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December 16
1902 - Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali), Gen. E.F. Beale's Syrian camel driver, dies at Quartzsite, Ariz. [story]


mug_Buck_mckeonHouse Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, made the following opening statement (as prepared for delivery) at a hearing Tuesday on Proposed Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria.

“Good morning ladies and gentlemen.  The House Armed Services Committee meets to receive testimony on the President’s proposed authorization to use of military force in Syria.  Our witnesses include Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey.  Gentlemen, thank you for joining us today.

“This committee has closely monitored the conflict in Syria.  Throughout, this committee has focused on understanding the strategic context; the options; the risks of those options; as well as the costs of military action in Syria.

“Today, I hope our witnesses will focus not only on the case for military action that has been made over the last two weeks, but also address the justifiable concerns that have been raised by Members on a bipartisan basis.  This includes understanding more about likely second order affects, how a limited strike will achieve our policy goals, and the planning that has been done to respond should Assad miscalculate – in terms of both operational and financial planning.  What options, short of additional military action, do we have to respond to escalation or retaliation?  And Secretary Hagel, although you’ve estimated that this operation will cost tens of millions of dollars, in April of this year you testified: “…let’s start with the question of how do you pay for [military action in Syria] if we do something…Yes, I think it is pretty clear that a supplemental would be required.”

“History tells us that there will likely be second or third order effects that demand further U.S. military action.  Therefore, it gives me great pause that we have not addressed the devastating cuts to our military due to sequestration – even as we commit our military to another new mission.  We have surged troops to Afghanistan – and cut the military’s budget.  We have flown missions over Libya – and cut the military’s budget.  We are pivoting to the Asia-Pacific – and cutting the military’s budget.  All told, these cuts total an astounding $1.2 trillion.  And now we are considering strikes on Syria – while the military’s budget continues to be cut.

“I share President Obama’s concern about Assad’s vicious use of chemical weapons on his people.  I am also deeply concerned about the United States’ standing in the region.  When the President drew his redline, he put America’s cards on the table.  A leader either enforces his redlines – or becomes irrelevant.

“However, I am equally concerned about the condition of a military that has been chewed up from budget cuts and years of fighting. We cannot keep asking the military to perform dangerous mission after mission with multiple rounds of defense cuts, including sequestration, hanging over their heads. Through decisiveness, clarity of purpose, and leadership, the President has the power to allay many of these concerns.

“I look forward to answers to these questions and to your testimony.”

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