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SEN. LEVIN: Good morning, everybody. Today we have before our committee four of our combatant commanders for our annual posture review to discuss the issues and challenges confronting each of them. We welcome our witnesses today. Admiral Jim Stavridis is the commander of the U.S. Southern Command; General Gene Renuart is the commander of the U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command. We're joined also, of course, by General Kip Ward, commander of the U.S. Africa Command and General Duncan McNabb, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command.
Let me first express on behalf of our entire committee our gratitude for your service and for the service of the men and women that you lead. And I hope, and I know all of us feel the same way, that you will express to them our enormous respect and appreciation for their dedication to our nation and for the many sacrifices that they are willing to make on behalf of their fellow citizens.
Issues before the committee this morning run the gamut from transportation and supply routes to support U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and around the world to the threat posed by narcotics trade within our hemisphere to the defense of our homeland to how to best engage nations in Africa as they confront threats from non-state actors and the regional implications of failed or failing states.
Admiral Stavridis, the challenges that we face in our hemisphere are complex. The drug trade in South and Central America is booming, and the violence associated with the drug trade is migrating northward, as you know. President Chavez continues to work to undermine U.S. interests in the region and to do everything possible to maintain his own power, yet we continue to rely on his country for much of our nation's petroleum. We're also confronted with Iran's nascent and growing interest in the region. Your command has also seen gains over the past few years. Plan Colombia has enabled the Colombian government to expand security and government services to the farthest reaches of Colombia.
General Renuart, the brutal violence that we see in Mexico today reminds us of the situation that Colombia faced a decade ago. Nearly every week, we hear a report of a senior official in Mexico being killed in a brazen attack. The root cause of the violence in Mexico is the same as in Colombia -- criminal organizations using any means necessary to traffic illegal narcotics for enormous financial gain. The origin of these narcotics remains Colombia mainly, but the problems created from this trafficking run from Lima to Tijuana and America's southern border and northward.
Governors from our southern-border states are calling on the federal government to send troops to help defend against the possibility of this violence entering American communities. Following a trip to Mexico earlier this month, Admiral Mullen talked about a, quote, "shared responsibility" for the case of the crisis and said the United States had a shared responsibility to clean it up as well. The committee will be interested to hear how NORTHCOM is working with the Mexican military to help address this violence and how NORTHCOM and SOUTHCOM are working together along the seam of their respective commands to mitigate and deconflict our assistance programs.
Northern Command also has the responsibility for operating the Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile defense system deployed to the defend the United States against a potential ballistic missile attack from North Korea. The Pentagon's director of Operational Test and Evaluation recently wrote, and I quote, "GMD flight testing to date will not support a high degree of confidence in its limited capabilities," close quote. We are interested to hear from you, General Renuart, about the testing and the performance of that system, along with a number of other issues.
General Ward, the challenges on the African continent are staggering -- we don't have to tell you -- from the conflicts that rage across borders to fragile governments to nations where peacekeeping or peace-enforcing forces are the best and sometimes the only hope for security and stability. The terrorism threat from Africa and particularly the potential for havens and recruiting grounds for terrorists in ungoverned or under-governed areas are cause for deep concern. Last week before this committee, the Director of National Intelligence Blair described an al Qaeda-affiliated group as the, quote, "most active terrorist group in northwestern Africa," close quote, and assessed that it, quote, "represents a significant threat to U.S. and Western interests in the region."
The situation in West Africa is further complicated by the increased flow of narcotics from the SOUTHCOM AOR en route to Europe via West Africa. The consequences of cooperation between terrorists and traffickers of illegal narcotics is cause for great concern. We need to look no further than Colombia and the FARC in South America and Afghanistan and the Taliban in Central Asia to understand the importance of working with our partner nations to confront this threat.
General McNabb, TRANSCOM's planning role and preparations to support both the drawdown from Iraq and the buildup in Afghanistan will be critical issues in the coming 12 to 24 months. The committee is eager to hear from you on transportation and logistics risks associated with the shift of resources and personnel. With respect to supply routes into Afghanistan, in recent weeks, we have seen additional security and political pressure on the critical supply routes that run from Karachi, Pakistan up to the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan as well as the apparent decision by the government of Kyrgyzstan to deny U.S. forces use of the air base at Manas.
The committee would like to hear from you on TRANSCOM's role in helping to resolve these access and supply route challenges, also tell us if our allies are using or considering the use of Iran as a supply route. And we also hope that you'll explain to the committee the greatest risks to completing TRANSCOM's support missions and how you would propose to eliminate or to mitigate. And finally, given that our other witnesses are from geographical combatant commands, I hope that you will discuss TRANSCOM's support of SOUTHCOM, AFRICOM and NORTHCOM.
One last item. During the Director of National Intelligence Blair's testimony before this committee last week, all of us noted with great interest that he spoke of the risks associated with the current global economic downturn. We'd be interested in hearing from each of the witnesses about the impact of the economic downturn and in which nations you believe the risks to be most significant.
Our thanks, again, to each of our witnesses for your service to this nation and the service of the dedicated men and women who serve under your command.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I join you in welcoming our witnesses today. And I'd like to echo your thanks to the witnesses and the men and women, who serve under their command, for their distinguished service to our nation.
There's a number of important issues we hope our witnesses will address in this hearing.
General McNabb, as the United States increases significantly the size of its forces in Afghanistan, supply lines will obviously become even more important. It's been reported, for example, that the daily demand for truck deliveries into Afghanistan will increase by some 50 percent as an additional 17,000 troops deploy to the country. This increased demand comes at a time when our supply routes through Pakistan have grown increasingly dangerous and the government of Kyrgyzstan has evicted or announced the eviction of our forces for Manas Air Base.
Other possible supply routes are problematic, from those that would rely on Russian good will to a route that passes through Uzbekistan which evicted our forces from the K2 base following the Andijon massacre to an Iranian route which I understand some of our NATO allies are considering. General McNabb, I look forward to hearing your views on the viability of alternate supply routes and how we might deal with some of the problems they present.
I also hope we'll hear about TRANSCOM's plans for maintaining its air mobility readiness, especially your thoughts on recapitalization of the current KC-135 aerial refueling tanker. I'm troubled by recent reports that suggest some members of Congress have advocated statutorally directing a split buy between Boeing and Northrup Grumman. The replacement tanker decision must be based on a competitive process that provides a warfighter with the best possible tanker at the best possible cost to the taxpayer. Obviously, splitting this contract would have a dramatic increase in the cost to the taxpayer. So we don't need an expedient political decision that is totally impractical and inefficient.
There are a number of developments in our own hemisphere. For instance, Hugo Chavez offered an island base for Russian bombers. Reportedly, a Russian general suggested that Cuba could host its own Russian bombers. You know, Americans and, frankly, members of this committee are not quite understanding exactly what's going on here, and you'll help us separate rhetoric from reality, I'm sure.
On Sunday, El Salvador elected a new government. And while President Funes has so far shown no affinity for the likes of Hugo Chavez, change continues to sweep through Central and South America, change that can have a direct impact on the security of the United States. America's future is fundamentally tied to the stability, prosperity and security of our southern neighbors. The recent increase in violence along our southern border is perhaps the chief example of the interplay between our own security and that of our southern neighbors.
The recent increase in violence along our southern border is perhaps the chief example of the interplay between our own security and that of our southern neighbors. Today, Phoenix, Arizona is the kidnapping capital of America, and gangs that were born in El Salvador and Nicaragua wreak havoc in our nation's cities and towns.
Through the Merida Initiative with Mexico, and via our various security partnerships throughout the hemisphere, we must help our southern neighbors help themselves in a concerted effort to fight crime, stop drug trafficking and provide security for their people as well as ours.
In Africa, a continent rich in resources and talent, and yet rife with corruption, disease, poverty and civil unrest, the U.S. Africa Command faces unique challenges. The world and our government has long considered Africa largely a humanitarian mission, a matter of charity rather than opportunity. This needs to change. The 1998 bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya did much to remind us that our interests are intertwined with events in Africa and each year the distance between us seems to grow shorter.
From the (perils of policy ?) in the Gulf of Aden, to a terrorist sanctuary in Somalia, to the numerous conflicts that rage in Africa, we face real challenges in our security operations and partnerships there. I believe it's imperative for the United States to develop a comprehensive strategy toward the African Continent, one that integrates our security objectives with the development and democratic objectives that our best partners in Africa wish to attain.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator McCain.
Admiral Stavridis, why don't we start with you.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. ranking member, members of the distinguished committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today and talk a little bit about Latin America and the Caribbean, a region of the world that I think is not "America's backyard." That's probably the wrong expression. It's really part -- as Senator McCain just alluded to, a home that we share together here in the Americas, and what happens to the south of us will influence what happens here in our own nation, as we're seeing.
I'm very fortunate to be joined by three generals. As a Navy admiral, I always feel to have generals around me -- I feel a little safer, so three distinguished colleagues. Thanks for putting this hearing together, sir.
We had a good week at SOUTHCOM last week reflecting a good year. And what happened last week was we had three former U.S. hostages who had been held in Colombia for five-and-a-half years at Southern Command. They were there because they were rescued by the Colombian military in a very daring, audacious raid, which was a real example of the success of Plan Colombia and five-and-a-half years of the building of partnership capacity. So, I think Colombia is on the right track and I'd the chance to talk about that today.
Also, last year in SOUTHCOM we had the opportunity to send ships south to do not anything combative, but rather to do medical activities. We did 200,000 patient treatments all over the region from Kearsarge and Boxer. That builds on Comfort's voyage the previous year -- 400,000. We did 200,000 treatments ashore. This is all indicative of displaying the compassion, the competence and conducting great training for us down south -- a way that we can connect with this region.
We had a very robust year of military-to-military exercises, the largest military exercise in the world, in terms of number of countries participating. It's called PANAMAX, co-sponsored by Chile, Panama and the United States. Twenty-two countries participated last year.
We had many other exercises, with 15, 17, 19 different participants, focusing on everything from special operations to disaster relief. So, a very robust schedule of military-to-military contacts, and I feel that's a big part of what we need to do in this region to maintain this positive mil-to-mil connection wherever we can.
Of concern -- both the chairman and the ranking member have talked about the flow of narcotics moving from the Andean Ridge of South America; passing through the region that I focus on; up through Mexico, where my colleague, General Renuart, focuses -- a deep concern. Last year we were able to stop 230 tons of cocaine. But the challenges in this narcotics situation are both on the demand side here in the United States, but also working with partners, like Mexico and Central America through the Merida Initiative, which I support very strongly, and I'm sure General Renuart does as well.
A particular subset of that, I'd like to talk about today the rise of the use of semi-submersibles, which are submarine-like creations built in the jungles of the Andean Ridge of South America that can transport up to seven tons of cocaine -- a very difficult target for us. We're seeing many more of those. I talked about last year. We're focusing a lot of resources on interdicting those and working with our partners to do so.
I want to close by thanking the committee for its support on our new headquarters building, which is going up next to a rented facility we've had in Miami for about 10 years. This committee supported that, along with the House, and it's going strong and we appreciate that very much. I'll simply close by saying thank you to the committee for the terrific support on behalf of men and women of Southern Command. Again, I appreciate the opportunity to be with you today, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Admiral.
GEN. RENUART: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, members of the committee, it is a treat -- it really is a treat to be back with you this year. It's especially an honor and a privilege today to represent the men and women assigned to North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command.
It's important to express our gratitude to the members of the committee who have been such strong supporters of the men and women in uniform over the last year. We continue to serve proudly and we appreciate your support.
As commander of U.S. Northern Command, I'm assigned two missions: To defend the homeland against attack -- and so topics like the ground-based midcourse interceptors, topics like violence along the border, topics like partnering with my friend Jim Stavridis in the fight against narco-terrorism in our region, the movement of drugs, the support to law enforcement are all critical parts of our homeland defense mission, and I'm happy to talk about those topics with you today.
But also to make mention of our requirement to provide DOD support to civil authorities when Mother Nature takes a vote in the course of events in our country. And so I'm pleased to also to talk about issues like the Consequence Management Response Force that we've put on -- and funded and equipped and trained and evaluated and brought into service this year.
We're part of a combined team. It's a national response -- we coordinate with international, federal and state partners, with the governors and with the National Guards of each of the states, as well as the emergency managers. And that collaboration is a real success story this year and I'm happy to talk about the successes that we've seen there.
We train hard to execute our mission; we exercise with all of our partners in government; and we must be prepared to ensure that we never let the country down. Our Consequence Management Response Force is a great example of an interagency approach on how DOD can support in a large-scale, catastrophic nuclear, biological or chemical event.
Those who wish us harm have not gone away. The threat is real. It is there. They only have to be lucky once. We work 24 hours a day, seven days a week to ensure that that does not happen. We want to keep the momentum that we built. We want to remain alert, because the mission of protecting our families and our nation is the most important mission we have.
Chairman Levin, I appreciate the opportunity to spend time with you answering questions today. I look forward to that dialogue. Thank you very much for your support and that of the committee. I look forward to your questions.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you so much, General.
GEN. WARD: (Off mike.) Chairman Levin, Senator McCain, distinguished members of the committee, thanks for the opportunity to provide this overview of (your nation's military newest ?) -- (inaudible) --
SEN. LEVIN: Is your mike on, General?
GEN. WARD: It is now, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
GEN. WARD: Again, thank you for this opportunity to provide you this overview. Also with me today are Ms. Mary -- (inaudible) -- , from the Department of Commerce, who was a member of my staff; as well as Mr. Jerry Lanier from the Department of State. And I'm also honored to appear alongside my distinguished colleagues who provide such great, great collaborative efforts as we pursue our nation's security objectives.
Last year, sir, I talked to you about my plan to put a headquarters together. Today, United States Africa Command is executing our mission of conducting sustained security engagement through military-to-military programs and military-sponsored activities that are designed to promote a more stable and secure African environment. We work in concert with other U.S. government agencies and international partners to ensure that our activities are harmonized. Our strategy is based on military-to-military efforts to enhance the security capacity and capability of our African partners.
In many engagements with African leaders -- over my time as commander of United States Africa Command, and previously as deputy commander of the United States European Command, the consistent message they give me is for their intent for their nations to provide for their own security. Most welcome U.S. Africa Command's assistance in reaching their goals for security forces that are legitimate and professional; have the will and means to dissuade, deter and defeat transnational threats; perform with integrity; and are increasingly able to support the mission in support of international peace.
