Military brass: Budget cuts will hurt crisis response
By James K. Sanborn
First Lt. Joseph Carroll, Company I Executive Officer, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regimentlooks on as an MV-22B ‘Osprey’ takes off during an air assault an Urbanized Terrain town during the Marine Corps Combat Readiness Evaluation Exercise, Jan.16, 2015.
(U.S. Marine Corps Photo by Lance Cpl. Julio McGraw/Released)
Military leaders overseeing operations in some of the most volatile parts of the world painted a bleak picture on Capitol Hill Thursday as they described the dire effects more budget cuts would have on counter-terror and crisis response missions across Africa and the Middle East.
Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the heads commanders of U.S. Africa, Central and Special Operations Ccommands said another round of across-the-board spending cuts known as sequestration would hinder their ability to defeat organizations like the Islamic State group and Boko Haram. painted a bleak picture before the Senate Armed Services Committee of increasing global instability and the harm sequestration could have on ongoing operations to defeat the Islamic State group now pushing further into Africa after meeting tenacious resistance in Iraq and Syria; contain Boko Haram which recently swore allegiance to IS and is spreading to neighboring countries; and efforts to forward position troops -- likely Marines -- in the Gulf of Guinea where they can more quickly respond to crisis on the world's second largest continent.
Crisis response missions could also be disrupted, said Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of CENTCOM, which could hurt the military's ability to respond to calls to evacuate embassies, as Marines have in Yemen, Libya and South Sudan.
"We'll need to find ways to do more — or at least as much — with less in the current fiscal environment," said Gen. Lloyd Austin said, the commander of U.S. Central Command. "That said, I remain concerned by the fact that capability reductions can and will impact our ability to respond to crisis. … So I would ask Congress to do its part to avoid sequestration.…"
Terror groups are spreading or fighting for new territory across the AFRICOM and CENTCOM areas of responsibility, the commanders told lawmakers. The Islamic State group is pushing its way into Africa after meeting tenacious resistance in Iraq and Syria. And the Nigerian-based terror group Boko Haram, which recently swore allegiance to IS, and is spreading to neighboring countries, said Army Gen. David Rodriguez, the commander of AFRICOM.
"Boko Haram has extended its reach beyond Nigeria's borders to Cameroon Camaroon, Niger and Chad," he said.
Sen. John McCain, the committee chairman, said the "old order across North Africa is under siege.""The old order across North Africa is under siege," Sen. John McCain, the committee chairman, said during the hearings opening minutes.
Lance Cpl. Jaimon Smith demonstrates fire-and-movement drills to members of the Chadian Anti-Poaching Brigade. Marines train with African militaries working to contain groups like Boko Haram.
Photo Credit: Sgt. Ed Galo/Marine Corps
Marines are fighting both groups on different fronts. Marine pilots, along with airmen and sailors, are both heavily vested in fighting IS with naval pilots dropping bombs on IS targets and conducting surveillance in support of Iraqi forces. Marines are also training Nigerian troops and militaries from neighboring countries in an effort to and efforts to contain Boko Haram by training Nigerian forces and their neighbors.
Lawmakers questioned the The SASC did question the generals about the idea of on relocating AFRICOM headquarters, which is now in Germany, to Africa in order to bridge the distance between citing the great distances between headquarters and operations. While there is no immediate plan to relocate, the distance has been cited as a challenge when carrying out missions across the vast African continent. For the time being there is no movement to do so, but Marine SPMAGTF-CR-AF, also headquartered in Europe struggles to work around the same distance limitations.
Military leaders are looking at the possibility of new sea-based options for the Marine Corps' crisis response unit for Africa, which is currently headquartered in Spain. Rodriguez mentioned the idea of prepositioning troops and gear in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa — a move Navy and Marine leaders are already looking into. That has engendered greater support for prepositioning troops and gear in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa. It is something Rodriguez mentioned and Marine and Navy leaders have already pushed for."I've worked on [concepts of operation] for the commandant to have something we can possibly use maybe in the Gulf of Guinea to be able to expand our reach of the V-22s down in that southern region of Africa," said Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition at a Feb. 25 hearing before a House Armed Services subcommittee.
It is something Col. Robert C. Fulford, the last commander of Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Africa, SPMAGTF-CR-AF also advocated for seabasing options during a February presentation at the Potomac Institute shortly after his return. Fulford, who took command for about six months beginning in August explained that deploying from Europe to parts of Africa is like flying from the New York to Europe or further. It is a challenge for Marines, who are still expected to be combat-ready when they hit the ground, called on to carry out embassy evacuation missions.
Maritime prepositioning in the Gulf of Guinea would also gives U.S. forces a piece of sovereign territory to operate from rather than being "reliant on the good graces" of host nations, he said.