Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Transcript
Senate Office Bulding, Washington, D.C.
10 March 2022
** Committee Hearing Video - Click Here to watch **
Senator Shaheen, Senator Peters, Chairman Reed, Chairman Reed, General LaCamera, Senator Manchin, Senator Rounds, Senator Kelly, Senator Scott, Senator King, Senator Duckworth, Senator Warren, Senator Sullivan, Senator Tuberville, Senator Cotton, Senator Wicker, Senator Hawley, Senator Hirono, Admiral Aquilino, Senator Rosen, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Ernst
Chairman Reed 00:00
Admiral security dialogue or quad, involving the United States, Japan, India and Australia presents an opportunity to establish a durable framework. It is my hope that the quad as well as career will provide a platform for engaging other regional partners. The most likely Flashpoint that could turn our competition with China into a conflict is Taiwan. If China is the pacing threat for the Defense Department. Taiwan is the pacing scenario, following the brutal repression of pro democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong by China over the past two years and the unprecedented number of aggressive Chinese military incursion into Taiwan's airspace, the world has a right to be concerned. There has been discussion in the last year regarding whether we should be more explicit about coming to Taiwan's aid militarily if they are attacked by China, the so called strategic ambiguity versus strategic clarity debate. In my opinion, we should maintain the policy of strategic ambiguity that has helped to maintain the peace in Taiwan Strait for decades. More than anything, changing our policy to strategic clarity could actually lead to escalation and the very conflict we are working so hard to prevent Admiral Aquilino faced with these wide ranging challenges. I would like you to assess IndoPacom preparedness to carry out the United States strategy in the region. As we seek to more effectively compete with China. We must also manage the threat posed by North Korea. North Korea has attacked both Republican and Democratic administrations for decades. maintaining peace and stability on the Korean peninsula must remain a priority for the Department of Defense. Though solving the long term challenges posed by North Korea will require all elements of national power. Through various intelligence reports. We know that Kim Jung-un do use nuclear weapons as the ultimate deterrent against foreign intervention and over time intends to gain international acceptance and respect as a nuclear power. The ultimate goal of US policy remains the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But we are not taking an all or nothing approach. Instead, the Biden administration has pursued what is described as a calibrated practical approach diplomacy with the north with a goal of eliminating the threat to the United States. This approach will require smart and firm engagement with the North Koreans, or more importantly, it requires coordination with our allies and partners in the region, particularly South Korea and Japan. General LaCamera, I would ask for your views on the partnership between the United States Japan, South Korea and other regional partners in addressing North Korea's destabilizing activity. Similarly, General, the highest priority of any military commander is ensuring the readiness of the forces under their command to perform their mission. I hope you will share your views on how US Forces Korea can maintain readiness through training and exercises with their South Korean counterparts, while avoiding miscommunication or an unintentional escalation in tensions with the North. Finally, Secretary Au...Austin announced earlier this week at the Navy's Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility on the island of Oahu will be closed within the year following a series of major fuel spills. I believe that closing this facility was the right decision. And I would like to know generally what steps are being taken to ensure the safety and health of the military families and civilians in the affected communities. More broadly, the closure of Red Hill is a sickening change in our fueling and logistics approach in the Pacific. And that should be recognized by IndoPacom command. Thank you again to our witnesses. I look forward to your testimonies. Senator Inhofe could not be here today. So I am submitting his opening statement for the record. And with that, let me recognize Admiral Aquilino.
Admiral Aquilino 04:05
Thank you, Chairman Reed, distinguished members of committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss the Indo Pacific region. I sincerely appreciate your dedicated support to IndoPacom our servicemembers and their families and we wish Senator Inhofe Well, the People's Republic of China is the most consequential strategic competitor to the United States. The PRC is executing a dedicated campaign that utilizes all forms of national power in an attempt to uproot the rules based international order to the benefit of themselves and at the expense of all others. In the region Russia also presents serious risks as evident from their unprovoked and unjustified attack on the Ukraine. Russia has no regard for international law. It's own commitments or any principles that uphold global peace. Similarly, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and violent extremist organizations also pose acute threats to peace and stability in the Indo Pacific. To address these threats, Secretary Austin has articulated clear priorities, defend the homeland, deter our adversaries, and strengthen our allies and partners. These priorities are advanced through integrated deterrence, which is the department's approach to preventing conflict through the synchronization of all elements of national power, coordinated with the joint force across all domains, together with our allies and partners. IndoPacom's mission is to prevent conflict through the execution of integrated deterrence. And if necessary, be prepared to fight and win. Seize the initiative describes IndoPacom's approach to accomplish these missions. This approach requires the joint force to think, act and operate differently. We do that by realigning our posture, advancing our warfighting capabilities, providing both the Secretary and the President with options across the spectrum of competition, crisis and conflict. Effective deterrence requires significant investment to defend the homeland, protect the joint force, operate in contested space, provide all domain battlespace awareness with an integrated fires network to deliver those effects. These initiatives are incorporated into a theater campaign plan facilitated by agile logistics, a robust exercise and experimentation program and regular and consistent collaboration with our allies and partners to promote peace in the region. We must make concerted efforts to increase our resilience and strengthen our capabilities through sustained investments generated by predictable budgets, a strong industrial base and reliable supply chains. I am optimistic we will see a strategy based FY 23 budget that takes the appropriate initial steps to address key adversarial challenges and increase our warfighting advantages. The resources we commitment now and in the future will help preserve a free and open Indo Pacific. It will strengthen our deterrence posture and provide us the ability to fight and win should deterrence fail. Thank you, Chairman. I look forward to the questions.
Chairman Reed 07:53
Thank you very much, Admiral. General LaCamera, please.
General LaCamera 07:57
Chairman Reed, distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to appear here today. Appreciate your leadership and dedication and supporting our total force and our families who work with our Korean allies in the United Nations cynic states in order to maintain a stable and secure environment on the Korean peninsula. But also like to thank President Biden, Secretary Austin, Jurmala for their continued leadership and support along with Admiral Aquilino. The functional combatant commanders who support us by fellow component commanders and my interagency colleagues, it's easy to stand on freedom's frontier with this tremendous support. Finally, I want to thank our Korean hosts and their professional military. I'm pleased to update you on the great work done by our dedicated personnel serving the Republic of Korea. They're professionally executing the missions of the United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command in US Forces Korea. United States Republic of Korea alliance was forged in the crucible of battle. While the Democratic People's Republic of Korea continues to pose multiple threats to regional and international security this alliance remains the linchpin of the regional stability, and has prevented the resumption of hostilities that shredded the peace some 72 years ago. It remains ironclad in our service members, along with the Republic of Korea military are trained and ready to respond to a provocation or crisis of called upon our three commands; United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and US Forces Korea must remain vigilant, prepared and ready. Under one commander, these three commands are empowered to maintain a stabilized security environment for the Republic of Korea and our regional allies. We have international legitimacy through the United Nations Command whose missions whose mission is to enforce the 1953 Arms disagreement coordinate UN sending state contributions and execute assigned functions directed by the US national authorities through Joint Chiefs of Staff to preserve peace and security on the Korean peninsula. UNC ensures a true multinational effort and supportive armicist conditions while maintaining the utmost respect for the Republic of Korea sovereignty. We are proud of the combined teamwork of the US Korean Alliance Combined Forces Command is the combined warfighting headquarters representing the US Korea bilateral military bilateral partnership formed in 1978. It's a unique entity that takes policy, direction and missions from the combined military committee and is governed by and subjected to binational decision making consensus. We maintain our strong US commitment to Korea US forces is the Korea is the premier Joint Force committed to defending the security of the Republic of Korea. It's discipline trained and ready to fight tonight respond in crisis and win in conflict. Central to meeting any threats is resourcing and strengthening our force and best possible care of our families. I'm grateful for your support and leadership. In these no failed tasks. I know you're aware of South Korea's powerful economic, military and technical standings. No doubt you're aware of the social impact all of this as part of the hard work discipline and dedication of the Korean people. All under the Security umbrella of the US Korea alliance. The Republic of Korea is an incredible ally and it's privileged to move into the future together with them in the land of the Morning Calm, a monitor to command and serve this dedicated multinational, combined in joint force and one of the most significant dynamic regions of the world. Those who serve are committed, capable and well supported the forces posture to deter aggression, protect US interests, and if necessary defeat any adversary. As long as the threat persists, the US Korean alliance remains vigilant, determined and steadfast in defense of the Korean Peninsula and across the region. As the commander of these incredible service members, I appreciate this committee's continued support to fully prepare them to fight and win the most dangerous piece of ground the last 100 meters of land, sea and air. Finally, it has been an honor to work with the Moon Administration. Congratulations to President Elect Moon, we look forward to working with his administration to strengthen the US ROK alliance and take on regional challenges. Thank you for the opportunity to provide an opening statement. I look forward to your questions.
Chairman Reed 12:04
Thank you very much general, Admiral Aquilino, Taiwan has historically purchase expensive platforms, rather than asymmetric systems, which may be more relevant in an actual conflict with China. And in addition to that, Taiwan has one of the most robust economies in the world. Do you agree that Taiwan should have sufficient budgetary resources to procure the necessary defense systems?
Admiral Aquilino 12:35
Thank you, Chairman. I, I would think I would leave it to Taiwan as a as to identify the number and amount of resources that they would like to invest. What I think I would say is, the trend is in the right direction for the capabilities that we've seen him invest in. So for example, the Harpoon missile system is a capability that would provide a viable defensive posture for the people of Taiwan. Additionally, the F 16 capability for their air force. So the amount that they would like to invest is part of the calculus, what they invest in, I think they're on the right path.
Chairman Reed 13:18
We're in a position to help them facilitate the acquisition of appropriate defense capabilities. And again, they seem to have the resources to be able to support such an effort, other opportunities for us to get involved in co-development and co-production of the systems that will help them.
Admiral Aquilino 13:42
Thanks, again, Chairman, I think there certainly is opportunity there. As we operate through the lens and in in, in compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act. Anything that we could do to bolster the defensive capabilities would be desirable.
