Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming General Dunford and thank him for his continued willingness to serve.
General Dunford, you've done a great job leading our troops in Afghanistan during one of the most consequential periods of the war. With our Afghan partners, we are making important gains against the Taliban and are solidifying our progress in building the capacity of the Afghan security forces to defend their country.
Despite this progress, I'm still concerned about the future of Afghanistan. The recent agreement to perform a complete audit of the presidential runoff is encouraging, but the hard work is just beginning.
The Afghan people need to believe that the election is legitimate, or else the ability of the next president to govern effectively will be seriously undermined, which will threaten all that we've accomplished to date. The U.S. must do all it can to support this effort.
I remain deeply troubled by the President's plan to draw down our forces based on arbitrary timelines instead of the advice of our commanders and the facts on the ground. The President tried the same failed policies in Iraq in 2011 and we can't afford to repeat the same mistake in Afghanistan.
As Commandant, you'll take command of the Marine Corps as it is being challenged by rising global threats and a budgetary crisis at home. Budget cuts are degrading readiness and forcing a dangerous drop in end-strength levels, putting the force at greater risk.
General Amos has said that these budget cuts mean that "we will have fewer forces arriving less-trained, arriving later to the fight this is a formula for more American casualties." He's right and we need to do something about it.
The FY 15 budget request doesn't do enough to reverse this troubling trend. The Marine Corps is being forced to trade future readiness and infrastructure investments to address its current readiness crisis.