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STATEMENT OF GENERAL LLOYD J. AUSTIN III ON THE POSTURE OF U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND

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The U.S. and Oman maintain close relations based upon a shared desire for a peaceful and prosperous Gulf Region, and we greatly appreciate Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said’s leadership. Oman is strategically positioned on the Arabian Sea and provides critical support to the U.S. in the form of access, basing, and overflight permissions that greatly enable coalition efforts in the region. While Oman’s strategic approach does occasionally cause tension between Oman and its GCC neighbors, it also presents USCENTCOM with opportunities to work with the Sultanate as an intermediary between adversarial states. In general, our bilateral military-to-military relationship with Oman remains strong, underpinned by the U.S. and Oman’s shared interest in maintaining open sea lines of communication in the Gulf and strengthening land borders in order to prevent the infiltration of AQ and other VEOs into the Sultanate.

The Levant – The Greater Levant sub-region is the epicenter of ethno-sectarian tensions and conflict in the USCENTCOM AOR. The volatility reflects the makeup of the sub-region’s populace with Sunnis, Shia, Kurds, Christians, Druze and others living together in mixed neighborhoods. Also adding to the unrest is the growing competition between AQ and ISIL. AQ shifted some of its command and control to Syria to support its most prominent affiliate, al Nusrah Front. At the same time, the core of ISIL’s self-proclaimed Caliphate resides in the Levant. Thus, the Levant is where you have two organizations’ senior leadership in competition for global jihad. At the same time, the sub-region is struggling to manage the effects of the civil war in Syria. If not contained, the conflict, now in its fifth year, risks sparking a broader regional war. It also has caused a burgeoning humanitarian crisis affecting Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Iraq. Stability in the Levant is impacted by the competition for influence by outside actors, principally Iran, China, and Russia. The instability in the Levant also threatens Israel, an important U.S. ally. The close coordination between USCENTCOM and U.S. European Command is essential given Turkey and Israel’s role in the Levant’s security environment.

Lebanon is an important and valued partner in the region. Lebanon faces an array of interlocking challenges that include sustained threats from ISIL and other VEOs; a steady influx of refugees that only exacerbates long-standing sectarian tensions and ongoing humanitarian and economic crises; and a political deadlock in Beirut that has left Lebanon without a president for over 19 months with none of the major political institutions of the state – the presidency, parliament, and the cabinet – functioning adequately today. ISIL and AQ affiliate Al Nusrah Front pose potential threats to Lebanon’s security and stability along Lebanon’s border with Syria, but also in urban areas deep within the country’s border. In November 2015, ISIL conducted coordinated suicide attacks against Shia targets in Southern Beirut killing 41 civilians. The attacks threatened to ignite increased Sunni-Shia tensions, but tensions were diffused by an immediate and coordinated response by Lebanese security forces. These attacks were at least partly in response to Lebanese Hezbollah’s (LH) active involvement in the Syria conflict. Although Lebanon’s official contributions in support of the Counter-ISIL Campaign have been limited to CT efforts inside of Lebanon’s borders, the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) have been heavily engaged in the fight against extremists with near daily engagements along Lebanon’s border with Syria.

Lebanon faces a refugee crisis of historic proportion with more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees and 1.5 million Syrian refugees, which is equal to a quarter of Lebanon’s population. The latter presents an economic and humanitarian burden for Lebanon, while also posing a security threat as some Syrian refugees may be vulnerable to Sunni extremist influences. In order to effectively cope with the refugee crisis resulting from the Syria conflict, Lebanon will require significant international assistance long- term. Meanwhile, top Lebanese officials have suggested that there may be a need for an international intervention to address the presidential vacancy and political impasse which has resulted in poor government services and large-scale public demonstrations.

