The House Armed Services Committee met today for a hearing on United States force posture in the United States Pacific Command area of responsibility. Chairman Randy Forbes made the following statement available as prepared for delivery:
I want to welcome all our members and our distinguished panel of experts to today's hearing that will focus on the Pacific Command and an independent assessment of the U.S. defense posture in the region.
I have had the opportunity to review the Center for Strategic and International Studies report and was very impressed with thoroughness of the assessment and the depth of study associated with the recommendations. The ability to pull together such a comprehensive document in the short time provided is indicative of the expertise provided to this report and the value the think tank community can play in the policymaking process. My compliments to both of our witnesses.
To quote the report "Today, six of the ten fastest growing major export markets for the United States are in Asia, and 60 percent of U.S. goods exported abroad go to the region. Meanwhile, the region is home to five of the eight states recognized as being in possession of nuclear weapons, three of the world's top six defense budgets, six of the world's largest militaries, continuing tensions between India and Pakistan, and territorial disputes stretching from the Northern Territories of Japan through the East and South China Seas and into South Asia." It is for these reasons and many more that a rebalance to the Pacific theater is in our strategic interests.
Our subcommittee has long supported this strategic rebalance and I believe that a forward based, credible presence is essential to supporting our economic interests.
In previous discussions on the Marine Corps realignment from Okinawa, I had expressed my concern on the overall costs associated with the realignment of forces. However, earlier this year, the Department of Defense offered an alternative force structure proposal that includes a reduction of forces in Okinawa and realigns the Marine Corps into Marine Air-Ground Task Force elements on Okinawa, Guam, Australia and Hawaii. I am pleased to note that the overall costs appear to have been significantly reduced while security posture may be further enhanced.
Rarely in Washington do we encounter a proposal that both saves money and expands capabilities, but I think that we have encountered such a proposal in the latest agreement between the United States and the Government of Japan. I am glad that our witnesses today appear to have reached the same conclusion.
I believe in maintaining peace through strength. I believe that a strong economy requires a strong military to protect the free-flow of goods around the world. I believe that the Asia-Pacific theater provides a valuable key to the continued prosperity of the United States and is in our strategic interests to ensure peace in the region.
I must admit, I do wonder whether such a Pacific rebalance as we are discussing today will be hollowed by the debate associated with Sequestration and the decisions associated with the Budget Control Act. I think that we internalize the impacts of sequestration to the force structure of the United States but I am equally worried as to the message that could be provided to our partners and allies. I look forward to also discussing how a withdrawal of forces from overseas, that could follow a sequestration decision and the additional reductions already included in the Budget Control Act, could be perceived by our partners and allies.
As to our hearing today, we intend to have two panels of witnesses. The first panel will be the principal authors of the report entitled "U.S. Force Posture Strategy in the Asia Pacific Region: An Independent Assessment". The second panel will be representative of the Department of Defense.
Joining us on the first panel are two distinguished witnesses and authors of this independent report, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
Mr. David J. Berteau
Senior Vice President and Director of International Security Program
Dr. Michael J. Green
Senior Advisor and Japan Chair
Gentlemen, thank you all for being here.
I also ask unanimous consent that the entirety of the Independent Assessment and the comments provided by the Department of Defense that were provided in the official transmittal of the report also be included into the record.
Without objection, so ordered.
Representing the Department of Defense and to provide their thoughts and comments to the PACOM report, I am pleased to have two distinguished individuals:
Mr. Robert Scher
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Plans
Mr. David F. Helvey
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia