Defense officials detail how the fiscal year 2024 budget will meet military readiness requirements at a hearing of the House Armed Forces Committee’s readiness subcommittee, April 19, 2023.
Call to order this hearing of the readiness subcommittee of the F Y 2024 budget request for military readiness. Ask unanimous consent that the chair be authorized to declare a recess at any time without objection. Uh So ordered. Uh We obviously have a lot to discuss today and you all have uh everyone has my apologies for running a few minutes behind. That’s what happens to my team. Let’s me disappear into a skiff with hipsie. Um We have a lot to uh obviously we have a lot to discuss as it, as it pertains to readiness. I wanna thank all of you for your time uh in, in having our one on one meetings in the, in the run up to this hearing. Uh We lots to talk about pilot shortages, recruiting retention, weapon system, sustainment, infrastructure, uh management and restoration. Just to name a few. Uh I would like to highlight the detriments of operating under a continuing resolution. I wanna highlight that as much for my colleagues here uh as uh all of all of our vices uh well know uh that without an on time budget, the department is unable. And I think this is lost a lot of times in the conversation here. Uh The department is unable to begin any new projects. Uh There are, I, I, I am convinced that there is an underlying belief here that the department gets a lot of money and if it gets the same amount of money as last year, then everybody will be ok but not having those new starts uh is, is uh is just critical and devastating. I ask the witnesses to elaborate these as you make your on, on these effects as you make your comments. Uh I do remain concerned with this administration’s um continuing priority on on climate change. I want to be clear uh that we have to deal with climate change, that resiliency is absolutely an important issue. But as we had uh today with the Secretary of the Army when we’re outfitting our bases and our fleet uh with things that come from uh the our greatest adversary with panels with turbines uh with technology, with software that it literally comes from China. Uh I have, I have real concerns with our control uh of that supply chain as we move towards uh transitioning uh our fleet. Uh In fact, you know, in addition to that, the Secretary of the Navy uh recently stated that climate change is a top priority of his. Uh yet we tend to have those same supply chain uh issues. I’m supportive of efforts to uh increase resiliency. I want to be clear there. Uh, but these policies can’t be an end, uh, to themselves. Uh, I’m also concerned, I’m just to be candid here and we’ve had these conversations of, of what we’re seeing within the Department of the Navy with regards to a, uh, and we want to talk about that today. And in fact, the Marine Corps number one unfunded requirement is a ship for the Navy. Uh, and, and, and that’s something that we have to resolve. We’ll help you resolve it here. Um But I think that is a, that is endemic of an ongoing issue and years of delayed maintenance due to high tempo, uh frankly has gutted the readiness of our amps. This is dela led to delay uh deployments for our muse uh and decreased capacity with our ships at sea. Uh These are obviously critical capabilities to end up in that combatant commander and I remain somewhat baffled as why these problems persist. I applaud force modernization uh taking place across the services. Uh We support the army’s rearm uh and the Marine Corps Force design uh 2030. Uh I’m concerned however, about the timeliness of these efforts and you’ll continue uh ranking member. Uh And I, I think agree on this um that the timeliness for the threats don’t match uh the timelines to get our readiness in shape and to get our modernization uh in shape. And I’m eager to hear how the services have revised and accelerated uh these timelines to, to counter China’s ambitious ambitions and finally taking care of our soldiers, taking care of our service members across the board is the utmost responsibility of everybody here in this room. Uh Service leadership continuously touts the rhetoric of people first. But when we look at some of our facilities, uh when we look at some of the living conditions for uh for our service members, uh I still remain skeptical of this actually being put into practice. Uh And so the condition of some of this housing, it truly is outstanding. Uh It no doubt affects retention. We must provide safe barracks and housing to our service members and put their welfare first to match, have our budget match the uh match the priority. So I just look forward to hearing from everybody here today and I uh hand over to you Mr. Garamendi for your opening comments. Uh Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Delighted to work with you. I am pleased to uh hear you your interest and uh support for climate change issues. And you’re quite right about uh addressing that issue using Chinese materials. Uh That’s why we wrote into almost all well in all of the uh infrastructure and the uh energy issues of the future, very strong buy American requirements. And so we need to push the American industry into the manufacturing of these systems, from solar panels to turbines and the like and we can do that. And that’s also an issue for the uh for the military. Are they buying American made uh equipment uh for their ships and planes or are they buying others and complex issue?
