Congressman Mike Turner, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces delivered the following remarks today at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Program Conference:
McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Forum - Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Congressman Michael R. Turner (OH-10)
Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces
March 12, 2013
Good afternoon - I am honored to be here with you at today’s conference.
With our servicemembers using some of the oldest equipment ever deployed, modernization of our force is key to the Department of Defense’s ability to fight and win our nations’ future wars.
Negative long-term impacts on our National Security, will stem from the short term decisions caused by budget uncertainty and constrained resources.
We are in the midst of budget season, and our military Service Chiefs will soon come to testify before Congress, including the Armed Services Committee on which I serve.
Our senior military leaders are constantly faced with difficult decisions, and are required to give Congress their best military judgment based on the finite resources that they are allocated.
Today’s extreme budget uncertainties, compounded by a vague National Security Strategy, presents senior military leaders and defense civilians with unprecedented challenges in effectively planning for future year readiness.
Right now, some of the budget uncertainties the Pentagon is facing include:
- cuts levied by Secretary Gates and President Obama,
- the Budget Control Act of 2011 and its attached sequester, which I opposed,
- the constraints of continuing resolutions,
- and a shortfall in overseas and contingency operations funds for Afghanistan.
Let’s be clear - these cuts are not a result of a peace dividend.
The security environment is more dangerous and more uncertain than ever before.
Simply, the world is not becoming a safer place.
Much of our equipment is old or aging fast.
We’re still dealing with the impacts from the so-called “procurement holiday” of the 1990s.
From that era, we transitioned into protracted, sustained combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Our equipment needs to be reset and repaired.
Our challenge is to effectively modernize the right capabilities that can mitigate the threats facing this nation, both in the present and in the future.
This must be done while maximizing our buying power in a time of fiscal austerity.
The way to keep costs down is to have predictability and continuity - the exact opposite of what we have right now.
Sadly, I’m aware this budget uncertainty may force the military services to significantly restructure acquisition strategies, and also terminate modernization programs in order to fund current operations and maintenance.
What if these terminated modernization programs impact capabilities that may be needed in support of our national defense 5 to 10 years from now?
What long term impacts will these decisions have on the viability of the industrial base to address these needs in the future?
What capabilities will be lost by these short sighted decisions?
These are all questions we must address.
I would like to take a few minutes to share a story which I believe will add a bit of historical perspective to this budget and modernization dilemma that we are currently facing.
As a nation, we have found ourselves here before.
Many years ago, then-Army Chief of Staff John Collins, came to Congress and provided the following testimony:
- “We have the best men in the Army today that we have ever had in peacetime. And although we have a number of critical equipment problems yet to solve, I can assure you that our troops, with the equipment they have, would give a good account of themselves if called upon.”
- “Within a fixed budget, the Army can obtain greatest effectiveness only by maintaining a delicate balance between personnel and equipment.”
- “We are supporting this budget that will provide only 10 divisions because we realize the necessity to integrate Army requirements with those of the other services within our national budget. And we will, of course, do everything within our power to lessen the risk that such a reduction must by necessity entail.”
These statements were made in January 1950 immediately before the Korean War.
Just six months later the 24th Infantry Division under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Smith, also known as Task Force Smith, was rushed to Korea on transport planes to block the North Korean advance.
I am sure many of you here today have heard of Task Force Smith.
At around 7:30 a.m. on July 5th, Task Force Smith spotted a column of North Korean T-34 tanks moving south toward them.
At around 8:00 am the artillery battery fired its first rounds at the advancing North Korean tanks.
The tanks, which were around a mile from the infantry force, were hit with numerous howitzer rounds, but were unaffected.
When the tanks closed to 700 yards the 75mm recoilless rifles fired, scoring direct hits on the forward tanks but did not damage them.
Once the tanks reached the infantry line, Second Lieutenant Ollie Connor fired rockets at a range of 15 yards.
The warheads failed to penetrate the armor and the North Korean tanks continued their advance.
Think about that for a minute.
Your country just sent you to fight an enemy far from home and the equipment that you were provided just bounced off of the enemy.
Although they were outnumbered 10 to 1, Task Force Smith was able to delay the advancing North Koreans, but they eventually were overrun and suffered hundreds of causalities and wounded.
