WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today attended a hearing that included testimony from the leaders of the United States European Command (EUCOM) and Transportation Command (TRANSCOM). Wicker’s questions to the panel highlighted the influence of China in Europe and the growing consensus that the Department of Defense (DOD) needs a budget that would meet or exceed three to five percent real growth.
Wicker directed his first question to General Tod Wolters, Commander of United States EUCOM and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
“The proposed [Office of Management and Budget] fiscal year 2021 budget requests $705.4 billion for DOD. This represents three tenths of one percent over the current fiscal year. In other words, the proposed budget buys us less resources than the current year… Do we need less security resources in the European Command next year than we do this year?” Wicker asked.
“Senator, we need more,” Wolters replied.
Wicker pointed to statements from the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the National Defense Strategy Commission that have endorsed three to five percent real growth in the defense budget. Both Wolters and General Stephen R. Lyons, Commander for TRANSCOM, affirmed this need for growth.
Wolters, in particular, has repeatedly stressed the need for additional resources to station two new destroyers (DDG) at the U.S. base in Rota, Spain.
“Every cent counts,” Wolters said. “Those two additional DDGs would allow us the opportunity to continue to improve our ability to get indications and warnings in the potential battlespace and dramatically improve our ability to command and control. And, because of the flexibility of those resources, they can comprehensively defend in all geographical areas in support of Europe. So, those destroyers are critical to improve the campaign to deliver peace,” Wolters said.
“We are going to certainly try to help you, I think, up and down the dais here on a bipartisan basis on the resources that we need to defend America and Americans,” Wicker said.
Wicker also asked Wolters to respond to reports of increased influence from China in the European theater. Wolters identified the growing Chinese stake in European shipping lanes and Huawei’s dominance of 5G networks in some nations as threats to NATO and U.S. security.
“I’m firmly aware of several European nations who have a tendency to lean towards Huawei and 5G,” Wolters said. “My concern goes back to the soldiers. Without the appropriate network protection, there is the potential compromise of technical data and personal data, and that is not to the good order and discipline of our U.S. soldiers and our NATO soldiers.”Wicker has advocated against the adoption of Chinese 5G technology as the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. In the U.S., he is the author of the U.S. 5G Leadership Act, which would give strong financial incentives to U.S. firms to strip out their Chinese network technology and replace it with secure alternatives. Last week at the Munich Security Conference and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Wicker met with leaders from multiple European nations to urge them to adopt similar legislation.