But a very, very important one. So each year is that we prepare for this hearing. I’m struck by the vast jurisdiction of the readiness subcommittee. As I often say, other subcommittees get to uh buy the new bright shiny stuff and it’s left to us to maintain it and keep it operating. And so in the subcommittee, we need to pay particular attention to the facilities that support this equipment that sustain the modernization of the weapon systems themselves and in which the men and women of the military are trained. So we have an enormous task here. And over the years, both the minority and the majority as it has changed over time, have paid attention to this issue as you are Mr. Chairman and I thank you for that. Uh Now we’ve also learned uh from Putin’s immoral invasion of Ukraine that many of the issues that we have dealt with over the years here are trying to make sure that that our military is ready in every way uh has brought to the attention and to the forefront, many of our concerns. Uh we’ve been forced to think about the organic industrial base, which was heretofore not with this committee, but with the uh even the larger committee often ignored. And so in this budget request, I am finally seeing evidence that we’re getting serious about the modernization of the depots, the shipyards, the infrastructure, the bases, the housing and all of the rest. And we need to continue to push that. I know that you intend to do that, Mr. Chairman. And I hope that the members of the subcommittee will continue also with that effort. Uh through the media. We’ve also watched the, the cost of Russia’s other readiness failures for the Russians. We’ve watched its equipment fail because it was poorly sustained and maintained. And we’ve witnessed the cost of poorly trained troops. Russian troops. We cannot let that happen and it falls to the subcommittee to make sure that as we go forward, that we are fully prepared, there’s another piece of this puzzle that falls within the jurisdiction are beyond the training of the troops and that is that we have to make sure that the access to sustain the fight is available. And so we’ll be working on that also. Now the Comptroller General has analyzed that the readiness of our weapon systems over the course of years has not been good enough. When we analyze uh the aircraft type, the majority of the systems in our inventory fail to by more than 10% below the department’s own mission, capability rate goals. So we have to continue to work on this issue. Cannibalization seems to be the way in which we keep most of the fleet, whether that’s an aircraft or it’s a truck or a plane or a tank or a ship, cannibalization seems to be the way in which we keep these things operating that doesn’t work for long. And so we need to pay attention to that as we have in the past and we must continue to make sure that all of the equipment uh has the necessary parts and pieces on time when necessary. So I’m looking forward to the hearing today, our witnesses uh as they discuss these issues, what they’ve learned, the lessons they’ve learned and it’ll be displayed in this year’s budget. And we’ve certainly seen the lessons in Ukraine. More importantly, what we are doing to operationalize those lessons that have been learned from Ukraine and beyond. So look forward to working with Mr. Chairman. Look forward to working with the members of the committee, the subcommittee and uh we’ll push along. Thank you very much. You’re back. Thank you, Mr. Garra Mendy. Uh I’d like to again welcome our witnesses. Uh and, and thank them for their participation today. We’re joined uh by General Randy George, the vice chief of the Army, uh admiral, uh Lisa Frank, uh Frank Ty, the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, General Eric Smith, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and uh General David Alvin, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General D T Thompson, um Vice Chief of Space Operations, General George over to you for your opening remarks. Ok. Thanks, Chairman Chairman Waltz, ranking member Guindi, distinguished men, members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the readiness posture of our army. 80 years ago, American troops were fully engaged in the allied war effort in Europe in Africa and in the Indo Pacific, among them was a company of soldiers holding a roadblock near a village of San Ananda in northern New Guinea. They were enduring malarial fevers, venomous snakes, torrential rains and holding off a perpetual onslaught of competent enemy fighters. I reflect on this because it reminds me that our army must be ready for anything. We must be ready to deter war. And if deterrence fails to take the fight to the enemy anywhere around the globe, even in the most hostile environments, just as we’ve always done. It also reminds me that war fighting is a team effort. It takes teams on the ground like at San Ananda and teams at every echelon above providing a menu of lethal options to our combatant commanders. Our army is focused on war fighting and training for battle in which all domains are contested and we are focused on supporting our combatant commands with ready formations around the world. And right now, we have 137,000 soldiers in over 140 countries. We are strengthening our partnership with defense industry and rapidly modernizing our organic industrial base to increase productivity and ensure that we have the stocks to fight when called upon. We are deterring the pacing challenge China by exercising and campaigning across the Indo Pacific Theater and holding the line in the European theater along our NATO alongside our NATO partners. All the while adapting in real time to lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and rapidly incorporating new tactics into our doctrine and our training. But readiness for today is not enough, our army is also transforming because honestly, we don’t have an option. Warfare is changing and we must change because of it to ensure we stay ahead of our potential adversaries. So among many things, we are modernizing long range precision fires, air and missile defense, ground combat capabilities and developing counter U A S capabilities and doctrine. Finally, we are building the team, like I said, war fighting is a team effort. This includes providing commanders with the resources, they need to support soldiers mental and physical well-being, to maintain a healthy command climate and to build cohesive teams. And it means investing in the quality of life of our soldiers and our families, ensuring that they have safe housing in barracks, adequate childcare and spouse employment opportunities. I’ll end with recruitment a critical readiness priority for us. Right now, we are challenged by the fact that a small number of young Americans 23% are qualified to serve fewer. Still we’re finding are interested in serving and that’s something that we are working very hard to change. Our army remains a great place to be. And I think our high retention rates speak to that. The trouble is many Americans don’t realize it or believe it military service to many people, seems like a life setback. In reality. It’s a life accelerator that has certainly been my experience since I enlisted as a private right out of high school. It’s a great team with an important mission and ample opportunity to learn, grow and make an impact and we have to get that story out and we’re pouring all of our energy into that effort and we appreciate Congress’s assistance and amplifying our call to service message. And chairman the last on uh to answer your question on a continuing resolution. I’ll just give you an example from last year. Um Over three months, we had about 25 new starts that we were looking to get going. We couldn’t because of the continuing resolution impacted about 1.9 billion. And you can imagine some of that in there, for example, was um O I B modernization that we were trying to get started. So as you mentioned up front, it’s the new starts that a continuing resolution would be a problem for us. Thank you, Chairman Waltz, ranking member, Garra Mendy and distinguished members of the committee. Good afternoon. On behalf of the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of naval operations. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss Navy readiness with you today. The United States is a maritime nation. Our security and prosperity depend on the seas. For the past 247 years, your navy has stood the watch. We are America’s away team operating forward to deter war, protect our economic interests, uphold international law, ensure freedom of and access to the seas and respond to crises and natural disasters. We provide our nation’s leaders with decision, space and options and stand ready to fight and win when called to do so. Over the past year, we have safely executed 22,000 steaming days, almost one million flight hours and participated in nearly 100 exercises with operations spanning the globe. We have supported the allied response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine conducted freedom of navigation operations, interdicted illegal narcotics traffickers and provided humanitarian assistance. As I speak, our sailors and marine corps counterparts are deployed on more than 100 ships and submarines around the world ready to meet the security needs of our nation. Our F Y 24 budget request is consistent with C’s priorities of readiness and sailors then capability then capacity with the Columbia SBN program as our number one procurement priority, we continue to prioritize readiness to sustain our forces through better maintenance performance, more training, improved parts availability and increased weapons inventories, navy readiness begins with our people, the sailors, civilians and families who are the foundation of our true war fighting advantage. We are committed to improving their quality of service and personal resilience, investing in initiatives such as quality housing and childcare, access to the full continuum of mental health care, improved education and an environment free of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In this 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, we continue to focus on recruiting retention and reducing gaps in our billets at sea. Navy readiness is also centered on the readiness of our platforms using data analytics, improving our planning processes and procuring long lead time materials. We have decreased maintenance, delays in public and private shipyards but there is more work to be done. Our budget request fully funds public and private ship maintenance, aviation depot maintenance increases parts and spares and continues to grow our highly skilled public shipyard workforce. Finally, navy readiness is also driven by the readiness of our bases. Shore infrastructure is critical and we continue to fully fund the once in a century recapitalization of our four public shipyards through the shipyard infrastructure optimization program. Our budget request supports increased sustainment of our shore infrastructure while prioritizing restoration and modernization for water, electrical and safety systems as our strategic competitors continue to improve and enhance their capabilities. Maintaining a responsive combat ready. Worldwide deployable navy is our first line of defense and deterrence, sustained readiness. Investments in today’s Navy are a down payment on America’s future security. I thank the committee for your leadership and partnership in keeping the world’s greatest maritime force ready to fight and win at sea and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, General Smith. Your opening statement, Chairman Waltz, ranking member Gardi and distinguished members of the subcommittee. I’m pleased to appear before you today to discuss Marine Corps readiness and the fiscal year 24 budget. Your Marine Corps remains the nation’s force in readiness. We are ready to deter adversaries and when that deterrence fails, we are ready to strike and enable others to strike. We also provide the crisis response forces that American citizens abroad and our allies have come to expect from their marines. We provide this expeditionary combined arms force utilizing the minimum 31 amphibious warships that Congress has directed those ships provide the organic mobility required to bring all of our assets to bear at the critical time and place for our combatant commanders. The most important asset we bring to bear remains the individual marine. Our modernization efforts known as force design, ensure that we are man trained and equipped to deter a peer adversary and to campaign to a position of advantage should deterrents fail and lethal force be needed. Our modernization efforts are required to fight and win on future battlefields about that. We can make no mistake. Our aviation redness has increased more than 10% in the past few years. Thanks to the work of this subcommittee, provide us with the operations and maintenance funding we need. And due to our aviation modernization and reorganization efforts when a marine expeditionary unit deploys on a big deck L class amphibious warship. Today, they provide the combatant commander with 66% more fifth generation aircraft than before. We made forced design changes. Our efforts to modernize our training and education are bearing fruit as we produce an even more lethal marine from our basic rifleman training to our service level training exercises, we are becoming more lethal. Our new training integrates our joint and organic fires, improved communications and updated I S R to sense, make sense, track and destroy targets at ranges and complexities. Never before seen by our Marine Corps. Our individual marine remains the most lethal weapon on the battlefield. Our efforts to improve the quality of life of those warriors to retain them once we train them are vital and important, your continued support matters to them and to their family. So thank you finally to your point, Mr. Chairman, I would note that over the past 10 years, approximately four have been spent in a continuing resolution status during any C R. We’re unable to improve as rapidly as we might have otherwise done. Our adversaries don’t have that problem. Your help to deliver on time and predictable funding to the 18 and 19 year old Lance corporals who do the fighting for our nation is sincerely appreciated. As an example. In the past, we had the opportunity to procure our amphibious combat vehicle faster, but we’re unable to do so because of AC R that leaves older equipment in the hands of the 18 and 19 year olds who will fight for us. So, the continuing resolution is absolutely detrimental. I look forward to answering your questions and I’m grateful to appear before you. Thank you, General Smith, General Alvin for your opening statement. Chairman Waltz, ranking member, Garamendi and distinguished committee members on behalf of our Air Force Secretary and Chief of staff. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the critically important topic of readiness. We greatly appreciate this body’s continued partnership and support in delivering the resources necessary for the air force to respond to today’s threats while preparing for tomorrow. The events of the past year remind us that global actors have the capability and intent to challenge peace and stability. In the case of the pacing challenge, the People’s Republic of China, the speed at which they are developing advanced capability and capacity should serve as a warning for us to act with a greater sense of urgency. We must maintain the necessary advantage to deter them from violent pursuit of objectives at odds with our national interests. Your Air Force is laser focused on this task readiness starts with our airmen both uniformed and civilian who consistently prove to be our greatest strength and competitive advantage. Since the beginning of the all-volunteer force. 50 years ago, we have been fortunate enough to attract the best of America’s youth in sufficient numbers. But recent realities have put this under pressure. As a result, we will likely not meet our recruiting goals. This year, we are aggressively exploring multiple options while streamlining processes to attract a broader pool of those talented Americans into our formation. We also know that a ready airman is a focused and resilient airman and we must demonstrate that we continue to value our service members and their families. We will continue to explore opportunities to expand init or initiate programs that better support quality of life and we greatly appreciate this committee’s support for these efforts. The air crew deficit persists due to several factors but this shortage has not extended into the operational units or the pilot training bases. We are continuing on the path to transform our approach to pilot training to increase production while leveraging numerous monetary and non-monetary programs to retain the experience of those trained aviators. We look forward to working with the committee on these programs as well as our pursuit of targeted relief from current legislation to enable the hiring of contract simulator instructors to maximize training and optimize our manpower to produce those pilots. While the proposed budget increase increases weapon system sustainment funding by $1.1 billion over last year, this will only still resource 80 87% of the estimated requirement due to sustainment challenges of our ever aging fleet, inflation, supply chain issues and labor costs. We are pursuing improvements in reliability and maintainability, supporting initiatives that advance data driven decisions. This drives efficiency in what we do today and enables responsiveness in dynamic wartime environments. Significant challenges and tough decisions still lie ahead. We must be thoughtful in adequately funding our readiness accounts while pursuing the right investments to develop advanced capabilities to meet future threats. This year, we feel we have struck the right balance. In closing. I would offer this Congress can make the most positive impact on our readiness through a timely budget appropriation, an extended continued resolution would result in the inability to start critical new programs and continue the momentum that we are building to meet the pacing challenge. It also creates instability and support to our airmen and families at a time. This has never been more important. AC R will essentially rob us of something both critical and irreversible as we face growing threats to our nation and that is time. So Mr. to your point as well, specifics and Chairman Waltz on uh AC R, uh we estimate that the C R will uh decrease our buying power for the United States Air Force at $5.4 billion an extended C R. The key things that we are looking at that will directly be impacted by a continuing resolution are the initiation of a research and development in collaborative combat aircraft. This is integral to our design to have affordable mass against the People’s Republic of China to be able to gain and maintain air superiority in the highly contested environment. These combat uh collaborative combat aircraft were working not only the platforms but developing the autonomy to ensure we can leverage them with our crude aircraft as well as experimental operational units that we have funded in 24 to be able to better integrate into our formations. And as I mentioned with the uncertainty, we see this in every C R families that are getting ready to P CS and prepare their families for the schools they’re gonna go into if we don’t have the certainty of being able to do that on time, that just puts more uh tension into the families. And it doesn’t show that we support them the way that we should. Thank you. And I look forward to your questions. Thank you, General Alvin and, and those specifics uh General Smith, yours, your yours as well are incredibly important for us. As we go out to our respective caucuses, we try to get that as we try to get this done. Uh General Thompson, Chairman Waltz, ranking member, Gary Mendy and distinguished members of the subcommittee on behalf of the Secretary of the Air Force and Chief of Space Operations. Thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the readiness of the space force in examining the readiness of the space force to accomplish its missions. The overriding consideration remains the dramatic shift to the space domain from a comparatively benign military environment to one that’s undeniably contested. Given that the capabilities and benefits provided from space are essential to our way of life and crucial to effective military operations in every other domain. This shift was the compelling reason for the creation of the Space Force 3.5 years ago. Since then, with the tremendous support of Congress, the Space Force Department of the Air Force and Broader Department of Defense have moved out aggressively to address the challenges the nation faces in space. We’ve begun to pivot to more resilient and defendable space architectures that ensure soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines can count on space forces across the spectrum of conflict. We’ve begun designing and developing satellite constellations that address the migration of missions to space including moving target indication, domain awareness on the land at sea and in the air, key elements of command and control and the movement of the data and information that enables the joint force in the way it expects to fight in the future. Finally, the space force has begun the shift to a new training and readiness approach that I described last year as the space force generation model we achieved, we achieved initial capability for this approach on October 1st of last year, once complete, it will ensure space forces are combat ready against the pacing challenge while much remains to be done in each of these areas. The main challenges to space force readiness today are twofold. The first is creating a combat ready force that is at the first to creating a combat ready space force is an advanced full spectrum test and training infrastructure. This infrastructure will be a system of systems that provides tests and training opportunities with high fidelity mission simulators and threats, a professional aggressor force and a suitable range. It will allow us to validate tactics, test system limitations and train operators in a live and synthetic environment against a thinking adversary without its infrastructure, guardians would not have defendable systems, proven tactics or the confidence and competence they need. Should it come to conflict in space?
