February 07, 2019

In Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, Duckworth Discusses Instability in South America and Threats of Extremists in Africa


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator and combat veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) discussed transportation and security logistics, and a whole of government approach to responding to threats of extremism and instability with General Thomas Waldhauser (U.S. Marine Corps) and Admiral Craig Faller (U.S. Navy). Waldhauser is the Commander of United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) and Faller is the Commander of United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Duckworth, a former Army logistics officer, Video of her questions during the hearing is available here.

“Our military leaders made clear to me today that one root cause of many of the security challenges they face is poverty, hunger—things that cause people to search for a better life,” Duckworth said. “But rather than addressing these causes head on, the Trump Administration is slashing the budgets of many agencies that could both help address the root causes and increase security for our servicemembers overseas. It’s clear we need to take a whole of government approach with global leadership and investment, and I appreciate the efforts made by these Commanders and the servicemembers and civilians they lead to recognize that goal.”

After Senator Duckworth asked the Commanders about the primary drivers of instability and extremism in their regions, Admiral Faller responding by highlighting a story from a recent trip to Honduras:

“I saw this in Honduras. I was in an outreach center run by USAID, it was right next to a partnered police station. We had a few army and civilian affairs people there. We were meeting with some young men and women who had been supplied jobs. I asked one individual - he had gone all the way to the U.S. Mexico border and turned and came around all the way back - walked as part of the caravan, but he came back. I said, “Why did you come back?” He said, “It was pretty scary for me, I felt that I should come home.” I said, “Well why did you go?” He said, “The family next to us was starving, we’re starving… But across the street, they had some food because their father had made it to the United States and was sending remittances back.” So, at the heart of this it’s a want of a better life and an economy and to have your kids go to school, and all kids all citizens of the world deserve that.”

General Waldhauser also discussed the critical role that a whole of government approach has played in the effort to stabilize Niger, a country surrounded with threats of extremism. Waldhauser noted that in addition to U.S. security assistance, USAID has invested about $150 million in education and government infrastructure and the Millennium Challenge Corporation has made significant investments in agricultural development.

United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is one of ten unified combatant commands (COCOMs) in the U.S. Department of Defense. The area of responsibility comprises Central America, South America, and the Caribbean, and comprises more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel.

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is one of six geographic combatant commands in the U.S. Department of Defense. The area of responsibility comprises African nations, the African Union and African regional security organizations, and comprises approximately 2,000 military and civilian personnel. Both AFRICOM and SOUTHCOM direct and enable military operations and activities with allies and partners to increase regional security and stability in support of enduring U.S. interests.

Duckworth is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), which has jurisdiction over the nation’s common defense, military operations, servicemember pay and retirement, military family benefits and the selective service system. SASC also oversees the Department of Defense, the United States Armed Services and several other national security-related issues at home and abroad. Duckworth served on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee for four years before joining the Senate.