We work as a part of an overall U.S. government effort. We work closely with the departments of State, the chiefs of mission, and (country teams ?), the United States Agency for International Development, the departments of Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, Agriculture and other agencies doing work on the continent. And I fully support enhancements to the capabilities of our interagency team-mates.
Similarly, we reach out to international partners, including Europeans, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, private enterprises and academia. Their perspectives on the situation in Africa are valuable.
The US Africa Command is involved in military training, education, sustainment and logistics support -- among other activities -- throughout our area of responsibility.
The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, headquartered in Djibouti, conducts training, education and civil military assistance that helps prevent conflict and promote regional cooperation among nations of Eastern Africa.
Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara is the military component of the Department of State's counterterrorism partnership with North and West African nations. Africa Endeavor is an annual communications and interoperability exercise that this year will include 23 African nations.
We support the State Department's Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistant program that trains roughly 20 battalions of peacekeepers per year. The peacekeepers have been deployed on United Nations and African Union missions across the continent. We help the Rwandans deploy some of their cargo to the United Nation's mission in Darfur.
Continuing deployment of the Africa Partner Station provides training to the navies and coast guards of the maritime nations in the Gulf of Guinea and the east coast of East Africa -- helping them better secure their own territorial waters.
Given the lack of infrastructure within Africa and the island nations, our sustainment infrastructure, forward-operating sites and en route infrastructure are vital. I support upgrade projects supporting these infrastructure nodes. The enduring presence at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti makes possible our engagement in deep Africa and other parts of the continent, and supports our U.S. security goals in the region.
It is my honor to serve with our uniformed men and women and as well as our civilian men and women of the Department of Defense, including our interagency teammates who are making a difference on the continent each and every day. Their dedicated efforts are a testament to the spirit and determination to the American people and our commitment to contributing to the well being and security of our nation and the people of Africa.
I thank you for your support to this endeavor, and I too look forward for this opportunity to provide you additional information.
Thank you very much.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you so much, General Ward.
GEN. MCNABB: (Off mike.)
SEN. LEVIN: Put your mike on, please. You need your mike.
GEN. MCNABB: -- and distinguished members of the committee, it is indeed my privilege to be with you today representing the men and women of U.S. Transportation Command -- more than 136,000 of the world's finest logistics professionals.
This total force team of active duty, Guard, Reserve, civilian, contractors and commercial partners enable the combatant commanders -- such as General Ward, General Renuart and Admiral Stavridis -- to succeed anywhere in the world by providing them unmatched strategic lift and end-to-end global distribution.
And this committee is well aware that it is our great people that get it done. It is our logistics professionals, using newly developed supply routes through the northern distribution network supporting Operation Enduring Freedom -- and Senator Levin and Senator McCain, you both asked me about that. And I look forward to going over that with you.
It is our total force aircrews flying combat approaches on night- vision goggles or air dropping supplies to our troops in Afghanistan. It is our air refueling -- crews delivering 5 million pounds of fuel every day, at night, in the weather extending the reach of our joint force and coalition partners.
With maintenance teams in aerial quarters behind them, these crews execute more than 900 sorties a day -- that's a take off and landing every 90 seconds, sometimes in the most austere places like Antarctica or the most dangerous like a forward-operating base under fire in Afghanistan.
It is our merchant mariners and military and civilian port operators loading, offloading and sailing more than 35 ships every day in support of the warfighter. It is our terminal operators moving thousands of containers, domestic freight and railcar shipments, pushing warfighters and their vital supplies to the fight.
It is our contingency response groups and port opening experts arriving first to open up the flow in contingency or disaster relief operations in support of the combatant commanders.
It is our commercial airlift and sealift partners standing beside us, opening new avenues of supply into Afghanistan or supporting the nation in times of surge.
It is our medical crews and critical care teams attending to our wounded warriors -- rapidly delivering them from the battlefield to the finest world-class care on the planet saving lives and families at the same time.
And it is our crews bringing back fallen comrades -- transporting heroes dressed in our nation's colors -- Americans returning with dignity to our country which owes them so much.
It is this logistics team working from home and abroad that gives our nation unrivaled global reach, committed to serving our nation's warfighters by delivering the right stuff to the right place at the right time. Whether sustaining the fight, providing disaster relief to friends in need or moving six brigades simultaneously, we are there.
Chairman Levin, your support and the support of this committee has been instrumental in providing the resources our team needs to win and I thank you. You have given us the large, medium speed roll- on/roll-off ships and supported upgrades to our ready reserve fleet, all of which have been key to our success over the last seven years. And the new joint high-speed vessels will give us even greater flexibility.
The C-130J and the C-17 have come of age since 9/11 and have allowed us to change how we support the combatant commanders by the air. The current C-5, C-130 and KC-10 modernization programs will also make an enormous difference in our capability and reliability to support the warfighter.
My top priority remains the recapitalization of our aging tanker fleet. The KC-X will be a game changer. It's value as a tanker will be tremendous. It's value as a multi-role platform to the mobility enterprise will be incomparable. It will be do for the whole mobility world what the C-17 did for theater and strategic airlift. It will be an ultimate mobility force multiplier.
Chairman Levin, Senator McCain, I'm grateful to you and the committee for inviting me to appear before you today. I respectfully request my written testimony be submitted for the record and I look forward to your questions.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
All the testimonies will be made part of the record. We'll have a first round of seven minutes.
First to you, Admiral Stavridis: Secretary Gates, in his testimony before this committee in January, expressed some real concern about Iranian subversive activity -- in his words. He went on to say that Iranians are opening a lot of offices and a lot of fronts behind which they interfere in what is going on in some of these countries -- referring to Latin American countries.
Can you tell us -- give us your assessment on Iranian intent and activities? What is the attitude of governments in Latin America relative to Iranian activities? And also, do you see any connection between the Iranians and the drug trade?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir.
First of all, we have seen -- as Secretary Gates said -- an increase of a wide level of activity by the Iranian government in this region to include opening six embassies in the last five years, beginning to work in proselytizing in working with Islamic activities throughout the region.
That is of concern, principally because of the connection between the government of Iran, which is a state sponsor of terrorism and Hezbollah. We see a great deal of Hezbollah activity throughout South America in particular. Tri-border area of Brazil is of particular concern as in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, as well as parts of Brazil and in the Caribbean Basin.
So this connection between Hezbollah activity, the known connection between the government of Iran and Hezbollah and the increasing activities of Iran throughout the region are a matter of concern for us. And I could provide additional information for the record on that.
SEN. LEVIN: And any connection to the drug trade that you've seen?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes. We have seen in Colombia a direct connection between Hezbollah activity and the narco-trafficking activity. And again, I'll be glad to provide the specifics on that for the record.
SEN. LEVIN: Admiral, give us an up-to-date assessment of the FARC in Colombia -- the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia, the FARC. And as our security assistance to Colombia declines, as planned, into the coming years, are the Colombians ready to operate successfully with less U.S. military assistance and advisers?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, the success of Plan Colombia over the past 10 years has been notable. I believe it has contributed to a diminution of the FARC from a high of about 18,000 members to about 9,000 or less today. It has contributed to the elimination of three of the key leaders of the FARC over the last year, to the rescue of the three U.S. hostages I alluded to, along with about a dozen other high-valued political hostages who were rescued in that same raid.
Kidnappings are down 80 percent, murders are down 60 percent, acts of terrorism are down 70 percent. The government and the military of Colombia enjoy very high approval ratings by the people of Colombia. FARC's approval rating is somewhere below 2 percent, as opposed to, for example, the army's approval rating, which is over 70 percent.
So I would say the assistance of Plan Colombia over the past 10 years -- bipartisan effort -- has been very successful in helping the Colombia people to achieve the success that they have achieved on their own.
In terms of, are they ready? I believe that they are. I am a believer that we can now begin to move the dial, if you will, from the hard power side of the equation to the soft power side of the equation in Colombia because of the capability that's been achieved by the Colombian armed forces, with some U.S. assistance over this past period, sir.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you.
General Renuart, the director of Operational Test and Evaluation recently wrote, quote, "GMD flight testing to date will not support a high-level of confidence in its limited capabilities," closed quote.
Do you agree that it is important to address the concerns raised by the director of Operational Test and Evaluation about the GMD system?
GEN. RENUART: Senator Levin, I absolutely agree that we have to continue a robust test schedule, and I believe that the Missile Defense Agency has that kind of a schedule on tap. I spoke in some detail to the director of the operational test and evaluation organization after his statement. Two things struck me. First, he understands that it is important for us to continue aggressive testing and that, up-to-date against the test regimen that is put in place, we have had success. He would comment that high degree or low degree is a subjective view, so I would maybe add a couple comments of my assessment.
Over the last 11 tests we've had seven direct hits and while certainly there were some misses early on, I participated directly in the last three tests, each of which were successful. There were some comments in the report that the last test was supposed to have a decoy as part of that. The test vehicle did not adequately deploy the decoy but the ground based mid-course interceptor, in fact, was successful in finding and having a direct hit on the reentry vehicle.
So I continue to believe that the operational capability is good -- I do believe. And we're working very aggressively with the Missile Defense Agency to continue this test regimen to increasingly include all of the elements of the missile defense system -- the SBX radar, the forward-based X-band system, and to continue to make the test as realistic as possible.
SEN. LEVIN: General, the last time we met, you noted that we've had periods of constructive dialogue and cooperation with Russia over many years. Do you believe it makes sense now to pursue such engagement and cooperation with Russia on security matters, including the following -- notification of Russian bomber flights; and second, the possibility of cooperation on missile defense efforts?
GEN. RENUART: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I think we have had success in the past with military-to-military dialogue with the Russians. I think that there is a real place for that dialogue in the future. I think Secretary Gates has continued to maintain the position that this dialogue is important to our national security.
With respect to the Russian bombers, the committee members may know that just prior to the Russian action in Georgia last summer, the Russians, in fact, filed a flight plan on one of their long range training missions that was going to come into the Alaska region. We welcomed that, had direct communication with the commander of the Russian long range aviation, creating the means to do that and continue that in the future. We hope he will return to that direct dialogue.
We've collaborated on counterterrorism exercises with the Russians. Sadly, that exercise did not go as a result of the Russian activity this past summer. But we look forward to the opportunity to reopen that and I know both the secretary of State and secretary of Defense are actively working with the Russians to reopen that dialogue.
SEN. LEVIN: And on the possibility of cooperation on missile defense?
GEN. RENUART: Well, Mr. Chairman, I think there are some significant discussions that need to occur and policy decisions made by the administration but we think that there certainly is the opportunity for increased collaboration and confidence-building in the missile defense area.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much. Senator McCain?
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you Mr. Chairman.
General McNabb, in my opening statement I mentioned the increasing difficulties plus compounded by the 17,000, at least, additional troops complicates our supply efforts as you well know to further our effort in Afghanistan. Unfortunately in Afghanistan we don't have a convenient neighbor like Kuwait to provide us with -- I think, one of the most underestimated aspects of their conflict in Iraq was the assistance that the Kuwaiti government provided us with. Give us -- and I don't have many minutes -- a thumbnail sketch of the challenge and how you expect for us to meet it?
GEN. MCNABB: Senator McCain, the big part that we want to do on the supply chain is to make sure you have lots of options so you have lots of ways to get in there so you're not relying on any one of those. As you said, Afghanistan --
SEN. MCCAIN: And we just lost one in Kyrgyzstan.
GEN. MCNABB: Yes sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: Right.
GEN. MCNABB: And as you look at that, what you want to do is to make sure that, as I told General Petraeus, we will be there. We'll figure out and make sure that you never have to worry about this. You're exactly right about Afghanistan, land-locked; you probably couldn't ask for -- or find a tougher place from a logistics challenge of getting the stuff in. Obviously, we've been relying on air and that logistic line coming up from Karachi up from the south through Pakistan into Afghanistan.
What we're trying to do, in conjunction with state department and with OSD and with -- and basically CENTCOM and UCOM is to establish with, in the north, with the different nations up there to say who is interested in helping us support Afghanistan? Who's interested in peace and stability in that region? And what we've found was that a number of countries said we would be in favor of that. We've offered that we would use normal commercial means, their normal commercial rail and trucks, and we would use our normal commercial partner companies that would help do that to bring the stuff in from the north.
We've got 738 containers in the northern distribution network right now and the first 90 have been delivered to Kabul. So we are getting things down through the north. That again just offers another option --
SEN. MCCAIN: What percentage of that is your monthly supply?
GEN. MCNABB: Yes sir. If you looked at what we need to do to hold our own -- and you mentioned the 50 percent increase -- if we sit right now, if we average 78 containers a day getting into Afghanistan we kind of hold our own -- the days of supplies and so forth. As you say, that will go up as the 17,000 folks go in. Right now we average -- or weekly average had been holding at about 130 to 140 containers a day getting through there. So we're getting more in than we need.
What we hope is to be able to bring in about 100 containers from the north a day to supplement the pack lock so we have lots of options to get the stuff in.
SEN. MCCAIN: I'd be very interested in seeing how you're going to do that in light of the base closure and the other increased security threats -- particularly using commercial operations, given what we know is going to be an escalation in threats to those supply lines.
Admiral, Phoenix, Arizona was just designated the kidnapping capital of the United States -- I'm sure you may have seen that. There is a level of violence on the border that I've never seen before. Obviously it spills over into the United States from time to time and there's even greater threat that spills over even more. There's been calls by governors, including the governor of Texas just last week, to send more troops to the border and we have mounted this massive effort -- yet my information is the price of an ounce of cocaine in the street in the United States remains the same.
Maybe you can give us an assessment of the situation of where you think it's leading and whether you think we need additional troops along the United States-Mexican border; and your assessment of whether the Mexican government is winning or losing in this existential struggle with the drug cartels?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Let me -- if I could, sir, also get General Renuart into this conversation as Mexico is part of his --
SEN. MCCAIN: We'd be very interested into -- you too, general.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes sir. You're absolutely right that it's part of a connection that flows from the south. So I'll submit for the record on the price of cocaine; I'll find out exactly what that is. I believe in the United States the price of cocaine has actually gone up a little bit over the last year or two -- although there are some indications that because of the movement of cocaine to Europe via Africa, as a matter of fact -- so the point is extremely well taken.
As I look at Central America and the nexus between Central America and Mexico, I feel it is crucially important that we, the United States, be very involved both with our Central American partners and, specifically, with our Mexican friends in that zone of violence along the northern tier where I think 6,000 people were killed last year just south of that border and, most shockingly perhaps, about 700 Mexican law enforcement and military personnel.
