. at the same time, many of the countries that make up the central region are under growing economic pressure. and of course a combination of these and other factors makes
9:47 am
this strategically important region vulnerable to conflict and to increase instability. presently the united states central command is involved in or supporting multiple military operations, and they include the campaign to counter isil in iraq and syria and our resolute support mission in afghanistan. we're providing limited support for the saudi-led coalition in yemen, and we continue to prosecute the fight against terrorism and extremism throughout our area of responsibility. we are also dealing with the mischief we see throughout the region that is caused by iran. i'll talk briefly about a few of these situations in particular as they continue to demand a large portion of our attention and our resources. i'll start with the fight against isil. ladies and gentlemen, we are defeating this enemy in iraq and syria and we are pressuring isil on more fronts than in any other
9:48 am
point in time since they marched into mosul some 18 months ago. we're doing so by degrading the enemy's military capability, by taking back territory, by diminishing his economic resources, and by removing his senior leadership from the battlefield. we're also slowing the flow of foreign fighters joining its ranks. and all of these actions in combination are contributing to a force that is less capable and increasingly demoralized and paranoid and prone to defections. while we are defeating isil in iraq and syria, we see increased efforts by this enemy to expand into other areas of the globe, namely north africa, the arabian peninsula, and south asia. and he is expanding into these and other areas in part because he knows that he's losing in iraq and syria and he needs to find other ways to maintain its legitimacy. halting this expansion will require a concerted effort by
9:49 am
the international community going forward, in the meantime, iraq's security forces are performing better with time through our capacity building efforts. of note, the kurdish peshmerga remain critical to our efforts on the ground in the northern part of the country. they are irreplaceable and remust do all that we can to support them. in syria, we continue to work with indigenous forces including syrian are bees, kurds, turkmen and others as they take the fight to the enemy. together they are achieving tremendous results including securing more than 18,000 square kilometers of territory previously held by the enemy. ladies and gentlemen, the fight against isil in iraq and syria remains incredibly complex, and while the defeat of isil will take time and it will not be easy, you can rest assured that we will get it done. meanwhile in afghanistan, the security forces continue to hold their own.
9:50 am
they've come a long way over the past 14 plus years and we want to ensure that they maintain momentum going forward. this past year, the afghans underwent multiple transitions that, together have shifted the operational environment. i still assess that the afghan security forces are capable of holding their gains against the taliban. however, like with any plan, changing conditions on the ground may require a reevaluation of our planning assumptions. we have invested a great deal in that country. it is an important country for a number of reasons. and we want to do what's necessary to help the afghans be successful long term. finally, with respect to iran, while we're hopeful that the implementation of the agreement and the results of the recent elections will lead to more responsible behavior by the iranians, we've not yet seen any indication that they intend to pursue a different path.
9:51 am
the fact remains that iran today is a significant destabilizing force in the region. some of the behavior we've seen from iran of late is certainly not the behavior you would expect to see from a nation that wants to be taken seriously as a respected member of the international community. so we will continue to keep a close eye on iran going forward. despite the many challenges that exist in sitccentcom. we're seeing our regional partners assume a greater share of responsibilities in the region. they are effectively deeming with extremist threats in their own countries while conducting military operations as a part of the counterisil coalition in iraq and syria. so we are encouraged by what we're seeing and we remain committed to working with our partners in support of our shared goals and objectives.
9:52 am
ultimately, we want to see the important region move in a direction of increased stability and security and we must be properly resource to do what is required. we do appreciate this committee's strong continued support. in closing, chairman mccain and ranking member reid, members of the committee, i want to thank you most importantly for the strong support that you continue to show to our service members, our civilians and their families. i am incredibly proud of them and i know you are as well. thank you again for the opportunity. i look forward to answering your questions. >> thank you, general rodriguez. >> chairman, ranking member, distinguished members of the committee. for past three years, i've been honored to command the men and women of africa command. africa is an enduring interest of the united states and its
9:53 am
importance continues to grow as african economies, population and influence grow. small but wise investments in african security institutions today offer disproportionate benefits to africa, europe and the united states. african solutions to african problems are in the long run in the best interest of africans, americans and, indeed, the world. now, in the most troubled spots of the continent, afghans have a distrust of the governments and security forces which are charged with promoting and guarding the welfare of the people. predatory practices, corruption and political and economic exclusion of portions of the population, as well as inconsistent adherence to the rule of law, combine to crush the hope of a better future. these conditions create environment ripe for the expansion of violent extremism.
9:54 am
effectively addressing the threat before, during or after a military crisis requires a comprehensive approach emplying defense to address the root causes of extremism and replace fear and uncertainty with trust and confidence in institutions. africa commands contributions to this broad solution lies primarily in encouraging and enabling the professionalism of the african security insurance tugss which will secure national populations, cooperate in addressing regional security concerns and increasingly play' role in sustaining global security. our military strategy articulates a long-term regally focused approach to enabling african partners. our operational approach seeks to disrupt and neutralize transnational threats by
9:55 am
building africa partner defense capability and capacity. while we have achieved progress in several areas through close cooperation and coordination with our party ins, allies and interagency partners, threats and challenges remain. in east africa, we're setting the conditions for eventual transfer from the african union mission in somalia. however, al shabab remains a continuing threat and is conducting almost daily lethal asymmetric attacks in somalia against troops. in north africa, libya's ensecurity has negative consequences for its people, its neighbors, europe's southern flank and our peace and security objectives for africa and the middle east. an international coalition to support the libyans, to counter the islamic state of libya, would support a functional government of national accord and reduce the risks of
9:56 am
expansion of isis. further instability in north africa and the emergence of a direct threat to u.s. interests. stability in libya is a long-term proposition that will require an appropriate long-term strategy. across west africa, our partners and allies are countering terrorist organizations like boko haram. with troops from cameron, niger and nigeria, the task force is a collaborative regional effort. in central africa, through the combined efforts of civilian agencies, nongovernmental organizations and forces. its capacity to harm populations has diminished greatly. today, we estimate less than 200 fighters remain and local communities are better prepared
9:57 am
to protect themselves. trap sess of power remain a source of political instability in many african nations. despite a decline in violent coup attempts and a peaceful democratic transfer of power threaten both new and established governments. current currently our requirements are increasing faster than our resources but within the command we seek ways to refine our priorities and improve the alignment of our resources to our strategy. success requires team work expanded well beyond the command itself. nongovernmental organizations and government organizations will over time strengthen democratic institutions, spur economic growth and advance african peace and security to a degree that u.s. military efforts alone cannot achieve. together, we can help the people of africa achieve their potential on the global stage.
9:58 am
i want to thank you all for your continued support to our mission and to the soldiers, sailors, coast guard, civilians, contractors and their families as we continue to advance our nation's defense interests in africa. thank you very much. >> thank you, general. >> good morning, chairman mccain, ranking member, distinguished members of committee. thank you for the opportunity to appear alongside my teammates general lloyd austin and general dave rolled gez to discuss the current posture of the united states special operations command. nearly 10,000 soft men and women are deployed or forward stationed to over 80 countries around the globe. they fill combatant command requirements that expand the range of our congressional delineated core activities. from behind the scenes information gathering and high-end strike operations. every success they achieve reinforces what we already know. our people are our greatest asset. they are adaptive, bold and
9:59 am
innovative. to persistent presence and harm's way, they allow us to see opportunities early and routinely deliver impacts with the smallest of impacts. the stories of two operators you have likely heard about in the past days and weeks. the navy s.e.a.l. who was awarded the congressional medal of honor last week for his heroism above and beyond the call of duty in rescuing an american citizen held hostage in african in 2012. more recently, army green beret first class clintock. to secure a landing zone for medevac aircraft. his courageous actions cost him his life but saved the lives of his teammates. while the stories of these two american heroes are publicly known, it is the stories of thousands of soft operators from
10:00 am
all of our services, air crews, acquisition specialists, intelligence analysts, communicators, statisticians and many others that underwrite our enduring soft value to the nation. absolute excellence in accomplishing military missionings. allow me to emphasize my strongest point this morning. th thank you for your tdevotion fo the men and women and their families. their emotional, social, psychological and physical health is in good hands thanks to you. we are very grateful for your enthusiastic support. while the command priorities remain unchanged from my testimony last year, u.s. socom continues to adapt to meet the current operational environmental. characterized by rapidly shifting power with competition conflict between state and nonstate actors. actors who are increasingly ambiguous and multidimensional.
10:01 am
as a result, this past year, we focused on gaining a deerp understanding of today's gray zone challenges and we've restructured our operational rhythm to focus on the transregional nature of violent extremist organizations. the demand for soft skill sets remains understandably high. therefore, your support for socom is more important than ever. it is a truth that soft cannot be mass produced in times of need. so consistent investment in our people and capabilities is very important. as good as our men and women in socom are, we remain extraordinarily dependent on service provided capabilities and capacities to perform our mission. i ask for your strong support for them as well. we simply could not perform our mission without service provided capabilities, infrastructure and institutional programs. alongside our colleaguings, we are grateful for the budgets stability forged out of last year's agreements and remain
10:02 am
hopeful for stability beyond 2017. in closing, i'd like to once again thank the committee and congress as a whole for your outstanding support in funding authorities and encouragement. your oversights of our efforts to deploy soft remains critical as we can fund an increasingly complex security environment. we look forward to continuing this great relationship and i pledge to you that we will remain transparent, engaged and responsive. i remain honored to command the best special operations force in the world. i am proud of each of our team members and their families as they continue to serve our great nation. i look forward to your questions today. >> thank you, general. general austin, general nichols nicholson, new commander in afghanistan, testified before this committee in no uncertain terms the security situation in afghanistan is deteriorating. do you agree with that? >> you heard me say in my
10:03 am
opening statement i do think the environment in the country has changed because of a number of -- >> actually, he said the situation was deteriorating, general. really would like just straight forward answers. i only have a few minutes here. he said that the situation is deteriorating. do you agree with that situation, that assessment? >> in part, i agree. i think the taliban have become active. and the asnf have been challenged over the last year. >> thank you. would that argue for not having further reductions in troop strength there in afghanistan? would you think? >> as i mentioned earlier, you know, you start with a plan, that plan's based on facts that you know at that time and assumptions you make in order to continue planning.
