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​Gen. Darren McDew, commander of US Transportation Command, testifies before a joint panel of the House Armed Services readiness and seapower and projection forces subcommittees on Thursday. Screenshot photo.

Evacuating noncombatants from the Korean Peninsula would be a “challenging undertaking,” the Air Force general who heads US Transportation Command told members of the House Armed Services Committee Thursday.

Gen. Darren McDew told a joint hearing of the Readiness and the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittees that such a mission would be difficult depending how much indication and warning there was, the number of people that could be evacuated before hostilities began, and the diminishing number of avenues of escape once a conflict erupts.

“If we were starting to project a force from the continental United States to help fight a fight on the Korean Peninsula, that might have to be interrupted to use those same assets to remove people from the peninsula, if that were to come to pass,” he said.

In addition, he sad, the “network of hospitals and things that we would use here in the continental United States” to regenerate a force or care for the sick, ill, and injured “is no longer what it was.”

“If we had had this happen during flu season, many of the beds that were taken up in our hospitals in the continental United States were flu victims, and we would start to max out our ability to care for those people,” he said.

Asked his biggest concern about supporting such an operation on the Korean Peninsula immediately, McDew said it was the number of people that might be killed before the evacuation mission arrived. Another concern, he said, is cyber.

“Before we start any fight, anywhere in the world, we've got to deal with the cyber contested environment and the fact that we'll have to fight our way to get to the fight,” he said.

The US has not come to grips with not owning every domain anymore. “Seventy years of going without a fight has put us in a different place as a nation,” he said.