In the context of these challenges, the LAF is one of Lebanon’s only functioning national institutions. We enjoy a strong military-to-military relationship with the LAF, and our support has been critical to its success. Our special operations forces have conducted extensive joint training exercises and have well-established relationships. The LAF has been a staunch USCENTCOM partner for nearly a decade, receiving almost $1 billion in combined assistance from the U.S. during this period. During FY2015, we provided $84 million in foreign military financing (FMF), $80 million in CT assistance, and also trained over 2,000 LAF soldiers in the U.S. Our special operations forces have conducted extensive joint training exercises and have well- established relationships. Because of its success against ISIL and other VEOs, the LAF enjoys strong support across Lebanese sects. Our continued support of the LAF is critical and will focus on developing much-needed ISR, strike, and aerial fires capabilities to ensure sustained success against ISIL and Al Nusra Front along the border and to counter-balance LH.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan remains one of the United States’ most reliable partners. Like many in the region, Jordan faces economic challenges that are exacerbated by the Syrian civil war, the associated refugee flow, and a generally unstable regional security environment. The instability caused by the “underlying currents,” namely the “youth bulge,” makes Jordan’s populace highly susceptible to radicalization. The country’s leadership is particularly concerned about the growing threat from ISIL and Al Nusra Front emanating from Syria. The Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) remain active participants in the Counter-ISIL Campaign.

Jordan’s partnership and leadership are critical to advancing U.S. regional objectives. Jordan is widely considered the Arab voice of moderation in the region and Jordanian leadership continues to play a critical role in countering the extremist ideologies that contribute to instability. In return, Jordan requires economic assistance for military cooperation and to stabilize its economy. In FY 2015, Jordan received $385 million in FMF. Congress appropriated $450 million in FMF for Jordan in FY 2016. Additionally, Jordan receives $3.8 million annually for International Military Education and Training (IMET), and more funding than any other partner to date from the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund. The JAF’s ability to procure U.S. weapons and equipment and increase interoperability with U.S. forces depends on this funding, which also provides Jordan with a strong message of assurance that we will help to defend them from extremist threats. Finally, Jordan requires continued international assistance to deal with its sizeable refugee population that consists of approximately 600,000 UN-registered Syrian refugees, the majority of whom compete with locals for employment and housing, creating the potential for increased tensions. In the past 24 months, USCENTCOM invested $5.4 million for humanitarian affairs projects inside of Jordan.

Egypt remains an anchor state in the Central Region. It is a key strategic partner of the United States in both the counter-ISIL fight and with respect to our many shared security interests, including securing peace with Israel, achieving regional stability, and enhancing security of the Suez Canal. While daily life is returning to normal after four years of political upheaval, including recently conducted parliamentary elections, Egypt still faces a number of internal and external challenges, especially in the Sinai Peninsula, which is now home to the ISIL affiliate, ISIL-Sinai (ISIL-S) that threatens not only Egyptian stability, but also the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO) mission, and is strongly suspected of downing a Russian civilian airliner. Egypt is also increasingly concerned about ISIL-Libya’s ability to impact its western border.

The cornerstone of the U.S.-Egypt relationship is the military-to-military partnership with the Egyptian Armed Forces (EAF), forged through decades of close coordination, exercises, and interdependence. After a downturn in relations in 2013, we have seen the relationship enter a gradual recovery period. The Egyptians support our overflight requests and provide our naval forces with Suez Canal transit courtesies that provide expedited access to critical waterways. Egypt routinely deploys peacekeeping troops in support of operations around the globe. USG aid and support to Egypt, including FMF, remain crucial to Egypt’s fight against ISIL-S as we work closely with the EAF to provide both the equipment and the training required to make the transition from a force focused on conventional warfare to one that can defeat a terrorist enemy using asymmetrical tactics. We are focused on helping Egypt improve the security of their borders in an effort to stop the flow of foreign fighters and equipment transiting from Libya and the Sudan through Egypt and into the Central Region.

A sizeable portion of Egypt’s current military leadership is U.S.-trained and has indicated a keen interest in securing additional U.S. support to address evolving security threats. It will be imperative to leverage these ties as we look to assist the Egyptian military in their ongoing efforts to bring improved stability to North Africa, including the Sinai Peninsula. Also, we want to help them to further modernize and reform their security forces to better enable them to address relevant threats and play a larger role in providing for regional stability. Specifically, we will need to focus on updating Egypt’s counter-insurgency/CT doctrine and training programs to better address the unique nature of the terrorist threats facing the region. We continue to provide much-needed support to the MFO mission, whose presence has been a linchpin for Egyptian-Israeli peace and cooperation since its inception over 30 years ago. With the support of the Egyptians, we have taken significant measures in recent months to increase the protection of our forces assigned to Task Force Sinai and the MFO mission writ large.

