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House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton Opening Statement Hearing on "Military Readiness: Implications for our Strategic Posture"

February 14, 2008

"Today the committee meets to consider the implications for our strategic posture created by the state of our military readiness. Our witnesses are:

  • Ms. Michele Flournoy, the President and Co-founder of the Center for a New American Security and a former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense;
  • Mr. Steve Kosiak, the Vice President of Budget Studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments; and
  • Ms. Sharon Pickup, a Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the Government Accountability Office.

"Our military has been at war for over six years. And it is not any secret that this has strained our armed forces, in particular the Army and Marine Corps, but also the Navy and Air Force. The constant strain of Iraq has meant that our personnel are under stress, our equipment is wearing out, and our brigades have almost no time to train for any type of conflict except a counterinsurgency mission.

"In the past thirty years, our nation has been involved in 12 significant military actions, several of which were major conflicts involving force-on-force combat. We expected almost none of these. Yesterday, we heard from the intelligence community on the global security environment. The United States, our interests, and our allies face a multitude of potential threats all over the world. We have to be ready and capable of combating these. But just last week, Admiral Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sat at the witness table and said that our current strategic risk is "significant."

"I am hopeful that our witnesses today can help explain how the current state of readiness affects the strategic posture of the U.S. around the world. Every member of the armed services committee should understand the level and significance of the strategic risk this posture entails.

"If an unexpected contingency arises, what will be the cost to us in lives and in dollars? Is that cost one we are truly prepared to accept, or would we instead wish we had done more to prepare for or prevent it?

"We must also evaluate the initiatives and programs which the Department of Defense is proposing to address our strategic risk and determine whether they are realistic, and whether their scope and pace is sufficient to protect national security. In other words, are we digging the hole deeper or filling it in, and if we are gaining ground, will we catch up fast enough?

"These are the tasks that are given to this committee and to the Congress under the constitution. Our witnesses today must help us do so and I again thank you for coming and look forward to your testimony.

"I now turn to the Ranking Member, Duncan Hunter, for any comments he might care to make."

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