"Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I join you in welcoming General Breedlove, who has amassed an impressive record of service. General, I thank you for your continued willingness to serve the country. Please ensure the brave men and women you lead know how grateful we are for their sacrifice, and that of their families, on behalf of our national security.
"General Breedlove, we no longer have the luxury of operating in a bipolar world as we did during the Cold War- when you were cutting your teeth as a second lieutenant and when the threats to the homeland were clear. Now, more than ever, the threats in the AOR's around the globe are interconnected. What happens in Europe, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific and Africa has the potential to directly impact the security of the U.S. Homeland.
"I have a hard time squaring the reality of an aggressive Iran, a bellicose Kim Jong Un, a war against Al Qaida in Mali, armed conflict in the Central African Republic, continuing frozen conflicts in Azerbaijan, and 70,000 dead in Syria, with the President's statement that "the tide of war is receding." On my trip to Korea in January, we visited the DMZ, which as you know from your extensive time in Korea, is anything but demilitarized. And it was obvious when we visited Taiwan that based on the number of missiles pointing at us from China, the Chinese don't think that the "tide of war is receding." On our visit to Northern Africa, we discussed AQIM, Boko Haram, and Al Shabaab -- none of which would tell you that the "tide of war is receding." If the "tide of war is receding," I'd hate to see what it looks like when the President decides it is coming in.
"Iran is determined to develop a nuclear weapon, despite growing international pressure and the damage sanctions are doing to its economy. Public intelligence reports tell us that they could have a ballistic missile capable of reaching the East Coast of the U.S. by 2015. Although I'm encouraged that the President revered his earlier misguided decision and is now seeking to bolster our homeland missile defense system through fourteen additional ground-based-interceptors on the West Coast, I remain deeply concerned about our ability to defend against the growing threat from Iran. Restoration of the original planned number of missiles on the West Coast helps but is late to need and does not go far enough. We need the additional protection that an East Coast site would provide.
"Throughout my extensive travels to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, it has been readily apparent how critically important it is for the United States to remain engaged and a leader abroad. The return on that investment abroad is exemplified by the troop contributions of over 50 nations from around the globe to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. NATO has served as an invaluable partner and critical platform to integrate the contributions of troops and military capabilities to bolster operations in Afghanistan, while at the same time operations in Afghanistan have transformed the expeditionary capabilities of NATO. The security dividends of our investment in NATO include combined operations in Afghanistan, Libya, and counter piracy missions off the Horn of Africa. It is clear that whatever future operations we conduct in North Africa and the Middle East will be from Europe, and with Europe.
"And while the threats that our witness is tasked with confronting are growing in scope and complexity, the resources available to deal with them are decreasing. I don't remember a time when the world has been more dangerous and the threats more complex. Yet, due in part to the misperception that the tide of war is receding, we are poised to cut our defense budget by a trillion dollars over the next ten years. The misguided policy of the President is the relentless pursuit of disarmament. And as we diminish our defense industrial base, China and Russia increase theirs; nurturing militant adventurism that ultimately our military commanders must address. While our military commanders on the ground have done a phenomenal job with the hand that they were dealt; we owe them a better hand.
"I remain concerned that we have a strategy-resource disconnect that puts military lives and our national interests at risk. As we speak, four of six U.S. fighter squadrons stationed in Europe have been grounded and our tanker and airlift squadrons will revert from full mission capable to a greatly reduced status of basic mission capable. This lack of resources will make EUCOM support to AFRICOM even more difficult and further reduce our ability to react to contingencies similar to Benghazi. Over the longer term, I am also greatly concerned that we'll squander our investment of national blood and treasure in Afghanistan by a precipitous draw down of troops and capabilities similar to what we saw in Iraq.
"If confirmed, General Breedlove, you will be charged with stewardship of the most successful alliance in history and be responsible for ensuring that our efforts in Afghanistan have not been in vain. As we saw very clearly in Libya last year, our strategic partnership and strategic access in Europe is the linchpin for our engagement in some of the most volatile regions in the world today. What I'm getting at here General is that there will be no shortage of challenges facing you and the men and women you will lead. The threats are growing, and the tools available to address them are declining.
"I look to you to provide the committee with your assessment of how the ongoing budget crisis will impact your ability to effectively address national security challenges and whether the current strategies that you are operating under are still executable given the budget realities.
"Thank you again for appearing before us today and I look forward to your testimony."