10:04 am
when the situation changes so those facts are no longer valid or the assumptions that you made are no longer appropriate, then i think you have to go back and revisit your plan. so i would agree that, you know, a review of the plan is in order. >> do you agree with general that putin is deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm european structures and break european resolve? >> i think this -- what we've seen with the use of barrel bombs and the massive number of refugees and displaced personnel i think is absolutely awful. and, again, there is no logical reason that he would choose to employ this kind of weapon over and over again. again, i think the fact that we have a cessation of hostilities
10:05 am
on the ground right now has enabled us to get some humanitarian assistance to some of the disadvantaged people, and that's a if thing. but what he has done with this barrel bombing is awful. >> well, actually, he's not barrel bombing, bashar assad is, but he is indiscreme natalie bombing targets without regard to precision weapons or precision targets, isn't that true? >> i misunderstood you. i thought you said assad. >> no, i said -- general breedlove said that putin is deliberately weaponizing migration in an attempt to overwhelm european structures and break european resolve. i'm sorry if i didn't make that clear. >> i misunderstood you, chairman. clearly, the approach that the russians have taken is irresponsible.
10:06 am
they are using bombs. they have inflicted extraordinary numbers of civilian casualties and, again, it is indiscriminate. so a really poor approach to war fighting. >> well, again, general breedlove said it's an attempt to overwhelm european structures and break european resolve, including breaks up the eu. do you support the sale of fighter aircraft to qatar, kuwait and bahrain? >> i do, chairman. >> do you think putin's $8 billion in advanced arm sales to iran increased risk in operations in the region? >> certainly, that will enable them to get -- to have greater capabilities. our adversaries, excuse me. i would say at the same time that ggc countries have spent
10:07 am
some $10 billion in military hardware, on military hardware during the same time period. >> general rodriguez, there's a "new york times" story that says pentagon plan to fight isis in libya include barrage of air strikes, 30 to 40 targets in four areas of the country. would aim to deal a crippling blow to the islamic state's most dangerous affiliate outside of iraq and syria. that's a quote from the story. would you recommend a barrage of air strikes such as described in "the new york times"? >> sir, that answer would be better in a classified setting and i'll get that to you and your leadership, sir. >> do you believe vigorous action should be taken in response to the ma taftizing of isis? >> the international community has to take action to degrade it
10:08 am
and eventually defeat it, yes, sir. >> do you think we're doing enough now to stop the spread, particularly expansion in libya? >> the spread in libya continues to be a challenge because of the lack of governance, as well as the break-up of the military and the multiple militias on the ground. we continue to develop our situational understanding -- >> i guess my question was do you think we need to do more. >> i think the international community and libyans -- >> i'm not asking about the international community, i'm asking about the united states of america. >> yes, i think we as part of that international community have to do more, yes, sir. >> senator reid. >> thank you very much, mr. chairman. general austin, one of the issues in iraq is the potential consequences of failure of the mosul dam. it's not often in the headlines but it's potentially sirius
10:09 am
consequences. can you give us a status of the situation? and also the planning that's gone into the consequences of some type of failure of the dam? >> yes, sir. we remain concerned about the status of the dam since the conflict started here. as you know, when daesh captured the dam, the employees initially left and the grouting ceased. we have encouraged the iraq government, since the dam has been back in the hands of the iraqis, to make sure that they're doing the right things to go about repairing the dam to ensure that it doesn't fail. they have most recently hired an italian company to perform maintenance on the dam.
10:10 am
it may be several weeks and months before that company is up and running. there is a time period that we're concerned about where there will be limited to no maintenance being pulled on the dam. if the dam fails, it will be catastrophic. there will be thousands of people downstream that will either been jured or killed, certainly displaced. and the damage could extend all the way down to close to baghdad or into baghdad. we have worked with the iraqis to ensure that they are doing the right things to warn people about this. and in the event that it does fail, what actions they should take to get to safety. and we certainly have placed measures in place to ensure that u.s. citizens are -- u.s. personnel are accounted for and able to be evacuated in case of the dam's failure.
10:11 am
>> thank you, general. general rodriguez, when i was in djibouti, we focused a great deal on the resurgence of sh shabab. i presume you're taking this very seriously, and you are beginning to try to disrupt their ability to attack and also to support djibouti forces and burundi forces that are on the ground. is that fair? >> yes, it is, senator. >> is there any indication that our african colleagues, ethiopians and burundis are wavering or are they committed to the mission? >> they are committed to the mission. they continue their activities they've been doing for the last several years.
10:12 am
right now because of the existing tactics al shabab has taken, they need to start making adjustments to. >> very good. a question for general votel and general austin. given the years we're suggesting, encouraging the pakistani military force to take action in the fatah along the border recently have. one of the consequences is they've driven significant number of terrorist elements into afghanistan, which actually seems to have increased the counterterrorism demands on forces there. is that a fair assumption in terms of the ground? i'll start with general votel and ask general austin. >> senator, i think it is. certainly, them pushing into afghanistan has not been without some level of coordination with our forces. while it has increased the turbulence, it also has provided us the opportunity to address that threat as well.
