Federal News Service
HEADLINE: HEARING OF THE SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE
SUBJECT: DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION REQUEST FOR FISCAL YEAR 2005
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN WARNER (R-VA)
WITNESSES: ADMIRAL THOMAS B. FARGO, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES PACIFIC COMMAND; GENERAL LEON J. LAPORTE, COMMANDER, UNITED NATIONS COMMAND AND REPUBLIC OF KOREA/UNITED STATES COMBINED FORCES COMMAND; GENERAL JAMES T. HILL, COMMANDER, UNITED STATES SOUTHERN COMMAND
LOCATION: 106 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C.
SEN. MARK PRYOR (D-AR): Mr. Chairman, thank you.
General Hill, I have a Bloomberg News report from about a week ago where it talks about us increasing our troop and contractor presence in Colombia. And I had a couple of questions about that, and these are follow-ups to the chairman's questions earlier when he was asking about those.
But with regard to the troops and the contractors there, the first question I have is, what do the contractors do? And how does that differentiate from what the troops do?
GEN. HILL: Sir, the contractor support in Colombia, working mostly for the embassy and the Department of State, fly the drug eradication planes. They do training with the Colombian military operating Plan Colombia helicopters, and a variety of other tasks. But those are-the big numbers would be those numbers.
SEN. PRYOR: Right. The reason I ask that is because we focus a lot of times just on the troops, but there's this other group of people that are impacted by this. And obviously there's U.S. tax dollars that follow that, so I just wanted to ask that question.
Also with regard to Plan Colombia, I believe Senator Sessions mentioned that a few minutes ago. Under the lessons learned category, are you satisfied with Plan Colombia? Are there things that we can improve there, can do better in the future?
GEN. HILL: I think Plan Colombia has been a visionary endeavor between the United States, the United States Congress, which funded it, and the Colombian military and people.
Several things happened. There was the commitment of the Congress of the United States to the Colombians, and the Colombians have responded. The helicopter support has allowed the Colombian military to make the tactical and operational moves that they could not have made without that helicopter support. And the operational advice and mentorship that we've provided them has allowed them to exponentially improve themselves as a military.
I think Plan Colombia has been a significant investment and it is truly beginning to pay off.
SEN. PRYOR: Are there ways to improve upon it, or do you think --
GEN. HILL: To continue to sustain it, and we need to begin to think our way through, in the next couple of years, how do you nationalize the helicopters that we've been paying for under Plan Colombia to provide them to the Colombians in a way that they can sustain that effort? And we are beginning to develop those plans, and we'll be coming to the Congress later with that.
SEN. PRYOR: Great. Well, I look forward to working with you on that.
Admiral Fargo, I have a question for you about missile defense. And in your testimony, on page 15, you talked about our forward- deployed naval forces, command-and-control elements and interceptor assets will be ready to support missile defense initial defense operations on or before 1 October.
We still need to increase the numbers of Patriot GEM and PAC III missiles offshore to develop a sea-based terminal missile defense capability.
I would like to ask you about the Patriot GEM and PAC III. Does this mean that you think we need to increase those over and above what we're requesting right now, over and above the president's request?
ADM. FARGO: I think there's a couple of aspects of this, Senator. One is that Patriot PAC III is an effective system. We know it provides solid terminal defense. We need to look at our requirements throughout the region. We also need to look at the requirements of our friends and allies --
SEN. PRYOR: Right.
ADM. FARGO: -- with respect to Patriot PAC III; very specifically, Taiwan. That doesn't diminish the requirement for the sea-based systems that you just mentioned. They're self-lifting. They have the ability to move into locations on short notice to provide defense. I think it's all part of the larger architecture that has to be in place to defend our homeland as well as our forces that are forward.
SEN. PRYOR: Well, one reason I asked that question is I noticed that, in terms of authorization, we've authorized 144 PAC IIIs. And we're capable of building that many. We have the capacity to do that. But I believe the current budget request is for only 108.
And so actually I plan on trying to get that increased up to the level that we had originally authorized, because, from everything I hear, you know, they work wonderfully. They're very proven. They're very good at what they do. So I just wanted to hear your comments on that. And I thought it was interesting; your testimony was very consistent with what my impression is.
Mr. Chairman, that's all I have.