Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on U.S. European Command & U.S. Transportation Command
Thank you, Chairman Inhofe, and I join you in welcoming our witnesses this morning. General Wolters is testifying for the first time before this committee in his current position as Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, or SACEUR. General Lyons, I welcome your return to testify before the committee on the posture of U.S. Transportation Command. Let me thank you both for your many decades of military service, and please extend our appreciation to the dedicated men and women serving under your commands.
The transatlantic relationship remains absolutely critical to U.S. national security. Our close bond with our European allies and partners is one of our greatest strategic advantages. In the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress re-affirmed the unbreakable U.S. commitment to NATO. I am concerned, however, that significant cuts in the European Deterrence Initiative, or EDI, as proposed in the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget request, sends the wrong signal to our allies—and our adversaries—regarding our support for the transatlantic relationship.
The EUCOM Commander faces a wide range of complex security challenges, including the re-emergence of a revisionist Russia seeking to re-assert a claim to Great Power status. Russia is actively undermining the rules-based international order that it views as contrary to its strategic interests. Russia has deployed its military aggressively to attempt to coerce its neighbors and undermine their sovereignty. Consistent with the 2018 National Defense Strategy, EUCOM is developing the operational concepts, plans and programs necessary for the strategic competition with Russia and to ensure a combat-credible military deterrent against Russia’s efforts to threaten the sovereignty of our allies and partners. General Wolters, the Committee would be interested in whether you have the force posture in Europe and resources to meet this challenge.
Additionally, Russia is engaged in a campaign of hybrid warfare, below the level of military conflict, to advance its strategic interests. Recent news reports have highlighted that Russia is once again conducting information warfare operations to influence the upcoming U.S. presidential elections to advance preferred candidates, sow division, and undermine public faith in our democratic process. I would be interested in how EUCOM is working with CYBERCOM and other agencies to counter the Russian hybrid threat and what progress, if any, we have made on ensuring a coordinated whole-of-government strategy to defend against Russian malign influence.
A major test for both EUCOM and TRANSCOM will come this spring with the DEFENDER Europe 20 exercise. This exercise involves the transport of a division-size combat force -- the largest deployment of troops from the United States to Europe for an exercise in the past 25 years. In total, some 37,000 U.S., NATO, and partner forces will participate in DEFENDER. This exercise will highlight the combat-credible military deterrent provided by U.S. and Allied forces against aggression in Europe.
Turning to TRANSCOM, the men and women of TRANSCOM perform duties that sustain the entire Department of Defense effort in protecting our nation’s security. With the competitive edge in its ability to deploy and sustain America’s armed forces, TRANSCOM provides DOD with unique capabilities that we have come to expect and, perhaps too frequently, take for granted. TRANSCOM forces are busy supporting all of the combatant commanders every day, and without them, the United States would be at a significant disadvantage almost everywhere in the world.
The Ready Reserve Force, or RRF, is a group of cargo ships held in readiness by the Maritime Administration, but it is aging and will need to be modernized over the next decade. Three years ago, the Committee authorized the Defense Department to begin a program to recapitalize the Ready Reserve Force. This program authorized DOD to purchase up to two foreign-built vessels while the Navy designed a family of auxiliary vessels for a number of uses, including recapitalizing the Ready Reserve Force. Then, two years ago, Congress authorized the Department to buy five more foreign-built vessels – as soon as the Department submitted a funded plan to build new ships for the RRF in U.S. shipyards – a plan we have yet to receive. General Lyons, I am interested in the status of RRF recapitalization in FY2021.
The Defense Department also needs to ensure that the Civil Reserve Air Fleet, or CRAF program, which provides as much as 40 percent of wartime airlift needs, remains viable and will be able to provide needed surge capacity in the future. General Lyons, I am interested in your views on the state of this fleet and if anything needs to be done to ensure their readiness.
Our global transportation capability, owned or managed by TRANSCOM, has been one of our asymmetric advantages for many years now. However, we cannot assume that potential adversaries will allow us free rein in this area in the future. Last year, we received the report of an analysis of wartime transportation needs in the Mobility Requirements Study. It was clear to the Committee that the Department needed to continue the analytical effort to identify requirements because the study presented last year did not reflect implementation of the National Defense Strategy. General Lyons, perhaps you could give us an update on where TRANSCOM stands in updating this analysis.
Finally, TRANSCOM also faces a unique set of cyber threats because of the command’s extensive work with private-sector entities in the transportation and shipping industries. General Lyons, I would like to get an update from you on where TRANSCOM stands in its effort to improve its cyber security posture.
I again want to thank the witnesses for appearing before the Committee today and I look forward to their testimony.