Chairman Reed 13:58
Thank you. General LaCamera of you're in a very difficult situation with North Korea. Right on your front line, and China hovering over everything. To what extent you believe the Chinese are targeting our alliances with Korea, and what insights might you share with us in terms of that effort?
General LaCamera 14:25
Thanks, Chairman. As you recall, a couple years ago, when the fad protection was put in, there was a economic penalty put against the Republic of Korea for that. And it appears that the Republic of Korea has been able to come out of that but it's still it's still in the news. That's still a concern of the Koreans and as I meet with, as with my Korean counterparts, it's always a topic of conversation. Their influence is You know, they are neighbors. There's a diplomatic influence and there's clearly an economic influence. And that, you know, they also have about 900,000 Chinese that do live in South Korea. So there is an influence there that we have to be paying attention to.
Chairman Reed 15:17
Well, thank you very much, and Admiral Aquilino. With respect to force posture, your prepared testimony states, more distributed combat power increases the liability, reduces risk and enables the transition from defense to offense quickly, should deterrence fail? And what are your top force posture priorities for the region?
Admiral Aquilino 15:40
Thanks, Chairman, as we take a look, the Guam cluster is clearly the top priority to provide capabilities as well as improving the posture in that place. Tinian Island, Palau and the cluster there is highly important. Additionally, Japan is important to ensure we get the DPR. Right, right, in coordination with our Japanese partners, the Philippines, very strategic terrain. And we're working through the Edgar sites that we've coordinated with the Government of the Philippines to provide additional capability. And Australia is a places that we're focused in as I would articulate the top four.
Chairman Reed 16:26
There's a pending presidential election in the Philippines. Is there any? Does that represent a potential change in a relationship either positive or negative?
Admiral Aquilino 16:41
Chairman, the Philippines are mutual defense treaty country, they've gone through many different elections, as many of the countries in the region. So again, I'm hopeful that we will continue to be able to operate as you know, Secretary Austin went over most recently and was able to solve the visiting Forces Agreement problem. So the Philippines is certainly on the proper trend. And a great partner.
Chairman Reed 17:10
Thank you very much Admiral. Thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony and service, Senator
Senator Wicker 17:15
Thank you very much, Admiral, the CNO says we need 31 traditional amphibious warships that's worldwide. How many do you need in your command?
Admiral Aquilino 17:32
Senator, if it’s okay. I'll get back to on the record for that as a classified event.
Senator Wicker 17:39
Okay, well, let me just say, we're learning some lessons these last two or three weeks about reality and about how some of our adversaries or adversaries view the what you call the rules based international order. So I'm, I'm really asking you to tell us what you need. And I think both sides of the dice here would do everything we can to make sure that happens. Now, let me ask you this. Every September 30. This Congress House and Senate is supposed to send to the President a defense appropriation bill. It's wrapped up in an omnibus bill now. And we still haven't had a chance to pass it here in the second week of March 2022. How much of a problem is that? For the for the two of you, Admiral and General? What could what can you not do? What have you not been able to do for this part of the fiscal year because of the absence of a defense appropriation bill? And have we spent money needlessly, because you're operating under a continuing resolution from the previous fiscal year?
Admiral Aquilino 19:16
Thanks, Senator, as I stated in my testimony are predictable budgets are certainly helpful both for the industrial base, the companies that support us, and to deliver the capabilities, operations and things that we need that the critical impact is the loss of buying power. I don't know the exact number that DOD is estimated with regard to the extent of the CR, but that loss of buying power is significant in the billions. It also has a separate effect for me and I'm not an acquisition authority. But it does have an effect on me and that is none of the new starts or requests for capabilities are able to be delivered or started begun under a continuing resolution. So for my top three priorities, a defensive Guam system, we've been unable to start or support that the delivery of a mission partner environment, my ability to connect with all of our allies and partners to share information, plan, coordinate and execute operations. And then the Pacific multi domain training and exercise capability system. In other words, our ability to link all of the ranges that we have to train at the high end with live virtual and constructive capability. We've been unable to start any of those
Senator Wicker 20:41
Have you had to spend money on things that once this thing gets passed, and the President signs it? You really are no longer that important.
Admiral Aquilino 20:53
I'm not aware of any of those. Senator,
Senator Wicker 20:55
How about that General? And the overall question.
General LaCamera 21:00
I agree with everything that Admiral said, I would just add a couple of points. We I don't know if we've had to spend any money on it. It does affect the buying power. It does affect how much time we have left to spend money and going forward. At a tangible level. It's impacting some maintenance and it's impacting some new starts with say a counter UAS program going forward.
Senator Wicker 21:24
Admiral, what do you think, are the lessons the leadership of the People's Republic of China are learning from what's going on now? In Ukraine?
Admiral Aquilino 21:43
Thank you, Senator. So, there's three that I'm watching. Very specifically. Number one, the loss of life required to create an execute an illegal war is certainly something that ought to be taken away. Both President Putin and President Xi Jinping should learn that lesson, that cost of life is broad, extensive, and will haunt them both. Second, the international condemnation that we are seeing of like-minded nations coming together to articulate the illegal aspect that displeasure and the needless loss of life needs to continue. And then third, the significant economic impacts that the free world can bring together against a nation who would take this type of action.
Senator Wicker 22:42
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed 22:44
Thank you very much, Senator Wicker Senator King place.
Senator King 22:48
Admiral, thank you. Thank you both for being with us this morning. Admiral, we've learned a lot in the last week or so about nuclear doctrine in Russia, particularly the idea of escalate to deescalate. What do we know about China's nuclear doctrine? We know that they're vastly expanding their nuclear capability. As I say, could you do we have ideas about what China's assumptions are about the use of nuclear weapons?
Admiral Aquilino 23:20
Senator, thanks. I don't think I'd assume anything. And I would defer to my partner Admiral Richards as the STRATCOM. Commander, I think what I would tell you is what we see happening in the theater and that is an extensive buildup of nuclear capability articulated and intended to be delivered by the PRC right 700 silo-based or warheads by 2027 and over 1000 by 2030. That's from a base of almost zero. I mean, their expansion has been dramatic as an extremely quickly, and as Mr. Richards most recently testified.
Senator King 23:59
Thank you. China calls itself a near Arctic nation and is becoming more and more active in the Arctic. One of my concerns is the extent to which there may be gaps between NORTHCOM EUCOM, INDOPACOM given China's activities in these various areas, reassure me about your integration with your fellow combatant commanders, particularly NORTHCOM where China's operating in that in that region.
Admiral Aquilino 24:34
Thanks Senator and as you know, North Korea is actually the lead for the Arctic so we coordinate persistently with General Van Herk, General Walters. Some of the examples you know, when the most recent Russian submarine came from the North Fleet over to the Pacific Fleet, we monitored and watched that as it crossed combatant commander lines. General Van Herk. I support him for the long range aviation flights or any threats that emit from the northwestern portion of either from Russia or China as it applies to the homeland defense mission no matter what path they take. So, our cooperation collaboration is persistent.
Senator King 25:13
Well as part of our new strategy in the Indo Pacific is dispersal wouldn't reinvigoration of ADAC make some sense and given its strategic position, again, it's in NORTHCOM. But it's pretty darn close to INDOPACOM as well.
Admiral Aquilino 25:30
Yes, Senator. And we've used ADAC most recently in an exercise in about a I think about a year ago for a combined Navy Marine Corps event from that area. So clearly a strategic location for both defense of the homeland and to be able to project power forward, we have to take a look at the length of the runway there for some future operations.
Senator King 25:55
Thank you. I hope that's under consideration. Because we don't want to, again, if dispersal is the goal, we don't want to concentrate everything in Guam, for example. We want to present problems for a potential adversary. General, I've been concerned on an ongoing basis with the relationship between South Korea and Japan. A where does that stand and B does the new administration have any did they come into that into this election season, which concluded yesterday with any stated position about strengthening or further weakening the relationship between two countries which are important allies to us?
General LaCamera 26:42
Thanks, Senator. I'm not aware of any specifics. But I think as President Yoon talks about security as a top priority, that my best military advice is, and I think the military leaders and my Korean counterparts truly understand the importance of a US rock and rock Japanese relationship. And that is one of my top priorities as a commander of USFK. And
Senator King 27:08
I appreciate that I hope that is a is a priority to try to foster that relationship and improve it because in a time of conflict, as we've learned, allies are essential. Winston Churchill once said the only thing worse than fighting with your allies is fighting without your allies. Thank you, General. Thank you. Thank you very much. Senator King Senator Rounds, please.
Senator Rounds 27:31
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, let me begin by just saying thank you very much to you and your families for your years of service to our country. Admiral Aquilino, the space in cyber domains are where we are seeing a lot of activity and pose a real threat to our national security. With seven of the nine nations capable of launching satellites and your AOR Can you explain how you integrate your operations with USSPACECOM and USCYBERCOM recognizing it provides both opportunities for us but also some real threats.
Admiral Aquilino 28:08
Thanks, Senator. As we synchronize our operations together, I have the greatest partners in General Nakasone from Cyber Command, General Dickinson from Space Command. Matter of fact, I've asked them both to meet me in Australia in about a week and a half to synchronize with our Australian counterparts and continue to work towards improve capabilities in space and cyber. There's processes in our headquarters, that, again, you've heard me articulate this think, act and operate differently. One of the critical aspects of that is how to synchronize all domain effects. And that includes space and cyber. I have dedicated people in my headquarters as cyber components and space components that operate in my headquarters every day. And I can't be any more synchronized than that.
Senator Rounds 28:56
And I also like the fact that it's not just synchronized in multiple domains, but with our allies as well, which I think is a critical part of our long term prospects in the region, General LaCamera. It's been brought to my attention that our servicemen and women and their families are required
to receive a rapid test for COVID for them to return to Korea. But this test is not covered by TRICARE. I think it's wrong to charge our servicemembers for medical tests that we're requiring them to take. Can you perhaps explain to me what this does to these young men and women and what the cost involved are and perhaps give us some reasoning as to maybe why we should take some action immediately to resolve this.