Egypt has not contributed forces in support of the Counter-ISIL Campaign in Iraq and Syria. They are supporting the Saudi-led fight in Yemen, and they continue to place pressure on ISIL affiliates in both the Sinai and Libya. Additionally, Egypt’s regional leadership carries much influence among our Arab partners and can help to promote USCENTCOM’s broader regional objectives. We continue to look for ways to integrate Egypt into the Counter-ISIL Coalition and in support of our CT efforts across the region.

Central and South Asia (CASA) – We view the CASA sub-region, not as a single entity, but as seven individual countries, each with its own political and economic trajectory and each sharing a unique bilateral relationship with the U.S. While we have many shared interests, we are paying especially close attention to the Central Asian States’ (CAS) reaction to the planned U.S./NATO downsizing in Afghanistan set to begin in late 2016. Of note, transit access by way of the Northern Distribution Network, used to supply our troops in Afghanistan, is provided by Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

Our primary goal remains unchanged and that is to prevent the establishment of terrorist safe havens in the CASA sub-region, while acknowledging the challenges posed by trans-national extremism, narco-trafficking, and the return of foreign fighters. These countries face additional pressures from an increasingly assertive Russia. China is seeking to expand its economic influences in the sub-region as well. In light of these challenges, leaders in the region actively seek U.S. engagement, while we continue to encourage greater multi-lateral cooperation with the goal to promote improved security and stability in the region and to preserve the CAS’ sovereignty.

We conducted our first CASA Chiefs of Defense (CHOD) Conference in late September. The event was well-attended and highly-productive. Despite their geographic proximity, many of the CHODs had not met nor communicated with one another prior to attending the conference. The conference focused on identifying opportunities for collaboration on issues such as CT, counter-narcotics (CN), border security operations, and the professionalization of their officer and non-commissioned officer corps. It was encouraging to see that, despite their previous reluctance to interact in multi-lateral forums, the CHODs actively participated in the discussions. They also expressed interest in convening a follow-on conference, and several of them expressed a desire to participate in multi-lateral military exercises going forward. The CASA CHODs also expressed a keen interest in finding ways to share intelligence that could further support regional CT operations. On 14-15 March, the CASA DMI (Director of Military Intelligence) Conference will be held at USCENTCOM Headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Six of the seven CASA States will be represented.

The U.S.-Pakistan military-to-military relationship remains stable. Key contributing factors are our security assistance, and the Coalition Support Fund. In December 2015, we participated in the Defense Consultative Group, a component of the U.S.-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue, which focused on future initiatives that will help to sustain U.S.-Pakistan bilateral defense cooperation on shared security interests.

We are encouraged by some signs from Kabul and Islamabad that point towards a renewed effort at improving Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, and Pakistani support for the reconciliation process in Afghanistan. The Pakistan military continues to play a visible role in efforts to reduce safe havens in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, while at the same time actively countering VEOs, including AQ, Tehrik e Taliban - Pakistan, and the newly-emerged ISIL-KP. During the most recent fighting season we saw increased collaboration among Afghan and Pakistani military leadership. Commanders at the corps level have met multiple times and continue their efforts to increase interoperability between the forces. Both countries’ military leaders also are working to secure a bilateral border standard operating procedure. In the meantime, we need Pakistan to take decisive actions against the Haqqani Network (HQN). The Pakistanis are uniquely positioned to counter the HQN, which remains the greatest threat to our forces and to stability in Afghanistan long-term.

Progress on the India-Pakistan relationship is hindered by cross-border violence and territorial disputes. However, there have been some encouraging signs and lines of communication remain open as demonstrated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s meeting in Pakistan in late December 2015 and the subsequent commitment both parties to reinitiate the Comprehensive Dialogue. Dialogue between the two countries is critical, especially given that they are both nuclear powers. USCENTCOM will continue to do our part to help encourage and strengthen the critical relationship between Pakistan and its neighbors.