So I'm very hopeful that by military-to-military cooperation in Central America -- and I'll let Gene address military-to-military with Mexico, we can be helpful as the security forces of those countries seek to appropriately deal with the threat that they're dealing with. With that, I'm going to let Gene comment on the Mexican portion of your question, sir.
SEN. MCCAIN: And also, general, part of your answer to the question, if you would include the aspect of the price of cocaine?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely. We'll add that to the record in our answer as well. My perception is, with Jim Stavridis, that the price has marginally increased -- a lot of complications --
SEN. MCCAIN: First of all, is the Mexican government winning or losing?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I would say that the Mexican government is taking aggressive action to win; they are building momentum. I would not say they are losing. Now that will sound a little unusual, given the violence we've seen but my direct interaction with both the senior leaders in the Mexican military has left me with the perception that President Calderon has given very specific guidance to the military to be much more aggressive in their presence.
SEN. MCCAIN: How important has been the Merida Initiative?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I can't tell you how important that is.
That is a huge effort. The Mexicans see that as a real outreach and partnership and -- and it is making a difference in the confidence. We are working with Defense Security Cooperation Agency to accelerate the deliveries of some of those capabilities and --
SEN. MCCAIN: Do you think that the Mexican government is making any progress in addressing the issue of corruption that goes to the highest levels?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I do believe they are. I'll give you an example. In Juarez where we've seen this violence, the Mexican government has put nearly 10,000 military and federal police, all who have been vetted, into the region. They've taken the local police out of their responsibility and supplemented or replaced them with -- with federal forces. That is beginning to return to some sense of normalcy in Juarez but they are also going through a long-term process to vet each of the -- the federal police and local police leaders. So I think they're making progress.
SEN. MCCAIN: And they're effective, the Mexican military?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, they have been very effective when they've been in place. The challenge for the Mexican government is that -- its sustainment of that effort because their military is not that large. So we're working with them in a direct relationship to build more of the capacity to allow them to sustain that effort in some of these cities.
SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator McCain. Senator Lieberman?
SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (ID-CT): Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Thanks to all of you for your service and leadership to our country. I want to continue, General, with this line of questioning. As you've said in your statement, homeland defense is the preeminent mission of the two commands that you lead. Let me ask you to indicate to us how much of a threat to our homeland security -- (inaudible) -- of you drug- related violence from Mexico.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, thank you, and I'll go back to Senator McCain's comment. Phoenix is a good example of -- of the -- the nexus between the drug trade and gangs, all of which are in a, if you will, a business to make money with illicit trade, and we are seeing -- as there is pressure brought to bear in the efforts between both of our commands to reduce the flow of drugs we're seeing more aggressive behavior on the part of the cartels and then their related gangs here north of the border. And so it is a real concern for security in our country. I am pleased with the interface that we have both with (Jim's folks ?) in the interdiction piece and ours but also our partnership with law enforcement to help bolster their efforts along the border. But it is a real concern.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Can you describe for the committee some of the things that troops under your command, the Northern Command, are doing now to deter and prevent drug-related violence from Mexico?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely, and I must say right up front that it is a partnership between the National Guard and the Northern Command team --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Right.
GEN. RENUART: -- who work this daily with each other. But for example, we are -- in the area of mil-to-mil with the Mexican government we are providing training for some of their unique force capabilities that allow them to conduct raids on some of the cartels --
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay.
GEN. RENUART: -- seizing weapons, for example. We are providing technology to Customs and Border and other law enforcements to identify tunnels that may have been dug underneath the border.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: And those are technologies that we've developed in combat situations around the world.
GEN. RENUART: Absolutely. Great transfer from Afghanistan into our southwest border.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay.
GEN. RENUART: We have -- we man and operate a series of sensors along the border -- cameras, listening posts, et cetera -- aerial vehicles both manned and unmanned with night vision capability, again, to provide that information to law enforcement authorities who then conduct the appropriate operations. We think we can continue and expand that. We have a planning team in place today at the Department of Homeland Security looking at just this kind of additional support -- both Guard, Reserve, and active component -- and partnering with the law enforcement agencies and the states to ensure that the governors get the kind of support they feel they need.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Okay. That -- that's encouraging and I was -- you anticipated my next question. I know because many of us here on the Homeland Security Committee as well at the Department of Homeland Security is now focused on this threat and to our homeland security from drug-related violence from Mexico and they have developed plans for a reaction to any escalation of the violence. So I'm glad you're working together with them. Let me ask a couple of specific questions about that. As you know, at least one of the governors in the Southwest has suggested that there ought to be National Guard now placed along the border. What -- what do you think about that?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I think certainly there -- there may be a need for additional manpower. Whether that is best suited or best provided by National Guard or additional law enforcement agencies I think this planning team will really lead us to, I think. Certainly there are capabilities that the National Guard uses -- for example, some of their aircraft that have the full motion video capability that are helpful to Customs and Border. But I think defining the -- the mission for all forces, the team along the border is critical and we've -- this -- this planning effort this week I think will give us a good way to answer the questions and concerns of the governors.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: So -- so it's a little bit early to answer the question specifically. You sound a bit skeptical about just placing Guard on the border but rather use Guard and active resources together with our partners.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely. This is an -- this is a whole government problem and -- and I think the best response is an integrated approach and we're working towards that aggressively.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: And -- and you're working on a plan on that. Now, that -- that was actually going to get to my next question which is are -- are there -- is there a trigger in your mind now for -- for what kind of escalation of violence from drug-related activities from Mexico would bring Northern Command more actively involved in this battle?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I think we've had the trigger. It -- use the example of the city of Juarez and Chihuahua Province in Mexico -- 1,700 drug-related murders in the last year. And so that kind of violence that close to our border I think was the -- the sounding horn, if you will, on the need for an integrated approach and so we have been working at a -- at a constant level over time. I think the highlight of this kind of violence and the proximity to our borders elevates the necessity to work aggressively and I think both Secretary Gates and Secretary Napolitano understand that and have given us all mandates to work this problem aggressively and I think we'll have good plans come out of this work this week.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: I appreciate it. You know, I'm -- I'm very grateful for the work that has been done at the Northern Command to improve our homeland security since 9/11. We usually at these hearings ask only about the current threats but I want to just ask you to take a minute to talk about what under your command we have done since then to -- in terms of aviation security -- that is, security to the American people from a threat from the air -- and also to just say a word about the Consequence Response Management Force that you're standing up. I bet most members of -- most people in the country, probably most members of Congress don't know about it but it's been critically important.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, thank you for that. Two points -- first, on September 11th, the air picture that NORAD looked at to defend our nation looked outwards, away from our borders. The air picture the FAA looks at every day to control traffic was essentially inward, although certainly they do have the approaches. But the two pictures weren't married together. We didn't have an FAA representative in our operations center on September 11th. TSA did not exist. Today, we collaboratively with the FAA look at every one of the 7,000 plus aircraft that are airborne in this -- at this minute today around our country.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: And that's commercial, military, and most private?
GEN. RENUART: Yes, sir. And -- and if one of them deviates from the appropriate procedures -- radio, what have you -- that is highlighted both to the FAA and to NORAD immediately and we are able to then use some of those alert aircraft that we have now around the country in many more locations than we've ever had before to identify this particular aircraft and determine its intentions and then take some action should it be required.
So we've come a long way since those days on September 11th -- (inaudible). With respect to the Consequence Management Force, I think September 11th alerted us that we needed to have a capability if -- if an event like that were taken to a higher level -- nuclear, biological, or chemical. Secretary Gates has been aggressive in -- in both mandating a mission for me and our commands but also funding and allowing us to equip a Consequence Management Response Force that's designed against a catastrophic event such as a nuclear, biological, or radiological event in our country.
That force -- the first of those forces stood up on October 1st fully funded, fully equipped, fully trained, and exercised. In fact, we just completed an -- what's called an emergency deployment exercise this past week down at Camp Blanding in Florida. It is a superbly trained force that can allow us to come in and augment existing nuclear, biological, chemical capabilities. The states have a small civil support team. The regions -- there are 17 kind of regional Consequence Response Forces, much smaller, only about 200 people.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: This -- this force is over 4,000 --
GEN. RENUART: It is. Senator, our force is about 4,600 to 4,800 depending on the units assigned. It's designed to come in to provide a response. It's not a law enforcement force. It is a response force to provide medical care, decontamination, urban search and rescue, and those kinds of capabilities to sustain over time in one of these events.
SEN. LIEBERMAN: Thank you very, very much. That -- that should make all of us feel more secure.
GEN. RENUART: Thank you, Senator.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Lieberman. Senator Inhofe?
SEN. INHOFE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let me first of all ask Admiral Stavridis and General Ward a question, and I've talked to you personally about my interest in the various train-and-equip programs, 1206, 1207, 1208, CERP program and then the expansion of that in the CCIF as to how they're progressing and how valuable they are to your commands.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, very valuable. Anything that builds partnership capacity is of terrific value in this world to the south. Just to pick up a thread from Gene Renuart and Senator Lieberman's conversation a moment ago about what specifically are we doing about the situation not only in Mexico but in Central America, it's good to remember the Merida Initiative provides funds not just for Mexico but for Central America, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. So these maritime approaches can be addressed using the kind of funding that you just talked about. We use some of those to help our partner nations equip themselves with better radars, intercept -- (inaudible) -- a night-vision-detection capability, command and control. So it all fits together in how we establish a pattern of stopping this flow of narcotics and allowing our partner nations to know what's in the water around them. That's one specific example.
Another is the hostage rescue in Colombia was something that could not have been done without that partnership in the past.
SEN. INHOFE: Thank you, Admiral.
GEN. WARD: Senator, I concur. Those programs that deal with training and equipping our partner nations to better enable them to conduct counterterror activities, to have better abilities to control their internal border are very valuable. The equipment pieces, including things such as mentioned by Admiral Stavridis, the information systems, the radar systems, the equipment pieces that go to their mobility requirements inland as well as things that they do in their coastal territorial waters have been very instrumental in increasing their capacity to take care of those challenges. So likewise, those programs for us for building capacity as well as for -- (inaudible).
SEN. INHOFE: I would also say, and I notice in your written statement -- I actually read it -- you talked about the fact that in the IMET program, of the 52 countries, you now feel that there will be 46 of those countries by the end of this fiscal year that will be participating in that.
GEN. WARD: Yes, sir. The IMET program that we have, we anticipate 46 of those countries that will participate in IMET. The International Military Education and Training program, I think, provides long-term benefits for our national interests as well as transforming those militaries in positive ways.
SEN. INHOFE: Yeah. And you agree with that, I assume, Admiral?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I do. And in particular, we like to use those IMET funds at WHINSEC which is a very valuable institute for us.
SEN. INHOFE: Yea. You know, once there was a time when we thought we were doing them a favor in this program. But we quickly learned that once they are tied into us and that kind of relationship that remains.
General Ward, there are a lot of problems that people don't really think about. Everyone's familiar with Sudan, and everyone's familiar with the pirating off the east coast and such things as the LRA, Lord's Resistance Army. Right now, in my opinion, we have the three presidents that are in agreement with each other and are all trying to work on this guy Joseph Kony. Do you want to tell us how that's coming along and how significant you think that is to do something about that particular person Joseph Kony and his LRA program?
GEN. WARD: That part of the continent, the heartland as many Africans describe it, the eastern Congo, a long-time area where the internal strife has been affecting neighbors, the fact that Uganda, Rwanda and Congo came together to look at a way to deal with the problem of the LRA and Kony and the affect they were having on the population is very substantial. It has been positive insofar as disrupting the activity of Kony. It's been positive in addressing some the training and recruiting practices that he and his element had performed in that part of the Congo. The degree of cooperation continues amongst those relations, and we look for that to continue to make a positive difference in that part of the continent.
SEN. INHOFE: I think that is a huge success. You know, we had President Museveni and Kagame both having military backgrounds. There's a little bit of a problem with them getting along with each other now with Kabila, they are cooperating now, and I'm glad to hear that progress is being made.
In Zimbabwe, you spent a lot of time in your written statement on that or didn't mention Mugabe. They're currently trying to work out a program where he had the opposition, very similar to Burundi working together. Do you think that might work? Do you think Mugabe might work in that program and getting cooperation?
GEN. WARD: I hesitate to say. I don't know. But I think, clearly, the initiative that's under way with that potential being there is a positive development. And I would certainly look forward to something positive coming from this arrangement that Mugabe and -- (inaudible) -- have put in place.
SEN. INHOFE: Okay. Let me ask a question of you, General Renuart. You might be the best one. I'm not sure. Maybe some of the rest of you have some ideas. It's been five years now since we lost the battle of Viegas. At that time, I can remember when General -- (inaudible) -- was actually testifying before this committee where he threatened the lives of some people you're looking at right now.
We had made the statement that they close down that particular facility that offered a type of training that, in my opinion, I think most of you would agree with this, couldn't be replaced anywhere else. Now as we anticipated, since it is closed, they are now coming back, the very people who wanted it closed in the first place and are saying, is there any way in the world we can get this thing opened back up and use this facility? I know it's not a question anyone would anticipate. But do you have any thoughts on that?
GEN. RENUART: Senator --
SEN. INHOFE: Can it be resurrected?
GEN. RENUART: (Laughs.) I'm probably not the right person to tell you specifically on the capacity to resurrect that training. I will say that we have recently moved the islands of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands into the NORTHCOM area of interest. And on my first visits down there, it was clear to me that one of the challenges that we have is to continue to extend the visibility of our homeland further to the southeast, in areas of detection of illicit trade and trafficking, significant human trafficking area there, certainly also in the area of air sovereignty and air defense, as we saw the participation, as Senator McCain mentioned, of Russian bombers in the region.
And so I think there is an opportunity for us on a small basis to put some capacity into that area that maybe hasn't been there in quite a while and that could be integrated into our national homeland defense system. And so we are looking to work with both the Navy and the National Guard to see how we might take advantage of some of the systems and equipment that is still in place in the Viegas area. I might defer to Jim Stavridis for a Navy view on this.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I think you've got it exactly right. And I wouldn't speak for the Navy. I'm a joint officer like everybody else up here, so I'll be glad to take that one back to my good friend Admiral Roughead. I think he'd be interested in looking at that. Viegas, as you know, was the crown jewel of maritime training at one time.
SEN. INHOFE: Well, if you would do that, I would appreciate it.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir. We'll collaborate and get you a common answer to that, Senator. Yes, sir.
SEN. INHOFE: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Inhofe.
SEN. JACK REED (D-RI): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General McNabb, roughly what percentage of contract airlift do you depend upon? And how cost-effective and efficient do you think it is? And does it depend in the area of operations, changing from one theater to another?