General LaCamera 29:49
Thank you, Senator. If they're departing on if they're on official travel orders, that's covered. They can claim that. If they're departing on leave, I'll test them for any requirements leaving the Republic of Korea. But coming back in, there are ways that they can get it from CVS from, you know, out on the economy. The challenge becomes if they don't get it in time, then they have to pay out of pocket to make sure that they can get back into the country. The requirement is 48 hours right now. And it's currently not covered under TRICARE. And again, it just, you know, so soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, they want to do the right thing. They want to come back in, they're paying out of pocket. And currently right now, I believe I do not have the capability to reimburse them.
Senator Rounds 30:36
Thank you, sir. I have one more question for Admiral. The Indo Pacific AOR has been described as the most consequential region of America's future. As such, it would appear to me that we should be working very hard to increase our network of allies and partnerships in the region. The Army Corps of Engineers has done some remarkable work building partner capacity in areas of water and environmental security, disaster risk management and humanitarian assistance, construction projects. The Corps does a lot of this work, from the Civil Works perspective and in concert with USAID. Can you speak to the effectiveness of these programs in building regional partnerships as opposed to how China does business?
Admiral Aquilino 31:22
Thanks, Senator so that the Army Corps of Engineers is certainly active in the region, as well as the Engineer Corps of all the services. We take on projects that support communities, deliver military warfighting capacity, and support our allies and partners. That is a vastly different model than the PRC is using with regard to bringing in workers, bringing in materials, and then settling in nations. So, the models are completely different. I was just in Palau, as a part of the CB Corps. That's forward deployed in Palau. I met with four interns from the island of Palau that were operating with the Seabees to learn skills, trade, and to improve the infrastructure of their island. Right. So drastically different models, and I'm confident that the nation sees which of those models they like better, and it's the United States model.
Senator Rounds 32:20
Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed 32:24
Thank you, Senator Rounds, Senator Hirono, please.
Senator Hirono 32:27
Thank you. And Admiral Aquilino, and General LaCamera. Thank you very much. To both of you. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your opening remarks in support of the closure of the Red Hill facility, and the need for us to address the INDOPACOM fueling needs in alternative ways, Admiral Aquilino, we are going ahead with safely defueling this massive facility or these massive tanks. And we are going to need to provide resources in the out years to deal with the environmental issues related to the closure of this facility. What are your major concerns and priorities with respect to the future fuel storage requirements for INDOPACOM?
Admiral Aquilino 33:18
Thank you, Senator, thanks for the continued support. In this set of options, I briefed the secretary. And the decision that he has made with regard to closing it was focused on three critical things. Number one, the top priority was clean, safe water for the people of Hawaii, service members and their families. Number two was to ensure that we could execute our military mission set. The option that he selected, I believe provides a more diverse, distributed and effective fuel distribution model that meets all of my requirements.
Senator Hirono 33:58
How do you plan to mitigate any potential vulnerabilities that an alternate fuel solution may have? Although in my opinion, we reduce our vulnerabilities by not having all our fuel in one place. But do you have some concerns about vulnerabilities of distributing this fuel and I don't know throughout the Pacific perhaps?
Admiral Aquilino 34:20
I absolutely don't. Senator, again, I believe as you articulated a much more diverse and distributed both land based and sea based is the best model to ensure we can meet our warfighting needs.
Senator Hirono 34:34
The Compact of Free Association Agreement COFA between the US and the Republic of the Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia and I know that you visited Palau which is one of the other nations that are part of COFA but as to the other two nations, they are coming up for renewal in 2023. And as I mentioned that Palau in 2024, and as you noted in your written statement to the committee. These agreements have significant impact on your ability to advance the priorities of the Pacific Deterrence Initiative and maintain a free and open Indo Pacific. I am really glad that you visited Palau and that we are going to be perhaps looking at different ways that we can jointly be supportive, more supportive of these compact nations as we go forward. So, I hope you will continue to prioritize our partnerships with these island nations to support our overall strategy and in the Pacific.
Admiral Aquilino 35:37
Yes, ma'am. It's absolutely important to get to the appropriate renegotiation of the Compact Agreements. Again, visiting Saipan, Guam, Palau and Tinian were a really, really worthwhile trip for me, and I got to spend some time with President Whipps from Palau. As you know, the negotiation of those agreements are led by State Department in coordination with Department of the Interior. and Department of Defense has a representative on the team and have articulated my request to negotiate those as soon as possible, in a way that certainly beneficial to the United States as the PRC is looking to infiltrate throughout the region.
Senator Hirono 36:22
Exactly. And I think that our country should be paying more attention and a more supportive role and with regard to our compact nations, because they're there in large extent because they are very much a part of our national security priorities. Regarding North Korea, for both of you, this year alone, we've seen North Korea, executing nine rounds of missile tests, including a purported hypersonic missile and its first launch since 2017, of an intermediate range missile potentially capable of reaching Guam. Admiral Aquilino and General LaCamera, what is your assessment of the credibility of such threats from North Korea? Maybe we'll start with you General.
General LaCamera 37:12
As I live under that threat, Senator, there, the threat is real. And it appears that he's trying to develop capabilities to defeat our systems and threaten the peninsula and threaten regional stability.
Senator Hirono 37:28
So, Admiral Aquilino Is this one of the reasons that that that are protective systems on Guam is your top priority or high priority?
Admiral Aquilino 37:36
Absolutely the ability to defend the homeland of Guam as well as the military forces that operate there. What I would say though, is the relationship we have with the South Koreans and the Japanese is critical. General LaCamera and I synchronize with General Won and General Yamazaki every time there's one of these launches. And if you just recently read, we've increased the readiness level on both the peninsula and in support of the defense of Japan today.
Senator Hirono 38:10
And, Mr. Chairman, I want to know not to mention the need to protect Hawaii. As we develop these missile systems, defense systems in Guam. We do still have the issue of Homeland Defense radar, Hawaii. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed 38:24
Thank you, Senator Hirono. Senator Cotton please.
Senator Cotton 38:26
Admiral last year, your predecessor Admiral Davidson warned that China may invade Taiwan, in his words, quote, the next six years. That was a year ago. In your best military opinion, does that forecast still hold?
Admiral Aquilino 38:42
Thanks, sir. I was gonna start with who said that?
Senator Cotton 38:44
Admiral Aquilino 38:46
I know, I don't even think about that last guy anymore. I think that his articulation was based on a couple of different points, but we'd have to ask Admiral Davidson how he came to that. One of the things that I've watched is President Xi Jinping has articulated and challenged his military to be able to modernize and complete its modernization by 2027. If we look over the past 10 or 15 years, that target date has moved left from 2035ish, persistently. So, 2027 is a military task. I can tell you where I am, is, I see actions that give me concern that the timeline is shrinking. And the mission that I’ve been given is to be prepared for it. So when you look at the actions of the PRC, as it applies to breaking their agreement for Hong Kong, taking physical lethal actions on the line of actual control with India, completely illegal claims for the entire South China Sea and every air, sea space and airspace inside their self-proclaimed nine dash line. All of these actions give me concern the most recent water Cannoning of Philippine sailors in the vicinity of Second Thomas Shoal. All of these things give me concern, and I can't predict the date Senator. I just need to just know I need to be ready now.
Senator Cotton 40:22
I agree, Admiral, they gave me a lot of concern as well, six years last year, it's five years now, I think we should be as concerned that it might be five months, and be ready for that. One way to be ready for that, in the opinion of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who I think is one of the most distinguished statesmen of the region, of his generation, said that the United States should consider abandoning so called strategic ambiguity regarding Taiwan, which we don't make it perfectly clear that we will come to their defense, given what we've seen in the invasion of Ukraine, and what we understand about China's intentions based on what you just said, should we make it clear to Beijing, that we will in fact, come to Taiwan's defense, if Beijing attacks Taiwan?
Admiral Aquilino 41:04
Senator, as you know, we currently are an execution of the and support the One China policy. I think what I would say is strategic ambiguity has served us very well for the past 40 years.
Senator Cotton 41:16
It served us well under different circumstances when the PLA was not capable of executing this mission. And Beijing knew that. I would suggest now that the PLA is capable. The main constraint on China's leaders is America's intentions. And that's why we should change from strategic ambiguity to clarity. Admiral, I want to turn to your opening statement, you use the phrase integrated deterrence. The Pentagon defines that as working across warfighting domains, theatres and the spectrum of conflict and collaboration with all instruments of national power as well as allies and partners end quote. That sounds to me like a bureaucratic word salad cooked up and calling calls office. I don't understand what integrated deterrence adds to deterrence. Can you explain to me what you think the difference is between those two terms? Because deterrence is a very simple and long standing concept that depends centrally on hard military power to include nuclear weapons.
Admiral Aquilino 42:11
Yeah, thanks, Senator. So again, in the lane that I operate in the military lane. Again, I believe that that hard power, credible combat power provides a deterrent value through the military sphere. I also believe that there's other forms that actually may be more impactful as we're watching. In the Ukraine side, the economic impacts, clearly have an opportunity, and I do believe synchronizing those with the military lane can really have an impactful ability to deliver deterrence.
Senator Cotton 42:49
All dependent, though, on continued military dominance across all military domains to include our nuclear arsenal. Correct?
Admiral Aquilino 42:59
Certainly, in the military sphere, Senator, I coordinate with Admiral Richards, as we present the entire spectrum of military capabilities, to adversaries. So, the synchronization of conventional and strategic is critical. And then combining that with the rest is certainly valuable.
Senator Cotton 43:17
Yeah. And I want to commend you, because you've been very clear eyed and sober. While you've been in this command about the need for military power in the western Pacific to deter China. I just want to make sure that events of political apparatchiks in the Office of the Secretary of Defense are not going to undermine that military power on which all deterrence is based. Thank you, Admiral.
Admiral Aquilino 43:36
Yeah, Senator, if I could just make one comment. The Secretary has been completely supportive of the approach that we've taken. And not once have I been asked to throttle back or do anything different.
Senator Cotton 43:47
I didn't say the secretary I said the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which is large and sprawling and has a lot of political hacks in it.
