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Winnefeld Pledges Independent Advice if Reconfirmed

By Nick Simeone
WASHINGTON — In a world growing "more, rather than less, dangerous," the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pledged today to continue providing independent and objective advice if confirmed to serve another two-year term. 

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr. told the Senate Armed Services Committee the nation faces plenty of challenges in the areas of policy, investment, and people -- three portfolios that he is responsible for as the nation's second-most-senior military officer. 

Winnefeld referred to the considerable financial pressure the military currently faces given the deep budget cuts triggered by this year's sequester, as well as the expectation that Pentagon spending will continue to shrink in the coming years. 

"I was first confirmed for this job on the same day the Budget Control Act was passed, and we continue to cope with the financial challenges in its wake that are quietly eroding our readiness to defend our nation and have so impacted our ability to plan for tomorrow," Winnefeld said in his opening statement. 

"In the people portfolio, we're doing our best to manage the enormous uncertainty to which our military and civilian members and their families are being exposed during this budget crisis," he said, mentioning as well efforts to tackle sexual assault and caring for wounded warriors. 

In addition, Winnefeld said, the nation faces a host of threats to national security in Afghanistan, Iran and the Korean Peninsula, and with the continuing evolution of al-Qaida and its affiliates. Unrest remains across the Arab world, including in Libya, Syria and Egypt, he added, noting cyber security presents another concern. 

Winnefeld pledged that if he's confirmed by the Senate for a second term, he will continue working to achieve "a capable and strategically shaped force that can keep America safe and our interests secure."