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Feb. 11, 2014

DIA Director Lt. Gen Michael Flynn on Current and Future Worldwide Threats Testimony Before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Opening Statement as Delivered Before the Senate Armed Services Committee

Good morning, Chairman Levin, Ranking Member Inhofe, and distinguished members of the committee.

Thank you for this opportunity to testify and for your continued support to the dedicated intelligence professionals of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the entire defense intelligence enterprise, many of whom remain forward-deployed directly supporting U.S. and allied military forces in Afghanistan and around the world.

Today’s global security environment, as Director Clapper just highlighted, presents a growing list of increasingly complex challenges, conventional adversaries, and numerous asymmetric threats.

I completely agree with the DNI’s threat assessment, most notably the challenge of unprecedented regional upheavals, and the evolving complexity of the cyber domain.

To that end, I would like to highlight three areas that are of particular concern to DIA. These are:

(1)   The threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction falling into the hands of non-state actors and the proliferation of these weapons to other state actors

(2)    The emergence of foreign militaries with capabilities approaching those of the United States and our Allies and,

(3)    Increasing tensions in the Pacific

First, as they have publically and repeatedly insisted, Al-Qa’ida and other terrorist organizations aspire to acquire Weapons of Mass Destruction or WMD to further their agenda.

The current instability in Syria presents a perfect opportunity for Al-Qa’ida and associated groups to acquire these weapons or their components. While Syria’s stockpiles are currently under the control of the regime, the movement of these weapons from their current locations, for disposal or other reasons, drastically increases the risk of these weapons or their components falling into the wrong hands.

There is also the very real possibility that extremists in the Syrian opposition could overrun and exploit chemical and biological weapons storage facilities before all of these materials are removed.

Outside of Syria, the proliferation of WMD and associated technologies remains an ongoing challenge.

State and non- state actors engaging in these activities often sidestep or outpace international detection procedures and export-control regimes.

These actors supply WMD and ballistic missile-related materials and technologies to countries of concern by regularly changing the names of their front companies, operating in countries with permissive environments or lax enforcement, and avoiding international financial institutions.

Their techniques and activities grow more sophisticated by the day.

Shifting to more traditional military force concerns, the armed forces of China and Russia are modernizing and fielding new weapons systems that can challenge the conventional military superiority of the United States.

At the same time, both countries are restructuring their militaries and improving command and control to allow themselves to better operate in an information-dominated combat environment.

These efforts are a marked departure for both China and Russia, and although it will take time for each to integrate these new capabilities and force structures into their militaries, we cannot afford to ignore these developments by these two critical peers.

Along those lines, I also want to raise the issue of increasing tensions in the Pacific region.

The regime in North Korea remains highly unpredictable and is perhaps the most destabilizing force in the entire region.

That being said, the disputed areas in the East and South China Seas also remain important flashpoints.

The announcement in November that the Chinese are establishing an air-identification zone over portions of the East China Sea raised regional tensions, particularly with Japan, and increased the risk of incidents that could undermine peace and security in that vital region. 

Although all sides wish to avoid serious conflict, these tensions raise the prospect for further incidents that could lead to an escalation involving military force.

As you know, DIA has the broadest customer base in the intelligence community: our customers run the gamut from the President of the United States and Congress to our warfighting combatant commanders.

However, the most important customers we serve are the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Civilians who stand in harm’s way around the world.

With that in mind let me turn to the budget environment. Though there is increasing pressure to reduce defense spending, and reduce it we must if we are to address our nation’s fiscal situation, I would note that the demands on the U.S. intelligence system have skyrocketed in recent years, and these demands are only expected to increase in the years to come.

While there will have to be reductions and we will have to accept greater risk as the DNI just highlighted, defense intelligence must continue to be able to provide timely and actionable intelligence across the entire threat spectrum.

I look forward to working with you and your staffs as we address the very delicate balance between critical defense needs and our nation’s long-term fiscal health.

Lastly, I would like to take a moment to echo Director Clapper’s comments regarding Edward Snowden.

In my professional military judgment Mr. Snowden’s disclosures have done grave damage to the Department of Defense and go far beyond the act of a so called whistle blower.

I have no doubt that he has placed the men and women of our armed services at risk and that his disclosures will cost lives on our future battlefields. 

I hope that he will heed Director Clapper’s call to return any material he has not already disclosed for the safety and security of all Americans. 

Let me close by saying what an honor and indeed a privilege it is to appear here on behalf of the men and women of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the entire defense intelligence enterprise.

On their behalf, I thank you for your continuing confidence in their work. Your support is vital to us as well as our national security, and I look forward to answering your questions.