Chairman Reed 43:57
Thank you. Senator Blumenthal. Please.
Senator Blumenthal 44:00
Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for your service and for being here. This morning. There was an announcement in December as you know that Australia is planning to build a new Naval Station on its east coast to base nuclear submarines plan for under the AUKUS agreement. This base could resupply and maintain American nuclear submarines. Increasing the capabilities of both countries Australia and our country in countering China's influence and threats in the Pacific region. AUKUS allows us to capitalize on one of our greatest advantages in the Pacific, namely, the strength and capabilities of our submarine fleet, which is second to none in the world. Sharing this technology with Australia will be a force multiplier. But those submarines are not scheduled to be commissioned for another 10 or more years. There was a lot of hoopla at the time of the announcement, but not so much a realization that there will be some delay. The AUKUS agreement also provides a framework for joint cooperation and integration of cyber capabilities, artificial intelligence, and quantum technologies. Admiral, as you know, the United States, the UK, and Australia currently engaged in an 18 month period of consultation to determine the optimal pathway to nuclear powered submarines for Australia. What would you like to see come out of this process? What themes of inoperability have you identified for AUKUS moving forward? And can the timeline be accelerated?
Admiral Aquilino 46:08
Thanks, Senator. So, the AUKUS agreement is really important. And everybody goes right to submarines, but as you articulated it is more broad than that. And we're working immediately to increase our space and cyber capabilities together with the Australians. We're looking at posture options, beyond just submarines and naval bases, to be able to operate together. And right now, we are completely interoperable with the Australians. On the submarine side, I think the Australians need to see the result of this initial review, they will have some decisions and choices to make. And then I think there's ways to bridge to that development, when, as they work to get to the infrastructure. And then we review the additional base income, you know, options that you just articulated. We would love to go as fast as possible. We certainly have to be mindful of the nuclear reactors and the safety of those things as we work this forward.
Senator Blumenthal 47:10
Speaking to the importance of this agreement, would you say it is more significant in light of what we've seen in Ukraine? And if so, for what reason?
Admiral Aquilino 47:24
I don't know if I would compare it on the Ukraine side. I think as I look at the theater, that we operate in, there's a vast number of basically multilateral relationships that are important. When you think about ASEAN, when you think about a trilateral relationship with South Korea, Japan, the United States. This is just another one of those multinational agreements that provide both a military capability and capacity that's important for the region.
Senator Blumenthal 47:58
And do you think there is the opportunity or the potential for accelerating the timeline?
Admiral Aquilino 48:07
I think it will, we'll have to see the results of this review. I guess what I would say is this really won't happen quickly. If we can get from 10 years to eight years. Boy, that'd be Herculean.
Senator Blumenthal 48:20
And where do you think that submarines will be built?
Admiral Aquilino 48:24
I know the Australians certainly would like to have that industrial capacity. I think having an additional industrial base in another place for us is possible. But as you know, all of the United States submarines are built in Connecticut.
Senator Blumenthal 48:40
I know Rhode Island. And Rhode Island has a role to play as well. Thank you very much.
Chairman Reed 48:51
Thank you, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Ernst, please.
Senator Ernst 48:56
Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair. And again, gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. General LaCamera. Let's start with you. We have seen a lot with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and it just hammers home how connected the world is. And the responses that we see from democratic nations. We've heard a lot about how EUCOM and INDOPACOM are totally different theaters. Yet the responses from the Japanese, the Australians, the South Koreans, when it comes to Ukraine, have surprised a lot of people. What do you think about the Allied responses to the invasion of Ukraine? And can you shed some light on how all of these different regions are interconnected?
General LaCamera 49:52
Thank you, Senator. As I sat down with the minister of defense before coming to Washington, DC, and I told him we were paying attention to what's going on there. It's not a blueprint. But it can be instructive to large scale combat operations on the Korean peninsula and in the region. And we need to be paying attention to that, boil it down to its fundamental lessons. What I think is discussed already several times, you know, the power our true asymmetric advantages are our alliances and having a coalition. And so I think it continues to reinforce the importance of making sure that we have that Strategic and International depth, and we have the we can take everybody's capabilities and put it together as an asymmetric advantage.
Senator Ernst 50:41
And I think that is well said. There are so many connectivities, ways that we work with Allied partners around the globe that just become force multipliers no matter what that theater. So, I am going to continue on some of that interconnectivity that we have. I know we were having a fuel discussion earlier. So, I'm going to direct this one to the Admiral. In light of the energy crunch that we have now, with the Russia invasion of Ukraine, it's my understanding that our military has fuel contracts with the Japanese and South Korean refiners. But much of their oil does come from Iran, and others. Have you taken a close look at our DLA’s Energy contracts for INDOPACOM? And is that a strategic concern?
Admiral Aquilino 51:45
Thanks, Senator. We certainly keep a look at the refinery capability around the globe and how it might impact. I haven't looked down to the second, third order of effects. As we coordinate with Japan, Korea and the host nations, I'd be glad to take that on with DLA to see where those vulnerabilities might be.
Senator Ernst 52:03
I would appreciate that because again, there is so much that goes on under the surface. And if we are relying upon Iran, and other adversaries, just as we're seeing in our own economy, right now, we're so reliant upon Russia. Russia is using those dollars to fund their war machine. The same could be said of a number of other near peer adversaries like Iran, the dollars they are generating from their oil, then also goes to fund terrorist activities, proxy activities around the globe. So, we are all interconnected. Going back to what General LaCamera said we have various strategic alliances, but we also need to look at where our adversaries are, and how we can rely on partners for solutions rather than just focusing on folks like Russia and Iran and others. Very important that we look at those secondary and tertiary implications. So, I'll yield back my time. Thank you very much.
Chairman Reed 53:08
Thank you very much, Senator Ernst. Senator Warren please.
Senator Warren 53:11
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to our witnesses for being here today. Admiral Aquilino, I want to ask about the impact of defense industry consolidation, on our ability to compete militarily and to be able to control costs. So last month, the Department of Defense issued a disturbing report, finding that defense mergers and growing concentration is reducing the number of suppliers and creating vulnerabilities in our supply chain. And of course, that's because when only a small number of companies produce components that DOD needs to buy, a pandemic, or a single company’s decision to cease production can leave us without the parts that we need. Or instead of ceasing production, those companies can just jack up profits to make up jacket prices to make more profits, without fear of being undercut by competitors. So, let me ask Admiral Aquilino do you consider hypersonic weapons to be an important priority?
Admiral Aquilino 54:22
Semator Warren 54:24
Hypersonic weapons is one area where the DoD report is particularly alarming. Warning that vertical integration of those contractors and suppliers, quote, will likely lead to reduced competition and may eliminate it altogether. Do you agree that DOD generally benefits from competition among defense contractors and suppliers?
Admiral Aquilino 54:49
Senator, let me just start by saying I don't have any acquisition authority. But competition is certainly the foundation of our free market.
Senator Warren 54:58
Well, it's not only up a foundation of our free market. You're absolutely right. But it's how we assure that we're going to have supply, and we're going to have at a price that we can afford. That's why I've been concerned that DOD is asleep at the wheel when it comes to mergers and
acquisitions. Since the 1990s, we have gone from 51 aerospace and defense prime contractors, down to just five today. Controlling costs for hypersonics is going to be a major challenge for the department. The GAO found that the cost of one of the Navy's programs nearly doubled in a single year, and that an Air Force program increased by 40% in its first year. Look, we're planning to invest about $15 billion through 2024. So those kinds of cost increases add up in a hurry. Overruns in these programs take resources away from other department priorities, and other needs across the federal government. And the cost issues are significant enough that the Air Force Secretary Kendall has expressed concerns that they are not, quote, cost effective. So, let me just ask you one more question in this general area if I can. There are a number of factors that drive these cost increases, I realize that. There's complexity, poor planning, weak oversight. But do you think it will be important to prevent further concentration among hypersonics contractors? Admiral?
Admiral Aquilino 56:40
Senator, again, without the not being the person who actually purchases those things, I think what I would say is, I need the capability. And I would need and I need it as soon as possible. I encourage any particular way that we can execute that, with the most effectiveness for the delivery of the system, at the most efficient cost to the taxpayer.
Senator Warren 57:08
I appreciate that. That's fair enough. You know, I think the department's report makes clear that this needs to be a priority. If we don't have competition in this sector, it's going to be extremely difficult to control costs. And I'm working on legislation to address this right now. So, Admiral, I hope that you and I can work together on controlling costs as we go forward. As you may know, your commands submitted the largest Wish List of any command, nearly a billion dollars. And these so called unfunded priorities have become an extremely pernicious tool to boost what is already runaway pentagon spending. So, I'm going to be following up with you with more questions about these lists. But I urge you to be a more responsible steward of taxpayer dollars than your predecessors were, and to think carefully about your requests for this year. Thank you.
Chairman Reed 58:15
Thank you, Senator Warren. Senator Tuberville, please.
Senator Tuberville 58:18
Well, thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today and your service. General have you. How has the vaccine mandates affected your troops in your command? Any at all? Any numbers?
General LaCamera 58:36
We're sitting at a 99%. vaccinated. There are some exceptions to policies. I don't control those. Those are those go back to the departments, but it's had no impact to combat readiness.
Senator Tuberville 58:49
Admiral Aquilino 58:51
Same scenario again, the services control at about the same percentage maybe a bit higher, but there's been no impact to mission.
Senator Tuberville 58:59
Domestic extremism education courses are required. Any positive results you've seen out of this? General?
General LaCamera 59:11
Yes, you know, we take on new soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines each week. We've got to integrate them into the formation and we have to tell them that any extremism is not tolerated and commanders at all levels are focusing on that. It goes against good order and discipline and it makes us less combat ready.
Have you all had to take these courses? I'm just asking for.
General LaCamera 59:36
I have yeah. I've participated in them and I tell you the sitting in there and listening to the different demographics and age groups. I've learned. It's positive.