Our relationship with Kazakhstan remains the best positioned country in the CASA sub-region with respect to security given its geographic location and strong economic foundation. However, the recent downturn in oil prices and pervasive Russian influence do present growing challenges. Despite these obstacles, the U.S.’ relationship with Kazakhstan remains the most well-developed among the Central Asian States. The Kazakhs seek U.S. assistance in modernizing their military forces, and we are taking advantage of the opportunity to further strengthen our bilateral relationship. Specifically, we are helping the Kazakhs to professionalize their non-commissioned officer corps, modernize their military education program, and improve training and personnel management. Additionally, we continue to help the Kazakhs to build a deployable peace-keeping capability. Kazakhstan remains the largest contributor to Afghanistan’s stability among the CAS, providing technical and financial support to the Afghan security forces and educational opportunities for Afghan students to study in Kazakhstan.

The Kyrgyz Republic faces many of the same security challenges as its neighbors in the region, particularly with respect to the threat posed by VEOs and the flow of narcotics. While our military-to-military relationship with the Kyrgyz has been historically positive, it remains challenged by the absence of a Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA), which guarantees U.S. service members legal protections while in country. The DCA with then-Kyrgyzstan ended on 11 July 2014 with the closure of the Transit Center at Manas International Airport. While this has strained our military-to-military relationship, we intend to pursue bilateral cooperation on a case-by-case basis.

Tajikistan has been heavily impacted by Russia’s economic downturn and by increased instability in northern Afghanistan. Moreover, intense pressure from the Kremlin, including the presence of Russian military bases inside of Tajikistan, limits our military-to-military cooperation. Nevertheless, Tajikistan still desires a strong partnership with the U.S. to help address external security concerns, maintain internal stability, and safeguard Tajikistan’s sovereignty. Our mutual security interests provide several opportunities for cooperation in the areas of CT, CN, border security along the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border, as well as the development of a deployable peacekeeping force. Our military-to-military relationship is growing comparatively faster than our other relationships in the CASA sub-region.

Like other hydrocarbon-exporting countries,Turkmenistan’s has had to confront falling gas prices and remains concerned about perceived instability in northern Afghanistan. Turkmenistan is selective in accepting military cooperation programs, declining to participate in most military events, conferences, and exercises. U.S. cooperation with the Turkmen is primarily focused on counter-narcotics, disaster preparedness, and medical service readiness. These three areas provide us with engagement opportunities to build those partner capabilities that are acceptable to the Turkmen and also help to sustain and even strengthen our relationship going forward.

A shared border with Afghanistan and a heavy domestic security presence have helped to shield Uzbekistan from significant threats. Despite their stated aversion to foreign blocs and multi-lateral engagements, our relationship with the Uzbeks continues to grow stronger. Bilateral military-to-military opportunities are focused on improving border security, CT, CN, and stemming the flow of foreign fighters. The Uzbeks, like other CASA nations, remain concerned about the potential return of radicalized fighters from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. Our military-to-military relationship with the Uzbeks remains positive. By expanding our collaboration, we expect to improve the professionalism and capacity of Uzbekistan’s armed forces, which is the largest military force in Central Asia.

Our Strategic Approach. The effective employment of our “Manage-Prevent-Shape” strategic approach largely depends upon the capacity and readiness of our forward-deployed military forces and Service prepositioned materiel capabilities. Equally important are our efforts aimed at building our regional partners’ capacity and strengthening our bilateral and multilateral relationships. This is achieved principally through key leader engagements and our training and joint exercise programs.

Building Partner Capacity (BPC). A key component of USCENTCOM’s Theater Strategy focuses on building the capacity of partner nations to enable them to assume a greater role in providing for the security of their sovereign territories and counter common threats. Joint training exercises, key leader engagements, and FMS and FMF programs continue to represent the key pillars of our BPC strategy. Also critical are relevant authorities and programs noted in the FY2016 President’s Budget, namely the Global Train and Equip authority and Counter Terrorism Partnerships Fund. BPC is a low-cost and high-return investment. Tangible by-products of our BPC efforts include increased access and influence, enhanced interoperability, and improved security for our forward deployed forces, diplomatic sites, and other U.S. interests. The practice of working “by, with, and through” our regional partners serves to enhance the legitimacy and durability of our actions and presence in the region. Most importantly, having strong partners enhances our collective capability and interoperability, allows for increased burden sharing, and improves the likelihood of success, particularly in the event of unforeseen contingencies.

