Congressman Mike Rogers gave the following remarks in a speech at the NDIA-AFA-ROA Congressional Breakfast Seminar Series on nuclear deterrence, missile defense, arms control, proliferation and defense policy, hosted by Peter Huessy.
Congressman Mike Rogers(-AL), Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee.
“Thank you for inviting me to speak at this series again this year. It’s always a bit reassuring when they ask you back for an encore performance. As many of you know, I am the Chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. In that capacity, I oversee the nation’s nuclear weapons, missile defense, and national security space programs. I thought what I could do today is to talk about some of the key issues we wrestled with in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015. So as we say in my business, “hearing no objections, it is so ordered.”
My Mark essentially broke down into three key areas: missile defense programs; providing essential oversight to the Administration’s arms control agenda; and ensure the reliability and the capability of our access to space.
We faced some big challenges this year. There were tough choices in terms of critical military capabilities and readiness that I’ve not seen before on the committee.
The sobering reminder all the members of the committee understood was that next year – when sequestration returns in FY16 – will be even more challenging.
At the same time, the world is as unsure as ever.
We can disagree as to why this is so.
My belief, and it is backed up by the judgments of scores of representatives of allied countries that I’ve talked with, is that American leadership under this Administration has retreated, willingly and knowingly.
The Obama doctrine, built on a sea of unsure and changing policies and rhetorical “straw men”, has left our allies asking the same fear-driven question: “where is America?”
China is filling the vacuum in the South China Sea; they have seen that our so-called pivot is little more than a messaging campaign.
Russia continues to station a large army on the Ukrainian border and illegally occupies Crimea, all the while using energy as a weapon – and staging provocative nuclear force exercises.
And the question is asked over and over in allied capitals: “where is America?”
It is with these nearly unprecedented financial and geopolitical challenges that the members of the House Armed Services Committee drafted the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act.
Missile defense is a key capability against these rising threats.
At the same time, since the President’s first budget request – long before the Sequester – this Administration has been slashing our missile defenses.
Now, every one of us in this room knows our nation’s fiscal challenges.
We’re deep in debt.
Our nation does not have a limitless credit card, and it is with our children and grandchildren in mind that Congress – and specifically the HASC – ensures that American tax dollars are spent in a fiscally responsible manner.
That most certainly applies to the Department of Defense, which – in my opinion – carries out the most important functions vital to our Republic and our Constitution.
So it’s within our fiscally challenging environment that the Strategic Forces Mark this year attempts to address these and many other problems.
We can’t fix them all.
Not with only one-half of the Congress and an unsupportive White House.
But we can fix some of them.
For example, we made fiscally responsible investments in the GMD system, which is nearing its half life.
As we heard in testimony before the subcommittee this past March, investments in GMD simply have not kept pace with what is required for it, or any other, aging military capability.
We also continued the development of an additional homeland defense interceptor site, and have begun the military construction phase of the project. .
I would like to think the Administration won’t have to wait for a successful test of Iran’s long-range missile program to finally endorse this critical capability.
Either way, the Congress has demonstrated its strong support for an East Coast Site.
We also took key steps to reassure our allies.
Almost since its inception, and certainly compounded by the cancellation of Phase IV of the EPAA, our allies have been unsure that we will deploy this system.
Because of this, and because of the changed security environment in Europe since the EPAA was announced in 2009, and to assure our allies, we decided it was an imperative to accelerate the construction of the Polish Aegis Ashore site.
As you all know, it’s an “adaptive” system.
This proven technology, which just had a successful test in Hawaii just two weeks ago, is a critical tool to assure our allies.
We can and must accelerate the deployment of this site in a low-risk way by emphasizing the stair-step development of the current Aegis Weapons System and the SM-3 IB missile.
There is little to no risk with this approach—we are deploying the system today in Romania, after all.
We also called for the deployment of operational PATRIOT batteries and THAAD batteries in Europe, if requested by our allies.
We have these systems today, including 4 PATRIOT batteries at Ft. Bliss.
There is no reason we should not deploy these systems in Europe today with operational interceptors, unlike the Administration’s bizarre deployment in 2009 of a PATRIOT battery with no interceptors: what our allies called a “potted plant”.
I have heard criticism that these actions could create the impression that our missile defenses are about Russia.
My response to that is that it’s entirely up to Russia.
Our intention was to assure our allies.
If Russia intends to threaten our allies with short-range or intermediate-range ballistic missiles or cruise missiles, we will defend our allies.
On the other hand, if Russia does not deploy these capabilities to threaten our allies, then these systems would be useless against Russia.
It continues to mystify me why any country would consider defensive capabilities to be a threat.
It should also come as no surprise that we continue to have some fundamental disagreements on the Administrations’ arms control agenda.
One of the few positive statements that could be made about the President’s cooly-received speech at West Point two weeks ago was that it did not mention the goal of Global Zero.
Whether this is a sign that the President finally understands reality, or merely that he determined it was not appropriate to further call into question our extended deterrent while Russian troops are in Crimea and stationed along the Ukrainian border, I don’t know.
Either way, it’s a step in the right direction. But, additional steps are needed.
For example, the President has been silent on Russia’s material breach of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty.
There is no doubt, I repeat no doubt, that Russia’s actions transcend mere violations and constitute a material breach of this central arms control treaty.
Yet, the President has not been willing to engage himself.