10:13 am
>> general, your comments? >> it has increased opportunities and demands on the special operations forces, senator. >> final question, general austin, that's going back to syria. there was indeed a train/equip program and it was terminated because it was deemed not to be accomplishing objectives. the reality though, you may check or dispute this, is that in order to hold ground there once we capture it, we need indigenous forces, not just kurds but arabs, syrians. are we revising in some way the train/equip, smaller scale, and prepared to provide that kind of support? >> we are, senator. you know, i've asked for permission to restart the effort by using a different approach. as you mentioned, we were being effective but we were slow in
10:14 am
getting started, in generating the numbers that we needed to genera generate. part of that was because we were taking -- try to take large numbers of people out of the fight and keep them out for training for long periods of time. we've adjusted our approach. as we look to restart our efforts, and really focus on smaller numbers of people that we can train on specific skills. as we reintroduce those people back into the fight, they will be able to enable the larger groups that they're a part of. the training would be -- would be shorter. but, again, i think they would be able to greatly enable the forces once they're reintroduced. >> thank you very much. >> thank you, mr. chairman. >> i want to thank all of you for your distinguished service and leadership to our country. general austin, in your opening testimony, you talked about iran
10:15 am
and you said that they're having a destabilizing effect on the region and, in fact, there's no indication that they are following a different path than they have previously. we know in press reports just this week in fact tuesday that iran, the revolutionary guard core test fired several ballistic missiles from silos across the country. defying both recent u.s. sanctions. and of course this follows on after the jcpoa was signed. the ballistic missile test that they did in november and october this year. clapper has testified before this committee that would be their preferred method for delivering a nuclear weapon. are you concerned about their continuing pursuit of testing ballistic missiles? >> i am, senator. >> what are the implications of that? >> well, certainly we hope that jcpoa will prevent iran from
10:16 am
obtaining a nuclear weapon in near and midterm, forever hopefully, but this is something we'll continue to watch. >> clearly the jcpoa is not continuing deterring them on the ballistic missile program. would you agree with me on that? >> i would agree, senator. what i would say is that what we and the people in the region are concerned about is that they already have overmatch with numbers of ballistic missiles. the people in the region remain concerned about their cyber capabilities their ability to mine the straights, and certainly activity of their qods forces. when e see around the region an around the globe as well. there are a number of things that lead me to personally believe their behavior -- they haven't changed any course yet. this is something we'll continue to watch. >> well, i would argue that clearly the sanctions the
10:17 am
administration did put in place, which i've said from the beginning are pathetic and weak, are having absolutely no impact, given that they're now continuing to test ballistic missiles and i would hope that we would up our game and impose real tough sanctions on iran on their ballistic missile program. i wanted to follow up on an important question, both general rodriguez and general votel. this is something i've actually asked both your predecessors about. my concern is if we capture z o zawahiri or baghdadi tomorrow, where will we detain these individuals under long-term detention, most importantly to interrogate them so we can find out all we need to know about al qaeda and isis? as i asked your predecessor going back to 2011, i asked general hamm, your predecessor
10:18 am
in africa com, what would happen tomorrow if we captured a member of al qaeda tomorrow in africa? you know what he told me, i'm going to need lawyerly help in answering that one. i asked the same of your predecessor, general votel, and he said to me it would be helpful if there was a facility that was designated for long term board detention and interrogation. i guess my question to both of you is tomorrow, if we capture these individuals, given the phenomenal work that the men and women who serve underneath you do every day, where do we interrogate them? do you know what you would do with them? especially if we want a long-term interrogation of them? >> senator, in my experience, as we looked at operations where we're actually going to detain somebody, we have had a plan in place before we actually conducted the operation for how we were going to potentially detain them and what their legal disposition would be.
10:19 am
>> general, we just recently captured someone in isis and as i understand it, they're being held short term and then will be turned back to the kurds. what about long-term detention? you agree long-term interrogation was quite helpful, for example, in gathering the information we needed to get bin laden? that's what worries me. what do we do in a long-term setting do you know? >> i would agree there is a requirement for long-term detention, senator. >> do we know where that would be now? >> i don't know. that is a policy decision that i think is being debated. >> i think it's a policy decision that has basically never been mind under this administration. it's one that has been left up in the air, which means it's up in the air in a way that i think undermines our national security interest. i think that you all need to know what would happen tomorrow, given the great work that the men and women who serve underneath you, we hope they capture these individuals and we interrogate them and find out what they know so we can prevent
10:20 am
attacks on this country and obviously continue to dismantle these terrorism networks. thank you all. >> thank you. thank you all for being here this morning and for your service to the country. general austin, i want to follow up on some of the questions about afghanistan. because i saw reports over the weekend that president ghani claimed that isis had been defeated in the eastern part of the country following a 21-day operation by afghan forces. do we agree with president's analysis watch happened there? >> think we have some good initial effects, senator, but i think there's more work to be done in that area. >> do we expect the afghan national forces to follow up with isis in that area? are we working with them directly on what's happening there? can you be -- elaborate a little bit on what's going on? >> as you know, senator, we're advising and assisting the
10:21 am
afghan special operations forces on a daily basis. and yes, as we -- we are helping them to identify these threats and also advising them on the best means to go after these threats. >> so what does that -- if, in fact, they're performing well with respect to isis, what does that mean for the continued fight against the taliban? i saw recently reports about helmand province and what's happening there and having had the opportunity to visit there back in 2010/2011, we visited lashgar-ga which is the provincial capital and saw some amazing work being done by the forces to engage the local population to get kids in school, to do very positive things. so it's very distressing to see what's happening now in helmand
10:22 am