The operational test and training infrastructure will be a force multiplier allowing guardians to maintain and improve our strategic advantage in space. The second and primary, the second primary challenge is space force rate and it lies in whether budgetary resources will be available in a timely manner to execute all we’re planning to do. As I stated previously, Congress has been a tremendous partner in defining and building the space force in each year. Since its existence, the space force has seen 12 to 15% increases in its budget year. Over year, the 2024 request is nearly $4 billion more than it was in 2023 a 15% increase in the event of a continuing resolution that increased budget authority would not be available to meet our needs. This budget request includes at least 17 new initiatives, many of which are focused on this operational test and training infrastructure. Beyond that new initiatives that were begun in 2023 already delayed because of the continuing resolution. This year, our program for increases in 2024. As an as a specific example, the missing warning system that will track advanced hypersonic threats was begun in 2023. The budget for this vital capability doubles in 2024 allowing us to deliver real global capability by 2027. None of that additional authority and none of the new starts required for the test and training infrastructure can be begun during AC R. The president’s fiscal year 2024 budget request request affirms the dod and space forces commitment to a bold threat and form shift. It acknowledges the need for a more robust proliferate architecture, intelligence driven space domain awareness, aggressive cyber security, measured investment in space purity and combat credible forces anchored in a full spectrum training enterprise. The most important thing Congress can do to help us in this endeavor is pass an on time budget. Thank you all for your steadfast partnership and support. I look forward to your questions. Uh Thank you, General, I’m just gonna dive right into. I just have one question I want to get to, to other members uh that we have since we have votes uh looming. Uh Can we just go down the line?
Uh I’ll start with you, General George. Uh What are your current projections for your recruiting shortfalls?
This year. Um Chairman right now, uh we’re doing better than we were doing. Um I would say right now, we’re probably projecting to be about um 55,000. We had set our goal up to be uh 65,000 this year, which is higher than what we did last year. So that’s where I expect. We’ll about 10,000 short. Yes, sir. Admiral Chairman. We expect to be about 6000 short also doing better than we started. But about 6000 short is our projection. Chairman of the Marine Corps will meet its recruiting mission this year as we did last year. Roger that for uh the total force Air Force will be coming at approximately uh on this path. 10,000 short, that’s uh about 3400 in the active duty, 3100 in the guard, a little over four in the reserves and over 4000 in the guard. So thank you uh chairman. We have a little different challenge than the other services. We need about 700 new recruits off the street, but we still need and will for the next several years need about 700 inter service transfers from the other services. And while we’re doing very well in recruiting off the street, as the other services have challenges in their recruiting, it becomes more difficult for the to release folks for inter service transfer. So will you fall?
Are you projecting to fall short in those transfers don’t know yet. We may, we, we, we will be our off the street needs. The question will be working with services. How much can they afford to give us?
And we just don’t know that yet. We’ll need to wait and negotiate later this year. Thank you and minus the army because you’re already doing it. Uh in terms of polling and collecting data on why we’re in this crisis that we’re in will all of you commit to the committee uh to begin collecting data. Look at programs initiate programs to start understanding why this shortfall was happening. So I’m looking at Navy Air Force. Yes. Yes, absolutely. Chairman, that’s underway and we’ll continue. Great. Thank you, Mr. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’ve had the privilege of meeting with uh each of the um presenters today ahead of this meeting and I’m gonna turn over my time to thank you. Um And thank you all for your service and for your support to our troops across the globe. It’s important that we build and procure clean energy sources appropriately without influence and ties to our strategic competitors who use forced labor, conduct, intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. It can be done. G A fa National Roofing company headquartered in my district has been able to successfully transition from Chinese suppliers to manufacturing and producing solar panels in domestic facilities in Texas and California, as well as in Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Cambodia and Taiwan. As we work on increasing our energy resiliency, we need to ensure our armed forces are looking at all energy options available. And General Smith, we had a discussion yesterday about how this impacts logistics. Can you talk a little bit about that discussion?
Um And how energy options can improve your logistics challenges?
