GENERAL H. SHELTON, USA
CHAIRMAN OF THE
JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF
BEFORE THE 105TH CONGRESS
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
UNITED STATES SENATE
6 OCTOBER 1998
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Senators.
Thank you for the opportunity to again testify before this Committee, and to provide my assessment of the major regional and strategic threats facing America today.
As the members of this Committee are well aware, the end of the Cold War did not mean the end of threats to US global security interests. Indeed we are in many ways more challenged now than in the past given the diverse, diffuse, and unpredictable nature of today’s threats.
From the continuing conventional military challenges posed by North Korea and Iraq, to the criminal acts of international terrorist networks and the growing threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction in the hands of outlaw states, the international security environment is placing unprecedented demands on America’s military.
Some challenges are familiar ones. The tension on the Korean Peninsula is a legacy of the Cold War that remains a major security issue today. Despite its collapsed economy and inability to feed its own population, the North Korean government continues to pursue a policy of confrontation with South Korea and its neighbors in the region.
More than one million North Korean soldiers remain on active duty, the vast majority deployed within hours of the DMZ and South Korea’s capital city, Seoul. Infiltration of the South by North Korean special forces continues to exacerbate tensions between the two governments, and the recent launch of a previously unknown long-range variant of the Taepo Dong One ballistic missile could herald a significant improvement in the North’s capability to threaten the region and beyond. Finally, North Korea’s repeated threats to walk away from the Agreed Framework that curtailed their nuclear production program remain unsettling to the international community.
The North Korean threat remains one that we must – and do – take very seriously. We have pursued a number of initiatives in recent years to enhance both the capabilities of our own forward deployed forces and reinforcing elements, as well as those of our South Korean Allies.
We now have better US tanks, better infantry fighting vehicles and better artillery, as well as improved attack helicopters and aircraft, on hand in Korea. We have also deployed PATRIOT missile defense systems and vastly superior surveillance capabilities, and assisted with a number of upgrades to South Korean forces.
These actions have significantly improved our defensive posture. Still, the threat remains, and North Korea’s substantial chemical and biological weapons capability coupled with its continued pursuit of ballistic missile technology will demand our attention for the foreseeable future.
Similarly, Iraq continues to be a source of concern. Saddam Hussein has once again shown his true colors threatening to end cooperation with the UN weapons inspectors under Ambassador Butler.
We maintain a substantial, capable and READY military force in the Persian Gulf region. We are prepared to act , in concert with our coalition partners or alone if necessary, to protect US interests and the security of the region. The force in the region includes an aircraft carrier battle group with a significant number of cruise missiles. We have in recent years enhanced our pre-positioned stocks of weapons and supplies, considerably improved our strategic lift, and developed a crisis response force in the United States that can deploy to the Gulf region on very short notice. The development of this force is one example of our efforts to reduce the number of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines deployed overseas on contingency operations, while still maintaining sufficient capability to meet our security needs.
Nowhere is the post-Cold War transformation of the international security environment more apparent than in the European Command area of responsibility. Gone is the concentration of military force in central Europe focused on deterring – or defeating – the Warsaw Pact. Today three nations of that defunct alliance stand ready to assume responsibilities as NATO members, while US and Russian soldiers work side-by-side in Bosnia.
But the end of the Cold War also unleashed pent-up tensions that have produced grave human consequences. In Europe itself we have all witnessed the tragic cycle of violence in the Balkans. I’ll have more to say on Bosnia and Kosovo in a moment.
Most of Africa also falls under the European Command, and here we have seen enormous human suffering brought on by war, disease, and natural disasters. And while it might be tempting to say we that have no vital national interests in some of the countries of that continent, the fact is that recurring threats to American citizens there, and the sheer magnitude of the human misery that often develops will demand our attention and military action.
In the last few months alone the US military has responded to several crises in Africa, ranging from preparations for emergency evacuation operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Liberia to security assistance and other support in response to the terrorist attacks on our Embassies in East Africa. We anticipate more of the same.
A few remarks are in order about the US military’s actions in support of the United States’ overall effort to deal with the threat of international terrorism.
The recent attacks on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania demonstrated that the threat from terrorism is sophisticated, globally based, and highly dangerous. The military response to these attacks included the immediate airlift of security, search and rescue, and medical personnel to the scene. At these and other threatened sites, U.S military personnel now provide stepped-up security, even as we focus our intelligence assets on terrorist groups and locations posing the most imminent threat.
In addition to these measures, our recent strikes on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and a chemical facility in the Sudan make clear our resolve to use military force in self-defense to protect American lives and interests. There can be no "safe haven" for terrorists, and the flexibility and reach of our military forces ensures that America’s leaders have the tools to respond when and where threats arise, and to do so with devastating effects.
But as I testified before this Committee earlier this year, our adversaries have evolved as well, with international financing, state-of-the art technology and decentralized operations from countries around the world. It is thus not a question of "if" American citizens and interests will be attacked again, but "when."