and the fact that that provincial capital may fall to the taliban. it's under threat from that. so can you talk about whether there's any -- whether there are benefits from the effort against isis that carry over to the fight against the taliban? is there any -- i don't want to use the word propaganda, but is there messaging there that's helpful in terms of the taliban's recurring activity in afghanistan? >> as was mentioned earlier, senator, the environment in afghanistan this last year has been a very challenging environment to work in because of a number of transitions. you got a transition of power for the first time in that young government's history. you have a new government standing up. we reduced our footprint. the death of mullah omar was
10:23 am
announced. and that caused the taliban to begin to fracture a bit, but also gave rise to a new leader who set out to prove himself with increased activity. so all of this work together proved to be very challenging for the afghan security forces and there were some setbacks. and those setbacks were due to a number of things. leadership, you know, inappropriate techniques and that sort of business. general campbell and now general nicholson are working with the afghan security forces to address those setbacks. they put measures in place that should improve the performance here. the president, mr. ghani, has embraced these and they're making corrections. we expect to see some improved performance. there's more advising and assisting that needed to be done going forward. one of the key things that's transpired here recently is that
10:24 am
because the afghans in some cases were overextended, they've adjusted their footprint to give a more flexibility. so smaller footprint that allows them to project combat power at will in places that they need to prevent combat power to. >> thank you. general votel, senator reid raised the issue of countermessaging in his opening statement. and i know that in 2016, they provided resources for technologies to support our information operations and communications activities. can you elaborate what you're doing to improve our countermessaging efforts which i think are really critical, both with what's going on to isis, putin and russia? >> i agree with your assessment. i think it is absolutely critical and it must be integrated aspect of all of our
10:25 am
operations from start to finish. can't be something we think about afterwards. i'm very grateful for the support we've gotten. in specific, what we have done is looked at publicly available information and how we develop the tools and techniques and procedures to use that information to help us understand the threats we are dealing with. and so we are look at how we can experiment in that area. the different things we can do and bring to bear for our forces. so publicly available information and being able to work in that environment is an area in which we hope to inprove our capabilities in the future. >> well, thank you. my time is up. i would be interested in hearing what we're doing to work with other agencies within the federal government so that we are coordinating our messages across all of our activities. thank you. thank you, mr. chairman.
10:26 am
>> thank you, mr. u3á8çchairman. gentlemen, thank you for your service. general austin with regards to the challenges surrounding the retaking of mosul and raqqah by december of this year coming up, you've current lip got i think about 4,000 ground forces available, if i'm correct. is that enough? do you have enough right now to assist in your plans to be able to retake mosul and raqqah? >> the approach that we have used and will continue to use, senator, as you know, is to use the indigenous forces to conduct the operations on the ground and enable those forces with our aerial fires and other enablers. and as we look towards raqqah and mosul, clearly there will be things that we will want to do
10:27 am
to increase the capability a bit, to be able to increase the pace of operations, and that will require some additional capability. and we've gone through and done some analysis to see what types of things we need to provide. and we made those recommendations. >> could you share those recommendations with this committee? >> no, sir, i would not care to do so because i'm just provided those to my leadership. >> but you have made the recommendations and you are awaiting a response to your recommendations at this time? >> yes, sir, it will work its way up the chain here. >> if you were allowed to have more ground troops, what would be the capabilities that you could accomplish? or what could you accomplish if you had more individuals on the ground there at this time? >> we could develop more better human intelligence.
10:28 am
we could perhaps provide more advise and assist teams at various levels. we could increase our assistance in terms of providing help with some logistical issues. and we could increase some elements of the special operations footprint. >> assuming we would be successful in retaking both those two towns, what, then, i mean, it's broken. clearly, you come back in, you need to re-establish civil order, so forth. when we take them back, do we have a plan in place? do we have a plan that we want to execute to bring -- to bring back in a sense of order to those communities? and what does it look like right now? and what part would we play? >> the short answer is yes, senator, first of all, we will -- the iraqis will take
10:29 am
back mosul and we will work with the syrian indigenous forces to take bacharach k raqqah as well. as we've taken back towns in iraq that include ramadi, tikrit, sinjar and other places, the effort has been to re-establish security in those places and then immediately try to do what's necessary to repair damage and make sure we're taking care of the people. the people are able to move back in and resume their lives. so we've done -- we've built incrementally as we move forward. there's a lot of work to be done, senator. you know from just looking at ramadi there's a mountain of work to be accomplished to get back to some reasonable stake.
10:30 am
but in mosul, looking forward to raqqah, the same types of things apply. establish the security. and when that's done, bring in the humanitarian assistance, do the reconstruction activities to get things back to normal. >> do you believe that the current structure in iraq with the government that is there now, do they have the capabilities and cam ompetencieo provide that to communities in iraq? >> i think they do, sir. i think it will require some, you know, a lot of work and it will require the government -- excuse me, the government to work together much more, much better than what we've seen them do up to this point. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chairman. >> senator, on behalf of the chairman. >> thank you all for being here and thank you for your service. i would ask the first question. i think general votel, given we
10:31 am
will be considering your nomination tong succeed general austin centcom commander it would be insightful to get your opinion on the current situation in iraq and syria. the question would simply be who's the greatest -- who poses the greater threat to the region and to the united states, isis or iran? >> well, i think right now, senator, my answer would be isis does, because they are inspiring and they are orchestrating external attacks that could impact our people. so i think we have to take that extraordinarily seriously. that said, as we've kind of discussed here already, despite the jpoa and the agreement that has been made, we should understand that iran is not ambiguous in their activities and their focus on united states and certainly on our allies in the region. so i think they do pose a long-term threat as well.