Yes, ma’am. Uh Logistics is the pacing function against the pacing threat and the expanse of the Pacific um As a war fighter, I don’t want to move ¬£1 that I don’t have to move. I want to preserve every poundage of movement for lethality. So if I am, for example, if I don’t need to bring diesel to operate a reverse osmosis water purification unit to produce water in the middle of the South China Sea, which doesn’t seem to make sense to me to ship water. I want to produce it there and I can do that via some other means. It’s about, for me, it’s about lethality because that ¬£8 give or take uh per gallon, that’s ¬£8 of a warhead that I can bring. This is about lethality for us and anything we can do to move less and poly means I can bring more bullets instead of more casings. That is what we want to do because it is about war fighting and lethality. Thank you for that plug for Palmer ammo. We are working on that in my district and um with that, I will turn it back in the interest of time. Thank you. Thank you, Miss Cheryl Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank each of you. I uh I particularly appreciate your service as a 31 year veteran myself. Uh And, um, but I’m really grateful uh to be a uh army dad of three sons who served in Iraq, Egypt and Afghanistan. Uh I uh also can claim the navy uh son that served in Baghdad. Uh And so I’m really grateful as a doctor and then I have a nephew in the air force and one day I’ll have somebody in the family smart enough to be in space force. So, uh, but, uh, thank you all for what you do. Um, and uh General George, I’m so grateful to represent uh Fort Jackson. Uh, it, uh, trains over 50% of all soldiers in the basic combat training, uh facility. Uh And I’m also grateful that what you’re doing is providing all of you or providing opportunity for young people, uh, to achieve to their highest level and to be so meaningful. And that’s why, uh I, I appreciate what you’re doing. Uh, and uh general, there’s the, uh, future soldier prep course. Uh And can you explain what that is and, and how successful it’s been?
Yes, sir. Um, it’s been very successful for us. We uh have come into this. We, we did not want to lower our standards. And so the idea of the future soldier prep course is actually to get people to meet our standards. Um So they basically come there on average, I would say they’re there four or five weeks. Um We have some that need help with the ASVAB um testing some that need help with the body fat. And um, we’ve seen about a 97 per uh percent success rate, 96 97% on both of those accounts, um getting through basic training. So we’re really proud of that program down there uh for Jackson and in lieu of a question because of time, I just want to commend all of you for the placement of troops in eastern Europe to provide for peace through strength with deterrence. I’ve met with the military personnel in Poland. President Donald Trump was ahead of the curve to put troops there. I’ve met with our American troops uh working uh in uh in Bulgaria with young Bulgarians to be at M K air base in Romania uh to see uh success there and Larissa and Greece. And so over and over again to me, it’s just so important that we have sufficient military uh effectiveness, backing up our NATO allies to back up the very courageous people of Ukraine. So thank you for what you’ve done and any other enterprising maneuvers you can do to back up the people of Ukraine. I know the chairman and I would appreciate it. Thank you. Are you back?
Thank you, Mr. Wilson Mr. Thank you very much. Thank you very much Mr. Chair in interest of time. I’m just gonna go over a few questions. Um Admiral, no Franchetti uh in February, the navy closed three dry docks at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and another at the Trident refit facility in Bangor due to seismic concerns. I believe this means that at least right now of 18 dry docks in our four public shipyards, almost a quarter of them are offline at a time when over one third of the navy’s attack submarine fleet uh desperately needs maintenance and repair. Uh Admiral Franti given our already limited shipyard capacity and the growing demand for ship maintenance. What is the navy doing to address the challenges posed by these closures and continue to meet our shipyard needs. We are very focused on our shipyards in general, the focus through but specifically to the shipyards in Puget Sound. So there are three dry docks that are being repaired right now. Uh One of them is already complete and in testing, the other one should be complete by the beginning of June and the other one by late June. So right now, we don’t see any impact to the closures of those dry docks. Uh Separately from that, we are continuing to work through all of our public shipyards to improve their performance through project management, fundamentals, workforce development and taking a big effort to buy long lead time supply materials in advance that will help us get our shipyards out our submarines out on time. Thank you. That’s very good to hear related to the and ship building industry, industrial base. Uh Recently, you may have heard the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a letter to Navy region Hawaii about the discovery of an invasive octo coral or, or soft coral species in Pearl Harbor. Uh What was initially 10 acres when discovered back in August 2020 has now grown to be at least 20 acres and is estimated to be potentially impacting 90 acres, unmitigated. The spread of this invasive species has potential risk to operations at joint base. Pearl Harbor hicom including the new dry dock five at Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard um and obviously pose a serious threat to our native corals. Um but more importantly, just the operation of this area. Can I get your commitment that the Navy is going to work quickly um with us to address and mitigate this invasive uh soft tissue coral so that we can continue operation?
