Recent Blog Posts
Sep 29 2014
HASC Chairman Pens Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-CA) wrote a letter to the editor of the Washington Post warning of three mistakes that must be avoided in any new authorization for use of military force or "AUMF."
"Any authorization should stand on its own merits, after lengthy and open debate, and not be a rider to an omnibus appropriation or a defense bill."
Be considered by a "Lame Duck" session of Congress
"Lame ducks, with little accountability, should not make an AUMF the final vote of their term. Incoming representatives will oversee this conflict, and they should bear the responsibility for authorizing it — even if that means a vote can’t take place until January. The commander in chief could devote the intervening period to filling the gaps in his strategy, being candid with the American people and building a political consensus and commitment to see this through."
Sep 17 2014
Crocker, Ford, Keane and Petraeus Pen Letter of Support for McKeon Amendment on Syria Train and Equip
"urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort"
Washington - Ambassadors Ryan C. Crocker and Robert S. Ford as well as Generals Jack M. Keane and David H. Petraeus, have written a letter of support for the McKeon Amendment on Syria Train and Equip Mission to HASC Leaders.
In the letter to Chairman Buck McKeon and Ranking Member Adam Smith, the authors express strong support for the Syria Train and Equip Mission as well as the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.
Full text below:
September 17, 2014
Dear Chairman McKeon and Ranking Member Smith:
We write to express our strong support for Congressional authorization of the provision of assistance and training to properly vetted members of the Syrian opposition.
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) is simultaneously fighting both the murderous regime of Bashar al-Assad and the barbaric Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Providing greater assistance to FSA is the United States’ best opportunity to develop a moderate force that is capable of defeating ISIS and bringing about a post-Assad Syria that is free of terror.
As you may know, FSA forces have recently achieved some successes on the ground against ISIS forces in northern Syria, but their effectiveness is limited by their lack of sufficient assistance and training.
Building up the moderate opposition in Syria will be a key element of any successful strategy against ISIS. To be sure, after three years of war, it will take a long time to build the moderate opposition. But there is no viable alternative. The United States must set to this task immediately.
Finally, we note that approval of this measure should not prevent or circumscribe Congress from considering a properly scoped authorization for the use of military force in the future, or from otherwise revisiting or revising its position on this issue as conditions on the ground evolve. But time is of the essence, and we are convinced of the urgent need for Congress to authorize this effort.
Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker
Ambassador Robert S. Ford
General Jack M. Keane, USA, Retired
General David H. Petraeus, USA, Retired
"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon at the American Enterprise Institute"
The Washington Post's "Right Turn" Blogger Jennifer Rubin praised Chairman McKeon's recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute in which he presented his strategy to defeat ISIL.
You can read her full piece here
Key excerpts below
"If a lawmaker or a candidate or any American wants to understand the problems with President Obama’s approach to the Islamic State, he or she should look no further than the remarks delivered by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) at the American Enterprise Institute.
To be blunt, there is too much magical thinking going on. We can do it all from the air. The Islamic State is not a current threat. The locals can take care of things. We can go slow and steady. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.
As is apparent to those following the growth of the Islamic State, which the CIA now says numbers 35,000-strong, not 10,000, and the territory the group commands, time is not on our side. That is true in two respects, as McKeon spells out:
'A go-slow strategy gives them space to thrive and grow and blend with the population. Every month, 500 more foreign fighters join their ranks. Every month, they raise nearly $85 million in revenue just from oil. Every day, ISIL identifies and brutally executes the Sunni moderates who might be convinced to work with us again. Soon all that will be left is a cowering population unable to resist the Caliphate. ISIL is a Sunni movement. Getting the Sunnis to reject them is key. While we wait to see what the newly formed government will do, we are missing the chance to get the Iraqi Sunni leaders on board, who can truly speak for their people. And the job will be harder this time.'
As McKeon notes, we are NOT talking about “large occupying forces in a hostile land,” which he dubs a “red herring.” But we do need to be there, and we need to lead the coalition Obama describes.
“[A]rming surrogates and conducting sporadic airstrikes is not a formula for success against ISIL. It is not timely enough or decisive enough. We have learned that in Yemen and the Horn of Africa after many years. Coalition operations, on the ground and in the air, backed by the enabling capabilities of the United States, will be required.”