Over the past year, it has been encouraging to see a number of our regional partners take a more active role in addressing threats and protecting their sovereign territories. In particular, the GCC’s role in addressing regional security challenges has grown exponentially. Our Gulf partners are to be commended for their leadership and their efforts in a number of areas. The convergence of interests, namely the need to counter the threat posed by ISIL and other VEOs, has afforded a unique opportunity to strengthen ties among nations while contributing to improving stability and security throughout the region. We should do all that we can to support and enable their continued collaboration as we work to enhance our collective capabilities.

The fact is that contingency operations provide an opportunity to take a hard look at ourselves and identify areas where we may need to make improvements. They also provide opportunities to strengthen our commitment to our regional partners. They will prove increasingly important going forward as we confront the growing threat posed by ISIL, AQ and other VEOs, and as we manage the challenges posed by Iran and other malign actors in the region.

The President reiterated our strong commitment to bolstering the defense capabilities of our GCC partners during the U.S.-GCC Summit held at Camp David in May 2015. Building on that Summit, GCC members have welcomed enhanced U.S. security engagement, but implementation of commitments to follow-up on the Camp David Summit has been uneven. In some areas – including arms transfers, ballistic missile defense, and CT cooperation – we have had productive initial engagements and follow-up efforts are underway. In other areas, most notably special operations training and maritime cooperation, the GCC has been slow to act on U.S. offers of additional cooperation and assistance. Over the next year, we will continue to build on the Camp David Summit, prioritizing implementation of GCC commitments that would reaffirm our commitment to Gulf security and also support our two top priorities: defeating ISIL and other extremists, and addressing conflicts that are undermining regional stability. Our security assurance and assistance, and the steps we are taking with our GCC partners to strengthen their capacity to deal with asymmetric threats, are designed to put them in a far stronger position so that they can engage Iran politically – clear-eyed, without illusions, and from a position of strength. We look forward to seeing the initiatives translate into credible, enduring capabilities that contribute to improved regional security and stability.

USCENTCOM Exercise and Training Program. The USCENTCOM Exercise and Training Program continues to grow in complexity and relevance with extended participation throughout the AOR during FY2015 and into the 1st Quarter of FY2016. The program affords meaningful opportunities that assist with BPC efforts, improve interoperability among partner nations, maintain U.S. readiness, and provide for key leader engagements.

During FY2015, the command executed 51 USCENTCOM and/or component command-sponsored bilateral and multi-lateral exercises. These included EAGER LION 15, which was hosted by Jordan and included naval, air, and land assets from 14 partner nations operating at 14 different locations and totaling over 8,500 personnel, including some 4,500 U.S. military and civilian support personnel. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise is planned for the spring of 2016, taking place in over 8,000 square miles of navigable waterway and uniting more than 40 nations, including over 7,000 global military service members and over 40 naval vessels and numerous other warfighting assets in defense of the region’s maritime commons. Each of the 51 exercises contributes to the readiness of U.S. and partner nation forces and the advancement of our national interests. Our exercise and training program also serves to demonstrate mutual commitment to regional security and combined command, control, and communications interoperability (C3I). Other program impacts include military-to-military engagement, integrated staff planning, the execution of joint and combined operations, the development of coalition warfare, and the refinement of complementary warfare capabilities.

Required Capabilities and Resources. The security environment in the Central Region is likely to remain highly volatile for the foreseeable future. We must ensure that we are ready and able to conduct steady state operations, deter our adversaries, reassure our regional partners, and respond to unforeseen contingencies from a wide range of actors and VEOs.

In order to effectively protect and promote U.S. and partner nation interests in the region, USCENTCOM must maintain a strong forward presence and be adequately resourced with the necessary capabilities and force posture, including forces, equipment, and enablers. USCENTCOM’s posture and presence remain the primary means for providing the National Command Authority with military options in the region. Our required capabilities include:

Forces and Equipment. Forward-deployed rotational joint forces that are trained, equipped, mission-capable, and ready to respond quickly and effectively, including fighter and airlift assets, surveillance platforms, BMD assets, naval vessels, ground forces, and cyber teams, are essential to the protection of our core interests, and supporting and reassuring our regional partners. A capable and well-supported forward presence can help to prevent conflict through deterrence, manage crisis escalation through early intervention, and provides our national-level leadership with a broad set of response options. We continue to develop a sustainable, flexible, long-term posture that provides the necessary presence, access, and partnerships to support enduring missions and activities across the USCENTCOM AOR.

