Opening Statement of Senator Jack Reed

Ranking Member, Senate Armed Services Committee



Dirksen Senate Office Building

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Hearing to consider the nominations of:

General Joseph L. Votel, USA for reappointment to the grade of general and

to be Commander, United States Central Command; and


Lieutenant General Raymond A. Thomas III, USA to be general and

Commander, United States Special Operations Command.

(As prepared for delivery)

Thank you Mr. Chairman.  I’d like to join you in welcoming both of our nominees and to thank them for their willingness to continue their service to our Nation and the U.S. Armed Forces.  I’d also like to thank the family of General Votel and Lieutenant General Thomas for the dedication and support they have provided our nominees, without which their continued service would not be possible.  I understand that General Votel is accompanied today by his wife, Michele, and Lieutenant General Thomas is accompanied by his wife, Barbara, and his sons, Tony and Michael. Your support and presence today is appreciated.

Both CENTCOM and SOCOM are playing critical roles in helping to ensure our security here at home by addressing threats where they reside overseas.  As we covered in some depth yesterday, CENTCOM has the lead for our efforts against a diverse set of challenges ranging from the fight against ISIL in Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere; to preventing the re-emergence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan; to helping to ensure Iran is complying with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action while countering the country’s malign activities throughout the region.  General Votel, you will take command at a time of tremendous instability in the CENTCOM area of responsibility and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how you will seek to manage the various conventional and unconventional security challenges you will face.

General Thomas, you are intimately familiar with the opportunities and challenges facing you as the next SOCOM Commander.  Since September 11th, 2001, the men and women of SOCOM have been heavily committed to CENTCOM and in support of the other geographic combatant commands – most notably as part of efforts to counter violent extremist groups, stem the flow of narcotics, and build the capacity of foreign partners. 

Over the last 15 years, SOCOM has also seen its budget more than quadruple and its assigned manpower increase by almost 25,000 personnel.  Some have called SOCOM a “microcosm” of the broader DOD with ground, air and maritime components, a global orientation, and “service-like” authorities and responsibilities.  In many cases, SOCOM also acts as the “connective tissue” between the DOD, interagency elements, and foreign partners. 

SOCOM’s organization and global reach offers many benefits, particularly in addressing transregional issues like terrorism that are not bound by geography.  However, as we seek to take advantage of SOCOM’s unique attributes, we must also ensure appropriate civilian policy and programmatic oversight of SOCOM, especially by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.  General Thomas, I look forward to discussing the role of SOCOM within the Department and interagency in supporting U.S. national security objectives.

The operational tempo facing our special operations forces shows no sign of slowing for the foreseeable future.  General Votel, you testified at yesterday’s posture hearing that “Critical to all of [your] efforts is ensuring we preserve our force and families, providing for their short- and long-term well-being” and you indicated that SOCOM’s initiatives in these areas have “increased resilience, decreased reported symptoms of depression, increased utilization of behavioral health services, and expanded access to timely rehabilitative care.”  I commend you and your predecessors in taking action to help address the challenges facing special operators and their families and, General Thomas, I look forward to hearing what plans you may have to build upon these successes.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.