Admiral Aquilino 59:50
Senator. We owe the service members, the civilian warriors that support us a safe healthy place where they can execute their oath that they took for the uniformed members. And for the civilian members, their desire to serve their nation. We owe them a healthy, safe, comfortable place to work. I've taken the same courses, we've actually done some additional things. And I can tell you, I've learned a lot in just talking with the service members. You know, they're willing to tell you what some of the things they've experienced and to General LaCamera’s point, right. There's zero tolerance for any discrimination, sexual harassment, and we're learning a bunch.
Senator Tuberville 1:00:34
That's the reason I'm asking these questions. I'm for that. And do we need to make it better? Now I come from the education field. Is there ways we can make it better? Do we need to talk to more people, more commanders, more officers, enlisted? How can we make it better?
General LaCamera 1:00:51
I think we're a learning organization. And I think we're learning from the junior service members as they give us their experiences. And as we see the different generational gaps and. So I mean, any help that we can get from the outside, but internally, you know, after action reports and sharing lessons learned has kind of been our has made us the the military that we are today.
Senator Tuberville 1:01:16
Good. We all gotta be on the same team as dangerous this world is, you know. One area I believe we excelled in with this Ukraine conflict is the information fight. We successfully countered Russia and Chinese disinformation. This is a fight that both of you and your your AOR is gonna be important. You know, what tools do y'all need? You need any more tools to get out the messaging effectively? You know that, because it will ramp up as years and days go by. General.
General LaCamera 1:01:53
I mean, we have to be able to compete in the information space. It's easier to put a bullet in someone's head than it is to put an idea in their head. And we never send just one bullet or one bomb, we've got it's constant, we've got to be prepared to compete in the information space. We got to be prepared to make mistakes and react to it. We're not going to get it perfect. But I think again, watching Ukraine, we're watching a country, who’s able, you know, a leader who's able to shut off the information to his own people. And we've got to figure out ways to be able to penetrate that and get that message out.
Admiral Aquilino 1:02:24
Thanks, Senator. You know, the changing information space, as you articulate is really challenging. Disinformation, misinformation, propaganda. In the Indo Pacific Command, we've initiated JTFIP in Singapore. And with our partners in Singapore, we've put together an information capability that can lead to the potential identification of violent extremists. That's done with right now nine countries. So, we're learning how to do this better. I don't think I have any specific tools right now. But in my 1242 report, you're gonna see requests, ensure we can fund those things that we have today. And to General LaCamera's point as we learn how to go forward, I'm certainly happy to share thoughts with you.
Senator Tuberville 1:03:12
One other question, Admiral in this year's NDAA, we got in an AEGIS System for Guam. We just need to find a way to fund it. Your thoughts. Is it still a priority?
Admiral Aquilino 1:03:23
Absolutely, Sir. It is still my number one priority.
Chairman Reed 1:03:26
Thank you. Thank you, Senator Tuberville. Senator Shaheen, please.
Senator Shaheen 1:03:31
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good morning. Thank you both for your testimony this morning. South Korea has a new president. I guess my question is to you, General LaCamera, because he has during his campaign appeared to take a more hardline approach with respect to both North Korea and China. Can you talk about how you see his new administration, working continuing to work with the United States and whether you expect any changes there?
General LaCamera 1:04:03
Thank Senator. Working with the country team, you know, we'll reach out to his transition team, and I look forward to you know, taking what he talked about in his campaign and continuing to move forward when it comes to protecting South Korea and maintaining regional stability. It seems very promising everything what we've seen on the conservative side in his approach and focus on defense. And now we'll have to figure see what it looks like in execution.
Senator Shaheen 1:04:36
So, I don't know if you want to add anything to that Admiral but do we expect him to continue to collaborate with us in regional alliances in the quad in looking at things like AUKUS that we are continuing to try and partner with Asian countries on?
Admiral Aquilino 1:05:01
Thanks Senator, you know the alliance with the South Koreans, it's clearly the linchpin to the broad set of alliances that go to the region really, really important. No matter who is elected, I see at the mil-to-mil level alongside my battle buddy General LaCamera. They are a clear, solid treaty alliance partner. We operate together every day on the peninsula. So, again, this is I think we will continue to work together, and I don't expect any changes.
Senator Shaheen 1:05:39
When President Elect Yoon is new to politics, I understand and has made a number of statements in his campaign about North Korea and about his interest in seeing North Korea behave differently. Do we have any concerns about that? Are we working with do expect to work with him on how South Korea and North Korea continue to interact if at all?
General LaCamera 1:06:09
Oh, yes, Senator. Today, the Alliance. I mean, it's an intangible relationship here that we have to continue to work with the Republic of Korea going forward to allow the diplomatic process to work with DPRK and, and as the trajectory of peace on the peninsula. So, we expect to work with them while we work well with the Moon administration. And I expect that we'll continue to work well, with the incoming administration. We do respect the sovereignty of the Republic of Korea.
Senator Shaheen 1:06:43
Of course, I appreciate that, and appreciate the partnership that we have shared with them in the Indo Pacific. Admiral, the Women Peace and Security Act requires the US government for the first time to strengthen the participation of women in conflict prevention and peace negotiations. And I know that IndoPacom has actually taken a leadership role in implementing this law initiating trainings around gender insecurity. Can you talk about why you see that as important and how you're seeing that get implemented in ways that you think will be helpful to us in the future?
Admiral Aquilino 1:07:24
Yes, Seantor. I think I'd start at the foundational level, right? This is about talent. And 50%, in the United States, are our ladies and there's talent everywhere. So, our role in ensuring that the rest of our partners understand it, can benefit from it. These are like minded nations with like-minded values. So we work hard to transmit that. At the most recent chiefs of defense conference that we had there were 18 representatives from the region, and one of the specific topics that we discussed was, how are we going to more diversify, specifically, as it applies to Women Peace and Security. The Vice Minister of Japan came and gave a presentation. And she's an amazing lady. It was really notable to the rest of the participants. But bottom line is we all agreed as one of the three takeaways is we were going to work towards increased diversity with our female population through the lens of military service.
Senator Shaheen 1:08:34
Thank you. I'm, I'm really pleased to hear that. Thank you very much. I look forward to further updates as you continue to implement the program.
Chairman Reed 1:08:43
Thank you, Senator Shaheen. Senator Sullivan, please.
Senator Sullivan 1:08:46
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And gentlemen, thank you for your service, exceptional service, in my view and the service of your families. By the way, you don't have to comment on it. I'm going to take exception of Senator Warren's view of unfunded mandates as some kind of wish list. I actually read them I'm not sure she has, and I believe they're actually needed priorities. But Admiral, you've been talking about integrated deterrence, the economic impacts of the free world coming together on Ukraine with the sanctions. All instruments of national power. I think one of the lessons from Ukraine in the brutal invasion by the dictator Vladimir Putin is that comprehensive economic and financial sanctions have the best chance of deterring conflict when they are clearly articulated and ready to go before the conflict begins. And I recently introduced legislation, Congressman Gallagher and the House introduced companion legislation that would mandate comprehensive and devastating economic and financial sanctions against the Chinese Communist Party, key sectors of China's economy and leaders of the CCP in the event, it initiates a military invasion of the island democracy of Taiwan. I was in Europe recently discussing this with many of our allies and encouraging them to consider similar actions. What's your thought on legislation like that, particularly as it relates to all instruments of American power and the deterrent effect beyond just what you control, which is the military instrument?
Admiral Aquilino 1:10:35
Thanks, Senator. I’ll have to go into detail and take a look at the legislation. I haven't read it to date. I guess, I think what I would say is, as long as it is in compliance with the Taiwan Relations Act, as a portion of all forms of national power, I would be supportive.
Senator Sullivan 1:10:55
Thank you. Let me ask just following up on that, the Chinese Communist Party's already crushed Hong Kong once the Bastion of Liberty. Unfortunately, I think the free world barely raised its voice. I believe a violent successful takeover of Taiwan by the CCP would be a sea change in how the world is ordered, not just the Western Pacific but the world. I think it could change the history of the 21st century, in the ways of the guns of August of 1914 changed the 20th century. What is your analysis of that, especially as it relates to our the trust our allied part our treaty ally partners have in the region?
Admiral Aquilino 1:11:41
Senator, I think most of the nations in the region have the same view. The change in the international world order is at risk. There's economic impacts as two thirds of the global flow of trade flows through that region in the maritime domain. There's expansive second third order effects that would be concerning.
Senator Sullivan 1:12:08
You know, you mentioned Philippines, Guam, Australia. Can you talk a little bit about Alaska in terms of the fight in terms of if you need to be ready? Our proximity, which is you know, is quite close to Korea, Japan, Taiwan, are military forces which you have operational control over? Over a hundred 5th Gen fighters all kinds of other things. In related to that, are we becoming too militarily concentrated with our military assets on Guam?
Admiral Aquilino 1:12:42
I don't think we're becoming too consolidated or too focused on Guam, its strategic location. Certainly, as Alaska is a strategic location. And Senator, all of those forces that are positioned there would certainly be needed and expected to join any response options.
Senator Sullivan 1:13:05
Let me ask my final question for both General and Admiral. I believe the Ukrainian invasion has made it clear that we're in a new era of authoritarian aggression. Led by two dictators, Putin and Xi Jinping. They're driven by historical grievances. They're often increasingly isolated, which makes them dangerous. They're very paranoid about their democratic neighbors, because they can't bring democracy and freedom to their own people. In as you both know, the CCP often looks at as a matter of fact both of them look at historical grievances as a way to justify current and future claims of aggression. That's happening in Ukraine right now. But as you've already mentioned, the nine-dash line South China Sea Taiwan. In the 13th century, the Yuan Dynasty of China invaded and occupied Korea for several decades. To both gentlemen, has the CCP ever mentioned this as a possible pretext for aggressive or future actions against the Korean peninsula? They seem to do it a lot in other areas of Asia. And this is one area that they have previously occupied. General, why don't we start with you?
General LaCamera 1:14:31
Thanks, Senator. Again, I think history is instructive. Not a blueprint, but I think the answer really lies in the head of Xi Jinping.
