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Selected Statements from LtGen Vincent Stewart's SASC Worldwide Threat Assessment Hearing

By DIA Public Affairs

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DIA Director L. Gen. Stewart testified at the SASC worldwide threat assessment hearing May 23rd, 2017. Here are some highlights from his official statement:

The Threat

  • Today, the United States faces an increasingly complex array of challenges to our national security. We are faced with the rise of foreign militaries with ever-improving capabilities, threats from cyberactors, highly adaptive terrorist organizations, aggressive non-state actors, and hostile foreign intelligence services…”
  • DIA's Five No Fail Missions include a nuclear capable and provocative North Korea, a resurgent Russia, a modernizing china, an ambitious regional power in
    Iran, and violent extremist organizations - the last category encompassing ongoing operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

North Korea

  • North Korea remains a critical security challenge for the United States. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the U.S., as demonstrated by two probable nuclear tests and an unprecedented level of ballistic missile launches in 2016.
  • Last year, the DPRK flight-tested over a dozen theater ballistic missiles as well as its submarine-launched ballistic missile system and launched a satellite into space. It also conducted an unusual number of displays in 2016 of its missile programs—including a reentry vehicle heat shield test and ground-level propulsion tests. On 13 May, North Korea tested another ballistic missile—successfully launched from western North Korea and impacting in the Sea of Japan.
  • North Korea continues efforts to expand its stockpile of weapons-grade fissile material. It claimed that its last nuclear test, in September 2016, was a “standardized” nuclear warhead for a ballistic missile. This test followed its fourth test in early January 2016, after which North Korea issued a statement claiming it had successfully carried out a test of a “hydrogen bomb.” We remain concerned about North Korea’s proliferation activities in contravention of multiple UN Security Council Resolutions including most recently, Resolution 2321 passed in November 2016.
  • If left on its current trajectory, the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear armed missile capable of threatening the us homeland.
  • While nearly impossible to predict when this capability will be operational, the North Korean regime is on a pathway where this capability is inevitable.

China

  • Unprecedented military modernization program involving weapons systems, doctrine, tactics, training, space and cyber operations. china now stands firmly in the category as a near peer U.S. competitor.
  • SCS: China has long identified the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity as a “core interest.” In the South China Sea, China has embarked on a multiyear, whole-of-government approach to securing sovereignty, principally through maritime law enforcement presence and military patrols. In 2016, China rejected the international arbitration ruling on its excessive South China Sea claims, built infrastructure at its manmade outposts on the Spratly Islands, and for the first time, landed civilian aircraft on its airfields at Fiery Cross Reef, Subi Reef, and Mischief Reef. China will be able to use its reclaimed features as persistent civil-military bases, which will enhance its presence and its ability to control the features and nearby maritime space. Beijing recognizes the need to defend these outposts and is prepared to respond to any military operations near them.
  • China continues to move forward with reforms aimed at strengthening the Chinese Communist Party’s control over the military and enhancing the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to fight in regional conflicts and operate at greater distances from the Chinese mainland. China’s leaders are seeking ways to leverage China’s growing military, diplomatic, and economic position to advance the country’s international influence.
  • China is improving the PLA’s capability to fight short-duration, high-intensity regional conflicts by undertaking a long-term, comprehensive military modernization program. In 2016, the PLA increased its preparations for contingencies along China’s periphery, including conflicts in the East and South China Seas, at the same time that planning for a Taiwan contingency continued to drive military modernization efforts.
  • We anticipate that China will continue its robust defense spending growth for the foreseeable future. In March 2017, China announced a 7-percent inflation-adjusted increase in the annual military budget, bringing it to $148.4 billion, continuing more than two decades of annual defense spending increases.
  • China has fielded CSS-5 antiship ballistic missiles specifically designed to hold adversary aircraft carriers at risk 1,500 kilometers off China’s coast. In 2016, Chinese official media confirmed China’s intent to go forward with midcourse missile defense capabilities on both land and sea assets, reflecting work on ballistic missile defense dating back several decades.
  • The PLA Rocket Force has given priority to developing and deploying regional ballistic and cruise missiles to expand its conventional strike capabilities against U.S. forces and bases throughout the region. In addition to the Rocket Force’s fielding of an antiship ballistic missile, China is fielding an intermediate-range ballistic missile capable of conducting conventional and nuclear strikes against ground targets in the Asia-Pacific region as far away as Guam. China’s military capacity is complemented by the use of underground facilities for warfighting protection and concealment, with particular emphasis on command, control, communications, computer, and intelligence functions as well as missile assets.
    China has fielded and is developing numerous cruise missiles for land and maritime targets, to be launched from its most advanced air, ship, and submarine platforms. China is working to upgrade its surface and subsurface naval fleet with advanced longer-range antiship cruise missiles, some of which will reach supersonic speeds and could be fielded on China’s most capable surface combatants. The PLA is also upgrading its aircraft with antiship and air-launched cruise missiles for land-attack and surface ship targets, and with two, new air-launched ballistic missiles, one of which may include a nuclear payload.
  • The PLA is modernizing its nuclear forces by enhancing silo and road-mobile ICBMs and adding other road-mobile systems. The PLA Navy’s Jin class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, when armed with the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile, will provide Beijing with its first sea-based nuclear deterrent. China probably continues nuclear R&D, maintenance of existing warheads, and production of new nuclear warheads. The country has the industrial capacity to enrich uranium and process plutonium for military requirements.
  • China has also invested heavily in improving its space capabilities, with particular emphasis on satellite communications, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, navigation, and meteorology, as well as unmanned, interplanetary space exploration and, most recently, manned spaceflight programs. In addition to on-orbit assets, China’s space program has built a vast ground infrastructure supporting spacecraft and space launch vehicle manufacturing, launch, C2, and data downlink. China’s space station is likely to achieve a full operational capability by 2022, and it could become the only operational space station if the International Space Station does not receive funding beyond what is currently programmed to end in 2024. In parallel with its space program, China continues to develop a variety of counterspace capabilities designed to limit or to prevent the use of space-based assets by the PLA’s adversaries during a crisis or conflict.