And of course, uh the, the new dry docket uh Pearl Harbor. Yes. As part of the, the program, the navy has been working with the National Marine Fisheries all of the interagency to better understand the problem and develop that mitigation plan originally for the nine acres of this invasive coral. Um And the cost for that removal effort was included in the milk. We’re also looking at uh how do we adopt biosecurity protocols to uh mitigate any red risk of spreading uh of the coral for any work we do there right now. We don’t anticipate that there will be impacts to dry dock number five. But we’re continuing again to work and have my commitment uh to work with, with your team and with everyone to make sure that that does not spread any further. Thank you very much as you can see it’s exponentially increasing and we want to get this address before it impacts. Thank you, chair. Thank you, Mr. Scott. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Uh ladies and gentlemen, thanks for being here. I wanna piggy back a little bit on what Miss Sheryl said just a second ago. Uh Less than 15 days after China flew a spy balloon across the United States of America. Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with Communist China and C A T L battery technology. I want to just make sure that none of our dod funds are going to purchase Chinese battery technology or any other technology that is coming from China. Uh I think that you will see language to that effect coming in the N D A A there, we are not going to spend us tax dollars to support Communist China or C A T L battery technology. I don’t need you to comment on it. I just need you to be prepared for it. And if, if Ford Motor Company decides that’s who, who’s gonna develop their batteries. This is America. They’ve got the right to, to decide who’s gonna develop their batteries, but we’re not gonna buy them. Uh, General Alvin, uh, I’m gonna, I’m gonna focus on the air force if I could. Um, seven months ago, General Kelly, uh, commander of Air combat command said that he has 48 fighter squadrons, nine attack squadrons doing the work of 60 squadrons, three squadrons short of what he needs. He said he needs 28 fighter squadrons to project power in the Indo Pacific region, Europe and the Middle East, eight squadrons to respond to an unfolding crisis. 16 squadrons for homeland defense, eight squadrons for modernization and training. We’re in pretty much peace time right now as we speak. Uh Do you agree with his assessment?
I I do congressman and I think the uh the point that uh general Kelly was trying to, to point out is not only that we can’t just count the numbers but the missions that those who are tasked to do. So, there’s nine attack squadrons are primarily uh the A 10 squadrons that aren’t as survivable and they aren’t multi roll. So that’s why we are aggressively in the F Y 24 budget. We’re asking for 72 fighters uh front line fighters to include 48 F-35s and, and the 24 F-15 E X s which will enable us to be able to do those missions and be able to uh compete and succeed in the Indo Pacific Theater. But the A tens are deployed right now. Correct. I’m sorry, sir. A tens are deployed right now. Correct. They are, uh, right now on their, I don’t think they’re in but they are uh set to go to, um, in a single role mission and they’re adapting to that as we speak. Quantity to me is a quality in and of itself in some cases. And, and I do worry about standing down um fighter squadrons when we, when we have an acknowledged need for, for more squadrons. But I under I understand the A 10 is an old platform and it, and it’s not gonna be um the platform of the future. Uh You did say over the past two decades that we’ve offered forces to the joint force in an unsustainable manner and the readiness impact is becoming more apparent in the face of our pacing challenge. Um I assume that means it’s safe to say that the air force needs more resources to maintain current levels of readiness and that our current levels of readiness are not what they have been in the past congressman. I would say uh for sure to the latter that redness has not been what has been in the past. Uh If that’s a reference to my written statement, primarily, the point we’re making is in addition to uh additional uh capacity and more modernized capacity, what we do need is also to reimagine ourselves and understand to be ready for what to optimize our training, to make sure we’re generating and presenting the force is in the best way in the past, we’ve just been all in without really looking at how to focus on the high end readiness. And so our new Air Force Force generation model is enabling us to see that and really hone in on our new mission essential task and get the very best readiness out of every flying hour that we can get. So, so when we talk about about the best readiness, one of the concerns I have is when I look at the readiness rate, it’s significantly below where any of us in this room wanted to be. And yet they’re, they’re two different, two different definitions of radiance. One of them is able to perform one of the primary missions and the other one is able to perform all of the primary missions. My understanding is that we’re using the definition when we talk about readiness that they’re able to perform one of the primary missions, not all of the primary missions is that, is that correct?
Uh in some case, that is correct. In some cases, I be the readiness is really talking about the mission essential task, which as I mentioned, we are rewriting specifically to go against the China threat. So there is there is both a shortage of being able to do the full spectrum of missions. So So, so if I could, again, it’s written specifically for the China threat, we we are adapting it to make the primary mission the China threat. Ok. And I and I again, Mr. Chairman, if I may in the last uh the primary mission being the China threat and yet less than 15 days after China flies a spy balloon across the United States of America, we have, we have one of America’s most iconic brands announcing a multibillion dollar partnership to buy Chinese battery technology, which they intend and think that they’re actually gonna sell to the dod uh in some cases, and I would just encourage you to uh make sure that you’re not preparing to buy any C A T L batteries. Thank you. I think your, your sentiment is shared across multiple supply chains. Uh Miss Higgins, thank you, Mr. Chair. And briefly I know that votes are happening but uh just to echo Mr. Scott about having the corporate buy in for, I mean, you guys are doing a great job on the ground and, and with people and weapons and lethality but, but getting that corporate buy in, we’re not, this is not a, a just a military fight with China and we’ve got to get the the corporate buy in as well. So I fully support everything he just mentioned. Uh and also to echo the previous comments about ship repair and shipyards in my district on Hampton Roads. So Virginia Beach Norfolk and, and, uh I hear from those guys all the time about challenges and I know it’s, that’s multi multifaceted to, from workforce to supply chain. Uh, but scheduling, gosh, and, and it’s like this, they want to blame the navy and the navy wants to blame them. So if, if we could get it together on that front and I don’t know if that’s doing a better job at repairs out at sea internally, what we’re doing. But then when they come to port, making sure that, but we are staying on schedule because we can’t keep this old fleet of ships. That’s already fewer numbers than I wish we had at sea. If we don’t get our ship repair industry behind, it’s not just the shiny new, new ships and toys, but we’ve got to keep those old ones out there too. So, uh that’s important in my district, whatever you can do to help that. I just specifically and real quick, I wanna ask about pilot training. I’ve asked about this for it, but we know that all of those new toys and wonderful things that, that we can purchase. Go nowhere without the people behind us. Specifically, the pilots which I know army Navy and Air Force and Marine Corps, you know, all of us. Uh So how long does it take?
