WASHINGTON, March 19, 2015 —
In a dynamic and uncertain security environment, sequestration and its associated budget inflexibility are grave threats to national security, three top military commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
The commanders of U.S. Strategic Command, U.S. Transportation Command and U.S. Cyber Command each described a world in which varied threats arising from state and nonstate actors challenge international peace and stability.
"We see emerging capabilities from adversaries or potential adversaries to include, but not limited to, the modernization of strategic nuclear capabilities, counter-space and cyberspace activities, conventional and asymmetric threats and disturbing trends undermining the strategic balance, giving rise for concern for our nation and our allies and partners," Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, the Stratcom commander, told the committee.
"The proposed across-the-board cuts will significantly impact our defense strategy, and as a result, we run the very real risk of making our nation less secure,” said Navy Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the Cybercom commander. The sequestration-level spending cuts will take effect Oct. 1 unless Congress changes the current budget law.
Russia is of particular interest to Stratcom, the admiral said, not only because of its activities in Ukraine and Crimea, but also because of treaty violations and a surge in flights penetrating Air Defense Identification Zones of the United States and U.S. allies. He said he is concerned as well about Russia’s modernization and demonstration of significant capabilities with integrated strategic operation nuclear force exercises during heightened tensions.
Russia is also developing and using significant cyber capabilities and is committed to developing counter-space capabilities, Haney said.
"China is growing and developing its strategic capabilities. Their demonstrated counter-space capabilities and cyberspace intrusions are of concern," he said. "At the same time, China is investing in strategic nuclear force mobility with mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles and their [ballistic missile submarine] fleet."
Elsewhere, missile tests by Iran, North Korea and Pakistan "portend new challenges in nonproliferation of missile technologies and potential weapons of mass destruction payloads," the admiral said.
Stratcom is focused on deterring strategic attack and assuring allies, Haney said.
"Strategic deterrence includes a robust intelligence apparatus, space, cyber, conventional and missile-defense capabilities, treaties and comprehensive plans that link organizations and synchronize capabilities," he said. These efforts are all underpinned by the nation's nuclear capability, the admiral noted.
"Ultimately, our deterrence capabilities must remain credible in order to convince adversaries the cost of escalation is far greater than any benefit they seek," he said.
The readiness of Transcom's components and commercial providers is key to the success of its distribution, deployment and sustainment mission, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, the Transcom commander, told the committee.
"While U.S. Transportation Command is ready today to face this challenge, we must pay attention to the health of the global distribution enterprise of tomorrow," the general said. "We rely on our service component commands, along with contracted commercial augmentation, to provide the distribution services that make us successful."
The transportation and distribution enterprise remains ready today to respond to any contingency or to sustain U.S. forces in the field for any length of time, Selva said. To ensure that this remains the case, he added, all contract acquisitions for transportation must now consider readiness-related criteria, including the relationship of performance and cost to enterprisewide readiness as a factor in any decision to let a contract.
Military networks are probed for vulnerabilities thousands of times per day, Rogers said.
"The very assets within our military that provide us formidable advantages over any adversary are precisely the reason that our enemies seek to map, understand, exploit and potentially disrupt our global network architecture," the admiral said.
Today's cyber intrusions are often intended not just to disrupt activity, he said, but also to establish a persistent presence on the nation's networks. And the threat is compounded by the country's dependence on cyberspace, Rogers added.
"Operating freely and securely in cyberspace is critical not only to our military and our government, but also to the private sector, which is responsible for maintaining much of the nation's critical infrastructure," he said. "The bottom line is, weakness in cyberspace has the potential to hold back our successes in every field where our nation is engaged."
Given the evolving threat and increased dependence on critical infrastructure, it is vital to continue and commit to investment in the cyber mission forces, Rogers said. "If we do not continue to invest in our existing and future capabilities,” he added, “we will lack the necessary capacity and risk being less prepared to address future threats."
Achieving strategic deterrence requires continued investment in strategic capabilities and intellectual capital, Haney said.
"These investments, seen holistically, are our nation's insurance policy," he noted. "While that policy's costs are not insignificant, when you think of all it insures, it is a great value."
There is no margin to absorb new risks brought on by sequestration cuts, the commanders told the senators. "Any reductions will have immediate direct and indirect effects throughout our force," Rogers said.
The president's fiscal year 2016 budget request strikes a responsible balance between national priorities and fiscal realities, Haney said.
"Without relief from the Budget Control Act, we will experience significant risk in providing the United States with the strategic capabilities it needs," he said. "And I'm concerned that we risk losing faith with our current all-volunteer force, thus hampering our ability to recruit the next generation of strategic warriors. As a nation, we cannot afford to underfund these strategic missions."
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)