Senator Wicker Leads Armed Services Republicans in EUCOM, TRANSCOM Hearing

April 11, 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, led his colleagues in examining the force posture of U.S. European Command (EUCOM) and U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM).

In his statement for the record, Senator Wicker requested an updated assessment from General Cavoli regarding the war in Ukraine, adding that it is imperative that EUCOM continue its work to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russian aggression.

Senator Wicker also noted that TRANSCOM needs to accelerate efforts on the concept of ‘contested logistics,’ which could improve deterrence in both Europe and the Indo-Pacific.

EUCOM commander General Christopher G. Cavoli, USA, and TRANSCOM commander General Jacqueline D. Van Ovost, USAF, testified before the committee.

Read Senator Wicker’s opening statement as prepared below.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to our witnesses for their service and for being here today.

European Command’s (EUCOM) area of responsibility covers 50 countries and territories, but Russia and Ukraine remain the command’s primary focus. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) is the lynchpin for equipment distribution in Ukraine’s fight against Russia.

These next days – and I hope it is days – will determine whether Congress will help courageous Ukrainian troops continue to resist Putin’s illegal aggression. Ukraine is not asking for our young men and women to fight. Ukraine is simply requesting that the United States, as part of an international coalition, keep our promises to them, to help provide the basic tools needed for Ukraine to regain its sovereign territory and to protect its people.

Ukraine has the will to fight, but it is running dangerously low on artillery and air defenses against a numerically superior adversary. The White House sent the initial supplemental funding request over six months ago. The Senate passed a bill in February with a strong bipartisan vote. President Zelensky has stated that Ukraine could lose this war if the House does not act.

This tortuous debate over the supplemental has at least forced skeptics of our support to Ukraine to state the reasons for their opposition.

For instance, some of the skeptics say that core American interests are not at stake in faraway Ukraine and we should just let this inter-Slavic struggle play out. This is simply ahistorical: Preserving the peace in Europe is self-evidently in our security and economic interests. Indeed, our countrymen spilled their blood twice in the last century to create the very stability in Europe we have enjoyed for decades.

The skeptics also say that Ukraine cannot win. There’s no strategy. No end-game. We are throwing good money after bad. The Russians are bigger and stronger and will outgun and overrun the Ukrainians, or so the argument goes. The reality is that there is an end-game: it’s called victory. The evidence is clear that Ukraine can win. The skeptics ignore how remarkably effective Ukraine has been on the battlefield.

Secretary Austin reminded us this week that Ukraine has retaken over the half the territory seized by Russia two years ago .In a stunning display of ingenuity, Ukraine has also ejected the Russian navy from the eastern half of the Black Sea and many of its Crimean ports… without a navy. Critical infrastructure inside the Russian mainland has been successfully targeted with no help from us. The tragedy is that Ukraine has accomplished these feats in spite of the Biden Administration’s hesitancy, self-deterrence, and drip-drip-drip approach to arming Ukraine. Remember the months, sometimes years, it took before providing Stingers, Patriot, Bradleys, Abrams tanks, and F-16s? Imagine where Ukraine would be today if we met its needs on relevant timelines.

Some of the skeptics say supporting Ukraine amounts to a big strategic distraction from China. That would be news Japanese Prime Minister Kishida, who reaffirmed his stance yesterday at the White House that “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.” If Ukraine is such a distraction, then why was Japan its third-largest financial donor last year? Why have South Korea and Australia followed suit with billions of dollars in assistance?

While we’re on the subject of burden sharing, I cannot fathom how the skeptics continue to say that European friends are not doing enough. This talking point was always an exaggeration, but now it’s simply wrong. General Cavoli’s testimony is worth quoting here:

Our Allies and partners have risen to the task; their collective contributions of our Allies are substantially more than the United States.

The General noted that the United States ranks 14th in the top 25 nations that have donated to Ukraine as percentage of GDP. And while we have provided munitions from our reserve stocks, most of our European friends have drawn from their operational arsenals, in some cases cutting through muscle and into bone.

Finally, we hear the falsehood that our weapons are being diverted and our money is being stolen. The truth is that the Inspectors General monitoring Ukraine assistance have not substantiated a single allegation of fraud or diversion of U.S. assistance.

I welcome General Cavoli’s comments on any of these issues, and the supplemental’s importance. He needs to tell us how the supplemental affects Ukraine’s ability to fight. What are the consequences should we fail to deliver it? How would such a failure impact our efforts to deter China? I would also appreciate General Cavoli’s views on how the supplemental package supports U.S. military readiness, as well as his assessment on the contributions of our European allies.

The fate of the supplemental will largely determine the tone of NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington this July. It will determine whether the summit rejuvenates the Alliance or signals America’s retreat from Europe – from international leadership. I hope that the summit is a celebration of Allied unity.

I also ask General Cavoli to comment on the trajectory of Allies’ defense spending and modernization efforts, including the importance of NATO’s new regional warfighting plans.

General Van Ovost’s mission set is uniquely global in nature. TRANSCOM never knows who it will support next or where it will be sent. Yet it remains excellent. The professionalism of its men and women has mitigated poorly-planned policies.

In August 2021, TRANSCOM conducted a massive short-warning airlift in Afghanistan. Its evacuation of numerous U.S. forces and noncombatants belied the utter lack of planning done by the Biden administration.

Beginning in February 2022, TRANSCOM created a pipeline of weapons shipments from the U.S. to Poland. We have not seen anything like it since the Gulf War. TRANSCOM’s ability to deliver military aid to Ukraine is a stark contrast to the Biden administration’s risk-averse dithering.

Despite its remarkable record, I am concerned that TRANSCOM will be unable to overcome that same bad planning when it comes to our ability to deter and fight in the Western Pacific. TRANSCOM will be tested in new and challenging ways to support our joint force in Japan, the Philippines, Guam, and Australia. I believe TRANSCOM has made significant progress on how we will manage fuel distribution. However, much work remains. Given the scope and scale of our shortfalls over a range of logistics challenges, I am puzzled by the lack of any submitted unfunded requirements from TRANSCOM. We should conduct additional oversight on this topic in the weeks ahead.

Again, thank you to our witnesses. I look forward to their testimony.