It is important to note that toward the end of World War II a more advanced bazooka was developed, which would have aided American troops in Korea.
However, because of the peace dividend following the war and the belief that ground forces would play a minor role based on the National Security Strategy, the modernized bazooka program was terminated.
Just five years after the United States led the world to victory in World War II, the force was hollowed to the extent that it was very nearly driven into the sea by the North Korean Army.
To this day the Korean War provides a stark reminder of the consequences of sending an under-trained and poorly equipped force into battle.
Similarly, who could have imagined then, that in the year 2013 we’d be facing a nuclear capable North Korea, who just last week threatened to strike our nation’s capitol?
The defeat of this Task Force by the North Koreans was later encapsulated within the military vernacular to mean a defeat due to a failure in leadership combined with poor training and poor equipment.
Task Force Smith is synonymous with a “hollow” force and provides a modern example of how complacency following the drawdown from major contingencies can result in death and defeat on the battlefield.
It has often been sited that leadership, here in Washington, not on the ground, was a factor leading to that particular defeat in Korea.
The Service Chiefs have a responsibility to provide a national security strategy based on their assessment of threats to the United States, not a regurgitation of the administration’s political agenda.
The nation depends on these men and women to provide us the facts and analysis without politics.
I say this with a deep concern for the direction of our national security based on well documented historical examples.
None of us want to find ouseleves in 5, 10 or maybe 20 years from now staring at the hulks of burning buildings on a television screen, wondering whether if we had done the right thing at the right time, or provided the force of leadership that our nation expected of us, that we could have avoided the next disaster.
The modern battlefield is more complex and dynamic than ever before.
No longer does an enemy have to mass great power, an army, and travel thousands of miles to attack our country or our allies.
Advances in technology have fused personal, government and business spheres into one interdependent global community that communicates in real time.
This newer and smarter world is dramatically changing geo-political dynamics by opening portals to information in previously walled off segments of the globe.
While these changes have unquestionable advantages, they bring with them no shortage of risk.
Interconnectivity on the battlefield and in everyday life requires us to rethink our approach to national security to incorporate cyber-security factors, economic factors, and energy security to name a few.
What threats do traditional armies or small terrorist organizations pose to our nation and what tools are they using to attack us?
Are we building the right defenses to keep our nation safe?
Finally, do we have the right acquisition strategy to provide for national defense in an era when threats evolve at such a rapid pace?
Given the current budget environment, what level of risk should we assume and where should we assume it?
These are all questions I intend to confront as the Chairman of the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee.
General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated that sequestration would put our military on a path where the "force is so degraded and so unready" that it would be "immoral to use the force.”
This, and the reasons I’ve outlined, are why it is so important for Congress to exercise its responsibilities under Article 1 section 8 of the United States Constitution: “The Congress shall have the power to raise and support Armies.”
We in Congress must challenge the assumptions and assertions made by any Administration.
This ensures that our men and women in uniform have the necessary equipment, training, resources and leadership they need to carry out their mission and return home safely.
We must never again allow our warfighters to be deployed underprepared.
During a recent House Armed Services Committee hearing, General Dempsey quoted General Omar Bradley.
In his memoirs, Bradley said that the biggest mistake he ever made was that he knew that the Army was on the wrong path and wouldn't be able to fight its way out of a paper bag in the early 1950’s.
That was his greatest mistake – one we have the prospect of facing today.
Turning to sequestration – I must reiterate that I voted against this mess.
We must not let the sequester, which the President and Congressional leadership promised would not happen, to further jeopardize our national security.
If Sequestration remains law, it will be 10 years of arbitrary, across the board reductions that will unquestionably limit modernization funding.
For some that may be an acceptable risk; for me it is not.
The Subcommittee will examine all of the existential and disruptive threats facing this nation.
Examine the current capabilities we have in the inventory to address these threats.
Identify any gaps in this capability, and then determine the policy and modernization strategies and programs that will be required across the Future Years Defense program.
Tough decisions will undoubtedly have to be made, but a balance must be struck.
I can assure you that we will continue to provide the necessary oversight required to best protect this country, and to maintain a viable industrial base.
Simply, we will have to learn the lessons of history – and not repeat them.
Never again should there be another Task Force Smith.