Afghanistan and the Taliban

  • Despite some improvements to command and control and integration of air capabilities, the ANDSF remains beset by persistent shortfalls in combined arms and intelligence integration, as well as overall force generation and sustainment.
  • In 2017, we believe the ANDSF will incrementally improve its capabilities to challenge the Taliban, but military operations will not be decisive. We expect the Taliban to further consolidate control mostly in rural terrain and continue to pressure provincial capitals in Helmand, Uruzgan, and Kunduz Provinces.
  • We believe the ANDSF will need to increasingly focus on long-range planning to improve endemic institutional deficiencies in leadership, force generation, and sustainment in order to defeat the Taliban. Coalition train, advise, and assist efforts in 2017 will be critical to improving the ANDSF’s ability to forestall Taliban advances beyond rural areas and in improving ministerial planning and development.

ISIS/Terrorism

  • We are making steady progress against trans-regional terrorism but still have a long way to go. ISIS has been greatly diminished in Libya, will soon lose control of Mosul, and its capital in Raqqa is nearly isolated. The trends lines are moving in the right direction, but this fight will not end soon. we are concerned about the long-term impact of returning foreign fighters, and the potential for these groups to capitalize on the proliferation of unmanned UAVs.

    Russia
  • Moscow views military power as critical to achieving key strategic objectives and has devoted significant resources to modernizing its forces. Russian leadership considers a capable, survivable nuclear force as the foundation of its strategic deterrent and modern, agile general purpose forces as vital for power projection in the region and expeditionary deployments far outside its borders.
  • The Russian Government seeks to be the center of influence in what it describes as a "multi-polar, post-West world order." To support this world view, Moscow pursues aggressive foreign and defense policies by employing a full spectrum of influence and coercion aimed at challenging U.S. interests around the globe.
  • In 2016, Moscow improved its mobilization readiness, rehearsing mobilization processes in the KAVKAZ-16 military exercise, the culminating exercise of the training year. This emphasis on preparing the state and society for wartime mobilization probably will continue during 2017.
  • Russia continues to invest heavily in force wide modernization efforts, emphasizing joint force interoperability, technologically advanced command and control systems, and defense-industrial capacity.
  • Over the past 8 years, the Russian military has focused on improving its command and control (C2) structure, systems, and underground facilities to be better suited to confront modern threats. New C2 systems are allowing commanders to access data in real time and to synchronize actions across services and geographically separated elements.
  • Overall, Russia’s reforms are progressing and effectively building a more agile force that is capable of conducting expeditionary operations and providing support to combat operations outside Russia.
  • Russia has used the Syrian intervention to showcase its modern military and expeditionary capabilities, conducting its first deployment outside Russia’s immediate neighborhood since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Iran

  • Tehran is putting considerable resources into conventional military priorities such as ballistic and cruise missiles, naval systems, unmanned aerial vehicles, and air defense systems that could threaten the interests of the U.S. and our regional allies.
  • Iran remains a significant Challenge to the United States within the Middle East and Southwest Asia.
  • Iran has the region’s largest ballistic missile arsenal, consisting of at least five different systems. Tehran has claimed its missiles can strike targets throughout the region, up to 2,000 kilometers from Iran’s border.
  • Iran will continue to improve the range, lethality, and accuracy of some of those systems and will pursue development of new systems, despite restrictions placed on development of nuclear capable ballistic missiles by UNSCR 2231.
  • Tehran has claimed it is also pursuing long-range, precision cruise missiles, which will present an increased threat in the region.
    Iran will continue to develop space launch vehicles – boosters that are capable of ICBM ranges if configured for that purpose.
  • Iran maintains the largest underground facility program in the Middle East and primarily uses this capability to protect and conceal many aspects of its missile program.
  • Led by the IRGC—Qods Force, Iran’s regional efforts remain focused on operations in Syria and Iraq. We anticipate that large numbers of Iranian troops and Shia fighters will remain engaged in pro-regime operations in Syria and that Tehran’s cooperation with Damascus and Moscow will deepen.

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