10:32 am
>> general austin, do you agree? >> sir, i would say clearly the most dangerous near-term threat is isil or daesh. we will deal with that threat as a part of an international coalition. i would say the greatest mid to long-term threat to stability in the region is clearly iran. and we will need to work with our coalition -- our partners in the region to really counter the malign activity that we've seen iran conduct over time. >> the additional revenue that iran has coming now, because oil is starting to flow, revenue from that. do you see that exasperating the problem? >> it certainly adds a little fuel to the problem, sir. they were going to spend money on their military and buy weapons anyway. this gives them some capability to do more.
10:33 am
having said that, the gcc is working together probably in ways they haven't done in the past, and they continue to buy healthy dose of our equipment and our weapons as well. they're increasing their capability as well. >> also with the change of regime there, the last election they just had showed a lot of the moderates got elected and some of the extremes got pushed out of office. too soon to tell, but do you see that as a promising factor? >> think it is too soon to tell, sir. i think what we saw leading up to the elections is we saw a lot of moderates get disqualified from the elections. so the fact folks that are now classifying themselves as moderates, are they really moderates or just another flavor of hard-liners?
10:34 am
and, you know, we'll see as time passes here. >> general rodriguez, regarding the u.s. strike in somalia that occurred saturday, i read that trainers had just completed. can you give me a sense of the number of camps like that that are in somalia you all identified and how big a concern there are other camps in this region we don't know about? >> the camps are transitory so they pop up and move and they're at different places throughout somalia at different times. it is a concern because the last three times they did something similar to this, they had an ability to conduct a devastating attack on the forces. >> general votel, i would follow up with you. the program has been successful at building extremely strong relationships between the guard and 70 other countries for over 20 years in some cases.
10:35 am
it's been long going on. and your testimony, you indicated one of your major priorities is to continue to build relationships with international and domestic partners through sustained security cooperation, expand communication. it seems to be something the national guard has been successful with in the state partnerships program. do you see a role for the state partnership program in helping it advance this priority in your -- >> senator, i absolutely do. and of course as you may be aware of, west virginia has played a very key role in sponsoring for our soft partners that was very successful. so i think the state partnership program is absolutely essential to us. of course a number of embassies, we have the national guard, bilateral officers. and i think that provides a great opportunity to increase our interaction and integration
10:36 am
activities. i think it's a wonderful program and we will try to leverage it any way we can. >> we think it's been very successful also and very cost effective for us too. so thank you for that. my time is up. >> on behalf of the senator, please. >> thank you very much, generalemen, thank you for being with here today. i appreciate your many years of service. general austin and general votel in your professional military opinion, you have served a while in our armed services. i was going to say over 40 years of service but we'll just say many, many years. and, again, thank you for that. what are the implications of russia's actions in syria and the world's response or lack of response with russia and syria and their international behavior? i guess what i'm trying to get at is what lessons do you think putin is taking out syria and what concerns should we have
10:37 am
about what putin is doing in syria? we've heard discussion about weaponization of the migrants. can you give me a little input on that please? >> thank you, senator. russia's entry into this problem set has made a very complicated problem even more complicated. you know, when you consider the actors that are part of this, you know, the regime, the russians, turks, the wpg, the iranians, lebanese hezbollah, daesh, all of these elements, you know, interacting with each other in a fairly confined battle space, you know, the introduction of russia has made this more complicated. especially so -- especially
10:38 am
because of the fact that although they said they came to counterterrorism, to counterdaesh what we've seen them do principally is bolster the assad regime. that potentially extends the conflict and so, you know, my personal opinion is that as russia entered this, they had no designs of being there for a long time. i don't think they can be there for a long time because of the i pact that it will have on their economy. but clearly they've tried to use this to demonstrate muscle and impress the region. i think they'll have an opposite effect. when they came in and aligned themselves with the syrian regime, they also aligned themselves with the iranians and with lebanon hezbollah. that will eventually begin to alienate them from many of the sunni arab states in the region.
10:39 am
>> do you see that's his overall goal, is the alienation of those groups and alignment with himself and has he achieved that? >> i think what they wanted to do is gain greater -- certainly they wanted access to a port in the mediterranean. they want influence in the region. and wanted to increase their influence in the region by doing some of the things they've done. i think at the end of the day it will have an opposite effect of what they want to do. >> i think the big lesson we are learning out of this is this ability to operate in this gray area. and i think in my view this is an area which russia is engaging.
10:40 am
the ukraine is another example. where they are challenging the open warfare but they're certainly challenging our interest, challenging our influence and challenging the interest of many of our allies. trying to understand the gray zone and how that is going to impact our future operation and how we contribute in that particular area. >> i appreciate that. if you could, general austin, talk about the sunni fighting force in iraq, why is it taking so long to develop a force that will keep that region stable? >> one of the things that must be done, senator, and i think you probably feel the same way, the sunnis have to be part of the solution going forward. we have worked with the leadership, with the prime minister, to enlist and hire and
10:41 am
train and pay sunni tribal elements that can help us. they have across the board enlisted about 15,000 or so of these sunni tribal elements. they're proven they're very reliable troops. the reason it's taken a long time is because there are hard-liners in the environment that don't want to see a large sunni force armed and equipped because of, you know, the bad experience with daesh. nonetheless, the sunnis have to be part of the solution going forward. we see the prime minister doing some things to enlist their help and we just need some more activity here. >> okay. well, gentlemen, again, very much, i appreciate your service. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman.