"The Kurds, the Iraqis, the Turks, the Emiratis, and the Jordanians all have military capability. They all want to knock ISIL on its back. They need our help, they want our help, and we owe them our help. Ignoring their pleas is a quick way to end up friendless with little, if any, U.S. influence left in the region. Let’s not forget that our allies around the world are watching and wondering if they can ever trust the U.S. again. American leadership isn’t an option here. It is a necessity. We are the missing piece in the puzzle. There are certain capabilities that we have invested in for decades — the ability to control air and sea space, the ability to put troops in difficult terrain and hostile territories, the ability to supply forces and communicate on the battlefield. That’s how we pull these nations together. . . . '
Don’t take McKeon’s word for it. This is what military commanders recommended to the president. He rejected the advice for political reasons (it “would have been highly controversial, and most likely would have been opposed by a substantial majority of Americans”) — just as he did in whittling down the Afghanistan surge and arriving at the zero-troop option in Afghanistan and adhering to his campaign promise to bring all troops home from Iraq. The question is not what the best strategy is — it is whether we have the fortitude to use it."
Sep 05 2014
Rep. Brad Wenstrup on CNN: "We need an objective, we need a strategy and we need the means" to defeat ISIS
HASC Member says "When evil men combine, good men must associate"
House Armed Services Committee Member Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) who served in Iraq as a combat surgeon appeared on CNN's New Day yesterday to discuss the ongoing threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response.
You can view the full interview with Rep. Wenstrup here.
Sep 03 2014
HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee Chairman and Former Secretary of the Navy pen essay for National Review
American Seapower for the 21st Century
The National Review
September 2, 2014
By John F. Lehman & J. Randy Forbes
In 1987, the United States Navy numbered 594 ships. On, above, and below the ocean, the Navy reigned supreme, granting the commander-in-chief a flexible tool to secure the world’s economic maritime highways and project power ashore from the sea at the time and place of the nation’s choosing.
More than a quarter century later, the Navy has shrunk to just 288 ships and sits poised to shrink still further in the coming years. The naval buildup of the 1980s was so large and so enduring that it allowed the U.S. Navy to thrive for the next three decades. But succeeding presidents and Congresses have failed to sustain the fleet that President Reagan built. As this fleet retires in the decade ahead, the Navy will begin experiencing serious shortfalls in the minimum number of attack submarines, amphibious ships, and large surface vessels required to execute its mission.
The Navy’s relative decline cannot be measured simply by numbers of ships. The last 20 years have been a hiatus in the development of key capabilities and the maintenance of important skills. Areas like anti-submarine warfare, long a specialty of the U.S. Navy, have been neglected. Anti-mine warfare, which is critical in waters like the Strait of Hormuz, has been similarly ignored. And today the rapidly modernizing Chinese navy has developed anti-ship missiles that can “out-stick” our own missiles.
With 90 percent of global trade carried by sea, and the vast majority of international financial transactions conducted via undersea cables, the U.S. Navy is the backstop for securing a stable global financial system for the U.S. economy to operate in. In addition, the Navy is a highly versatile force that can generate sovereign, forward-deployed military power to do anything from strategic nuclear deterrence to humanitarian assistance. Whether it is launching air strikes against Islamist militants in Iraq or evacuating civilians from conflict zones, this flexibility makes naval power uniquely suited to an international security environment that requires scalpels in some instances and axes in others.
Past buildups of our naval power during periods of relative international peace, from the late 19th century to the 1930s to the Reagan era, can teach us much about the process of revitalizing American seapower today. In each of these cases, a far-sighted president, aided by like-minded members of Congress, was able to undertake the investments needed to rebuild U.S. naval power, often in difficult economic times. Yet a future effort to reinvigorate the Navy, while still requiring presidential vision and congressional leadership, must also be uniquely suited to the circumstances of our time.
To begin with, our Navy must simply build more ships. The Navy says that 306 vessels is the minimum necessary to meet our national-security requirements. Outside experts, like the 2010 QDR National Defense Panel, put the number closer to 350 ships. While technology and maintenance techniques continue to improve, the demand for naval presence and the strain on military families and naval hulls from rapid deployments all place a limit on the classic mantra that the military can do “more with less.” A plan that reverses the downward spiral in ship construction is essential to stimulate a new naval renaissance.