We remain increasingly concerned that our demand for replenishment of critical precision munitions continues to put a strain on Service budgets. At the same time, industry’s capacity to produce key precision munitions cannot keep pace with the demand from USCENTCOM, other geographic combatant commands, as well as our Coalition partners looking to purchase munitions through existing security assistance programs in support of USCENTCOM theater-wide operations. We work with the Service headquarters to prioritize precision munitions and continue to seek increases in the procurement and AOR allocation of our most sophisticated and precise weapon systems (e.g., TLAMs, JASSM, PAC-3, ATACMs), as well as authorization for construction of munitions storage facilities within the AOR.

USCENTCOM requires continued regeneration, reset, and modernization of designated Service pre-positioned equipment capability sets. These capability sets and associated materiel represent critical enablers essential for effective force employment in support of ongoing operations and unforeseen contingencies. They allow our national-level leadership to respond to a diverse set of crisis scenarios, to include preventing disruptions to trade and security that could have disastrous impacts on the global economy. Pre-positioned equipment reconstitution and regeneration must remain a Service priority, recognizing that equipment shortfalls continue to impact indirect fire, sustainment, and troop support capabilities.

Information Operations. Information Operations (IO) remains a top priority for USCENTCOM and an important element of the broader ‘whole of government’ effort to counter our adversaries and protect our core national interests. Our adversaries, including ISIL, use the information battlespace to great effect. We must actively counter this asymmetric threat, recognizing that IO will endure well beyond today’s major combat and counter-insurgency operations. Of note, Iran and proxy actors actively threaten our interests and the interests of our regional partners and they are enabled by robust IO efforts. Our IO capabilities, both offensive and defensive, are designed to disrupt and counter these and other threats. They also may be used to promote the messages of moderates in order to counter the radical ideologies that fuel much of the conflict and instability that plague the Central Region. To date, investments in IO have produced a cost-effective, non-lethal tool for disrupting VEO activity across the region. We will need to build upon the existing capability and improve our effectiveness and that of our partners operating in the information battlespace.

Cyber Operations. USCENTCOM communication networks are the most critical enabler for our deployed service members and regional military partners. Our complex joint and coalition command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) systems infrastructure is essential for enabling mission command, precision targeting, intelligence processing and dissemination, CT actions, IAMD, disaster relief missions, cyber, sustainment, and combat operations throughout the AOR. These missions require assured availability, integrity, and confidentiality to provide accurate data for precision weapons and navigation systems, as well as a robust communications backbone infrastructure that provides the required bandwidth for crucial aerial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) processing, exploitation, and dissemination and distributed mission command. We must also continue to develop and synchronize cyber capabilities with kinetic operations to achieve key security objectives. Congressional support is crucial to the continued improvement of cyber security and offensive capabilities necessary to provide mission assurance, deterrence and dominance in this critical and highly contested domain. A successful cyber defense requires vigilance and continuous investment in order to sustain an advantage over adversaries that are constantly improving their cyber threat capabilities.

Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD). A robust IAMD capability remains increasingly important to us and our regional partners as threat technology improves and systems become more flexible, mobile, survivable, reliable, and accurate. Today, the global demand for BMD capabilities far exceeds supply. In particular, there is a need for additional upper- and lower-tier interceptors, surface and space-based surveillance and warning, and ISR platforms to seek and destroy ballistic missiles and rockets and unmanned aerial assets. USCENTCOM mitigates some of this risk through increased IAMD integration, interoperability, and burden-sharing with our partners. However, a gap does still exist that must be addressed. Providing IAMD protection to deployed U.S. forces and in support of critical infrastructure is crucial to mission success and provides a visible deterrence to regional aggression. Moreover, it signals U.S. commitment to regional partners, while providing flexibility to respond to regional contingencies. Our bases in the USCENTCOM AOR will increasingly be vulnerable to the threat posed by ballistic missiles if we continue along the current trajectory. Congress’ support for the Department’s investment in this area is essential.