Senator Sullivan 1:14:40
But have you ever heard that I mean, they seem to. The nine dash line in my view is ridiculous, but they still you know, trot that out as a map and say here, this is history. Now we're going to make sure everyone abides by it. They did occupy and invade Korea. If you ever heard that from them, I have not okay. Admiral, how about you? And because, you know, they're looking at many other areas, you can a lot of times based on historical grievances. Any thoughts?
Admiral Aquilino 1:15:09
I have not seen that yet, Senator, again a lot of focus, obviously on the reintegration of Taiwan and the extensive claim through all areas inside the nine dash line. I have not seen or heard of them beginning to lay the groundwork for a Korea issue.
Senator Sullivan 1:15:26
I think it's something we need to keep an eye on. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed 1:15:30
Thank you, Senator Sullivan. Senator Kelly, please.
Senator Kelly 1:15:33
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral, General, I have a question for each of you. First Admiral, It’s about building partner capacity. Security Cooperation programs are an important tool for us to achieve our national security objectives. It strengthens our regional security efforts, it assists in combating shared threats and provides valuable intelligence to deter potential aggression. The 2018 National defense strategy sought to shift the prioritization of security cooperation activities away from counterterrorism and towards great power competition with Russia and China. Additionally, the fiscal year 21 Defense Bill established the Pacific deterrence initiative, in part to prioritize security cooperation activities in the Indo Pacific. So, Admiral How is INDOPACOM utilizing security cooperation partnerships to counter Chinese incursions into the South China Sea and deter potential aggression against Taiwan?
Admiral Aquilino 1:16:45
Thanks, Senator. First of all, when we continue to work with our allies and partners by itself is a huge deterrent value. So that continued exercising operations that is enabled through the security cooperation funding is really important. Second, it helps, in some cases to deliver some posture options. So there's an economic benefit, and a counter to the one belt one road as we work with our allies and partners. And then certainly to build their capacity in the forms of articles that we can either sell or give, certainly enhances interoperability, and allows us to be able to quickly come together and operate together. So, there's multiple benefits.
Senator Kelly 1:17:28
You mentioned the funding, are you resourced adequately?
Admiral Aquilino 1:17:34
We'll see when the 23 budget comes out. And I've articulated and will highlight my requirement.
Senator Kelly 1:17:41
All right, thank you. General. The US military has not conducted its annual large scale exercises, full legal and key resolve with South Korea since 2018. I myself, I participated, you know, a long time ago in team spirit least a couple times and believe that it's critical that we maintain a deterrent. And part of the deterrent is to convince the North Koreans through these exercises that despite their larger force, our ability to operate, you know, jointly with our partners, is a significant force multiplier. You know, North Korea must know that the US and South Korean militaries are prepared to operate jointly and effectively to repel a North Korean attack. And as we look at the situation unfolding in Ukraine, it is concerning to think that the cancellation of these exercises could be misinterpreted to signal a waning commitment. Do you believe large scale exercises contribute to deterring potential North Korea aggression?
General LaCamera 1:18:56
Senator, thank you. I do. You know is in the information space trying to get us to cancel those exercises, and potentially reduce our readiness works in his favor, and he doesn't have to expend any energy. But while we haven't done the field training exercise, that you referred to a full legal team spirit. We have in 20, last year, we did do our command post exercise in the spring and in the fall, and we are scheduled to do it coming up here. We're also training at all levels in the field with our allies.
Senator Kelly 1:19:31
When do you expect to be back to doing a large scale exercise?
General LaCamera 1:19:38
That will be determined as the new administration comes in and working with the Minister of Defense going forward?
Senator Kelly 1:19:46
Could you just kind of describe the difference in readiness between pre 2018 and the remaining time only have about 30 seconds compared to what it is today. If you can kind of quantify that that in a way.
General LaCamera 1:20:03
All the reports are that we're able to achieve readiness, the same readiness levels. Again, the gold standard is, for me at the tactical level are the live fires, and then force on force, we're able to get the Koreans off the peninsula to our combat training centers. And to do that training there. As a commander, obviously, more is better. But it's hard for me to speak before my time,
Senator Kelly 1:20:29
But your preference is to do the large scale exercises on the Korean peninsula.
General LaCamera 1:20:37
Yes, my preference is to do as much training as possible at all echelons.
Thank you, General.
Chairman Reed 1:20:42
Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Hawley, please.
Senator Hawley 1:20:45
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you both for being here. Admiral, it's good to see you again. Thanks for your time a couple of days ago. I want to start with something that the NDAA from last year says section 1247 in particular. It says that it's the policy of the United States to maintain the capacity of the United States to resist a fait accompli that would jeopardize the security of the people on Taiwan and the NDAA also define that term fait accompli to mean the resort to force by the People's Republic of China to invade and seize control of Taiwan before the US can respond effectively. Tell us why it's important for the United States to be able to respond quickly in order to prevent a fait accompli.
Admiral Aquilino 1:21:27
Thanks Senator. Certainly, where our forces are positioned, again, a number forward but much in reserve on the west coast, the United States. Credible combat powered place forward has an extremely valuable deterrent value. A, it can respond with speed. B, its operating in the area and can rehearse. And ultimately, there's no better training than operating in the space you would fight in.
Senator Hawley 1:21:57
And I just want to underline what you said there about the necessity for our forces to be postured forward, combat credible forces postured forward. That's what will enable us to respond quickly. I got that right. Have I understood your testimony correctly? Yes, sir. Very good. Let me ask you this. We recently heard from a RAND analysts, Dave Augment, who's written the Taiwan in his view, how to prioritize asymmetric defenses like the following here's a non-exhaustive list: smart minds, anti-ship missiles that are deliverable from mobile launchers, mobile short air, short range, rather air defense missile systems and distributed reconnaissance and communication systems. Why in your view, why are asymmetric defenses and capabilities so important for Taiwan to be able to deter a Chinese aggression?
Admiral Aquilino 1:22:44
Thanks, Senator, again, a defense in depth mindset and model that can deliver. We've heard many cases, the defense of Taiwan being described as a porcupine. Those capabilities allow those effects to be delivered in multiple places at multiple times, in multiple ways. So, I concur with the capabilities articulated.
Senator Hawley 1:23:05
Let me ask you this. You said earlier today that anything that we could do to bolster the defensive capabilities of Taiwan would be desirable. I think that's so important. I've introduced my own piece of legislation, the Arm Taiwan Act, which authorizes $3 billion annually to accelerate Taiwan's deployment of asymmetric defenses and conditions that aid on Taiwan increasing defense spending and undertaking key defense reforms. Here's a broader question for you. We need Taiwan to strengthen its asymmetric defenses in particular as quickly as possible, don't we? Can you? Can you tell us why that is?
Admiral Aquilino 1:23:42
Well, I think Senator, one of the lessons learned as we watch what's going on in Europe, is number one aggressive nations can take action. So, number one, action against the island of Taiwan could happen. Lesson one. Lesson two, there needs to be a readiness level as soon as possible.
Senator Hawley 1:24:05
And for that reason, is it fair to say that it is critical for Taiwan to keep increasing its defense spending and to continue to implement defense reforms in order to achieve that sort of porcupine state that you're talking about earlier? Yes. Let's talk a little bit about some of the physical capabilities that you're going to need in PACOM, in order to deter China and I'm thinking of things like attack submarines, carrier strike groups, high end munitions, air breathing ISR. The thing about all of these physical capabilities is that they can only be used in one place at one time. Is that? Am I right about that? It's fair to say?
Admiral Aquilino 1:24:38
I would say in some cases, there are certain domains that capabilities could be brought to bear very quickly. And when I think about space and cyber.
Senator Hawley 1:24:49
Right, gotcha. But leaving aside space and cyber and thinking about just the physical capabilities. These are sometimes called the high demand, low density apps sets that if they get used in one theater, let's say EUCOM, then they're not available in PACOM. And so, there's a tradeoff. Have I got that, right? I mean, we've got to make choices.
Admiral Aquilino 1:25:10
Again, depending on the type, right? So, bombers can move quickly. And we in many cases share those in the same mission across multiple combatant commands, but most at the speed that they can move can only serve as one at a time.
Senator Hawley 1:25:24
Fair enough. where I'm going with this is something you and I have already talked about, which is that while we have a current crisis in EUCOM, I think as we think about the ongoing challenges that we face in PACOM, both in the short and in the long term, I want to make sure that DOD is not taking capabilities from your theater that we absolutely got to have to continue to deter China through strategy of denial and using them in other theaters unless of course, they're backfilling in some way. So if you want to comment on that, go ahead.
Admiral Aquilino 1:25:52
If you don't mind, Senator, again, I just want to be very clear that nothing, the Secretary has not removed anything that he's allocated to me, at this point, to a different theater.
Senator Hawley 1:26:05
Very good. If I just one more question, Mr. Chairman, and it's about the admirals upcoming 1242 report. Just give us a sense, Admiral, as we anticipate that report, and without commenting on the specifics, because it's not out. But how important will it be for Congress to fully fund the requirements that you have listed in that report, in order to do your job of deterrence and IndoPacom?
Admiral Aquilino 1:26:29
Sure, I think what I would say is, you know, the committee in the Congress has tasked me to provide those requirements. I think I'd lead the legislations in the legislating up to this team. What I would do is just thank you for your focus on the Indo Pacific Command, and I look forward to being able to deliver you those requirements.
Chairman Reed 1:26:50
Thank you, Senator Hawley. Senator Duckworth, please.