But while numbers matter, the Navy will also need to ensure that it is prepared for the future with the right technologies, doctrine, and operating concepts. This will not be easy. Like all organizations, the Pentagon has traditionally resisted new technologies and war-fighting paradigms that threaten existing bureaucracies and ways of operating. Whether it was the transition from sail to steam in the 19th century or the rise of aircraft carriers before World War II, strong civilian leadership and forward-thinking uniformed officers have been required to ensure that our Navy is prepared for the future and not simply planning for the past.
Today, the U.S. military is on the cusp of a series of technological innovations that will do much to define the face of warfare in the 21st century. The growth of unmanned technology is poised to ensure the relevance of the aircraft carrier for decades to come. By investing in unmanned, carrier-launched aircraft capable of striking heavily defended targets at long range, the carrier’s air wing will remain a versatile and effective power-projection tool.
Advances in areas such as directed energy, shipboard lasers, and the electromagnetic rail gun promise to revolutionize the way the Navy engages surface and airborne targets. Other innovations, like unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), offer similar prospects for a technological transformation in undersea warfare. It is imperative that our Navy’s leadership encourage these innovations in the years ahead.
China’s growing assertiveness, Russia’s military resurgence, and the worsening instability in Iraq and the broader Middle East should remind Americans of the world they live in. Like Britain’s Royal Navy in centuries past, the United States Navy underwrites the global economic and security order through its forward presence, deterrent power, and, ultimately, war-fighting capabilities. Investing in a revitalization of American seapower should be among the highest priorities of any American president. In the words of Representative Carl Vinson (D., Ga.), who led the Navy’s revitalization before World War II, there is nothing more expensive than cheap armies and navies.— John F. Lehman served as secretary of the Navy from 1981 to 1987. Representative J. Randy Forbes (R., Va.) chairs the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
House Armed Services Committee Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) appeared on CNN today to discuss the threat posed by ISIS and the U.S. response.
"It reveals what sort of people they (ISIS) are. Secondly, its an attempt to intimidate us into not playing a role in pushing back against ISIS and to trying to keep us out of Iraq and from joining a coalition to contain and stop them. It doesn't change anything. It just reveals what they're about and what they're trying to do."
Aug 20 2014
Scowcroft, Hadley, Miller make the case for U.S. Nuclear Deterrence in Washington Post Opinion Piece
NATO-Based Nuclear Weapons are an Advantage in a Dangerous World
"When NATO’s leaders gather in Wales in early September, they will address several issues critical to the alliance, including Russian adventurism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, members’ contribution to collective defense, the adequacy of individual national defense budgets and plans for supporting the people of Afghanistan. In the course of their deliberations on these issues, however, they also should reaffirm the value to the alliance of the continued presence of the modest number of U.S. nuclear bombs in Europe. We believe this is necessary because we are again hearing calls for the United States to unilaterally withdraw its small arsenal of forward- deployed nuclear bombs. Those arguments are shopworn, familiar — and wrong.
"The newer members joined NATO in large part to get under this nuclear umbrella, and they have been vocal in expressing their concern that withdrawing the weapons would symbolize a diminution in the U.S. commitment to defend them. Their concerns are heightened as they watch a recidivist Russia conduct exercises simulating nuclear strikes on Poland and the Baltic states, threatening nuclear strikes on nascent NATO missile-defense sites and continuing to deploy a bloated arsenal of several thousand short-range nuclear weapons.
"A second argument is that because nuclear weapons have no place in international relations in the 21st century, they certainly shouldn’t be forward deployed in NATO Europe. In his much-heralded 2009 Prague speech, President Obama called on the nuclear states to reduce the role such weapons played in their respective security strategies, and he took steps to implement his vision in the United States. Apart from Britain, no other nuclear weapons state took heed; indeed, the others expanded their nuclear modernization programs and gave nuclear weapons a more central role. Of particular concern to NATO, Russia has embarked on an across-the-board modernization of its nuclear forces, a modernization judged so important by Moscow that it has violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the process. As our NATO allies point out, nuclear weapons clearly matter to Russian leadership, and, as a result, our allies insist that the U.S. nuclear commitment to NATO cannot be called into question.
