Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would also like to welcome the nominees, General Abrams and Admiral Faller, and thank them for their service and their willingness to continue to serve.  I would also like to welcome and thank your families:  General Abrams - your wife, Connie, your sister Jeanne and brother-in-law John, as well as your nephews, Frank and Nathan and Nathan’s children - Natalie and Nathaniel.  Admiral Faller, welcome to your wife, Martha, and your father, Henry Faller. 

General Abrams, while tension on the Korean peninsula has been reduced since the Singapore Summit, the situation remains precarious and dangerous.  Despite President Trump’s assertions to the contrary, there remains a significant military threat to the United States and its allies because of the regime’s array of nuclear, conventional, biological and chemical weapons.  I am greatly disappointed that the momentum of the maximum pressure campaign has been lost and that we have seen no developments on denuclearization since the Singapore Summit. 

I am greatly concerned about the readiness of our troops and those of our ally because of the cancellation of the joint military exercises.  Suspending the exercises was a substantial concession on our part, and I have not seen a corresponding substantial concession from the North Koreans.  President Trump’s characterization of the exercises as provocative war games was unwarranted and unfortunately has fed into the North Korean propaganda narrative that the United States is the aggressor and has created tension on the peninsula through its presence.  General Abrams, I’d like to hear your views regarding the military situation on the peninsula, and how you anticipate maintaining the readiness of the joint forces at the same time that these negotiations are taking place.

Finally, I am concerned that there is a widening gap between us and our ally, the Republic of Korea.  The Republic of Korea and North Korea have recently concluded three inter-Korean summits, and both sides have stated their desire for a peace treaty.  It is unclear how these developments will affect our long-standing and critical military alliance with the Republic of Korea.  For example, many experts have expressed concerns that a peace treaty may call into question the need for U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula.  Clearly, given the threat still posed by North Korea to the United States and South Korea and Japan, the presence of our troops and the strength of our alliance remains critical, and will remain critical for years to come.  General Abrams, I look forward to hearing from you on how you intend to maintain and deepen our military alliance with our ally, the Republic of Korea, given the diplomatic developments that have occurred.

Admiral Faller, you will be facing a different set of challenges with a much smaller pool of resources, given our focus on near peer competition with Russia and China.  At the same time, the issue sets that you face are no less challenging, or compelling, especially given the current opioid crisis in the United States.  You will play a critical role in the whole-of-government effort to curb the influx of life threatening narcotics into the United States. 

Venezuela poses a significant challenge and threat to the region.  In addition to creating refugee crises in neighboring countries like Colombia and Peru, which have taken a significant toll on their civilian infrastructure and social services, Venezuela is fueling the narcotics trade and exporting corruption and illicit funds to its neighbors.  There are reports that some of those illicit funds are going to terrorist organizations, thereby undermining the significant progress that countries like Colombia have made in rooting out the FARC and the ELN.  Admiral Faller, I look forward to hearing from you on how you intend to help Venezuela’s neighbors deal with this ongoing crisis. 

Also, Admiral Faller, I would like to hear from you on how you plan to coordinate with Central Command and Indo-Pacific Command to ensure that we are engaging in a global strategy to counter the efforts of Russia and China to undermine our influence and presence in the region. 

Gentlemen, thank you for your decades of service to our nation. I look forward to your testimony.