Intelligence, Surveillance, Reconnaissance Assets. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities remain challenged by supply-versus-demand limitations. The demand for ISR has increased substantially as a result of the Counter-ISIL Campaign, coupled with the enduring need to maintain a persistent eye on strategic risks and possible threats to critical U.S. national security interests. Meanwhile, collection in A2/AD environments continues to present a tough challenge. Our demand for multi-discipline, low-observable ISR with strike capability that can operate in adverse weather conditions and non-permissive environments is increasing. If we do not meet the requirements, we can expect that our information dominance, situational awareness, and security posture will diminish accordingly. Although overhead systems constitute a crucial component of the intelligence collection enterprise, they lack the ubiquity, persistence, and fidelity to fulfill our ISR gaps by themselves. Low observable platforms with improved sensors and endurance are critical to a number of USCENTCOM plans, while permissive ISR systems play a key role in COIN and CT missions. With respect to Iraq and Syria, there is need for a robust ISR capability to develop and maintain situational awareness of the security environment, particularly in denied and ungoverned spaces and in the absence of a larger U.S. ground presence. While we are looking to our coalition partners to help fill some of the ISR demand, shortages do remain that must be addressed.

Required Authorities and Resources. The realities of the current fiscal environment continue to impact USCENTCOM HQs, our five component commands, established combined/joint task forces, and 18 country teams. Provided the right authorities and resources, our world-class Civ-Mil team can and will successfully accomplish any mission. With that in mind, we sincerely appreciate Congress’ continued support for key authorities and appropriations needed to sustain current and future operations and to respond to unforeseen contingencies. The required authorities and resources listed below will enable USCENTCOM to shape positive outcomes for the future.

Iraq Train & Equip Fund. The Iraq Train and Equip Fund (ITEF) includes a multi-layered approach to assist the Iraqi military and other associated security forces by contributing to the Coalition effort to fill urgent equipment shortfalls and training deficiencies. As of mid-December 2015, we trained and/or equipped more than 19,000 Iraqi Security Forces, including Counter-terrorism Service (CTS), Iraqi Special Operations Forces (ISOF), Peshmerga, and Sunnis through ITEF-related activities. Most graduates of the ISOF Commando Course in Area IV and BPC-trained Peshmerga battalions have been involved in combat operations since completing Coalition-led training. These trained forces appear to be performing better than their contemporaries who have not undergone Coalition-led training. U.S. support in FY2017 is essential to the success of the military campaign in Iraq.

Syria Train & Equip Fund. The forces we train and equip continue to show resolve and effectiveness in the fight against ISIL inside of Syria. A stand-alone fund that provides the flexibility to adapt to the changing battlefield environment while permitting the execution of our strategy to train, equip, resupply, and enable forces fighting ISIL in Syria is critical to future success. Such a fund would enable streamlined funds flow, transparency, accountability, and responsiveness that positions us to reinforce success as it occurs on the battlefield.

The Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). We continue to see tremendous achievements made possible by the ASFF as the ANDSF and the Afghanistan Security Institutions (ASI) steadily improve. While our ASFF budget request has decreased by 70 percent since 2011, the capabilities and activities enabled by this appropriation remain critical to continued success in Afghanistan. Furthermore, our support reflects U.S. confidence in the ANDSF’s ability to develop and mature into a capable, credible, sustainable, and independent force. The FY2017 ASFF budget request for just under $3.5 billion continues to posture the ANDSF for long-term sustainability. The Afghans greatly appreciate U.S. support, they are responsive to our advice, and they understand that funding is neither unconditional nor indefinite.

Foreign Military Financing and Foreign Military Sales. Our need for continued Congressional funding of FMF programs that support USCENTCOM security cooperation objectives cannot be overstated. The Central Region accounts for nearly half of all global FMS. Our partners in the region want U.S. equipment because they recognize that it is the best in the world. It also represents a very effective means for establishing long-term relationships between the U.S. and our partner nations and ensures greater interoperability between our militaries. We appreciate Congressional support for interagency initiatives designed to streamline the FMS and FMF process. We also need our regional partners to do their part to ensure the timely execution of all FMS requests.

Excess Defense Articles (EDA)/ Foreign Excess Personal Property (FEPP). The EDA program represents an integral component of our BPC efforts and has proven beneficial in our engagements with our regional partners. We have reaped the benefits of this authority several times in the last year, enabling us to support requirements in Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and other countries located within the USCENTCOM AOR or participating in operations with U.S. forces. Several other EDA transfers to the UAE and Egypt are pending. In the same light, the FEPP authorization has allowed us to transfer non-military equipment acquired as part of our base closures and reductions to Iraqi and Afghan security forces, and government ministries in Afghanistan, Kuwait, and the Kyrgz Republic.