10:42 am
general rodriguez, regarding libya, you mentioned in your written testimony that the lack of stability and security in libya threatens our peace and security objectives in the middle east. of course whatever we do in the middle east is fraught with all kinds of peril and unintended consequences. so while the libyan government of national accord established by agreement on december 2015 as you note in your testimony is an important step, it will take time to establish its authority. so can you talk more about what's supposed to happen under this agreement and what happens -- what is to be expected to happen in libya and what kind of time frame are we talking about to establish stability and security in libya? >> thank you, senator. the agreement that the u.s. brokered to build the government national accord was supposed to bring together both the house of representatives in the east and
10:43 am
the general national congress in the west. and build a central government that could then begin to govern libya. this will, you know, be a long time coming as they work through this and we are continuing to press on all the diplomatic fronts that the u.s. and international community can to get this thing moving and it has continued to move along slowly. as far as the second part of your question, to build the stability in libya is going to take a long time because of the lack of institutions that are there. the fractured society and the multiple competing militias and spoilers from all sides of the libyan society. >> what would you say is maybe the one or two most important steps that must -- or conditions that must occur for this process to proceed in a way that will
10:44 am
result in stability? >> i think they have to get -- the government and national accord has to come together and have enough legitimacy in the eyes of the libyan people that it can function well enough to be -- to move forward and help to begin the building the stability. >> is that happening? >> it has not happened yet. >> beginning to happen? >> yes. >> so when you say it's going to be a long time, do you have any kind of a sense? are we talking about 10 years, 15 years? >> for long-term stability, yes, it's going to take 10 years to build that society up, yes, ma'am. >> thank you. general votel, north korea's nuclear threats are increasing and becoming more by the day. what efforts is centcom engaging in that we hope will eliminate this threat and do you think peaceful resolution is possible at this point? >> thank you, senator.
10:45 am
i don't know if a peaceful solution is possible at this particular point. what we are doing is retaining our capability to deal with those types of weapons in the venues in which we are asked to deal with them, which are fai y peculiar. that said, the other thing we have done over the last 18 months is increase our presence and partnerships with our south korea partners. there are more soft men and women on the peninsula than we've had at any time in the past. we are continuing to maintain a robust presence there with all our capability, air, maritime and ground soft forces. >> and even as we speak, aren't we engaging in some xerp sizes with south korea and our marines? >> there are exercises that occur at various times of the
10:46 am
year. there is one going on right now. we are extraordinarily well integrated into that. to our special operations command korea, we are supporting general scaparoti and his objectives. >> the asia pacific is a key strategic goal, particularly as we see what's going on with north korea and china. with what you can say in this unclassified setting, can you comment october capabilities of socom in the asia pacific region? do you have a special operations force structurewk&
10:47 am
would like to say that socom never left the pacific. most of our activities are bilateral. we had some success in the philippines in the past. in support of many of admiral harris' objectives out there, we are working very closely with a large variety of partners to reassure them to develop their capabilities and to show we are committed, we remain very committed to the area. >> thank you very much. i thank all of our testifiers today. thank you, mr. chairman. >> thank you, all, for many years of great service. syria. general votel, are you responsible for training the
10:48 am
syrian democratic forces? >> we are providing some -- >> some -- >> we are providing forces to -- >> got you. >> -- that mission. >> what percentage of the syrian democratic forces are kurds? >> probably about -- about 80%. >> is it possible for the current construct for these forces to take raqqah away from isil? >> well, of course, there are -- i don't know. i think that they are capable. as we've seen in some of the things -- >> is there a plan to take raqqah back from isil using these forces? >> we have a strategy to get to raqqah -- >> i said is there a plan -- >> there is currently not a plan. >> okay. is there a plan to hold raqqah once we take it? >> i would say no, there is not a plan to hold raqqah. >> okay. general austin, is it fair to
10:49 am
say when russia and iran came in to assist assad that changed the balance of power on the ground militarily in his favor? >> it is, senator. if i could make a comment on a question that the general just answered. as you know, senator, as we continue to work with the forces in theater, the indigenous forces, our goal is to recruit more arabs and turkmen and others -- >> will the recruitment require them to fight isis alone and not go after assad? >> we will recruit, train and equip forces to focus on daesh, on isil, yes. >> part of the conditions will be we're not going to support you when it comes to assad? >> that's correct, we'll only support those elements -- >> what happens when assad bombs the people we train, what do we do? >> well, we will defend the folks that are we are
10:50 am
supporting. >> have we defended them against russians and assad, the people we've previously trained? >> in terms of forces that i have trained, we've not had that issue. >> well, the forces that the t has trained have been bombed by the russians and assad, is that correct? >> i would not want to address that in this forum. >> i think it is pretty common knowledge that the people we trained have been hit by russians and assad. is it fair to say that going into any negotiations that assad is in pretty good shape because russia and iran is behind him mill tarl and we are not behind the opposition militarily? >> i would say the support of assad has emboldened him and empowered him to a degree. >> you have been to iraq a long time. thank you for years of service to all of you. june 24, 2010 i had an exchange
10:51 am
and you were there. we were changing from general petraeus. and here is what i said. i think you indicated we are probably on the 10 yard line when it comes to iraq. i did sir and i think we are on the 10 yard line. i think the next 18 months will determine whether we get on it get to the goal line or really give the iraqis an opportunity to get to the goal line by 2011. did you recommend a residual force? >> i did, sir. >> if we were on the 10 yard line in june 24, 2010 using football analogies, where are we at today in iraq? >> clearly, we are in a completely different game with respect to where we were then, sir. and nobody knows this better than you because you have spent so much time over there. >> it is a different game i
