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Testimony


Opening Statement to the House Armed Services Committee (Washington, D.C.)

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, 2118 Rayburn Office Building, Washington, D.C., Tuesday, April 15, 2008

     Thank you, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear with Secretary Rice and Admiral Mullen this morning.
     The subject being discussed and debated at this hearing goes to the heart of the challenge facing our national security apparatus – how we can improve and integrate America’s instruments of national power to reflect the new realities and requirements of this century. For years to come, America will be grappling with a range of challenges to the international system and to our own security – from global terrorism to ethnic conflicts, to rogue nations and rising powers. These challenges are by their nature long-term, requiring patience and persistence across multiple administrations. Most will emerge from within countries with which we are not at war. They cannot be overcome by military means alone and they extend well beyond the traditional domain of any single government agency or department. They will require our government to operate with unprecedented unity, agility, and creativity. And as I have said before, they will require devoting considerably more resources to non-military instruments of national power, which will need to be rebuilt, modernized, and committed to the fight.
     Over the last 15 years, the U.S. government has tried to meet post-Cold War challenges and pursue 21st century objectives with processes and organizations designed in the wake of the Second World War. Operating within this outdated bureaucratic superstructure, the U.S. government has sought to improve interagency planning and cooperation through a variety of means: new legislation, directives, offices, coordinators, “tsars,” authorities, and initiatives with varying degrees of success.
     Though recent efforts at modernizing the current system have faced obstacles when it comes to funding and implementation, some real progress has been made. One of the most important and promising developments of recent years is the main subject of today’s hearing – the U.S. government’s ability to build the security capacity of partner nations.
     In summary, the Global Train-and-Equip program – known as Section 1206 – provides commanders a means to fill longstanding gaps in the effort to help other nations build and sustain capable military forces. It allows Defense and State to act in months, rather than years. The program focuses on places where we are not at war, but where there are both emerging threats and opportunities. It decreases the likelihood that our troops will be used in the future. Combatant commanders consider this a vital tool in the war on terror beyond Afghanistan and Iraq. It has become a model of cooperation – interagency cooperation – between State and Defense – both in the field and in Washington, D.C., as I hope will be on display here today.
     Some have asked why this requirement should not be funded and executed by the State Department. Or that the issue is a matter of State’s manning and funding to the point where it could take over this responsibility. In my view, building partner capacity is a vital and enduring military requirement – irrespective of the capacity of other departments – and its authorities and funding mechanisms should reflect that reality. The Department of Defense would no more outsource this substantial and costly security requirement to a civilian agency than it would any other key military mission. On the other hand, it must be implemented in close coordination and partnership with the Department of State.
     For a long time, programs like the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing were of minimal interest to the U.S. armed forces. That our military would one day need to build large amounts of partner capacity to fulfill its mission is something that was not anticipated when the FMF program began. The attacks of 9/11 and the operations that followed around the globe reinforced to military planners that the security of America’s partners is essential to America’s own security.
     In the past, there was a reasonable degree of certainty about where U.S. forces could be called to meet threats. What the last 25 years have shown is that threats can emerge almost anywhere in the world. However, even with the plus-up of the Army and the Marine Corps, our own forces and resources will remain finite. To fill this gap we must help our allies and partners to confront extremists and other potential sources of global instability within their borders. This kind of work takes years. It needs to begin before festering problems and threats become crises requiring U.S. military intervention – at substantial financial, political, and human cost.
     As a result, the Department came to the Congress three years ago asking to create a DoD global train-and-equip authority. We knew that the military could not build partner capacity alone. We recognized this activity should be done jointly with State, which has the in-country expertise and understanding of broader U.S. foreign policy goals. For that reason, Defense asked the Congress to make State a co-equal decision maker-in-law – hence the dual “turn key” mechanism.
     The primary benefits of global train-and-equip will accrue to the country over 10 to 15 years. But the 1206 program already has shown its value. Examples include: 
     • Providing urgently needed parts and ammunition to the Lebanese Army to defeat a serious al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist threat in a Palestinian refugee camp;
     • Supplying helicopter spare parts, night-vision devices, and night-flight training to enhance Pakistani Special Forces’ ability to help fight al Qaeda in the Northwest Territories; and
     • Setting up cordons run by partner nations in waters surrounding Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines that, over time, will reduce the risk of terrorism and piracy in Southeast Asia.
     But we need help from the Congress to sustain this program that military leaders – from the combatant command to the brigade level – say they need, as Section 1206 is due to expire at the end of this fiscal year. 

     And so we would ask you to:
     • Make 1206 permanent in recognition of the enduring DoD mission to build partner capacity; 
     • Increase its funding to $750 million, which reflects combatant commander requirements;
     • And to expand Section 1206’s coverage beyond “military forces” to include “security forces” that are essential to fighting terrorism and maintaining stability.
     I know members of the Committee also have questions about Section 1207, which currently allows Defense to transfer up to $100 million to State to bring civilian expertise to bear alongside our military. We recently agreed with State to seek a five-year extension and an increase in the authority to $200 million. A touchstone for the Defense Department is that 1207 should be for civilian support to the military – either by bringing civilians to serve with our military forces or in lieu of them.
     I would close by noting that seeing these necessary changes through – including the now central mission to build the capacity of partner nations – will take uncommon vision, persistence, and cooperation – between the military and the civilian, the executive and the legislative, and among the different elements of the interagency. Though these kinds of initiatives are crucial to protecting America’s security and vital interests, they don’t have the kind of bureaucratic or political constituency that one sees with, for example, weapons systems. So I applaud the members of Congress who have stepped up to make these issues a priority.
     Mr. Chairman, I thank you again for the opportunity to testify today, and for all that this Committee has done to support our armed forces.

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