Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I would like to welcome our distinguished witnesses this morning.  It’s not every day that this Committee receives testimony from such an illustrious panel.  Each of you have played an important role in some of the most monumental foreign policy decisions in our nation’s history, and on behalf of all the Members on this Committee, we look forward to your testimony.

This morning’s hearing on global challenges and U.S. national security follows the release last week of the new National Defense Strategy (NDS).  This strategy, which supports the President’s recently released National Security Strategy, states that the central challenge facing our nation is the “reemergence of long-term, strategic competition” with Russia and China, and that this competition replaces terrorism as the “primary concern in U.S. national security.”  Without question, Russia remains determined to reassert its influence around the world, most recently by using malign influence and active measures activities to undermine the American people’s faith in our election process, as well as other western elections.  Likewise, China continues to threaten the rules-based order in the Asia-Pacific region by economic coercion of its smaller, more vulnerable neighbors, and by undermining the freedom of navigation.

Given the experience of our panel, I would welcome their assessment of the strategic threat posed by both Russia and China and what recommendations they have for how the U.S. can counter these powers both militarily and by utilizing other critical elements of national power. 

Great power competition may be the current geostrategic reality, but we must not neglect other, equally complicated, challenges.  North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile efforts are an immediate and grave national security threat.  Likewise, Iran continues their aggressive weapons development activities, including ballistic missile development efforts, while pursuing other destabilizing activities in the region.  Finally, the U.S must remain focused on countering the security threat from ISIS in Iraq and Syria and its spread beyond the Middle East region, while also building the capabilities of the Afghan national security forces and denying any safe haven for extremists.

In the coming weeks, this Committee will hear directly from Secretary Mattis and senior leaders in the Defense Department on how the National Defense Strategy will address the threats facing our nation.  As we begin our review of the National Defense Strategy, it would benefit this Committee to get our witnesses’ assessment of the new strategy and whether it strikes the appropriate balance between great power competition and the ongoing threats posed by rogue regimes, terrorist organizations, and other non-state actors and criminal organizations.   

Finally, the new strategy emphasizes a simple, but key, fact - the importance of allies and partners.   The esteemed panel before us knows better than most that robust international alliances are essential to keeping our country safe.  The National Defense Strategy unveiled last week puts a premium on bolstering current alliances while pursuing new partners.

As I have stated many times, I am deeply concerned about statements from the President that have undercut America’s leadership position in the world, alienated our longtime allies, and dismissed the global order the United States helped establish following World War II.  These actions isolate the United States and weaken our influence in the world – ultimately leading to uncertainty and the risk of miscalculation. 

At the same time, the Administration has proposed dramatic cuts to the State Department and career foreign service officers are leaving the government at an alarming rate.  I am concerned that we may seek to counter the “whole of nation” strategies pursued by Russia and China simply by re-investing in our own comparative military advantages at the expense of necessary investments in diplomacy and development as essential tools of national power.  Given our panel’s extensive experience cultivating allies and promoting diplomacy, I would welcome their assessment of our current alliances, what more can be done to sustain these critical relationships, and the importance of non-military elements of national power to our security. 

Once, again, I want to thank the witnesses for being here, and I look forward to their testimony.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.