The leaders of U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) told lawmakers Tuesday the fiscal year 2023 budget should include resources to bolster “domain awareness” required to combat Russia and China’s efforts to grow influence in the Western Hemisphere.

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, the head of NORTHCOM, and Army Gen. Laura Richardson, the leader of SOUTHCOM, told the House Armed Services Committee they have not seen the final details of the upcoming budget request while citing a need for further investments in cyber and threat detection capabilities.

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, speaks at the Space Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. on Aug. 10, 2021 (DoD Photo)
Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, speaks at the Space Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala. on Aug. 10, 2021 (DoD Photo)

“I have been in command for about four months now and the biggest eye opener for me has been the extent to which China and Russia are aggressively expanding their influence in our neighborhood,” Richardson told the panel. “Without U.S. leadership, negative [Chinese] influence in this region could soon resemble the self-serving, predatory influence it now holds in Africa.”

VanHerck added he believes the FY ‘23 budget request will include increased resources for domain awareness activities in his Area of Responsibility (AOR) that he said play a critical role in supporting the Pentagon’s integrated deterrence initiatives.

“From a theater security cooperation perspective, I think there still will be work to be done. A little goes a long way in the Western Hemisphere. And to compete as part of integrated deterrence, I think we could do more. China and Russia are both global problems. Instead of running to the South China Sea or to the EUCOM AOR, we need to factor in that they’re here in the Western Hemisphere and need to ensure adequate funding for integrated deterrence,” VanHerck said. “I look forward to seeing the [FY] ‘23 budget. I’m confident that we’re going to move the ball, if you will, down the field on domain awareness, both in the air domain, space domain and the undersea domain.”

Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) asked VanHerck if NORTHCOM would benefit from changes in the space architecture to better detect threats from potentially China, Russia as well as North Korea.

“I believe, yes, we need to go to space as soon possible to detect hypersonic threats, that will challenge my ability from a domain awareness perspective, to see them and provide what I think is crucial, and that’s threat warning and attack assessment that directly informs continuity of government, posture of the nuclear forces and those kinds of things,” VanHerck said.

VanHerck also discussed the Navy’s Integrated Undersea Surveillance System sensor as offering the ability to “maintain awareness of submarine positions around the globe,” adding he believes the FY ‘23 budget request will support that investment as Russia and China look to grow their undersea capabilities.

“It’s a very challenging environment in the central Atlantic when they get on the mid-Atlantic ridge to be able to track them. So to hold them accountable, if you will, before they become a threat is important,” VanHerck said. “Russia will be a persistent, proximate threat to the homeland in the maritime domain within the next five years. China is about a decade behind but they will do the same thing. So 24/7 in the near future we will have a persistent, proximate threat in the domain, from a submarine perspective but also surface.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), the HASC ranking member, pressed both VanHerck and Richardson on whether they will pursue priority items not included in the budget request in an eventual unfunded requirements list to Congress. 

“The theaters that y’all have responsibility for, as well as AFRICOM, are pretty inexpensive for us to do what we need to do. So what I would request is that if, in fact, what you need is not in the president’s budget request that you will guarantee this committee that you will try and get it in you unfunded requirements list,” Rogers said.

Both VanHerck and Richardson told Rogers they would plan to do so in that case.