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Committee Statements

Institutionalizing Irregular Warfare Capabilities

As prepared for the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities

Washington, November 3, 2011

Let me welcome our Members, witnesses, and guests to this hearing on a topic that will, I think, play a significant role in the security of our nation.

The basic question is to what extent we learn from our experience and build on it, and to what extent we assume that the past was an aberration and now we can “get back to normal.”

I am not sure that the conventional wisdom about “normal” is quite right.

Drs. Sebastian Gorka and David Kilcullen found that of the 464 conflicts since 1815 recorded in the Correlates of War database, 385 of them involved a non-state actor.  That’s 83%.

Dr. Bernard Fall’s research cited in the 2006 Marine Corps and SOCOM Multi-Service Concept for Irregular Warfare found that there were 48 “small wars” in the first 65 years of the twentieth century, which taken together involved as many people and as many casualties as either of the two world wars.

A review of U.S. military activities over the last 20 years in places like Somalia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Columbia, Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Uganda – confirms this trend.

The tight defense budgets ahead of us mean strategic choices must be made.  The United States must maintain, in my view, a full spectrum of capability.  But the odds are that we will be involved in some form of irregular warfare in the future, just as we always have in the past.  We have learned – or relearned – much about it in the last decade at a tremendous cost of blood and treasure. It would be incredibly short-sided of us not to ensure that those lessons are taught and engrained and applied going forward.

That is the reason for this hearing and for our continued monitoring of this issue.