Defense Policy, Security Nominees Emphasize Strategic Focus
By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 27, 2012 – Two nominees, who if confirmed will have a wide range of defense responsibilities between them, yesterday told the Senate Armed Services Committee that American leadership is essential to global security efforts.
Kathleen Hicks, nominated as principal deputy defense undersecretary for policy, and Derek Chollet, prospective assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, testified before the panel on issues ranging from Afghanistan and Syria to missile defense and foreign military aid.
Hicks said if confirmed, she “will look to assist the undersecretary of defense for policy and the secretary of defense in building and maintaining strong defense relationships around the globe, preventing crises where possible and preparing for crises when necessary, and ensuring alignment of duty, activities and programs with strategic guidance.”
She emphasized conditions should guide planning for Afghanistan beyond 2014, including the number of Afghan security forces that will be needed as that nation assumes full security responsibility within its own borders.
“We should be thinking very hard about how the sustainability of the force for Afghanistan can be assured into the future,” Hicks said. “Part of that is cost for the [Afghans], but it is not the only factor.”
Hicks said the strategic partnership agreement now under review by the U.S. and Afghan governments “signifies a significant commitment by the United States to sustain itself and its relationship with Afghanistan into the future.”
Turning to Syria, she said as Bashar Assad’s regime continues killing the nation’s people, hopes are fading that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s peace plan will resolve the violence.
“I think Kofi Annan has himself said he's very concerned about the ability of his plan to succeed at this point given the actions of the Syrian regime,” she noted.
In her current capacity, Hicks said, she is “focused on supporting the combatant commanders in developing plans for all kinds of approaches should the president decide to take further steps in the military vein [in Syria].”
The U.S. military is “the key instrument” in national security, she said, and the defense strategic guidance announced in January will lead to a force structured to meet this century’s challenges.
“I do believe that the strategic guidance positions us well for the future, both in terms of the security environment and the economic effects of contributing to deficit reduction,” she said. “At the same time, I think it will take, as [Joint Chiefs] Chairman [Army Gen. Martin E.] Dempsey has said, several cycles of program development to get us fully to that ‘Joint Force of 2020’ that we're aiming for.”
Hicks said Defense Department leaders will adapt the force over time to meet the strategy.
If he’s confirmed as the department’s international security affairs chief for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Chollet said he knows the challenges will be “as profound as they are vast.”
He listed as priorities strengthening Israel's security, preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, seizing the opportunities and meeting the threats stemming from the Arab Spring, working with NATO to ensure a steady transition in Afghanistan and developing deeper partnerships with African states to meet shared interests.
“The United States must play a central role” in all those areas, Chollet said.
He added he has learned throughout his career “that American leadership remains indispensable to helping solve global problems.”
Since 2009, Hicks as served as the deputy undersecretary of defense for strategy, plans and forces. She is nominated to replace James N. Miller Jr., whose nomination for undersecretary of defense for policy is presently pending before the committee.
Chollet, who since 2009 has held positions at the State Department and on the National Security Council, is nominated to replace Alexander Vershbow, who is now deputy secretary general of NATO.