Each year, on April 15th, the President is required to submit a report on arms control compliance.
We are here nearing June 15th, and we have no report.
Depending upon your calendar, we are two months – or six years – past when the President should have declared Russia to have broken the INF treaty.
Yet – we have heard nothing from the President.
We have heard nothing from the Secretary of State…and he promised bold action in December of 2012 before he was confirmed by the Senate.
We have heard nothing from the Secretary of Defense.
What lesson is Russia to draw from this failure?
They certainly know what they’re doing…
…and they know we know.
Such failure sends a message to Russia, and I fear it is that we won’t seriously confront this or other belligerent behavior.
So the FY15 NDAA, on a bipartisan basis I am pleased to say, labels Russia’s actions to be a material breach – a critical finding under arms control custom and precedent – and establishes the Congress’ expectation that this action be confronted.
At this moment, the United States is prohibited, because we are complying with the INF treaty in good faith, from developing the military capabilities we need.
For example, there are conventional prompt strike systems our military has validated requirements to be able to deploy, but we are denied the capability.
How much longer can we accept this reality of unilateral arms control obligations and clear threats to our allies and deployed forces?
If I’m invited back to speak next year, I certainly hope we will have an answer to that question by then.
Related to Russia’s cheating on INF are Russia’s proposals for the Open Skies Treaty of 2002.
This treaty, which allows parties to it to conduct surveillance flights over one another’s territory, has a narrow purpose to provide assurance.
But Russia’s proposals go beyond this.
That’s why a bipartisan group of Senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee asked the Administration to oppose these proposals.
That’s also why the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee made the same request.
And that’s why, on a bipartisan basis, the HASC passed legislation to deny Russian proposals to expand its sensor capabilities beyond what was to be allowed under that treaty.
It’s amazing to me that the White House went ahead and approved one of these proposals at the end of May.
After all, Russia has already invaded Crimea.
It has breached the INF treaty. According to the Obama State Department, Russia is not in compliance with this treaty either.
Indeed, Russia is defending the butchering of 160,000 Syrians. The list goes on…
But, without regard to the national security concerns of the Department of Defense and the Intelligence Community, the Administration says: let’s provide Russia what it wants anyway.
It’s a strange and concerning approach to dealing with a country that has made a point of challenging our policies and interests at every turn.
And to those of you in this room who believe in arms control, it is an affront to that which you believe in that it is treated with so little seriousness by this Administration.
After all, if arms control obligations aren’t worth enforcing, what’s the point in having them at all?
Let me wrap things up by talking about space.
Most of us in this room believe that the U.S. has allowed itself, over more than two decades, to be at risk because of foolish dependency on Russia for access to space, including for our national security space capabilities.
And for more than thirty years, this nation decided to let its liquid rocket motor base wither.
The result has been our heavy reliance on a reliable and relatively inexpensive Cold War-era Russian engine.
To be sure, we have limited other capabilities.
We have a non-Russian engine we can use, but it is hardly a cutting-edge design and it is very expensive.
One day, we may have competition in space launch.
Today, we have no certified new entrant and there is a limited likelihood that we will have a certified new entrant who can launch the full national security manifest any time soon.
After all, national security payloads have no margin for failure.
That means we have to be perfect every time – and that’s hard to do.
If you can’t reliably get water, soap, and dehydrated ice cream to the International Space Station, you certainly aren’t ready to launch multi-billion dollar Air Force and intelligence satellites.
And I note these comments are protected by the Speech and Debate clause, so please don’t waste any time on lawsuits! You know who you are…
So I am proud to say our Mark this year gets us back on the path to building an American rocket engine, to be ready by 2019, to ensure that we have a new, American rocket engine to get critical capabilities on orbit.
I’m pleased to note the support of the House Defense Appropriators and the Senate Armed Services Committee for this effort.
We have little time to lose in developing this new engine.
And in this time of tight budgets, it is imperative the Department of Defense steps outside its comfort zone and embraces true public-private partnerships – like the Secretary’s Mitchell Task Force recommended – in this effort.
I certainly hope the Air Force and Department would look to accelerate the effort with the options at their disposal during FY14.
Many in this room have probably seen the tweets of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, who, no doubt after one too many vodka shots, threatened to cut off our access to Russian engines.
We can never allow this country to be in the position that such people could control our national security space capabilities.
And with this Mark, we take a big step to ensuring they cannot.
I’ve covered a broad swath of material the past fifteen minutes and it’s still early in the morning.
To those who zoned out, I understand.
I know who you are and will remember you, but, I understand.
I hope I’ve conveyed to you that we have serious problems in the world today.
And let’s not forget: Communist China can’t be ignored either.
Any country that can move, seemingly overnight, a billion dollar oil rig the size of several football fields into someone else’s territory must be watched carefully.
Our strategic forces, including missile defenses and forward-deployed nuclear weapons, dual-capable aircraft, long-range heavy bombers, and national security space capabilities will be vital to ensuring China cannot threaten our interests or those of our allies.
But, our capabilities will continue to wither as long as we have a president whose philosophy is to cut our defenses to the bone, cede America’s world leadership to the Chinese, Russians and the United Nations, and to turn the United States military – the most powerful force for good the world has ever known– into a Jimmy Carter-era shadow of itself.
It can’t happen.
We need the American people to understand what’s at stake and make their choices accordingly.
I thank you all for letting me share my views.