GEN. MCNABB: Senator Reed, we have the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, as you know. And we depend on that when it's, you know, fully up to be about 30 percent to almost 90 percent of the movement of passengers, but 30 percent of the cargo which is the bulk cargo. Today, I would say during normal operations we do about $500 million worth of business; today we do about $2.5 billion worth of business with them. They have been very instrumental in our ability to both resupply Iraq and Afghanistan. We do have cargo missions go directly into Afghanistan, which has really helped free up things like Manas. As we do options, we make sure that we do that.
The Civil Reserve Air Fleet, the one issue is the fact that you've got to really look hard at the threat to see if you can operate forward. If you can't take it in there, you have to stop at an intermediate base and then transload to a C-17, C-5, 130, and that's the portion that, obviously, we look at.
As we think about Manas, I'd say that it's useful but not essential because we just need to make sure that we have bases that are in the there close, something that CENTCOM's looking very closely at, other places where we can bed down airplane. Obviously, if we could keep Manas, that would be great. If not, we do have other options.
I would say that we depend, too, a great deal on moving the cheapest possible way to move bulk cargo, that's pallet-sized cargo, is on the Civil Reserve Air Fleet.
SEN. REED: General Ward, your command, does it rely ostensibly on contract air lift, or are you directly supported by military aircraft?
GEN. WARD: We are directly supported by military aircraft, Senator. We do use some contract aircraft, but we are directly supported by military.
SEN. REED: Are you concerned, the general concern, that there are some operations that might be tactical in nature that this contract aircraft wouldn't be suitable for? Is that a concern that you have?
GEN. WARD: Not at this time.
SEN. REED: Okay. Thank you very much.
Admiral Stavridis, you mentioned the three -- tri -- border area, can you generally describe the level of unit that you have there? Do you have, do you think, good insights into what's going on there or is that an issue of concern?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, we have good coordination with the three national partners who are in that region, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. And via their capability, we then receive a reasonable level of Humint in that area. But we don't have SOUTHCOM and I don't feel the need for it as long as we work well with our partners in that region.
SEN. REED: General Renuart, have you received comments or complaints from the government of Mexico that some of these bands are being supplied with weapons from the United States?
GEN. RENUART: Yes, Senator. In fact from the very first meeting I had with both General Galvan and Admiral Saynez, the leaders of their military, they mentioned the very large percentage of weapons that are captured in that area seem to come from the United States, and that message has been continuous and loud. I think it was brought up to the president when he and President Calderon visited. Certainly it was brought up to Admiral Mullen when he visited with General Galvan just a week or so ago.
It is a principle concern -- not all of these weapons directly come from the United States but in many cases are brokered by illicit weapons dealers that do reside here. And I know that there -- our law enforcement partners have had some success and are continuing to work that aggressively.
SEN. REED: But do you --
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Can I add sir that --
SEN. REED: Yes.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: -- I get the same thing in Guatemala, in Honduras, in El Salvador, in Nicaragua, the same weapons are flowing from the United States through Mexico and down to Central America. So I too, receive that comment and I associate myself with Gene's remarks.
SEN. REED: Do you gentlemen think it's troubling that countries that we see as, in some cases, teetering on the edge of stability point to -- and I presume you think he's -- accurately pointing to the fact that one of the greatest threats that was coming from weapons that are flowing, it seems with great numbers into these countries from the United States?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir, I do. And I think that -- I know that our diplomats like Ambassador Tom Shannon over at the State Department are working hard on this and I think it's something we should try and address.
SEN. REED: Let me, General Renuart, please.
GEN. RENUART: Yes, Senator, just if I could add a point. There are and continue to have -- be more successes in this regard. For a period of time it was difficult to get what I'll call the forensics of these weapons captures back from the Mexicans. After some active intervention with their leadership, we are now getting much more of that information and that is allowing us to begin to take some -- us meaning the interagency -- legal action here in the U.S. with some success.
So we're building confidence now with our partner, at least in Mexico and I think in the other countries as well, that we'll actually sort of do something about it if they continue to share information.
SEN. REED: Let me just -- a final point on this is that our allies in this effort cite the situation of easy access to firearms in the United States as a major threat to their stability and consequently as a major national security threat to the United States.
GEN. RENUART: I think that view is held by our friends in Mexico and in Central America. It is concerning that that's a threat to them and certainly the violence that is brought from this cross-border flow of money and guns, generally south, narcotics, generally north is finding its way into this kind of gang violence and other things we see in places like Phoenix.
SEN. REED: Just a final point. Do you think this -- the perception that this problem exists in any way inhibits the ability or the willingness of these governments to cooperate with the United States?
GEN. RENUART: No, sir, in fact I find it one of the ways that they would like to cooperate more, at least in --
SEN. REED: They would like us to do more?
GEN. RENUART: Yes.
SEN. REED: Yeah.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I agree with that.
SEN. REED: Thank you. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much. Senator Reed, Senator Collins.
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Renuart, I want to ask you about a study by the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves that you and I have discussed before. It was released last year and it asserted that there is, quote, "an appalling gap in our nation's ability to respond to the use of a weapon of mass destruction on our soil".
You've talked this morning in response to questions from Senator Lieberman about the standing up of a 4,000-member consequence management response team. And that is certainly great progress. But as I recall the report, it was very critical of how these teams were going to be put together and whether one team would be sufficient; I believe that the report actually called for three such teams.
We're now a year later. What is your assessment of our ability to respond to the use of a weapon of mass destruction? Let me ask more specifically, what is your assessment now in responding to the commission saying that there is this appalling gap?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, thanks. I think I can very confidently say that the wording used by that commission doesn't exist, the situation doesn't exist today.
First, in terms of the ability to plan and integrate together the National Guard bureau and Northern Command are integrated in a way never before in history. We collaborate on every planning effort. I mentioned to Senator Lieberman that we were at DHS today working on Mexico border security planning and we are there in partnership with the National Guard Bureau.
As you know, each state has a small civil support team that allows them to assess a nuclear/biological/chemical event, but not a lot of muscle to do much about that.
SEN. COLLINS: Those are very small.
GEN. RENUART: They are small, about 22 people. In addition, there are 17 so-called CERF-Ps and they're another response team built within the National Guard, they're spread around the country, and I monitor the readiness of each of those. But they are also relatively small, about 200 or so people. They do have an ability to do consequence management but on a smaller scale. As you mentioned, we have the first of three planned, consequence management response forces, now fully trained and equipped. We are building the second one as we speak. It will be operational on the first of October of this year. And as you mentioned from the report, we have a tasking from the secretary of Defense to build three of these teams total.
And so we'll build the third in the next year. That will allow us something on the order of about 16,000 trained and equipped individuals, teams, organizations, capable of responding to a large scale event.
All of this is an integrated approach, and so that it's not replacing something the state has, it's augmenting it and supplementing it. We are now building a collaborative planning process to be able to go from very small to very large with the appropriate size force to provide assistance to FEMA and to the governor and the states.
So I'm very pleased with the progress and I think that if that report were written today, it wouldn't even mention that.
SEN. COLLINS: That's great news. Nevertheless, General Blum who's now your deputy I believe and was the head of the National Guard bureau testified in the past that 88 percent of the Army National Guard was very poorly equipped. And in a hearing before our Homeland Security Committee in July of 2007, I asked General Blum whether that lack of resources was adequate to respond to a catastrophic event and he testified that in a no notice event, which obviously is what a terrorist attack would be, we are at risk, we are at significant risk.
Well it's now about a year-and-a-half later since he gave that very sobering assessment. Is the National Guard now sufficiently equipped so that we're no longer at significant risk in your view?
GEN. RENUART: Well my good friend Craig McKinley now the new four star chief of the National Guard bureau, I'm pleased to say, I think would echo my comments. But my assessment is for the areas of homeland security that you've described, that the National Guard is equipped at better rates than they've ever seen in their past. And it varies with each state, so I won't give you a specific percentage. I can get that and add that to the record if you'd like.
But we also sponsor a reserve component advocacy working group at our headquarters that gets just to this issue, how do we ensure that we put into the budget adequate resourcing so that the National Guard can conduct its homeland missions? I'm very comfortable with the progress we've made, there was a commitment on the part of Secretary Gates to continue that progress, and so I think if General Blum were here today, he would not give you that same very sobering assessment and it would be much more positive in his comments.
SEN. COLLINS: Thank you.
General McNabb, in 2001 at my request, the GAO studied the security of munitions, weapons, ammunition being moved within the United States by surface transportation under the supervision of TRANSCOM. Are you familiar with that GAO report?
GEN. MCNABB: Ma'am, I am not.
SEN. COLLINS: The report was classified because its findings were so alarming in terms of the security of the weapons as they were being moved from point to point within this country. And without getting into the classified details, and I would inform you that originally there was no intention of classifying the report, but the findings were so serious that GAO and DOD decided that it should be classified. A major issue, again, without getting into the classified details, was the availability of depots throughout the United States to receive weapon shipments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To your knowledge, are those depots now open and available to receive shipments 24 hours a day?
GEN. MCNABB: Ma'am, I will take that for the record. But in general and when you think about what General Renuart just talked about with NORTHCOM, there is a lot more of what we are talking about in conjunction with NORTHCOM and getting our arms around all of this, working with the services because ideally, obviously, the services have a big play in that. But I would say the way we work together to bring, again, the whole of government approach to these kinds of issues because you are talking significant dollars. Depots are run by the services. And again, I will take that for the record, take a look at it and will come back with kind of a combined answer that includes OSD and NORTHCOM in this.
SEN. COLLINS: Thank you.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, just a quick add on. We were given the responsibility for more of that security. I can tell you that I monitor the movements each day. In a classified environment, I could tell you how many are moving today and where. We monitor that and sort of flight follow those movements.
In terms of the hours of the depots, I think we're going to need to come back to you with specifics. But I can also tell you that we have, if you will, (way ?) points that these shippers can use if, for some reason, a depot is not accessible. There are DOD installations that provide them sort of temporary haven during their movement.
SEN. COLLINS: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Collins.
Senator Bill Nelson.
SEN. BILL NELSON (D-FL): I want to compliment General Ward and Admiral Stavridis, as you all are adapting to this new policy where you're not only a warrior, you're also a diplomat. And Secretary Gates actually commented on this policy. He says, broadly speaking, when it comes to America's engagement with the rest of the world, it's important that the military is and clearly seem to be in a supporting role to civilian agencies.
You've been doing that, Admiral Stavridis.
General Ward, as you're setting up Africa Command, you're doing that.
Admiral Stavridis, what would you say to General Ward, you know, in your experience in prioritizing the coordination with those civilian agencies?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Well, Senator, you'll be glad to know that General Ward and I just brought our staffs together for two and a half days of very specific conversation on all this to include a great deal of our personal time and all of our senior leadership. And we learned a lot from each other. And I'm learning things from the way Kip Ward is doing business, and hopefully we were helpful to him.
I would say that fundamentally, both General Ward and I understand, based on these conversations, that SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM do defense and that State Department does diplomacy and AID does development. But as you said, what we try and do is be in a supporting role wherever we can.
So for example, at SOUTHCOM, to give you one specific example, we're taking all of our theater security cooperation plans about our military-to-military activities and we're actually going and sitting with our partners at State and AID and looking at how our training activities, our human rights seminars, our disaster relief work, how that can be supportive of what AID does as they do development and what State does as they do diplomacy. So we very much see ourselves as taking a supporting, background role. We do not want to militarize our foreign policy in any way. We want a civilian face on these activities and civilian leadership. But we want to seek to be helpful and supporting wherever we can. That's been our approach.
SEN. NELSON: I'm going to short circuit this, if I may, General Ward, because I've got some other questions that I need to get into. Just suffice it to say, congratulations on what you're doing.
Admiral, are you satisfied with the 4th Fleet that's standing up? Does it give you the protection?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, the 4th Fleet has been very positive for SOUTHCOM and our efforts. The ability of that planning staff in Mayport, Florida reach back to the Navy and obtain assets has been a singular success. I talked earlier about our ability to bring Navy ships, like the Boxer and the Kearsarge into the region to do medical activities. That's an example of it. Our disaster relief off of Haiti, that's an example of it. Our counternarcotics interdiction of last summer and this past fall, that's an example of it. So we're very satisfied with the Navy's decision to stand up 4th Fleet.
SEN. NELSON: General Renuart, NORTHCOM is responsible for missile defense operations to protect the homeland.
GEN. RENUART: Yes, sir.
SEN. NELSON: We're developing a national missile defense system. Do you think that the system needs to be operationally effective, suitable, survival and cost-effective?
GEN. RENUART: Yes, sir, I do.
SEN. NELSON: Do you think that we need to take the steps needed to make sure that the system is all of those things?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I absolutely do and to include the robust testing that should be carried out.
SEN. NELSON: And in that GMV testing program, should it include operational testing?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, it should, absolutely. And in fact, I will tell you, the last two tests had operational crews actually conducting that missile launch.
SEN. NELSON: What are you doing in coordination with the Missile Defense Agency and Strategic Command to realistically test the Ground- based Missile Defense system?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, we have become a member of the Missile Defense Executive Board which up until about a year ago we did not participate in. That allows us to drive an operational requirement into the test and development and budgeting process. We work directly with now General Riley, the commander, to ensure that we at each test add a more operational feature to it. He has been very supportive of that, and we continue to work aggressively to get more and more of an operational flavor into the test program with each subsequent mission.
SEN. NELSON: And in doing that, are you going to be able to reconcile the test and evaluation responsibilities with your mission to defend the homeland?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely. In fact, as we prepare for the next test series that will occur, we have added, on our request, some complications in the communications network we use for command and control just to test those kinds of possible system failures that may occur.
SEN. NELSON: The bottom-line question that I'm not going to ask you but that we have to ask in this committee is, is it operationally effective so that in fact if we had the threat it could do the job?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I think, as you know, we're right now in a mode of very limited threat. Essentially, North Korea is the system that we are focused on. And Senator, I'll tell you, if we felt the North Koreans were going to shoot a ballistic missile at us today, I am comfortable that we would have an effective system able to meet that need.
SEN. NELSON: And that's particularly true because of the layers, such as the Aegis system and so forth.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cut you off. Go ahead, please.
SEN. NELSON: No. I'd just conclude this with the chairman has given me the responsibility on the Strategic Subcommittee to be able to answer the underlying question, is the national missile defense system operational today? Now, if you're talking about the layer, such as Aegis, the answer to that is yes. But if you're talking about the one shot from Vandenberg or from Alaska today, the answer is no. As you suggest, when that threat may materialize, maybe it will be. But we've got to have absolute clear eyes with regard to the capability of this system.
And by the way, Mr. Chairman, I want to compliment the new three- star who is the head of ballistic missile defense. He is approaching this straightforward, transparent. He answers your questions. He's absolutely committed to operational testing. And I think it's a new day there, and I want to compliment the general.
SEN. LEVIN: And I would join Senator Nelson, by the way, in that reaction to the commander there.
GEN. RENUART: Sir, I would also echo that. He has been very focused on bringing the operational user into this process. So I think we're on the right track. Thanks, Senator.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson.
SEN. MEL MARTINEZ (R-FL): Mr. Chairman, thank you.
Gentlemen, welcome, all, and thank you very much for your service and your testimony today.
Admiral, I want to start with you, obviously from many areas of interest that we share. But as we look at the Venezuelan situation, the declining price for oil, do you perceive any change in the ability of Venezuela to project itself in the region given the diminution of their financial status?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, I do. As always, whenever I discuss Venezuela, I like to begin by pointing out the United States has enjoyed a long, positive relationship with Venezuela, stretching back 150 years. Clearly, we have some political differences right now. We do have correct, professional, military-to-military relations with the Venezuelan military. My assessment is, like any other nation that sees a reduction in its revenues, there will be effects in the ability of the Venezuelan military to not only continue the high level of arms purchases, $5 billion over the last four years, more than 20 billion (dollars) in contracts, all of it with Russia, I think the ability to consummate all of that and then to maintain and train and equip these very expensive systems will be diminished significantly with the loss in oil revenues. Yes, sir.
SEN. MARTINEZ: By the way, speaking of that level of purchases, those are very disproportionate to the region and to what any other country may be doing in the region, correct?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: That's correct, sir.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Do you have any clue from all of that type of data as well as the recent Naval exercises with Russia as to what are the intentions of Venezuela as it relates to the military projection in the region?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I do not, sir.
SEN. MARTINEZ: I wanted to ask a combined question of General Renuart and yourself, Admiral, and it really has to do with the regional perception of our country as well as Sunday we saw where a new government was elected in El Salvador in an area where this government, while it might be perceived to be folks that are not particularly friendly to our country, I do like the statements that the new president has made so far. But whether it is that, the trends in other neighboring countries to Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, certainly the situation which continues in Cuba, what do you perceive that we as a country -- and obviously, I'm now asking you in your merged role as diplomats as well as military -- what should we be doing in the region? Some would suggest that the fence on the border is a very bad signal. Others would talk about different issues. What is your assessment?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sure. Let me address El Salvador first. The State Department has come out and congratulated President-elect Mauricio Funes on his election. By all standards, it is a very legitimate process that unfolded with high voter turnout. President Funes has indicated a real willingness to continue to work strongly with the United States. We count El Salvador on a military-to- military basis as among our very strongest partners in the region. And we're looking forward to continuing that very strong relationship. And based on what I've heard, that's what I expect will happen.
Looking at the region very broadly, I think it's the nature of something good actually, and it's that in all of the Americas today, every country is a democracy with one exception and that, of course, is Cuba. But every other country is a democracy. And Senator, you know, democracies don't always agree. There are going to be political disagreements. From my lane, doing defense and looking at military- to-military, I would believe that our military-to-military engagement across the spectrum of political actors in the region is a very positive aspect of what we need to continue. So we've worked very hard to have positive military-to-military relations with Ecuador, with Bolivia, with Nicaragua, with Brazil, with Argentina, with Colombia, with Mexico, et cetera, et cetera.
So I would say that, from a defense lane, strong military-to- military activity is a very positive force as we work through these occasional disagreements amongst friendly democracies.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I might just add a couple of points, if I may. First, SOUTHCOM and NORTHCOM have created a transparent relationship across the borders of our combatant command lines, if you will, on the map that's, I think, very positive. We share prisoners routinely with our staffs back and forth. We, too, have had staff-to- staff talks. We put liaisons, for example, in the Joint Interagency Task Force South down in Key West. They put liaisons in our Joint Task Force North along the Mexican border.
Mexico, I think, could be put into many of the same categories that Jim mentioned. They are eager to reach out to us in a mil-to-mil way. They see that relationship as very positive. I think we need to continue with that. In Mexico, the national military is one of the most highly respected organizations in the country.
Mexico also sees a role for itself looking south. It is a considerable economic power in that area, and it is increasing its trade to the south. And I think that's a positive element. It also allows Mexico to begin to collaborate with the nations to its south on the illicit traffic issue as well.
So I think, from the U.S. perspective, we have to continue that certainly positive mil-to-mil. The soft power we bring is very important. One thing we've found with the Mexicans in particular is that our experiences of interagency cooperation are a very positive element for Mexico. And they are trying very aggressively to learn how to do that better, and that will help them in the counternarcotics traffic fight.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Thank you very much.
Admiral, do you have any insights into the recent purge in Cuba?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: No, sir, I do not other than I think it shows that Raul Castro has completely consolidated power in that country.
SEN. MARTINEZ: There was a very interesting article in this week's Newsweek by former Foreign Minister Castaneda.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Castaneda, yes, sir. I saw it, thank you.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Well, if you get a crystal ball available to you at any point, let me know.
General Ward, I wanted to ask you about the piracy issue near Somalia in the past year where, you know, we've had a considerable amount of disruption to commercial shipping. Any insights to that issue? What can we do to continue to try to stave off those problems?
GEN. WARD: Senator, as you know, the counterpiracy effort is led in the water by Central Command, the Combined Task Force 151. There has been considerable progress made as the coalition of nations supporting counterpiracy has increased as an international coalition of nations. We support that through our activities ashore as well as through our limited facilities in Djibouti as those nations participate in the counterpiracy activities. But I would offer, as I think most of us know, that the root of the piracy issue in the Gulf of Aden, there in the Indian Ocean, is the result of the lack of an effective government there in Somalia. So our efforts to support the establishment of effective institutions of government there in Somalia would be the long-term fix to the piracy that goes there. It also exists on the east coast (and parts of ?) the west coast of Africa, certainly not to the degree.
But in that regard, our efforts to work with those nations to increase their capacity to provide for their own maritime safety and security have gone a long way to help them address the threat of piracy. We look to increase those efforts in the east along the east coast of Africa, again, adding to the capacity and capabilities of those nations to coordinate, to share information, to have visibility over the territorial waters and to be able to do something about it once something is detected. So those efforts continue but the large increase in Naval presence afloat with that coalition as well as tactics being taken by commercial shippers to address the issue because even there are measures that briefly they have been taking to help address piracy issues as well. So there's been a combination of those things that have led to what has been received or seen as a reduction in the level of pirating that goes on in the Gulf of Aden and there in the Indian Ocean.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Thank you, sir.
GEN. MCNABB: Senator Martinez, if I could just add. What General Ward mentioned in working with CENTCOM and with AFRICOM, but it is with our commercial partners, working with MARAD as we have our MSC ships but also we have a lot of commercial, U.S.-flag vessels that are taking our cargo across that area. They are working very closely on those techniques about how you get through, when should you convoy, how do you make sure you've got visibility. And when you are the type of ship that may be a little bit at risk, then you will be escorted. It's all of those kinds of things.
MSC also working with MARAD has asked our commercial partners that if they need it, we have anti-piracy assessment teams that would join them and say, here are some techniques that you can use. Again, everybody is working together with the idea that, obviously, you have the military watching this but also there's a lot of things that our commercial folks can do to make sure that they help themselves. And all of that is going on.
SEN. MARTINEZ: Thank you, General. And I'm sorry I won't have time to talk about KC-135 but maybe in the second round. Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Martinez.
Senator Ben Nelson.
SEN. BEN NELSON (D-NE): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen.
The piracy issue, if my history recollection is right, is reminiscent of what President Thomas Jefferson had to deal with with the Barbary pirates. Who would have thought in a few hundred years we'd be dealing with something like that again.
General Renuart, you spoke earlier about the consequence management force that became fully funded, equipped and trained on October, 2008. Can you speak to how this force will work with the National Guard and civil support teams?
The funding for the Civil Support teams has been cut for the last three years, and so will we be able to have a full partnership there, with adequate resources to be able to fund it?
GEN. RENUART: Senator Nelson, thank you for that question. I think it's important that we continue to push for adequate funding for each element of these forces. As I mentioned earlier, no one of them can stand alone and do this job. And, as I mentioned to Senator Collings (sic), the integration and partnership with the National Guard is at a level really never before seen, in terms of its collaboration, coordination and communication.
But, what we've tried to do is to tier our approach so that the first responders will always be the state and local responders. The CST is integral to that. We have 55 of those teams funded. My sense is, the budget -- the upcoming budgets allow them to sustain effort. They don't necessarily allow them to grow. And we are working on some training opportunities that will expand their training, under the NORTHCOM flag, in exercise funding.
The second layer, in terms of size and capacity, is the CIRP (-P ?), and it is a force of about 200 Guardsmen as well. There are 17 of them around the country. On any given day, about five or six of them are what I'll call "green across the board" -- all the people, all the equipment and all the training. And they are on a tiered set of alerts so that they could respond, in due course, if an event occurs.
We are advocating for some additional funding, especially in the area of pharmaceutical supplies, for some of those teams to grow them a bit. And the Department seems supportive of that, so I don't think that's in jeopardy.
The Consequence Management Response Force that is under my command is a much larger force, designed to come in, if you will, on top of the existing, both civilian and military, forces to provide long-term sustainment of a large-scale effort -- catastrophic effort.
Right now we have about $130 million in our budget for the next few years to grow and build those forces -- that's for National Guard. The Active Duty comes out of its existing O&M budget. That's not at risk at this point. So, I'm not uncomfortable. It's something we just watch and pay attention to. But, I think we have the capacity to grow each of those appropriately over the coming years.
SEN. NELSON: Well, as a former governor, I hope that we'll be in a position to make sure that the CSTs are able to respond appropriately.
Not that long ago I realized, by a first-hand inspection, that resetting the equipment needs was way behind on the curve. We put some money in for that, but I'm not sure that we've achieved the level of reset that we had hoped to. And so I hope that we'll keep pushing for that because, without the equipment, their capabilities are going to be diminished. There's no question about it.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, just one quick point, to finish on that.
I look at the readiness numbers of each of those on a weekly basis, as does General McKinley. We collaborate on advocacy within the budget on those issues. And we continue to keep them very much at the central part of our focus. So, we too are concerned that we not let that capability, sort of, deteriorate on the vine and we'll that hard.
SEN. NELSON: I'll see General McKinley, I think, next week and I'll go over this with him as well.
I'm encouraged by the efforts to make a command seamless, by avoiding overlap or underlap, by working together. And, as COCOMs, I would hope that perhaps this seamless approach would apply to determining what kind of equipment you need, because part of the complaints -- part of the reason for complaints about cost overruns, and the challenges we've had with waste, and questions about the cost of equipment -- that, by working together, perhaps we can avoid some of that that Secretary Gates has mentioned.
And we're all concerned about -- given the fact that we want to get the biggest bang for the military buck that we can, particularly as it comes to equipment. Would you agree that your working together can help us overcome some of that -- Admiral, first?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir, very much so. And as we mentioned in our staff talks with NORTHCOM and our staff talks with General Ward at AFRICOM -- and we have staff talks scheduled for the Pacific Command later this year, we're trying very hard to do precisely that, to synthesize all of our requirements, our approaches. I think there's great -- no pun intended -- money to be made there.
SEN. NELSON: Good.
GEN. RENUART: Yeah, Senator, I'd absolutely agree. In fact, I know my great contributing partner, Duncan McNabb -- who owns the lift of all of the world, gets a lot of questions about tankers and airlift, but I will tell you that in our air sovereignty mission tankers are equally critical to us. So, we try to collaborate on each of these issues so that the Department gets a true sense of the requirement.
GEN. WARD: Senator, and I would even carry it beyond not just equipment. To the degree that we collaborate, the entire resources available to our nation are better used. And so we take that very seriously, not just with our combatant command partners, but also our interagency partners, working as close as we can to assure ourselves that those resources are, in fact, used wisely and appropriately, and, in fact, not duplicated or in an overlapping -- (inaudible) --
GEN. MCNABB: And, Senator, you know, from our standpoint as TRANSCOM, we are always going to be the supporting commander of one of these folks, or one of the other theater commanders. And whenever they say, "this is what we need," we got to be there, but we obviously have to have already exercised that, made sure that we are there, that we have the systems and processes all set.
I talked about -- great friend, General Renuart, when you look at where NORTHCOM and TRANSCOM, as they work through Consequent (sic) Management, how fast can you react to a disaster relief like a hurricane or a CBRNE event. Our ability to already have worked that out, and already have that all set, so that our staffs and our command centers already know exactly how this will go down -- with General Renuart saying, "here's what I need," and then we flow the forces to him. All that works well.
And I would say the same thing with Admiral Stavridis and General Ward, General Petraeus, Admiral Keating, General Craddock. In every case, they know that when they say, "here's what we have" -- and we can have a dialogue back and forth and say, if we can do it this way, you just tell us when you need it and we'll figure out the best way. I might be multi-modal; it may be Guard and Reserve; it may be commercial, there's lots of different ways of doing it.
And we're always looking at satisfying the warfighter first, but making sure that we're doing it towards an eye towards the taxpayer as well.
SEN. NELSON: I appreciate it. My time has expired.
Just one, hopefully, for the record. If you could provide more information about the arms that are being supplied to Mexico. Are they manufactured in the United States? Are they just brokered through a broker in the United States? Do they flow through the United States? Are they illegal or legal weapons, in any event, under U.S. law?
I'd like some information -- more information on that. It would be very helpful if
GEN. RENUART: Yeah, Senator, we'll collaborate and get an answer for you, for the record, with some more detail on that -- absolutely.
SEN. NELSON: That would be very helpful. Thank you very much.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Nelson.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for your leadership.
General Renuart, we are certainly pleased with where you have landed with this last assignment. We still miss your leadership at Moody.
GEN. RENUART: Sir, I miss it as well. (Laughs.)
SEN. CHAMBLISS: You discuss in your statement the issue of aircraft capitalization and air sovereignty, and I want to quote what you said there. You said, "Our ability to maintain air sovereignty in the future is at risk. Legacy fighters are aging and will be stressed to maintain reliability and capability as we move into the 2013-2025 timeframe. The trade-off between modernization of airframes and transformation to fifth-generation aircraft could limit efforts to keep pace with emerging technologies."