Coalition Support. The Coalition is central to the power of our operations and has never been stronger or more responsive than it has been over the last 18 months. The flexible authorities and funding that Congress continues to provide directly enables the size and diversity of the Coalition, which is key to its effectiveness. Together, the Coalition Support Fund, Coalition Readiness Support Program, and Lift and Sustain facilitate broad participation in combined military operations, thereby reducing the burden on U.S. forces and enabling activities that would otherwise not be possible.

Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP). Regardless of the size, shape, or mission of U.S. forces, your continued support for CERP is essential as it provides an invaluable tool to commanders. CERP funds are routinely the only time-sensitive means to respond to unanticipated events and requirements, implement small-scale efforts that provide immediate and direct benefit to local populations to enhance protection of U.S. forces, and enable U.S. forces to make condolence payments for the loss of life or property damage.

Military Construction (MILCON). We continue to leverage existing infrastructure and host nation funding, as well as maritime posture and reach-back capabilities to meet steady state and surge requirements. In some cases, MILCON is still required to expand infrastructure capabilities to facilitate sustainment support for U.S. forces and operations. Given our adversaries’ continued development of A2/AD capabilities, it is imperative that we facilitate the dispersion and hardening of key infrastructure at our major operating hubs and spokes.

Long-term C4 Sustainment Plan. USCENTCOM, our Service Components, Combined Joint Task Forces (CJTF), and our deployed warfighters rely heavily on communications systems to provide critical Joint and Coalition command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C5ISR) and logistics services across the USCENTCOM AOR. Without a diverse and survivable communications infrastructure and bandwidth delivery, via both satellite communications and terrestrial fiber leases to the current U.S. force posture locations, all current and future Mission Command Operations are at great risk. Continued resource support is essential to maintaining the current U.S. force presence in the USCENTCOM AOR, and to enable rapid support for any future contingency operations.

The U.S. Central Command Team. The outstanding men and women who make up the USCENTCOM team continue to do tremendous work in support of the command’s broad mission encompassing a vast and highly volatile geographic area. They shoulder great responsibility and their day-to-day actions are of enormous consequence. We have an obligation to ensure that they are resourced appropriately and have the necessary tools and equipment, a responsive support structure, and safe, secure, and respectful environments to live and work in. We also take very seriously our obligation to our families; we could not do what we do without their support. They are important and valued members of our USCENTCOM team.

The team also benefits from the unique capability provided by our Coalition Coordination Center, which consists of more than 200 foreign military officers from nearly 60 partner nations. USCENTCOM is the only geographic combatant command with this unique capability, and it continues to pay enormous dividends in terms of information sharing, collaboration, and outreach.

Conclusion. Our overarching goal at USCENTCOM is to move the Central Region in the direction of increased stability and security. It is an ambitious task and success will require that all elements of the USG and the international community work together in pursuit of this shared objective. We are seeing the power of such collaboration in the ongoing fight against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. The enemy’s capability has been greatly degraded over the past 18+ months and that reflects the efforts of the indigenous forces supported and enabled by the 66-nation Counter-ISIL Coalition. Much work remains, but we do see progress being made across the breadth and depth of the battlespace and throughout the USCENTCOM AOR. Going forward, we will take direct military action where necessary to counter malign actors and activities that pose a threat to our core national interests and the interests of our partner nations. At the same time, we will continue to support the governments and people of the region in their efforts to build needed capacity, enabling them to take a more active and pronounced role in providing for the security of their sovereign spaces. This will serve to increase burden-sharing among nations, strengthen partnerships, and expand cooperation. Ultimately, these various efforts will enable us to improve stability and security across the strategically-important Central Region.

Today, more than 84,000 of the very best Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coastguardsmen and Civilians assigned to or associated with U.S. Central Command are selflessly serving in difficult and dangerous places around the globe. They continue to do an exceptional job in support of the USCENTCOM mission and our Nation. Our people are our most important assets. We are enormously proud of them and their families. They are and will remain our foremost priority..

USCENTCOM: Ready, Engaged, Vigilant!

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