Senator Duckworth 1:26:53
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good morning, Admiral Aquilino, and General LaCamera. Appreciate your service to our nation. I want to thank those service members under your commands for their tireless work in tackling enormous challenges that we now face in the Indo Pacific. As you know, I have been a vocal voice for combat credible logistics. And so, we're going to talk about that again today. I've been consistent and loud in this committee about my concerns, because I know how difficult effective sustainment can be. And I know that outrunning supply lines can result in a catastrophic loss of a tempo for military forces. Right now, we are watching an object lesson in the importance and challenge of an effective logistics plan with Vladimir Putin's disastrous invasion of Ukraine. And that's a neighboring country with whom he shares a border. You know, while Putin’s ineffective approach to sustainment generally is tracked with his patterns of arrogance and strategic failure. I hope that we are thinking critically about how much greater the sustainment problem will be if we are called to defend our troops and allies in your area of responsibility. A very far distance from home. Admiral Aquilino, where do you see the greatest gaps in INDOPACOM’s ability to conduct logistics in a contested environment? And how are you planning to fill those gaps? And what are areas of the upcoming budget request are most critical for your success? Whatever you can share us in this unclassified environment, obviously,
Admiral Aquilino 1:28:19
Yeah, thanks, Senator. The posture initiatives that we've laid out and again, I'm look forward to come in to briefing you at a classified level on the approach the plan that the hubs, the spokes, the different legs of our logistics plan, I'd love to show it to you, but the posture, the places that we're going to have to set up critical that transfer from one place to another and into the region, whether it be sealift Airlift. Those are the second set of capabilities that that we're interested in.
Senator Duckworth 1:28:54
Thank you. Same question to you, General.
General LaCamera 1:28:57
Thanks, Senator. Sustainment operations is a focus item for me and its commanders business and made it very clear to my subordinate commanders. My discussions with Admiral Aquilino is, you know, when the strategic movement become operational maneuver, and what combat power is going to have to be used to secure those lines of communication will be a discussion that we’ll have in a crisis and in a conflict. As we get different capabilities on the peninsula where that line is we might be able to provide that capability and working with the rock, navy, rock, Air Force, etc. that'll all be part of the integration going forward. But I can assure you that sustainment operations, not just getting to the pen and getting those supplies, but also in the fight in defending the peninsula is a priority.
Senator Duckworth 1:29:47
Thank you. Gentlemen. Last week, I met with General Van Ovost, commander of the USTRANSCOM, who was visiting from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois and she assured me that our strategic logistic requirements will play a larger role in the upcoming NDS. And I look forward to seeing the details when that NDS is released, but I will be closely watching to see how the department implements and resources that strategy going forward. Admiral Aquilino, I know you've been working closely with US Transportation Command, which I think it's important given the unique challenges of the tyranny of distance that poses to Transcom in your area of responsibility. One, particularly concerning mission I discussed with Transcom was patient transport, wounded warriors. It's clear that in a contested environment, in INDOPACOM, we will not be able to evacuate patients from theater as quickly as we were able to in Iraq and Afghanistan, it's there more challenges, and there might need to be a dwell time of maybe five hours, six hours, or 12 to 24 hours, before we can transfer them to the next mode of transport. In the event of a conflict in INDOPACOM, we will need to think outside the box established over the last 20 years in order to effectively care for our wounded. This is an area that I am ready and willing to support. Admiral, would you commit to sharing any analysis your command is conducting on medical mobility? With me and this committee once it's completed. And will you commit to working directly with my staff on ways that we can partner with you to tackle this potential problem?
Admiral Aquilino 1:31:19
Senator. Absolutely. So, we've been working through set a Con Ops on what does it look like and as you articulated in a really complex theater, most of it water. We've said again through this lens of hub spokes, transition stations. So, I'd be glad to show you how we're thinking about it. But your point is, is really valid this theater and this operation. We won't be able to meet the golden hour.
Senator Duckworth 1:31:51
Yeah. One final question. I'd like to move on to strengthening our partnerships in the region. Senator Blumenthal did talk about AUKUS this AUKUS submarine deal and how bold the Australians are, you know, they're all in they put all their chips in with us. And as you and I discussed last year, I think we need to match their bold commitment to the partnership, if we're going to make it successful. Especially when it comes to submarines. How can you, Admiral How can you support implementation of the AUKUS deal in your operations and planning for the region? And from your perspective, How can Congress support this partnership and be equally as bold, especially when it comes to components of the deal such as they're building the capacity to build their own submarines?
Admiral Aquilino 1:32:33
Thanks, Senator, I think Step one is to let this report run out, right. So, they have some decisions to make, which are significant decisions. As we work through the submarine portion. Once they identify a couple of key ways forward, you heard the other day, they decided they're going to have a base on the East Coast, I think now we can kind of step in, partner with them and work towards some of these posture initiatives. We work towards nuclear power school, we can partner with us riders on submarines, there's a bunch of things we can do. But they really have to make some choices first. And I'm confident they're looking to go as fast as possible as well.
Senator Duckworth 1:33:13
I'm out of time, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman Reed 1:33:14
Thank you. Thank you very much. Senator Duckworth. Senator Scott, please.
Senator Scott 1:33:18
Thank you, Chairman. First, I want to thank each of you and everybody in your command for your service. Admiral, given your unique position in the Indo Pacific Command, you have observed the Communist Chinese regime? Is it your personal opinion that General Secretary Xi will take over Taiwan by force if he sees the opportunity?
Admiral Aquilino 1:33:39
That's Senator I don't think I would try to predict. I think what I would tell you is the mission that I've been given is number one, to prevent this conflict. Number two, if deterrence fails to be able to fight and win, which leads me to a place that says I need to be ready. Should he make that choice?
Senator Scott 1:33:58
Thank you. Admiral, in your personal opinion, do you believe that this is administration is given proper attention to the possibility of Communist China invading Taiwan?
Admiral Aquilino 1:34:08
I think as stated by the Secretary and the administration, the priority theater, most consequential theater for the future of the United States is the Indo Pacific theater. And the most concerning strategic competitor is the PRC. So, I think that articulation of that priority has been well stated. Senator
Senator Scott 1:34:29
Admiral, has the Pacific Defense Initiative been properly funded and does it provide the right counter to Communist China and its threats in the region.
Admiral Aquilino 1:34:37
I thank the committee for support to the Indo Pacific. And as articulated in the Law Center. I'll continue to provide the requirements as identified and tasked by the NDAA to identify my critical requirements. And again, I thank the committee as we work through the legislation process. As you know, I submitted my analysis Did list it was based on that report, and I'll continue to do so.
Senator Scott 1:35:04
Thank you. Admiral, as we discussed the last time you were before us, I have introduced legislation that calls for the building up of Taiwan’s defenses as well as preparations in the United States that will allow us to aid Taiwan if Communist China attacks or tries to change its government using military coercion. My bill also calls for a more transparent, realistic and necessary policy change, we must announce clearly that our position toward aiding Taiwan is not ambiguous. Communist China should know that we will come to Taiwan's defense. And since we last spoke, even the Japanese government made clear that it would not tolerate a Chinese military move against Taiwan. So here's my first question. Do you believe that preventing Communist China from controlling Taiwan is a strategic necessity for the United States?
Admiral Aquilino 1:35:47
Senator, I completely support the One China Policy. Operate in accordance with the Taiwan Relations Act six communicates reassurances. And I think that's going to be a policy decision. I think there certainly implications. But I'm standing by to support the requirements and tasks as identified by the National Security Council.
Senator Scott 1:36:11
After the administration's botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, and in the failure to be able to deter Putin from invading Ukraine, do you believe that this is embolden Xi to try to take Taiwan by force?
Admiral Aquilino 1:36:25
I think we're still trying to learn what President Xi Jinping has learned from this event. And we continue to watch to try to identify has he learned the correct lessons as it applies to the changing world order. And the concern that we see in the Ukraine.
Senator Scott 1:36:46
Thank you. General with the election yesterday in Korea, what and even before that, have you seen any change in South Korea's attitude towards Communist China and concerned about the risk of Beijing's aggressive actions?
General LaCamera 1:37:05
Thank you Senator there's a relationship that they have a diplomatic and economic relationship and a cultural relationship that they have with China. I have not seen any major changes in that relationship. The current administration's been on a working towards peace declaration as his priority.
Senator Scott 1:37:31
So, as we've watched China's aggressive actions do you think the general public in Korea is taking note and now that as they've watched Putin invade Ukraine has that had any impact on the attitude in in South Korea to want to bolster their defenses and support what we're doing to help defend them?
General LaCamera 1:37:55
It's hard for me to ascertain I've been stateside since the invasion began. So, I just anecdotally are getting reports on kind of the reaction, the political reaction is that President Moon has taken action against the Russians from a sanctions perspective, and it's costing them economically.
Senator Scott 1:38:19
Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.
Chairman Reed 1:38:21
Thank you, Senator Scott, Senator Rosen, please.
Senator Rosen 1:38:24
Well, thank you, Chairman Reed, for holding this hearing. Thank you so much to our witnesses here today for your service to our nation, and really your expertise in these important areas. I'd like to focus today on cyber artificial intelligence and the importance of maintaining our technological edge in general, particularly as it relates to this region. So, I want to talk about first cyber threats because some of the most devastating cyber-attacks that have targeted the United States, now they've originated from China and North Korea. And just this week, a cybersecurity firm reported that a Chinese state sponsored hacking group successfully compromised the networks of at least six US state governments since May of 2021. So, Admiral Aquilino, what are you doing? What are we doing to defend against Chinese state sponsored cyber threats? And what more should or could we be doing to deter these malicious activities?
Admiral Aquilino 1:39:25
Thanks, Senator. So, you've highlighted a certainly a concern that we worry about not only in our own networks, but on our ally and partner networks. Whether they be state actors or non-state actors, the potential impact is significant. In close coordination with my partner, General Nakasone, who has that responsibility to defend the defense Global Information grid and to work with our allies and partners were linked very closely. He works in lanes both in the defensive lane and has the ability to work in the offensive lane as well. So that partnership is consistent. We have both identified the critical requirements on both sides. And he continues to support us.
Senator Rosen 1:40:12
And it is important that we work with our partner countries in collective collaborative. General LaCamera, what are the US forces in Korea doing to deter and mitigate North Korean cyber threats?
General LaCamera 1:40:28
Thank you, Senator. Again, our concern is making sure that our networks are protected. And making sure that our alliance networks are protected from those cyber-attacks. We do practice it on a regular basis, and an exercise coming up that will be part of the exercise, make sure we're protecting it.
Senator Rosen 1:40:46
And how quickly do you feel you can respond when you have that exercise? How quickly do you receive your reports on those gentlemen, after your exercises that you can be respond to the vulnerabilities that you might find?