And I agree with that statement. I think it's very fair and accurate. You go on to talk about the role of the F-22, as well as the F-35, and air sovereignty, and in homeland defense generally. Looking out over the next 10 to 15 years, General, how concerned are you about the ability of legacy, non-stealth aircraft to play that role, with respect to domination of the airways, as well as general homeland defense?
And where does the F-22 and the F-35 play into this, in your mind?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, thanks, and I really honestly really do miss Valdosta, Georgia.
I think, first, as the combatant commander responsible for the defense of the homeland and the sovereignty of our airspace, it is important to me to ensure that over the long term we continue to recapitalize those resources, as I mentioned in my statement.
I think that there are really two tiers that we need to pay attention to. First is, is there a peer competitor nation who would threaten us? And that certainly would require the best capability the nation has.
And I think there is a second tier that is, can I go find that aircraft that's not complying with FAA regulations somewhere in our United States? That may not require the same very high-end capability, but certainly capability, nonetheless, to find and fix that target -- very high- or low-altitude, large radar cross-section or small radar cross-section. I think both of those requirements talk to advanced aircraft capabilities.
As you know, the F-16 will begin to go out of service here shortly. Much of my air sovereignty force resides in the National Guard, many of whom are flying some of the older versions of the F-16. And so as I see that end-of-service approaching, I still have the requirement to maintain the sovereignty of our airspace.
And I've worked very closely with the chiefs of the Services, not just the Air Force but the Navy and the Marine Corps as well, because they certainly can contribute to this mission.
I've worked closely with Duncan McNabb on aerial refueling tankers to ensure that we have a robust sustainable capability.
The F-22 certainly is a marvelous aircraft. It gives a variety of capabilities. I think we have already used it in our air sovereignty missions, primarily in Alaska but occasionally here in the lower 48. The F-35 offers, again, an all-aspect capability that will be helpful, not just to see aircraft but to see ships on the surface of the oceans -- small radar cross-section, cruise missile, that kind of threat. So, both of those fit very well into the capabilities that I think we'll need in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years.
The numbers -- I maintain the requirement for a certain level of capacity and rely on the Services to provide that. And so I try not to get into specific numbers of airplanes, with the Services or with the committee, but rather maintaining a level of capacity for the country. And certainly those aircraft will both fit into that for the future.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: And are you comfortable with where you see us headed over the next 10 to 15 years, about having that capacity?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I'm very comfortable in the 10- to 15- year point. I'm a little more careful on the 5- to 10-year, just because there is a production build and we want to make sure we can sustain the existing force.
And the Air Force is working very aggressively to look at bridge capacities in there. And so far I'm comfortable with their approach. They haven't determined the final answer yet.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Admiral, your security cooperation arrangements throughout SOUTHCOM and the Southern Hemisphere, in large part, allows you (what ?) to be successful in your mission. And almost everything you do at SOUTHCOM is in partnership with other countries in that region.
And one of the best ways we have to build and sustain those partnerships is through the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. Both Chairman Levin and I serve on that board at WHINSEC and we have seen, first-hand, the value of training WHINSEC conducts, and the partnerships with our southern allies, and what it does to create that good feeling between our respective countries.
I was pleased to see you mention WHINSEC in your written statement. And if you would amplify as to what your thoughts are on WHINSEC regarding -- and particularly regarding how it helps you carry out your mission.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Yes, sir.
As you know, I serve on the Board of Visitors of WHINSEC, along with you and the chairman. Every year we have about 1,500 students from 23 different countries. It's a tremendously positive, personal contact event for all of them. To come -- they come with their families; they spend a year in Georgia. It's a terrific, positive event that will cause them to be bound with the United States in many ways forever. So, it's an irreplaceable aspect of our security cooperation down south.
There's an extremely high component of human rights training that goes on in every one of those courses. Between 10 and 35 percent of the time, in every course taught there, has to do with human rights, which is a very important part of how we can share lessons across all of the militaries throughout the region.
So, I'm a very firm believer in it. I'm a satisfied customer. The U.S. Army runs it. But, I'm proud to be on the Board of Visitors, and I'm proud of the work that goes on down there.
And it is fully transparent. I would invite anyone who wants to, to come and visit at any time. And I'd be glad, personally, to facilitate that with the U.S. Army. We don't do it as a dog-and-pony show. We'll bring you in there to see a class, to walk through the classrooms, to walk through the teachers, lessons, books. It's a transparent facility that is doing very, very good work in the region, in my opinion.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: General McNabb, we have this on-going conversation relative to the C-5 and the C-17. I view those airframes as not being in competition with each other, but as making a significant complement, one to the other.
But we're -- with respect to the C-5, all those airframes are old; we keep a modernization program constantly on the books. The C- 17, we're flying at 150 percent of the anticipated rate that we thought we'd be flying it in Iraq and Afghanistan. And now we're looking at whether or not we're going to continue that line of C-17s.
What's your thought about where we are, from a current-capacity rate, with respect to those aircrafts, and where do we need to go in the future?
GEN. MCNABB: Thank you, Senator Chambliss.
Where I sit is, the program of record that has 205 C-17s; re- engining the C-5Bs, and the 1-C and 2-Cs; and then do an Avionics Modernization Program on the As -- that mix of airplanes satisfies the requirements that I have, the 33.95 for outsized/oversized cargo, and then obviously I have the craft to carry the bulk cargo as well.
So, right now that is -- that came out of the Nunn-McCurdy breach. They looked at a lot of options, including additional C-17s, or re-engining all the C-5s, and they came up with this mix. And I was part of that, as the vice chief but also as the AMC commander, so I'm comfortable that that meets those needs.
We have MCRS, 2016, that is looking -- that is in the works right now, about to be taken to OSD in May. It is looking at the additional things that happened since the Mobility Capability study did -- the increase of the ground forces, the change of the way we use the airplanes, as you mentioned, the C-17, the higher usage; how do we do the intra-theater? It's also looking at the tanker capability and the sea-lift as well.
So, that's the latest study. We'll take a look at that. But, lots of -- as the different studies have gone on -- Senator McCaskill tasked the size and mix of the Airlift force, and it kind of -- it confirmed the same -- (inaudible) -- that this mix about works.
The good news on the C-5 re-engine programs, the first three have been delivered to Dover. They're going to go out there in the system, and we'll test it out.
When I talked Lockheed, I said I'd like to have reliability like we have in the C-17s so that we can get it out and trust it, that it'll go back and forth with higher reliability. And, well, they promised 75 percent as a minimum. It looks like 81 percent is what the test is -- the test is showing. So, we'll go out there and wring it out.
And I'm really excited about the -- as you say, that complementary capability of those C-5Bs that become re-engined -- will be huge. The C-5As, again, we'll put (in) the Avionics Modernization Program that allow it to fly in the airspace all over the world.
So, I think the overall mix we have about right, unless something changes. I will say, from my standpoint, more modern airplanes is better. As anything, if you can trust it, and it's got more reliability, you don't have to put back-up airplanes out there, and so forth. Multimodal also plays well.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Senator Chambliss.
SEN. KAY HAGAN (D-NC): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, I want to congratulate Admiral Stavridis on the rescue of Keith Stansell, Thomas Howes and Marc Gonsalves, as well as the 12 other hostages last July from the FARC. I can remember watching that shaky video and just thinking how professional and how remarkable the operation was.
And I can assure you the pride that you felt, in watching that rescue, was shared by millions of Americans. It was certainly a great moment for SOUTHCOM, and for our country and for all of our partners in that mission. And I'm just sure you (sic) must have been extremely gratifying and emotional event for you.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: It was. And the Colombian military, which undertook that operation, is to be highly congratulated in every sense.
SEN. HAGAN: Very good.
General Ward, in my home town in Greensboro, North Carolina I have a large number of refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They talk to me frequently about their situation in their home, and their fears for their safety -- for their family members and associates there.
There is also a situation where, if there's a violation of an immigration status, that there's fear that people who are deported back to the Congo will be murdered when they arrive. I wondered if you could update us on the security situation there.
And then, in addition, I read quite frequently about the use of rape as a weapon against young women, and children and old women in the Congo. And there was a recent article that Bob Herbert wrote in The New York Times, talking about that it's really hundreds of thousands of victims, and the fact that, you know, should they live, the incontinence and the humiliation of the themselves and their family members is widespread.
GEN. WARD: Senator, to be sure, the violence that can be perpetrated against civilian populations in the Congo and other parts of the Continent is absolutely deplorable. We, through various mechanisms, are doing our part in providing increased capacities for these nations to, firstly, deal with the rebel and renegade groups that operate inside their territories.
As was mentioned recently, the collaboration that existed between three governments -- the governments of Uganda, The Congo and Rwanda, to address the LRA in the Eastern Congo was, I think, at this point in time, something that we should all look at in a very optimistic way as signaling a degree of cooperation amongst those regional neighbors to address a common problem that has done the sorts of things you describe as it terrorizes the populations in those areas.
The use of violence -- rape, murders and other atrocities that these groups commit against the citizens in these areas is something that we all look at in a very negative way. And to the degree that we can continue to support efforts to address that, I clearly say we ought to take every opportunity we can to do so.
We do that in conjunction with the Department of State, with U.S. Aid for International Development, as they work their activities to, 1) help increase the effectiveness of the institutions of government in those regions; and, obviously, our role there is, as we work with these (nations ?), increase their capacity, from a security point of view, to deal with that threat that exists.
Programs such as the Defense Institute for International Legal Structures, where we provide some support to these institutions, these governments, when in fact they catch and apprehend folks who have done these crimes and can -- and prosecute and punish accordingly we also support. But to be sure, those are deplorable situations that we pay attention to and do our best to do something about.
SEN. HAGAN: And it's -- it's certainly a horrible thing to read about and to think that that's going on on a daily basis. It's most concerning. I have another question I wanted to ask you about oil theft. You discussed the serious problem of oil theft in the Niger Delta, and in your written testimony you stated that in Nigeria oil exports have been reduced by up to 20 percent due to banditry, and in a country in which 95 percent of the foreign exchange earnings come from the oil industry certainly a 20 percent reduction in exports a serious blow to that country's economy. And can you expand on this problem and what is being done to address it?
GEN. WARD: The country of Nigeria, Senator, a sovereign nation, has its own requirement to provide for the security of its defense within its borders. We, through various, various numbers of programs, work with the Nigerian government to increase their capacity to in fact deal with these problems of illegal oil bunkering as well as other threats against the oil infrastructure there in the Niger Delta.
We do not get actively involved in activities but we in fact are involved in our training work. As you know, there is the Africa Partnership Station, which is a training program where we work with the nations in the region -- Gulf of Guinea -- to increase their capacity to do several things -- first, to detect what goes on inside their territorial waters; two, to address it in some common way; and then three, to do it in a way that helps to increase and promote security such that the work being done by those military and other security forces are in fact -- or that work is in fact work that contributes to additional security as opposed to alienating populations, alienating the local community, et cetera.
Our programs for increasing their military capabilities include training, it includes equipment, it includes common operational procedures that lead to better interoperability among these nations as well. That is an ongoing program, an ongoing project that we have working with the -- the Nigerian government but also other governments there in the Gulf of Guinea to address that problem of illegal bunkering.
I would also add that when it happens, i.e., effective training for illegal bunkering, this also transfers over into other areas -- illegal fishing, which also robs those nations of a very, very valuable resource that can be used to support their population. So it's illegal fishing, illegal oil bunkering. It also gets to the point that we talked with SOUTHCOM -- the flow of illegal drugs, trafficking of people. They're all tied. They're all enhanced -- correction, our ability to correct those issues or enhance through our military-to-military cooperation and military-to-military support, our training assistance programs that address these common threats that exist in the region.
SEN. HAGAN: If there is such stealing of the oil there there's got to be a distribution network set up to deal with it. And I was just wondering from a security measure and an oversight do you see this distribution system also?
GEN. WARD: We don't see it in great fashion. I will take that and get a better answer back to you. But what we do know is when it does occur it is done in -- through black market channels, the -- that bunkering that exists. The local population, again, because of the wealth distribution will use that to -- to augment their own resource that they can bring into account. But it is there. We don't know the extent to which it goes on inside of the government but there's clearly -- unfortunately, it also wastes a lot of the resources. So in many respects, it all goes back and it contributes to pollution and other negative effects there on the environment as well.
SEN. HAGAN: Thank you.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Hagan. Senator Thune?
SEN. JOHN THUNE (R-SD): Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen, thank you all very much for your service to our country. General Renuart, I wanted to come back to the issue of air sovereignty for just a moment, and in your prepared testimony you discussed the impact that retiring legacy fighters will have on air sovereignty operations and highlight the importance of continuing planned recapitalization programs.
According to a GAO report released in January, even under F-22 and F-35 fielding schedules an air sovereignty alert fighter gap will exist by the year 2015. Added to this, the GAO report states that the Air Force has requested the secretary of defense's approval to accelerate the retirement of over 300 F-15s and F-16s in the FY '10 budget, many of which are performing alert duties.
If approved, retiring these aircraft earlier than as currently planned will likely begin affecting air sovereignty alert operations in the near term. And I guess my question is do you agree with the GAO's findings that by 2015 some of the units that are currently performing air sovereignty alert operations will no longer have aircraft with which to perform that mission?
GEN. RENUART: Well, Senator, thank you for the question. The GAO report took a good hard look at the air sovereignty mission both from the operator standpoint -- our perspective -- and the service provider's perspective. I think that their point is well taken that if we don't make some clear decisions now that we will see a gap out there in the future given the current sustained role of air sovereignty missions.
I've made the strong case that that level should continue for the foreseeable future and -- and I think -- and had support from the department to continue that mission. Given that then, we have to build some bridge strategies that will allow for us to ensure that the basic requirements for this mission are met. But as a joint service activity I can pull that from a variety of different possible service providers. Certainly, the Navy has the capability as do the Marines as well as the Air Force.
The Air Force is working very aggressively to build that strategy. We are being very supportive of them in terms of the key requirements for air sovereignty to continue in the future and -- and I think we still have a little work to do in terms of having a firm plan to sustain this over time. I mentioned earlier to Senator Chambliss I think there is -- there's a bridge capacity that needs to be created and General Schwartz and his team are working on that now. Until I see the results of that I can't -- I'd be careful to be too definitive in an assessment at this point, Senator.
SEN. THUNE: Do you foresee units that currently don't have a full time alert mission, say, for example, like the South Dakota Air National Guard, picking up a full time alert mission in order to mitigate that fighter gap? Is -- is going to some of the Guard units a possibility?