We are, in short, in the midst of what promises to be a long and difficult confrontation with the forces of international terrorism. There will be good days and successes in our efforts to eliminate these vicious criminals. But there will also be bad days, when our approach is, or appears to be, ineffective; when more Americans, and people of other nations, fall victim to terrorist attacks. We must be prepared to engage for the long haul, as there will be no easy solutions or quick victories.
Returning now to Europe, and NATO operations in Bosnia.
I know many of the members of this Committee have visited our forces in Bosnia and witnessed first-hand the dramatic changes that have taken place. And I can tell you, Mr. Chairman, our troops appreciate the interest and concern this Committee has shown for their welfare and their mission.
As you know, our forces in Bosnia have done an outstanding job of accomplishing their military missions. The NATO Implementation Force, and now the Stabilization Force or SFOR, both of which had strong US elements, successfully established and maintained a secure environment within which civil implementation programs could proceed.
The successful conduct of the recent elections in Bosnia underscores SFOR’s effectiveness. The OSCE reported few problems with the conduct of the elections. In fact, very little on-site assistance by SFOR was required as the people of Bosnia continued their transition to democracy.
But we cannot rest on past success. Although much has been accomplished on the military side in Bosnia, the international community has a great deal of work yet to do on the civil implementation aspects of the Dayton Accords. Progress has lagged on providing the necessary economic assistance, implementing the required political and judicial reform, and carrying out the other tasks of the international community’s efforts to lay the foundation for a lasting, self-sustaining peace in Bosnia.
The military continues to provide a safe and secure environment. However, the civil implementation progress is glacial, making any prognosis on achieving the "end state" very difficult, and making it impossible to establish an "end date."
NATO is now in the midst of a drawdown in the size of the military force in Bosnia. The US contribution to that NATO force, which totaled more than 18,000 when IFOR first entered the country, will be reduced from 8500 to 6900 over the next few weeks. NATO is also conducting its assessment of the requirements for an international military force in Bosnia based on the anticipated near-term security environment, and the progress toward meeting the key goals of Dayton implementation.
Rest assured, Mr. Chairman, that Secretary Cohen and I will be working closely with this Committee as we assess our continued requirements in the Balkans, and determine what adjustments we can make to our force level there in the months ahead.
The other flash point in the Balkans is in Kosovo, very much the subject of our attention is recent weeks as the likelihood has increased that we will face a humanitarian crisis in the region as the harsh Balkan winter approaches.
As Secretary Cohen and I have said many times before, we all hope to see a diplomatic solution to the political differences in the region. But as we all know: hope is not a method.
NATO has military plans to deal with the situation in Kosovo should our diplomatic efforts fail to produce a solution. Military options could be executed as part of the overall effort to convince all parties:
- that the violence in Kosovo must stop …
- that serious negotiations to resolve differences must begin …
- … and that the quarter-of-a-million refugees in the region must be allowed to return to their homes before they face starvation, disease, and exposure in the coming months.
Mr. Chairman. There are many other potential "hot spots" and possible future challenges to US interests around the world. I have focused on the highlights here.
But we cannot overlook the serious challenges that face our relations with Russia and the countries of Asia as they struggle to set their staggered economies on a steady course. Nor should we think only of the challenges and the crises. Our national military strategy of Shape -- Respond -- and Prepare has provided many success stories as well. Our continued engagement and our ongoing program of military-to-military contacts produce small successes every day.
Just last week I had a chance to meet with more than a dozen of my counterparts from democracies all across Asia. One theme dominated our conversations, and that was the importance of maintaining a strong program of professional exchanges, exercises, and other forms of military-to-military contact.
We have had the same experience in Africa, in Europe and in the Middle East, where the outstanding professionals of our Armed Forces superbly represent America as they exchange skills training with their counterparts.
Readiness and Modernization
Finally, Mr. Chairman, in your invitation to this hearing you also asked me to address the overall current readiness of our armed forces, and the status of our modernization programs to ensure our future readiness.
As you are well aware, Mr. Chairman, we covered this subject in detail for four-and-a-half hours at last week’s hearing with the Service Chiefs, so I will not take time now to cover the same material again.
I would note, however, that though our Shape -- Respond -- Prepare strategy is fundamentally sound, we do need to continually assess the impact of our engagement effort on the overall health of the force. We must carefully weigh the costs and benefits of using military forces, before committing them in support of U.S. policy. If a specific contingency warrants the deployment of U.S. forces, both current readiness and future modernization are best served when adequate funds are made available to cover the cost of the operation, and when the impact on our service members and their families is fully weighed against the interests at stake.
Mr. Chairman, these are my comments on the national security challenges facing us today. Each is unique, with its own context and circumstances, but in each of them America’s Armed Forces play a large role in the pursuit of our national interests and objectives.
Thank you very much.