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House Armed Services Committee
Chairman Ike Skelton
Opening Statement
Hearing on Building Partnership Capacity and the Development of the Interagency Process
April 15, 2008
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today the House Armed Services Committee meets to hear testimony on Building Partnership Capacity and Developments in the Interagency Process. This is a historic moment to welcome these two distinguished guests today appearing at the same time: the Honorable Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, and the Honorable Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State.
“Additionally, I understand Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, is on hand today to help answer questions, although he will not be offering formal testimony. Welcome all.
“Two years ago this month, in April 2006, the House Armed Services Committee held two hearings – one on the Interagency Process and one the next week on Building Partnership Capacity related issues. Today we’ve combined both of those topics into one hearing. We’ll see, I imagine, if that represents progress or not.
“These are two very important topics for the Committee to explore, and in many ways they are intertwined. The United States faces a more complex security environment today than that of the Cold War. We have seen a growing realization that the nation’s challenges – such as fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting terrorism, and preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – require holistic strategies that make use of the capabilities of all government agencies. 
“Instead, our national security structures remain essentially unchanged from the days of the Cold War.   The mechanisms to integrate all of the U.S. governmental departments and agencies that should play a role in the development our national security policy and in translating that policy into integrated action are weak, if they exist at all.   Where they do exist, they are usually the ad hoc efforts of those directly engaged in the challenge of the moment, and not the result of a deliberative process designed to achieve a unity of effort that emerges as a natural product of governmental function.
“Our experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing solutions to these issues, at least in the field. Just as those conflicts will not be solved by military power, so too is the expertise we most need to make a difference there essentially civilian and diplomatic. Secretary Rice, I commend your efforts—in partnership with those like Secretary Gates—to advocate for adequate funding for the State Department in the President’s budget request and to transform the Foreign Service’s culture to adapt to the needs of the post-9/11 world. Cultural change takes time and it requires sufficient resources. But my view is that some of our problems in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been avoided at the beginning with the right civilian capacities deployed in sufficient numbers.
“In its annual submission of legislative proposals for consideration in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the Department of Defense has asked the Congress to consider a set of broad-reaching authorities they call “Building Partnership Capacity.” Most of these are not new; we’ve seen them and in some cases acted on them before. But, in many ways, this looks like one of the ad hoc efforts I just mentioned. They are proposed near-term solutions to deal with real problems, but without the discussion we want to see of how these authorities fit into the broader set of tools that have traditionally resided in the State Department.
“Last year, this committee set the Department of Defense—particularly the military services—on a course to re-evaluate the roles and missions of the department. The discussion today is also about roles and missions. What is and should be the State Department’s role in the training and equipping of foreign militaries and in mustering the resources to prevent conflict? What existing programs and institutions have to be reformed? How do we ensure that the roles and missions that should reside with State are funded through the President’s budget request?
“In some ways, the specific legislative requests seem to indicate that the current authorities and processes governing foreign military assistance, today residing within the State Department’s jurisdiction, are too inflexible to meet current security requirements. Others seem to indicate recognition that the national security-related capabilities of civilian agencies, most notably the State Department, must be strengthened. In the absence of a national framework for that to happen, the Defense Department is willing to use some of its resources toward that end. In many ways, therefore, these authorities represent the Department of Defense’s effort to jumpstart, and take responsibility for resourcing, an interagency process. 
“In recent years, this committee has considered these and similar authorities. While we have not approved them in their entirety, let me be clear: we are very supportive of their goals—training and equipping partners who will fight with or for us and improving civilian capabilities to deal with tough theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan. We have greeted them with some concern though. Some of that concern has had to do with what appears to be the migration of State Department activities to the Department of Defense. State’s Foreign Military Financing program has put in place a strong system of safeguards and controls, through legislation and policy, all overwatched by persons of considerable expertise. Why then, we have wondered, was the Department of Defense asking for similar authority? Why can’t the FMF program handle it? 
“Some of the concerns revolved around funding issues. As I have mentioned, Secretary Rice has been challenged in finding additional funding through State’s budget. To provide funding from DOD generally means drawing on Operations and Maintenance funds. I don’t need to tell anybody that those funds are tight – and need to go to DOD operations and maintenance costs! In the end, Congress has tried provide sufficient authority for the most pressing needs of the DOD while strongly encouraging the Administration to develop a more integrated interagency approach to building partnership capacity. That you’re both back here today in support of greater authority for the Defense Department would indicate that the Administration has not taken the hint. Do these requests for expanded DOD authority really represent the future of interagency thinking on these issues? I hope not. But if not, why not?
“Where the Congress has acted on these issues, be it the “train and equip” authority known as “1206” or the authorization of the transfer of DOD monies to the State Department, it has been in limited scope and for a limited duration. It is now time to consider whether Congress will extend or expand those programs, and if so, how? While Congress has acted on these issues as a temporary fix, what is the way forward from here? Is the Department of Defense becoming the de facto lead agency in what used to be the State Department’s realm? If so, why? How do we see these programs evolving from ad hoc efforts to fully institutionalized government-wide solutions to these problems? 
“Two years ago, as I said, we had a hearing on this very subject, where both then-Chairman Hunter and I as the Ranking Member expressed our concerns about these issues – concerns I venture to say have not changed over the intervening time. Secretary Gates and Secretary Rice, you have an opportunity today. From you we hope to hear how the Administration has used those two years to mature its approach on these issues, and if you can’t do that, I expect you’ll need to explain to us why it hasn’t.
“Before I conclude, let me take one additional minute to address the testimony this committee held last week with General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. They are among the finest we have in public service. But they are not responsible for taking the broader view that our two Secretaries must take on our national security. I continue to be deeply concerned that the Iraqis are not taking advantage of the opportunities our troops have provided for them. Moreover, Secretary Gates, I know you also share my concern about the state of our military readiness if they are called upon to fight elsewhere. I see a desperate need for increased resources in Afghanistan so we don’t lose that effort. When we know that the most likely source of an attack upon our nation is from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, I have a hard time understanding why Iraq is priority one instead of Afghanistan.
"With that, let me turn to Mr. Hunter for any remarks he would like to make."
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