GEN. RENUART: Yeah. Senator, I think absolutely. As we get a better sense of what that recapitalization line will look like -- whether it is refreshing existing aircraft, upgrading radars and the like on existing aircraft, or procuring new -- there will also be a discussion, I think, on moving this mission around to a variety of units, and certainly we have done that. For example, as Ellington Air Force Base drew down its F-16 missions we relied on Tulsa and other units to come in and fill that gap.
So I -- certainly we will continue to meet the requirement and that's the bottom line for us. We're comfortable with any of our Guard units. It requires some training but we can do that and have them pick up the mission as it may be required.
SEN. THUNE: Well, as -- as I'm sure you know we would love to have a discussion with you about that where South Dakota is concerned. Admiral, a question for you regarding a -- the January 22nd, 2009, executive order to close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay within one year and in which the president also ordered an immediate review of all of those detention facilities. And the review, I think, mandated certain participants be included, one of which was the attorney general who's responsible for coordinating the review as well as the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, among others.
Additional review participants can be designated by the attorney general. As the regional combatant commander responsible for the military's JTF and Guantanamo, you have valuable first hand expertise in how dangerous some of these detainees are and the requirements for their proper disposition. I guess my question is has the attorney general requested you or any of your subordinates to take part in the administration's review of all Guantanamo detentions?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: He has not asked me personally. Attorney General Holder came down almost immediately upon taking office and spent a great deal of time on the ground in Guantanamo Bay. He had very detailed discussions with the two-star admiral who's down there. I think he has a full site picture and we stand ready to answer any questions that are posed by the secretary.
SEN. THUNE: Could you in -- in your knowledge of those discussions that were held provide any details about perhaps dealing with the proposal that might transfer Gitmo detainees into facilities in the United States? Are you familiar that -- with the discussions --
SEN. THUNE: -- whole detail?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: No, sir. And those are not really in my purview. Those -- my job is to provide humane transparent legal care to the detainees and we do that every day in accordance with Common Article III of the Geneva Convention, the Detainee Treatment Act, which is U.S. law, and we'll continue to do that. But the disposition is outside of our purview.
SEN. THUNE: Okay. And I compliment you on the -- on what the -- the treatment that you do provide and I think it's -- everything, I understand, is very good, the -- in terms of all the things the detainees are permitted to do, the way -- the way that they're cared for, the opportunities they have to worship and everything else.
I think the -- the issue is that over the course of this next year and this study is completed that will concern many members of Congress is if in fact they are now housed or stationed at Guantanamo what will be the alternative and would that entail putting them somewhere here in the United States and there are a couple of bases in particular that have been mentioned, both of which I think the delegations from -- from those states would find objectionable. But as you perhaps know, there was a vote in the Senate last year, a 94 to 3 vote, that -- that that not be a solution.
So as this process plays out to the degree that you were apprised of what's happening and could share any details about that with this committee -- there will be a very high level of interest, I can assure you, in the Congress about that. So thank you Admiral. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Thune. Senator Burris.
SEN. ROLAND BURRIS (D-IL): Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to commend our distinguished panel for all the work that you do on behalf of the people of this great country and the people of the world, so congratulations gentlemen.
I'm going to really focus, in the interest of time, on two areas -- on to of the commands. I noted that the three geographic commands all address inter-agency cooperation in the statements and, specifically, a new inter-agency organizational model at the Southern Command and the African Command. I'm interested in how success with interagency organizational inclusions can be used in other commands? I'm also very interested in the future of the African Command. I'm also interested in the Transportation Command response to increased fuel prices and any piracy concerns related to our transportation assets.
And let me begin my question with the Southern Command. I understand that the USNS Comfort, the Navy hospital ship, its home port is in Baltimore and they're preparing to deploy next month for a four-month humanitarian assistance mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. A hulking hospital ship three football fields long and one wide -- which must be a monster -- will deliver medical, dental, veterinarian and engineering assistance in support of the term "continuing promise." This mission is the Southern Command's fourth as in many years and the public diplomacy value of the visit by the Comfort are measurable according to DOD and the State Department officials.
So Admiral, have the nations receiving the Comfort expressed any concerns -- those that are going to receive assistance from it -- expressed any concern about the visit of the Comfort? What is their reaction to that service coming to them?
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Sir, it's been overwhelmingly positive. Comfort made a voyage two summers ago and did 400,000 patient treatments through 12 different countries. The public response to that was extremely positive in each of the nations, and we have very detailed information about that and I'll be glad to share that with you as a matter of record -- in fact, I'd like to.
This summer's voyage of the Comfort for that reason is called "Continuing Promise." The first one was "The Promise" because it was the first time we were lucky enough to have a hospital ship, and this year's voyage is to show that we want to continue those good effects.
It's important to note that this is a ship that's full of non- governmental volunteer organizations, such as Operation Hope, for example, one of our partners; it has full inter-agency cooperation; it's very tied into and supportive of the individual country teams; it functions under the direction of the ambassador when it gets into the individual port; and it has been received with open arms in every port visit it's gone to in the past and I anticipate the same this summer, sir.
SEN. BURRIS: Thank you. And let me go to the African Command. I know that you've addressed the HIV treatment program in Africa but no other broad spectrum military treatment. Now, General Ward, what consideration has your command given to securing a visit from the hospital ship? Is that ship going to head to any of the African ports?
GEN. WARD: Senator, clearly given the success that the hospital ship program has had in other geographic commands, we too are looking at it as an augmentation to our theater of security cooperation and the benefits that we can provide to the continent of Africa.
The nations in Africa, there are currently five that have the capacity to bring that large vessel into port -- most of them are in the Mediterranean. And so therefore what we have done in the meantime as we continue to pursue the benefits of the hospital ship, though, is to incorporate those like capabilities aboard our Africa Partnership Stations, bringing medical, dental and veterinary treatment as well as providing a platform for training to regional medical personnel who embark upon those platforms when they are in their geographical areas along that coastline; receive training; treat local residents and then continue on.
We do see this as a viable option. And as we conduct our theater security cooperation planning efforts in the future, we see the hospital ship program as one that we, too, would like to take advantage of as we continue to provide this type of support to our African friends.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: Senator, if I could just add to concur completely with General Ward, this was a subject of discussion between AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM at the staff talks that I mentioned earlier. We learned a lot from how General Ward's folks are doing what he calls "Africa Partnership Stations," which is a terrific program. We want to try some of those things and hopefully he had a chance to look at the hospital ship program and it's a good example of how we're trying to cooperate amongst ourselves here to be efficient.
SEN. BURRIS: Okay. And regarding the Africa Command's headquarters location upon the command's establishment. There was speculation that an Africa Command might be permanently located in Europe or in the United States, and some have argued that Africa Command headquarters should be located in Africa; I understand it's in Stuttgart, Germany. Is that where it's located? Is that any hindrance to the service that you all can give to the continent of Africa, General Ward?
GEN. WARD: Senator, at this time it is not a hindrance. As we split the command up and as it occurred about a year ago, the location that we had there in Stuttgart, Germany provided the facilities, provided the geographic locational relationships that we need as we work with our European partners, as well as working with the nations of Africa.
Again, the headquarters itself and the planning that we do there is that -- the continent is obviously so large, wherever the headquarters is, quite candidly, sir, we would be going someplace else, as reflected in the tremendous travel that I do on a weekly basis throughout the continent of Africa. But right now where we are works for the command. Our focus, our priority is to show our African friends, show our international as well as inter-agency partners, that the creation of the command is enhancing the delivery of security assistance programs on the continent.
The headquarters location at the current time is not a factor in our ability to do that and in increasingly effective ways. As time goes on, I'm sure that decision might be revisited, but at the current time it does not at all impede the ability that we want to have -- and the results that we want to have -- and that is increasing the capacity of these African nations through our robust military-to- military programs as well as our other military supportive activities.
SEN. BURRIS: Okay. My time has expired, but just one quick question for General McNabb. Is there any problem with the piracy in the transportation of our assets?
GEN. MCNABB: Yes, Senator, what we are doing -- a couple of things on our MSC ships and ships that they charter we have security teams that are aboard them. For our other commercial liners, we work with MARAD to make sure they know the latest techniques and how to link-in with JTF-151; make sure that they are working very well -- especially ships that are more at risk, ones that are slower and have a lower free board. We're working that out with MARAD to make sure that we do that. And we've also offered to those companies anti- piracy assessment teams that would come and help them and say, hey, if you counter this -- or encounter this, here are some things that you can do from tactics, techniques, and procedures.
So it is one that I'm concerned with. I really like, again, how the inter-agency has worked together on this. Our working with MARAD and the Navy, in particular, and then with Central Command and Africa Command, all of that has played out very well.
SEN. BURRIS: Mr. Chairman, I have some more questions, but I'll just submit them. Thank you so much, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you so much, Senator Burris. Senator Webb?
SEN. JIM WEBB (D-VA): Thank you Mr. Chairman.
And gentlemen, sorry I had to leave during the hearing. I had a meeting in my office but I did follow a good bit of the hearing when I wasn't here on the TV screen in my office.
And first of all, I'd like to say I appreciate all of your willingness to come by and talk to us personally and our staff; it's been very valuable to explore some issues that we're not going to be able to go into in a whole lot of depth today. But I do want to follow up on a number of those.
I watched the exchange between Senator Reed and Admiral and General Renuart on the shipment of guns. And I'd just like to raise a cautionary voice here that we really need to be careful that we're not understating the problem that we are facing along our border and in the country or causing people to view it in an improper context that this is simply gun show loophole; guns going down there and these people -- you know, basically, we're arming the threat that we face.
As you know, it's much, much more sophisticated than that. We're talking just with the Mexican drug cartel -- a business that runs on about a $25 billion profit. From what I've been seeing, they're highly trained. A lot of these individuals are, as you know, are former Mexican Army soldiers, some of whom were trained by our own special forces. Their tactics are very sophisticated and -- you don't get an RPG, an automatic weapon, or a hand grenade at a gun show. So we need to make sure that people understand that as we're discussing what we're going to do about it.
There have also been some exchanges here talking mainly about the situation on the border and I think it's important for people to understand that this is not simply a Mexican problem and it's not simply a border problem. What we have seen along the border has illuminated the problem for a lot of people in this country; but it's a national security problem.
The Mexican cartels, by the evidence I've seen, are operating in 230 American cities right now. There were reports that the outdoor marijuana plantations in California -- and by the way, marijuana is now the number one cash crop in California; it just outstripped wine about a year, year-and-a-half ago -- are run principally by the Mexican drug cartels.
So we have a situation and it's transnational, which Admiral, you used in your testimony. A couple of different places I've been trying to get that word in the lexicon as well. But it's also sort of trans- command here, because so much of it initiates in your command, but so much of the response is going to have to come out of your command, General.
And so my worry, and my question really is at what point does a transnational organized criminal threat become an insurgency or something tantamount to an insurgency? And if so, what do we do about it?
GEN. RENUART: Yeah, let me if I could -- Sir, absolutely. We should make no mistake. This is a transnational, very complex, well- integrated apparatus. It flows from the sources, some of which are in South America, certainly to the distributors, many of which are here in our country.
You are correct in saying that there is a presence in our nation in hundreds of our cities. In fact, the DDA just a week-and-a-half ago announced some fairly significant efforts that they have concluded -- yielding the arrest of some 700 distributors. And these were distributors in our country, not the cartel members in Mexico.
And so this is a problem that we have to deal with. And you are absolutely correct to say that the Mexican drug cartels are much like an insurgent organization. They are well trained, they're well equipped. They're tactics are good. Las Zetas, in the Gulf cartel area, are some of the most sophisticated around.
Having said that, we need to ensure that we have created an interagency capacity that can start at the source and continue all the way through the retailer, if you will. Our role is to ensure that Jim's folks and ours are integrated each day. We do that through his JIATF-South and my JTF-North. We both partner with the full interagency effort and we are supportive as we can.
I think that as we come further to the border, our role is to then help the Mexican military, who as you know, is the principle element of the law enforcement effort. They certainly are the credible, less corrupt -- or lack of corruption in the Mexican military is noteworthy. They are carrying this role for this government.
As we move to the border, we partner with our law enforcement to help identify and stem the flow as we're able. And then of course, the law enforcement has, if you will, the retail element there.
So I think this is an effort that will require even closer work, more aggressive work, but it is one that is significant.
ADM. STAVRIDIS: I agree with Gene's remarks.
Senator, I agree with your comments. I believe that, as I mentioned earlier, sir, this is really about finding a supply chain, understanding it, reverse engineering it and killing it. That's the process we need to undertake. To do that, it has to be international cooperation, interagency cooperation.
Sir, I'd love to get you down or any member of the committee to JIATF-South, JTF-North and we'll show you how these seams fit together. It's something we've been working hard on.
SEN. WEBB: And for our purposes, I think we may be looking at the necessity of a more robust federal response. I think we're going to have to have that debate up here.
General McNabb, when you and I visited in my office, we were talking about the alternative supply routes into Afghanistan. You addressed a good bit of that today.
I have two thoughts for you. One is I asked if you could get me a comparison -- and this is, for the record, Mr. Chairman, I would like to see this. A comparison of the cost, the time and the load capability of the different approaches that we are now taking.
In other words, what we're moving through Pakistan right now. Say, take a container, you know, per container, what's the cost of moving it that way? What's the time and what's the volume that we are able to move over a period of time -- say a quarter, three months, whatever it is -- from the different approaches that we're taking. If you could give that to us, I would appreciate being able to look at it.
GEN. MCNABB: Senator, if I gave you a kind of a rough order of magnitude costs, we'd do it by container for the land. Obviously --
SEN. WEBB: You don't have to say container, but what I'm trying to do is I'm trying to get something that's measurable and we can look in a --
GEN. MCNABB: Apples --
SEN. WEBB: In a way as to what this is -- what these changes are going to do to the resupply pattern in there.
The second question I would have is there's been a lot of discussion and a lot of verbiage up on the Internet and this sort of thing about NATO -- some NATO countries moving supplies through Iran, making a deal there. Do you know what stage that approach has reached?
GEN. MCNABB: Senator, I do not. And we are not in any way contemplating using Iran.
SEN. WEBB: I know the United States is not, but it's been widely reported that other NATO countries are.
GEN. MCNABB: I saw that General Craddick, in his role in NATO, is saying that if individual countries want to negotiate that, that's what I saw as well.
I would just say that we're not in anyway thinking about Iran -- for all the reasons that you've been -- as you and I talked in your office.
SEN. WEBB: Right. Okay.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you very much, Senator Webb.
SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R-AL): Thank you.