"A third argument is that NATO, in the aggregate, enjoys overwhelming conventional military superiority. This argument, however, is built on two fundamental fallacies. First, such aggregate comparisons mask the reality that on NATO’s eastern borders, on a regular basis, Russian forces are numerically superior to those of the alliance. As events in Crimea and Ukraine showed, Russia’s armed forces have improved significantly since their poor performance in Georgia in 2008; demonstrating impressive operational capabilities, they have made clear they are no longer the rag-tag army of the past decade. Second, focusing on conventional war-fighting capabilities overlooks the fact that NATO’s principal goal is deterring aggression rather than having to defeat it. And it is here that NATO’s nuclear capabilities provide their greatest value.
"With Russia continuing to support forces that are seeking to destabilize Ukraine and taking unsettling actions in both the Baltics and the Balkans, this is no time to destabilize the NATO alliance and traumatize our NATO allies by withdrawing our nuclear weapons from Europe."
Russia Always Cheats on Arms Treaties
"On July 29, the Obama administration announced that Russia has violated its obligation under the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty "not to possess, produce or flight test a ground-launched cruise missile with a range capability of 500 to 5,500 kilometers; or to possess or produce launchers of such missiles." The administration's sudden candor is welcome. Yet its new compliance report alleging that the Russians tested a missile prohibited under the INF treaty—doesn't address other apparent treaty violations.
The INF violation fits into a long pattern of Soviet-Russian misbehavior that can only be described as "compliance if convenient." Moscow appears to observe arms-control commitments when convenient but violates them when not. This contrasts sharply with America's scrupulous adherence to the letter and often the supposed "spirit" of treaty commitments, long after Moscow has ceased to do so.
"These Russian violations are not trivial matters. The House of Representatives recently declared on a bipartisan basis that the INF violation "poses a threat to the United States, its deployed forces, and its allies." According to senior Obama administration officials, Russia probably has a 10:1 numerical superiority over the U.S. in battlefield nuclear weapons. This Russian tactical nuclear arsenal, according to Russian press reports, includes weapons that are inconsistent with Soviet and Russian commitments made as part of the 1991-1992 Presidential Nuclear Initiatives to eliminate nuclear artillery and short-range nuclear-missile warheads. That 10:1 superiority may increase if Russia's INF treaty violations stand.
"Washington's long periods of silence about cheating are sometimes justified as "quiet diplomacy" designed to bring about Moscow's compliance. Perhaps. But quiet diplomacy did not persuade Moscow in 1991 to stop building the enormous radar prohibited by the ABM Treaty. Rather, it was the George H.W. Bush administration's public threat to call out Russia's behavior as a "material breach."
"Russian leaders such as Vladimir Putin appear to read U.S. silence as weakness and timidity, a perception which undoubtedly feeds their arms-control lawlessness. Pretending that Russia is a reliable arms-control partner helps to ensure that it is not. Calling Russia out for misbehavior may hold some hope of moving it into compliance."
Aug 19 2014
HASC Republicans and Democrats join Sunday Show calls for a real strategy to counter ISIS
"What the President needs is a strategy and a plan." - Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), Chairman of HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, on NBC's Meet the Press
Click HERE to watch Chairman's Turner's Appearance on Meet The Press
"We’ve seen again as a result of the neglect that the President has had in his foreign policy in respect to Iraq—the instability that has occurred. But the President also has to come to the recognition that ISIS is a threat to the United States. British Prime Minister Cameron wrote in an oped that he sees ISIS as a threat to Britain and to the British. Certainly this President needs to make the case and I think his policies should reflect this: this is not just a threat to a stable Iraq, this is a threat to our national security."
Aug 11 2014
"The U.S. says Russia is cheating. So what will Obama do now?"
The House Armed Services Committee, under the leadership of Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) and Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL), has been working to hold Russia accountable for its material breach of the INF treaty for nearly two years. You can review all of HASC's activity on this issue in this July 30, 2014 fact sheet: JUST THE FACTS: Obama Administration's Long-Overdue Recognition of Russian Cheating on the INF Treaty.The Arms Control Illusion
The Wall Street Journal
August 10, 2014
The world has often disappointed President Obama, and perhaps no more so than over his dream of nuclear-free humanity. Witness the irony that the Obama Administration has finally admitted that Russia is violating the Reagan-era INF treaty, supposedly the very model of modern arms control.