General LaCamera 1:40:59
I think we can respond fairly quickly. I don't, I think that's, you know, we know that that's going to be part of their attack plan. And that protecting our networks and reacting to those and making sure that we have the redundancy in our plans. And, you know, the real question is, you know, we rely heavily on digital, but at what level can we quickly switch to analog, so that we're not vulnerable from that piece.
Senator Rosen 1:41:25
And you share those with your partner services so that they can be aware of any vulnerabilities as soon as you find them?
Admiral Aquilino 1:41:31
Yes, Senator? Yes, Senator. So general, Nakasone is really good. I will tell you, if we if it's detected, it's a critical information requirement for me, I will know within minutes, very good, as well as all the components.
Senator Rosen 1:41:46
Thank you. I appreciate that. Components. I have a whole other discussion on software bill of materials, we can talk about components another day. But again, Admiral, as we discussed, when you testified before the committee last year, China's accelerating its military modernization, through its cutting edge technology, and they want to close a technological gap with the US as quickly as possible. They're making investments in AI, robotics, cyber, hypersonics. They're procuring commercial technologies, we know that can be adopted for military purposes. So, I'm going to follow up on my question from your confirmation hearing last year. Do you believe today that China has achieved technological parity with the US in any of its operational systems? And are there any that you feel that they're outpacing us? What should we be investing on with you to give you the tools to not let that happen?
Admiral Aquilino 1:42:41
Thanks again, Senator. So let me start with intent. Right? The intent of the PRC is to take advantage in every one of those. We continue to be the greatest military on the planet. And we need to keep and continue to keep those advantages. So, number one through protection, whether they be defense or defense critical contractors or other sources. We have to protect those critical technologies that you articulated in order to maintain those advantages.
Senator Rosen 1:43:12
Thank you. I see my time's up. I hope that we'll have a hearing talking about the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine as we begin to find out more about any particular cyber technological activity. We can prepare for our future adversaries. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chairman Reed 1:43:31
Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Manchin, please.
Senator Manchin 1:43:35
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. Thank you, sir, for your service. And thank you for being here. General Aquilino. Recently, this committee had a very sobering briefing from the department in this briefing. It was mentioned that the Marine Corps made the very hard decision to procurement Nemesis anti ship missile, instead of the more traditional equipment, but Congress made the decision to zero that request out in exchange for two CH53K helicopters. And part of that's built in my state. So, I mentioned this example because it's one of many I believe the majority of my colleagues agree with me in order to compete against China got to do the best thing we can do not what's politically popular lets put it that way. What with that in mind, what domains of warfare Do you believe the US still maintains an asymmetrical advantage against China and what weapon systems or equipment do you believe we should procure to wide net, to widen that advantage?
Admiral Aquilino 1:44:37
Thanks, Senator. So I'll start by saying that we do have the world's greatest military, in all domains. Foundational, there are certainly capabilities that we want to go ahead and pursue and I commend the Commandant on making some of those tough choices, right. So, land based anti-ship fires is a critical component of the strategy and the approach, but it will take the entire joint force. So that's one example. There's some hypersonic capabilities that we certainly want to continue to pursue and then deliver. We want to be able to continue to work unmanned capabilities to provide different alternatives as a part of the contribution. So, there's a number of those. Those are just three examples.
Senator Manchin 1:45:25
General LaCamera, you mentioned in your opening statement, your work towards achieving the bilateral conditions based operational control Transition Plan between the United States and the Republic of Korea, when fully implemented, the Republic of Korea will assume direct operational control over their military in the event of war with North Korea. So my question would be can you explain to the committee if this transition plan is successfully executed, how will the immediate nature of our presence on a Korean peninsula change?
General LaCamera 1:45:57
Thank you, Senator. As we go through these conditions based bilateral agreed upon conditions based upon transition, they'll be we're we're in the process of working through what are the bridging capabilities and what are the enduring capabilities. So, when the chalk line is finally snapped, it’s hard for me to predict right now, based on the capabilities that the Korean military has and what the requirements are. We're also in the process of rewriting our operational plan.
Senator Manchin 1:46:29
What would you consider how being the US Forces Korea commander? How would you lead your force in the event of a war on the Korean peninsula following the plans execution?
General LaCamera 1:46:39
How would I lead the forces would be part of the Combined Forces Commander so I would become the Deputy Commander of Combined Forces Command and my Deputy would become the Combined Forces Commander. I would work underneath him but still retain the title of US Forces Korea and UNC Commander and then it's still a binational decision making process between both national command authorities,
Senator Manchin 1:47:05
Admiral, the Marine Corps has taken significant risks in recent years to reorient the service towards our pacing threat China, among the many initiatives the Marine Corps pursuing is orienting the Marine Corps towards the developing the doctrine for expeditionary advanced base operations. What are you doing at the INDOPACOM Commander to support the Navy and Marine Corps refine and further operational to this concept?
Admiral Aquilino 1:47:32
I think the word I would say, Senator, as I'm making them, prove it to me. Right. So, it's a concept for a number of years now. And we're working to rehearse it and practice it.
Senator Manchin 1:47:44
What challenges do you see with that?
Admiral Aquilino 1:47:47
We see certain challenges and capability delivery transportation placement and posture. In some cases.
Senator Manchin 1:47:54
Can I ask you both one final question, knowing what you know and then the insight that you have on where we are in the Ukrainian Russian war or the Putin war. Let's not die when I'm not going to graciate that by calling it a Russian war. It’s a Putin war. The escalation, your concerns about escalating this war escalating into bringing us into conflict. Chances of them breaching over into the NATO allies. Maybe Gen. LaCamera, the Marines are first to go. So, tell me about if you're ready or not.
General LaCamera 1:48:31
Thank you for the compliment. I'm sure the comment out appreciate them in the Marine Corps now, sir. I'm watching the impact that it will have on the Korean peninsula and the regional regional stability is my main concern. I don't have the insights of what's really going on in.
Admiral, your thoughts?
Admiral Aquilino 1:48:51
Senator, you know, it's part of Commander’s business to assess three things in everything we do, no matter what theater or where we are. Number one is risk to force are we putting US Service Member’s families or supporting people in harm's way. So, risk to force to make sure I can send everybody back to with mom, dad and the kids. After the mission, they're complete. Number two, the risk to the mission itself, am I going to achieve what I'm trying to do and generate the effect that I'm trying to generate? And then number three, risk to escalation. We assess it in every single event, every single operation, and I know my counterparts in EUCOM are doing the same thing.
Thank you, sir. Thank you.
Chairman Reed 1:49:34
Thank you, Senator Manchin. Senator Peters, please.
Senator Peters 1:49:38
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, gentlemen, for your testimony today and for your service to our country. Admiral Aquilino, there has been significant discussion regarding how our partners in South Asia, particularly India, have responded to the crisis in Ukraine. And I'm concerned that we may be missing the forest from the trees here. And I believe that we, as a country, we need to balance some legitimate Indian concerns with our desire to work closely with them at the same time and as well as other quad partners to maintain a free and open Indo Pacific. So, my question for you, Admiral is can you speak to the relationship you have with our Indian counterparts? And what more can we do to strengthen our security relationship between these our two countries.
Admiral Aquilino 1:50:33
As Senator to start, I have no concerns that our partners in India are tremendous partners and the mil to mil relationship is probably at its highest point, we continue to do more together. It forgive me for a second, but I will recognize my partner general Rawat and his wife who just recently passed an unforeseen helicopter incident. But when you talk about tremendous partnership, it's there. What more can we do? Continue the information sharing continue to support them with the equipment they need up on the line of actual control, and continue to partner and operate together throughout the region. The Malabar exercise with Japan, Australia, the United States and India is critical, increased multilateral and multilateral engagements with the Indians and ultimately continue to sell them equipment so we can be more interoperable and more effective together in the military sphere.
Senator Peters 1:51:37
Admiral, I'd also like to get a greater sense of what the competition for influence looks on the ground in Oceana, using Papa New Guinea, as an example. In your posture statement, you mentioned that the People's Republic of China is quote, moving to increase its defense attache footprint in Papa New Guinea, end of quote, this is this is happening at the same time as the US is strengthening our military ties there, including the 2020 National Guard state partnership program expansion. So, my question for you is, how have the people in defense for forces in Papa New Guinea responded to our efforts? So there and what more can we do to strengthen our relationship with some of the smaller nations that are in your AOR?
Admiral Aquilino 1:52:24
Well, the State Partnership Program is critically important Senator, I have 14 engaged or relationships between the National Guard and the nations in the region. That's one aspect as you know, we're also plussing up our diplomatic capabilities there. In 2019, we put a defense attache, and in 21, we just added a security cooperation officer. So small investments for big payback, to be boots on the ground, and to be able to engage with those critical partners.
Senator Peters 1:52:57
But just to continuing with that concept, and I appreciate your support for it. Your posture statement also discussed how the People's Republic of China entered into a security agreement with the Solomon Islands police force. Last month, the State Department confirmed plans to open an embassy in the Solomon Islands to increase our influence before China gets more strongly embedded there. So, my question to you is do you support state partnership program expansion to countries like the Solomon Islands, and if you do, what conditions must be met before these partnerships can begin, in your opinion?
Admiral Aquilino 1:53:35
Thanks, Senator. Again, I certainly do support the expansion as if it's funded. And we can sustain it in a way that's open, transparent in accordance with our values, which is the critical linkage between these countries and ours. This generates to people to people ties that bring us closer together. And matter fact, I’m meeting with General Hokanson tomorrow, to have this exact discussion on where else might he might be able to start putting some support?
Senator Peters 1:54:04
Very good. Well, thank you. Thank you for your response. Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Chairman Reed 1:54:08
Thank you, Senator Peters. And gentlemen, thank you for your testimony today, but more importantly for your lifelong service and dedication to the nation and DataView families and please, as I suggested initially, pass on our thanks and gratitude to the men and women in your command and their families for their dedication and selfless service the nation. I think we all feel that both the INDOPACOM.