Senator Webb -- I was just late, because I was in a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Mexico matter. And we've had Customs and the attorney general from Arizona and others. I concluded, fundamentally, the best thing we can do to help Mexico is to dry up these organizations that Admiral Stavridis indicated. And they are flowing money back in huge amounts that gives them the power. And if we target those, we'd would help Mexico a lot.
They're doing a lot better. I believe a lot of the violence is because Calderon is standing up to these guys and taking them on. And if he'll stay at it, I believe they'll be as successful as President Uribe in Colombia. But it's life and death and they'll kill you. And it's a dangerous bunch and he has got to break that group, because it threatens the good and decent people of Mexico and their ability to have a good government.
General McNabb, on the tanker: This is such an important issue. It remains the Air Force's number one acquisition priority. Is that correct? And you have to be responsible for all of that at TRANSCOM. And aren't a lot of these aircraft 50 years old or more in age?
GEN. MCNABB: Yes, Senator. They're Eisenhower -- you know, the 135s are Eisenhower-era tankers 46, 48 -- that average right now. By the time they start being replace, it'd be 50 years.
SEN. SESSIONS: So it's been a priority for how many years now?
GEN. MCNABB: Well, Senator Sessions, I could say that starting in '99, when I was the Air Force programmer, we were working hard on the replacement to the 135.
SEN. SESSIONS: So we're about 10 years off and we still haven't gotten there. And I hope that we can get there. I believe it's possible.
I will just add, for my colleagues' sake, that it was reported that the Northrop Grumman EADF aircraft that was going to be built in my home state of Alabama by American citizens was 25 percent less expensive than the competing aircraft, 17 years later and newer in design. And had larger capacity and capability, which is why I assume the Air Force chose it in the competitive process.
So where we go and how we get there, I don't know. But it would be folly and damaging to the integrity of our entire acquisition process if somehow politics causes us to do something that's not right. We ordered that thing bid. It ought to go to the best bidder. If we have to do -- you know, we can analyze a dual situation, perhaps, and see how that comes out. But in the long run, we need to get the best aircraft for the best people. And I think you correctly decided that.
General Renuart, are you -- you remain committed, do you not, and the military does, to the completion of the deployment of the 44 missiles in Alaska and a few in California that would complete the anti-missile system that would give us a protection against a limited missile attack?
GEN. RENUART: Yes, sir, we do. That 44 production rate is the number we remain committed to.
SEN. SESSIONS: And we've got what, 26 now already in the ground?
GEN. RENUART: We have 26 operational silos, Senator. We've moved some in and out to do maintenance and that sort of thing, but yes, sir.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, all I would just say is yes. This has been 20-30 years of research and development. These systems do work. I'm absolutely convinced -- aren't you -- that if a missile was launched from North Korea -- they're talking about launching it -- and it came all the way to the United States, that this system would effectively knock it out of the air?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I am confident that with the capabilities that are designed into the system -- the various radars and sensors -- it would give us good enough information against that single target to be successful.
SEN. SESSIONS: I think so, too. And I just think it would be foolhardy to -- there are costs, are there not, if you were you to substantially reduce the assembly line production of those missiles? Wouldn't we probably have contract penalties to pay and end up costing more per launch vehicle than we would if we went on and completed it?
GEN. RENUART: Well Senator, I think General O'Reilly the commander of MDA who owns that process is better suited to give you specifics but my sense would be any time you stop a contract, there are costs to that. So my sense would be in this case there would be some costs.
SEN. SESSIONS: Well we're more than half way there and I think we need to just go on and complete that. Now with regard to the proposed site in Europe, this is a matter I think of real importance. This is not a small thing. We've asked our friends in Poland and Czech Republic to participate in a system that would defend virtually all of Europe and the United States from attacks from Iran, and they've gone along with us on that. And I am, I've got to say disturbed, troubled, worried that some of the politicians are now talking about well we'll just make a deal with the Russians and maybe they'll promise us something and we won't go forward with this site. Maybe -- is that your pay grade?
GEN. RENUART: (Laughs) Senator, you've just jumped it up about three above me so -- (laughter) --
SEN. SESSIONS: So would you -- well, at any rate, we spent all these years doing this system. Now with regard to a system that would be deployed in Europe, isn't the key thing in all of these systems the guidance system that's on the nose of the rocket, and isn't that the most complicated and critical component? We've got a lot of missiles but the question is whether we can guide it to the collision point, isn't that right?
GEN. RENUART: Yes, sir. I wouldn't -- and, again, I'm not an expert on the technical means, but I would tell you that the success of this capability is based in the system of systems, and it is the radar sensors, it certainly is the guidance system on the missile, it is the ability to update that in transit and it's a collaboration of the many space and land based -- I'll call them radars, although some are different kinds of capabilities. But all of those together give you the precision that allow you to strike a target in space in that regard.
So it is -- as we've mentioned with Senator Levin, it is the combination of all of these that can give us success.
SEN. SESSIONS: Right.
GEN. RENUART: And we've --
SEN. SESSIONS: Well we've proven I think in the Pacific that we have the radar system that all come together so fantastically, it's amazing, and the guidance system to make that thing work. I guess all I'm saying is with regard to the European site, we're talking about a two-stage rocket instead of a three-stage rocket that we have in Alaska and California. In many ways, isn't that really a simpler launch system? I know we have to test it, but it's not a quantum leap forward. If you've got the guidance system, in theory at least it should be simpler to have a two-stage system than a three.
GEN. RENUART: Senator, I'd like to defer that to Pat O'Reilly because he knows --
SEN. SESSIONS: Well you don't need to do that. Just --
GEN. RENUART: -- the second piece of that.
SEN. SESSIONS: -- agree with me that it's logical. (Laughter.)
SEN. LEVIN: You're doing very well, General. Stick to your guns. (Laughter.)
SEN. SESSIONS: Well, that's the logical thing. I mean, we may have to -- we'll have to test it and prove it, but a two-stage system certainly is not something we can't perfect. And we perfected a three stage which is more complex. And so I just -- I would say this for the record. I believe that the independent sovereign nations that were once part of the Soviet empire are independent sovereign nations, they have a right to decide who they sign treaties with, they have a right to decide what kind of defense systems they'll deploy in their nations. And I think we ought to be prepared to defend that and not be taking any action that might be interpreted as an affirmation of Russia that they have the right to tell these countries how to conduct their defense.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN: Thank you, Senator Sessions. Senator McCaskill.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman -- (inaudible) -- I'll eventually speak, although a lot of the material I wanted to talk about has been covered by other Senators and I will not go back over it.
I do want to encourage you. I know that the study that we asked for on the C-17 and C-5 is pending and we're anxious to get the information from that as soon as it's available. We have not yet seen any information from that.
There are some bad habits we have in Congress and that is a tendency to be very parochial when it comes to you all buying things, and I've got to confess my parochial interests obviously in the C-17, it's pretty obvious I represent Missouri. Boeing's an important employer in my state. But having said that, what is confusing to me is when it seems like to me that you all may not be asking for things because you know that there's enough political will to give it to you anyway as an add-on. And I guess my question is if we're utilizing the C-17 at 159 percent -- I mean we're just flying the wings off of those things -- why are you all not asking for more? And could it be that you're encouraging our bad habits in terms of being parochial by knowing that if you don't ask for it, we're all going to pile in and put it in the budget anyway?
GEN. MCNABB: Senator, I hope we are not. I'll only say that from the standpoint of any of these, you start with a requirement, you will look at a number of different options and it really is competition that will kind of come up with the best mix. My responsibility as TRANSCOM is to kind of take a look at everything that goes in and say, okay, does this meet what I need to do for the combatant commanders that I support? And as long as it does, what we'll try to do is make sure that we get the most cost effective mix that actually meets those needs.
And it really does depend on that competition, on the cost for instance the re-engining of the C-5 vises how much does a new C-17 cost. And that's what they did in the -- (inaudible) -- they brought that all together and said hey, there's lots of different ways of doing this, and they brought everybody together and came up, okay, here's the fleet mix that we think makes the most sense both for the war fighter and the taxpayer.
Again, I was part of that, I would say that, you know, that it was very open. They went through the joint requirements oversight council which is all the vice chiefs of the services, reconfirmed the requirements, made sure that we have that right, and then turned that over and said okay, to -- in this case John Young who was overseeing that -- and said, okay, here's all the parts to the puzzle, let's come up with the best mix overall.
And I think that hopefully we are the honest brokers that come back and say, hey, this is the best overall way to do this, and of course that's what you see in the program of record.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Well I'll be anxious to see the results of the study and I want us all to break these bad habits and I want to make sure that you're not enabling us by maybe not being as forthcoming with what the real needs are and what -- you know, by the way you all put this thing together. There's a lot of habits we have that are really hard to break and we don't need enablers. So help us with that, particularly am interested in obviously the plan to do the AMP --
SEN. MCCASKILL: -- ended up being obviously way more expensive. It's another one of those textbook cases of incredible cost overrun. And so now looking back -- I mean I don't want to be a Monday morning quarterback here, I don't think that's fair -- but looking back, I'm not sure that that modernization program was frankly the best bang for the buck and it seems it's turned out to be way too many bucks.
Let me talk a little bit about the Iraq drawdown as it relates to equipment. What kind of plan is in place in terms of what's coming back? And, you know, what about the rolling stock versus the white property? And what I'm really concerned about in terms of the contracting is how much is walking away with our contractors, and who's on top of that? Who's paying attention to our inventory? We've had problems with inventory over there, whether it's guns or other things that -- obviously that's been a big issue for us and I'm concerned who's in charge of getting our stuff back and making sure contractors don't call it their own when it's not theirs?
GEN. MCNABB: Ma'am, obviously the CENTCOM is putting together the plan on how they will bring that back. And they are sorting out now, you know, what are they going to bring back, what are they going to leave behind maybe for the Iraqis or what are they going to move to Afghanistan? So they're going through all of that. And I will say the oversight of the contracting, making sure that's all done, is under CENTCOM's purview.
I would say that what they do with us is they say okay, here's how much we think we're going to bring out, and I make sure that on the supply chain side, the transportation but also the distribution network, is to make sure that I've got plenty of lift to be able to do that.
SEN. MCCASKILL: And you've not gotten any heads up yet about what kind of lift you need to start to begin to expect over the next 18 months to two years?
GEN. MCNABB: Yes, ma'am, and they have and I wanted to make sure that we were not along pulling the tent, and we are not. We'd have plenty of lift, especially because of our commercial partners. As long as we give them you know, hey, here's what's available, our U.S. flag industry both air and sea, you know, is actually tremendous if you can give them advance requirements and obviously we can use that. It's one of the great advantages that we have and that's cheaper than using you know, military unique type vessels.
So I think that right now we are, I know that we are not the long pulling the tent. The big part there is just to say hey, as soon as you have it really definitized, let us get that out to the market and then we can get it even cheaper on the market as well.
SEN. MCCASKILL: But the cost benefit is to whether we leave it or bring it back is being done by CENTCOM?
GEN. MCNABB: And the services. So they will work with, so for instance if it's Army equipment, it'll be CENTCOM as the combatant commander working with their components, their service components to say okay, how do you want to do that? Obviously resetting and preposition, you know, what might we also do in prepositioning in leaving in theater for that, all of that's being worked out.
SEN. MCCASKILL: I just want to know whose shoulder I need to look over because I'd like to pay attention to that one. I think it's -- yeah. You know, we've learned some lessons, I just want to make sure we've learned them.
GEN. MCNABB: Yes, ma'am.
SEN. MCCASKILL: General Renuart, as we talk about the National Guard and equipment, it seems to me that there is this rub between civilian needs of equipment and military needs. And I think probably it varies with each guard how much they're drawn to almost a seduction of getting all the military equipments as it relates to that side of their responsibility, which is huge now since they've become more operational as opposed to strategic.
On the other hand, I know what a humvee costs, and I know what a pick-up truck costs or a passenger van, and I know in our state in terms of their domestic mission, in terms of you know ice storms and flooding that is obviously not major flooding where you need a vehicle that goes through water, you need transport people, you know, I'm worried that we're spending big, big money on humvees when a real good utility SUV for a fraction of the cost is what we should be buying. Would you comment on that?
GEN. RENUART: Senator, absolutely. And I don't want to -- well I guess for the record as you know the Guard has their principle deployment mission if you will is a significant one and so we need to ensure that they are adequately equipped, properly equipped and trained for that mission.
In my role overseeing what I'll call the support to civil authorities and homeland security mission, we look at the capabilities that each of our partners in the National Guard have and look at what might be used out of that operational pool because you don't have to buy anything else and you don't overuse the equipment to a degree. And we also look at maybe some unique capabilities that really only apply to that mission.
And you're absolutely right in your state certainly tornados and floods and ice storms but also planning for large, you know the New Madrid fault is a huge issue along all of this border states of the Mississippi and Missouri Valley.
So we try to advocate for those unique pieces of equipment. Things like portable cell phone towers. Interoperable communications devices that allow law enforcement and active duty and Guard military to talk to each other. And we try to make sure those are included in the funding lines either of the state or of the DoD budget to provide to those states.
So we are sensitive to your concerns. We try not to buy Cadillacs when a Jeep will do.
SEN. MCCASKILL: It's like Apache versus Chinook. I mean, we've got Apache helicopters in our Guard, and I'm like you know, well we need those in Missouri, we need to take people in them.
GEN. RENUART: Yes, ma'am. And so as we continue this roadmap with the National Guard and it is a partnership, Craig McKinley and I talk about this on a routine basis, he works with the services for those operational force requirements. He and I work together with the services on those homeland security kinds of things, and we try to be good stewards of that. But we do try to take advantage of the equipment they already have so that we don't procure new just to make it for the unique mission that they might have in the homeland.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Well I would just encourage you to muscle up on your side.
GEN. RENUART: We will do that. Yes, ma'am.
SEN. MCCASKILL: I think if you muscle up on your side, it's going to in the long run give our folks the equipment they need most day to day in terms of what they're doing, you know, and not that they don't need some of the other but I just think that it's a pendulum is going to naturally swing away from the dual use equipment and I hope you keep advocating because it's obviously much less expensive and --
GEN. RENUART: Yes, ma'am.
SEN. MCCASKILL: -- definitely needed.
GEN. RENUART: Absolutely we will.
SEN. MCCASKILL: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
SEN. LEVIN Thank you.
We're not going to be able to have a second round, but the record will be open for questions. And if Senator McCaskill has no more other questions, there's no one else here to ask, I will bang the gavel. Thank you very much for your testimony. It was very, very helpful.
GEN. MCNABB: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.