The Norwegian Nobel committee probably won't rescind the 2009 peace prize it awarded Mr. Obama for his "vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons." But the dream is in tatters. In its annual compliance report on disarmament agreements last week, the State Department for the first time declared Russia in breach of the 1987 accord.
The proper reaction is, what took so long? The first reports of Russian testing of a banned mid-range missile came six years ago. U.S. officials have since said that the Russians have worked on three different types of cruise missiles able to fly 500 to 5,500 kilometers, which are prohibited by the INF.
The Administration didn't inform the Senate of these violations during the 2010 ratification debate for Mr. Obama's nuclear deal, New Start. Seventy-one Senators voted for the treaty without having the facts.
Only two years later did Administration officials brief the Foreign Relations Committee about the cheating in a closed-door hearing, according to a November report in the Daily Beast. John Kerry, who then chaired the Senate committee, declared that "we're not going to pass another treaty in the U.S. Senate if our colleagues are sitting up here knowing somebody is cheating," according to a classified transcript reported by the news site.
Yet it took another two years for the U.S. to issue last week's public demarche to Moscow about the INF. For much of the Obama era, the Administration pursued a diplomatic warming with Russia, seeking Vladimir Putin's help in Syria, Afghanistan and Iran and treaties to follow up New Start. Why let a few illegal Russian cruise missiles spoil the good vibes?
It's worth rehearsing the record with Russia as a tutorial on the illusion of arms control. The INF accord was signed toward the end of the Cold War and hailed as a diplomatic triumph. Ronald Reagan and NATO had deployed mid-range missiles in Europe against ferocious opposition in the early 1980s, and the Gipper resisted political demands for a lopsided arms treaty. Russia under Mikhail Gorbachev finally agreed to the modest accord on Reagan's terms that traded the U.S. missiles for Russia's. When the Soviet empire collapsed in the next few years, the supposed urgency of arms control faded with it.
Which is the crucial point: Arms control didn't make the Soviets more peaceable. The Soviet collapse made arms control beside the point. So it always is. Arms control only works when it isn't needed among U.S. friends, but it fails with adversaries who can't be trusted.
The Soviet empire is gone, but Mr. Putin wants to revive Russia as a dominant European power. He's happy to sign arms accords that he knows will bind the West even as he merrily cheats, and not only on INF. State's report noted the Russians are "engaged in dual-use, biological activities" that may be "inconsistent" with the 1972 Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. Moscow is also openly in breach of the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty, which limits the number of troops stationed on the Continent. So much for trust but verify.
The question now is what the U.S. will do about it. The Russian Foreign Ministry calls the U.S. claims "baseless," while General Valery Geramisov denies any violations. This is another echo of the Cold War when the Soviets denied they had biological weapons for years after the anthrax disaster at Sverdlovsk had become an open secret.
Arms control becomes truly dangerous if one party is allowed to cheat without consequences. The danger is even worse if the U.S. government publicly calls out an adversary but then does nothing. The Russians will get the message that they can keep cheating with impunity, and countries like Iran will also take the lesson. As then-Senator Kerry said in 2012, "If we're going to have treaties with people, we've got to adhere to them."
One apt response would be to withdraw from New Start. Russia was already below the limits in this treaty on strategic nuclear weapons and launchers, obliging only the U.S. to reduce its stockpiles. The White House should also restore the ground-based missile-defense interceptors that it abandoned in 2009 in a misguided attempt to appease the Kremlin. The success of Israel's Iron Dome is proof of missile defense's potential, and Mr. Putin knows it undermines nuclear intimidation.
The broader lesson is that arms control with adversaries is a strategic illusion. It hasn't worked with Russia and it surely won't with Iran.
Jul 24 2014
House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee Chairman delivers major address on national defense at the Center for Strategic and International Studies
You can view the full video of Chairman Wittman's remarks on the CSIS website HERE.
"Unfortunately our defense budgets have been disproportionately affected by sequester, and by budget cuts going all the way back to Secretary Gates, and then the BCA in 2010 and 2011, We know that those additive effects are now having a significant impact. We want members to understand that so that when they are faced with tough decisions in the future, they understand what we must do and the obligations to our military…. You can’t balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in the military. We need to look at the autopilot spending programs”