Stavridis Spotlights Top National Security Issues
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2013 Asked by Congress today where the United States needs to focus attention to promote its national security interests, the longest-serving U.S. combatant commander cited three areas: cyberspace, trafficking and special operations.
Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe for almost four years, and commander of U.S. Southern Command for three years before that, quickly told the House Armed Services Committee he “would put cyber at the top” of the list.
“I think in cyber we find the greatest mismatch between our level of preparation and the level of danger,” he said.
Stavridis noted extensive effort across the military to prepare for counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction and conventional scenarios.
“But in cyber we have a lot of work to do,” he said, emphasizing that he refers to the “big we” that extends beyond the Defense Department.
“This is something that cuts across all parts of government and all parts of society,” he said.
Stavridis noted in his prepared remarks that continuous technological evolution has made it increasingly easy for infiltrators to disrupt network-based operations, which he said elevates its strategic impact.
While the United States pursues improved defensive countermeasures and international norms to govern cyber operations, Eucom is working with its regional allies and partners in a whole-of-government effort to build strong, resilient cyber security, he said.
Stavridis noted cyber initiatives in Europe, including the new Cyber Center at Eucom, an annual cyber exercise program conducted in collaboration with U.S. Cyber Command, and the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence in Tallinn, Estonia. In addition, NATO is working to establish a NATO incident response center similar to the one in the United States, he said.
Turning to “an enormous problem” that crosses every combatant command, Stavridis said trafficking -- in narcotics, weapons, humans, cash and weapons of mass destruction -- directly impacts the United States and its interests around the world.
“These networks pose a growing threat to the U.S. homeland, as well as the security of our allied and partner nations,” he said in his prepared remarks.
Stavridis emphasized during today’s hearing the importance of counter-trafficking operations to address this threat, and the need for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets to better understand traffickers’ operations and monitor the sea, air and land routes they use to move illicit shipments.
He noted initiatives by Eucom’s Joint Interagency Counter Trafficking Center in support of the president’s transnational organized crime strategy.
“Through these efforts, we are contributing to U.S. interagency efforts to disrupt and dismantle these networks,” he said, “and assisting our partner nations to develop and refine the counter-trafficking and counterterrorism skills and capacity needed to keep these threats as far as possible from American shores.”
Stavridis also told the committee special operations capabilities will remain critical into the future.
“I believe that as we move forward, that is going to be the comparative advantage for the United States,” he said.
Stavridis emphasized the need for U.S. special operators to continue to improve in capability and to ensure their interoperability with U.S. allies as they conduct joint and combined special operations missions.