Congressman Turner (R-OH), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, made the following remarks as prepared at the hearing titled "U.S. Ground Force Capability and Modernization Challenges in Eastern Europe.”
"Today we will receive testimony on the operational and strategic challenges facing U.S. and NATO forces in deterring, as well as responding to, Russian aggression on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) eastern flank.
I’d like to welcome our distinguished panel:
Mr. David A. Shlapak, Senior International Research Analyst and Co-Director, Center for Gaming, RAND Corporation
Mr. Timothy M. Bonds, Vice President, Army Research Division, and Director, RAND Arroyo Center
Mr. Andrew P. Hunter, Director, Defense Industrial Initiatives Group, and Senior Fellow, International Security Program for the Center for Strategic and International Studies
Beginning with the invasion of Crimea in 2014, followed by incursions into East Ukraine, Russia continues to take aggressive actions in overturning European security.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, has stated that 'Russia presents the greatest threat to our national security,' and that 'what they seek to do is undermine the credibility of our ability to meet our alliance commitments to NATO.'
Reported just last week, a Russian intelligence collection ship was operating off the east coast of the United States. Russian military aircraft have made high-speed passes over U.S. Navy ships operating in the Black Sea, and recent media reports indicate Russia has operationally deployed a new ground-launched cruise missile that violates the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty and directly threatens NATO allies.
Secretary Mattis and Vice President Pence have reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to NATO, and also made it clear that Russia would be held accountable for its actions.
As the former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (PA), and current head of the U.S. delegation to the NATO PA I am in agreement with the Secretary and the Vice President’s position.
NATO’s first goal is to prevent conflict. And highly ready, forward deployed, military forces contribute to this by deterring conventional conflict.
Actions have been taken by NATO in response to this continued Russian aggression; for example at the Wales Summit, NATO heads of state established a Readiness Action Plan and stood up an enhanced NATO response force.
The United States remains fully prepared to meet Article 5 commitments to NATO allies; however, if we are to rebuild a credible deterrent posture in Europe, then NATO nations also need to meet their agreed-upon goal of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. Only five nations do so now.
Despite taking these actions, a major challenge for the U.S. and NATO continues to be reestablishing a credible forward presence of ready military forces.
The previous Administration’s strategy in Europe assumed that a small forward deployed presence, augmented by a small rotational force, would provide credible deterrence; that assumption has been proven wrong.
So reviewing our current force structure in Europe is an excellent place to start for understanding current gaps in the capability and capacity of our ground forces, and can be applied to ground forces writ-large.
Besides the broader strategic policy implications of reassuring members of the NATO alliance, the witnesses today are prepared to discuss what is required by our ground forces from a modernization perspective in the near term to improve force posture, and mitigate potential threats posed by Russia.
Of special interest to the subcommittee today are the findings and observations from the most recent RAND wargame report (2016) on the defense of the Baltics entitled, 'Reinforcing Deterrence on NATO’s Eastern Flank' that raised alarming concerns regarding current U.S. and NATO military posture in Europe.
The European Reassurance Initiative and multi-lateral training exercises, like Operation Atlantic Resolve, have been good first steps in improving forward presence in Europe and reassuring our Allies; however, the reality is that more resources and actions are required.
Given the threats posed by Russian aggression, we need to move from a position of reassurance to a position of deterrence---credible deterrence.
Finally, I want to close with a quote from Lieutenant General John W. Nicholson, the former commander of NATO’s Allied Land Command, 'Military readiness costs money, but the costs of readiness pale in comparison to the human and material costs of war.'"