1/30/2020 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I join you in extending my condolences to the families of the brave Americans who were killed in the attack on a Kenyan airbase earlier this month, as well as to those recovering from the attack.  Also, I extend my condolences to the families of the two airmen killed in Afghanistan.

Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today.  Both of you are leading commands during challenging times and we thank you for your continued service.  Please also extend our gratitude to the service men and women under your command for their outstanding service to the nation.

There is currently an effort under way to review U.S. force posture around the globe in an effort to ensure that Department of Defense funding and forces are allocated in line with the National Defense Strategy (NDS).  We understand that Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the first Combatant Command (COCOM) to go through the review process, and that Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) will shortly follow.

While it is wise, and in fact necessary, to take a hard and methodical look at our investments and military activities around the globe, it would be strategically unwise to disengage from either Africa or Latin America in an effort to generate small, near-term budgetary gains.  Given the relatively small number of forces under consideration, such a move would not generate the type of savings necessary for meaningful NDS investments and would likely come at a much higher cost in terms of increased long-term security risks.

Our competitors recognize that investing in Africa and Latin America is in their long-term interests, as evidenced by Chinese and Russian military and economic activity that continues to grow across these continents year by year.  General Townsend and Admiral Faller, I look forward to hearing your assessments regarding where and how U.S. interests are best served in the AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM areas of operation, including where we may be able to gain efficiencies without undue risk to U.S. interests, and where you believe it would be strategically irresponsible to do so. 

As you both noted in your testimony, Latin America and Africa are beset by a vicious cycle of challenges that our competitors are seeking to leverage to their benefit.  Countries with weak democratic institutions and rampant corruption are being overtly wooed by Chinese and Russian investments and covertly manipulated through information operations and a flood of disinformation.  We are not only competing globally for influence and access, we must also work to ensure that new forms of military and economic colonialism do not take root in these regions.  I am especially concerned about Chinese economic intentions, and whether our partner countries are positioned to defend themselves against China’s predatory lending practices.  

As you well know, the problems we face and the security solutions required are multidimensional.  They do not lend themselves to geographic or bureaucratic boundaries and require well-resourced and well-integrated whole-of-government solutions.  Continuing to restrict development aid, rebuff partners and allies, and constrain multilateral efforts, as the Administration has repeatedly endeavored to do, all but ensures that present challenges in places like Latin America and Africa will continue to expand and travel to America’s doorstep.  I will be interested in your views on the importance of investing in diplomacy and development to foster long-term stability in these regions, as well as your assessment of the impact of significant force reductions on the interagency and international partners we coordinate with and depend upon to advance our objectives. 

Again, I thank the witnesses for their service and I look forward to your testimony.  Thank you.