10:52 am
think is a good way to say it. >> absolutely. >> what is the strongest ground component in iraq? who has the most capability right now? >> the shi'a militia have a lot of numbers. in my opinion they are not good fighters. they don't have good trade craft. >> is tafait fair to say they ct be used to liberate mosil. >> we will make a significant mistake if we go down that path. >> we are relying on iraqi security forces. libya, thank you for your service. what percentage of libya is under the control of extremist groups like isil? >> isil and dash control the
10:53 am
area in and around -- i couldn't give you exact percentage. >> would you consider libya at this point a failed state? >> yes, sir. >> thank you very much for your service. >> thank you and thanks to the witnesses. i echo the comments about the appreciation for the service. i want to ask a couple of questio questions. i know u.s. military is a preferred training partner. i kind of like to have you talk about the success of those training efforts over the course of your three years and what other nations do significant
10:54 am
training of african military? i view this as one of the most cost effective investments that we make. i would like to hear your thoughts on it. >> we are by far the largest contributed to training african peace keepers in africa. we have a tremendous amount of successes just to give you a one benchmark now the u.n. missions in africa are 47% provided by african soldiers. that is a significant increase over the last several years and almost 180 degree turn from a decade ago. and then we have a great program that is really led by state department for training soldiers and all the soldiers that are trained to go to somalia as example from all five nations trained by state department supported by africa as well as 11 nations in mali. we do a tremendous job of
10:55 am
training all of the u.n. missions who are heading out there. i think we they have done extremely well overall. they have had problems with discipline in some of the units but over all a huge success story. as an example almost everyone of their units has been trained and headed to amvazon and then come back and has increased professionalism of the forces. the u.n. also does training as to the united kingdom and the french. they are the biggest contributors. >> the training we do is not only training around dealing with security challenges, but in some of the nations the military has sometimes been the force for civilian repression, rule of law and human rights issues. i assume that one of the training sets of experts we provide is how to do the security job and do it in a way
10:56 am
that respects the rule of law and human rights mpt. >> it is all about the rule of the law and how to support government in a democratic nation. >> would you talk about the same thing with respect to special operations and special forces, the training work we do with other nations? senator king and i travelled to the region to lebanon a few years ago and witnessed some training. talk about the training component of what you do. >> thank you, senator. and the example you just cited lebanon is a good example of many of the ways in which we are working with international partners particularly through their soft elements. i think one of the best authorities that congress has provided to us is to allow us to work closely with some of our partners here to develop
10:57 am
capabilities to assist in our counter terrorism efforts. i think that has been a very successful program. so what we try to do is we try to leverage the long term relationships, the long historical relationships that many of our countries in particularly their soft forces have in some regions. for example, the great partners in north africa, the british, of course, have inroads in a lot of different places and we try to leverage that, as well. we are looking to work with partners to develop capacity to export their skills. so when you look at a country like poland for example, that is a good example. we worked for long term with that country and they have been somebody who can deploy, support our activities and bring others with them. i think the investment that not only we are making but a lot of partner nations are making i think are leveraging well
10:58 am
through relationships and partnerships. >> this is budget appropriations season so we are looking at line items and expenditures. my opinion is that one of the best things we do if you look at the pentagon budget, the amount to train foreign militaries either in their real estate or bringing leaders over here it's just a fraction of a fraction of a d.o.d. budget but might be one of the best investments in terms of building capacity and relationships that can be important. i just encourage you. thank you for your service. thank you, mr. chair. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you gentlemen for your service, many years of service to this country and our people. general rodriguez lastz year you testified that libya based threats are growing and i believe they have the highest potential among security challenges on the continent to increase risk to u.s. and european strategic interests in
10:59 am
the next two years and beyond. what is your assessment of the current situation? do you see these threats continuing to impact not just the united states but our allies? >> it has continued to grow in the last year as i mentioned and it also is because of the space in libya that also contributes to migration challenges that our european partners are facing. i think i agree with all of those statements made last year. >> as we look at libya and really how unstable this area of the world has become and the impact, the negative impact it is having on not just that area but as you said with migration in europe, as well, are we going to see a unity government form?
11:00 am
is there any hope that that is going to happen or are we going to continue to see the threats grow faster than the possibility of the formation of a unity government? >> i think the unity government as encouraged by everybody has a chance of moving forward. it will be dependent on how they handle spoilers who are really not in it for the future of libya. so that will be the real determining factor. the other concern right now for the building of the government and the ability for libyans to contribute towards stabilization towards resources, the ability to generate resources continue to generate over time. that's the real risk now. >> in your best military advice, what are the additional steps that could possibly be taken in order to combat that threat that

7 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on