And if you guys could, could answer just in order, how long does it take to train a pilot from commissioning time to the time they touch a gray combat ready aircraft. Um, ma’am that it does depend a little bit on the, on the aircraft. But I would say on average a year to 15 months, you know, for helicopter pilots that are down at, at Fort Rucker after they do their other initial training and do those commission pilots start right away or is there a lag time before they actually start flight training?
No, they, they go down to like for us, they go down to Fort Rucker and go to the, their basic course for aviation and then get started, you know, soon thereafter. How about the Navy?
I’ll get back to you with the exact number. It’s roughly two years. Um And of course, we have a pilot delay right now in training back uh which we are working through as rapidly as possible. So, actually closer to four, we were in Kingsville about two weeks ago and they’ll tell me four years from the time that they get commission from the naval academy or RT C till the time that they are actually flying a fleet ready F-18. That is four years too, too long. We’re not gonna be able to rep God forbid replace or have the pilots that we need. If we continue to have a four year lag time, I think the army is a little bit better. How about the Marine Marine Corps?
Well, you guys run with the Navy. So what’s different for us is uh every marine lieutenant goes to the basic school for six months to learn to be an infantry platoon commander. Then we begin flight school or another M OS. So it is in excess of two years depending on the airframe. Those delays from everything from weather to aircraft availability all contribute to that. Which is why those six and eight year commitments post wings are so vital to us and we’re not having any problems with those who wish we just need the additional bonuses and help because uh the airline industries can hire faster than I can. Yes. Yes. Air force, ma’am to your point uh from when they enter pilot train to when they’re flying a great tail. If it’s mobility, it’s about 18 months. If it’s a fighter bomber, it’s closer to beyond 24 months. But to your point about from the time they are commissioned uh because of the challenges we’re having with T six and T 38 we have a little bit of a, a backup and it can be as many as four years. So almost an 18 month to 24 month wait just to get into pilot training. So that’s why we’re trying to accelerate. And our budget ask for uh more help with the T 38 engines and the T six to you guys have had kind of comparable challenges with the Navy. And I’m a little bit more familiar with the Navy. Side but with the T 45 some of those issues, the blade issues, I mean, we’re saying, and COVID issues, but we’re seeing those challenges now become we’re instructor pilot shortage. You know, it’s we’re short instructor pilots. So, so now we can’t train the naval aviators and all the other aviators that we do need because we don’t have the, the teachers. So now we’re, we’re robbing the fleet to get those teachers and you talk about retention and competing with the airlines and whatnot. And we’ve got to do a better job at this. And I think part of it is the onus is on us and, and I echo and, and agree everything you said about containing resolutions and how, how detrimental that would be. But, but uh having the right training equipment in place and, and you guys tweaking the syllabuses too but, but so that we can tighten it up. I just, I want to do it faster. We need more, we need faster. So I think every service branch has its challenges. I’m mindful of it, but it’s something that I just want to prioritize. So thank you very much. Thank you, Mr. Rameez. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and uh thank you uh to uh everybody here. Um If you uh really want to scratch your head, I, I, I come under, somebody gave me information that uh that the VA just bought $430 million worth of computers from Lenovo. Lenovo is a Chinese computer company. Um, so I’ll, I’ll ask an over overhead question. Uh, are, are any other services looking at buying the large purchases of computers in the near future?
And if you are, or if you have bought some, have anybody, has anybody bought, bought Lenovo’s Chinese computers?
Uh, I’m gonna have to take that one. I, I, I don’t know right off. I mean, we do buy, uh, tech and computers, but I can’t answer that one, sir. I’ll, I’ll take that further. I would certainly hope that uh whatever technology you buy, any computers, you buy, any printers you buy, et cetera are American made and not made in China. Um, every taxpayer dollar that goes to China is just funding um, more equipment, more military capability against ourselves, which is ludicrous. So I’ll be looking into this vat thing. Um, and I hope that I’m wrong, but that’s the information I’m getting. Um, on the question of uh, of pilots. Uh is it fair to say we have more airframes than, than pilots or do we have more pilots and air frames by raw numbers?
We have many more pilots than airplanes. Ok. So do you, but you do have a pilot shortage is yes or no. Well, we have a pilot shortage in, in a, in the pilots that we want throughout our entire air force, we do not have empty cockpits. So, in order to have a healthy pilot for a professional force you need, first and foremost, the combat cockpits filled, then you need the trainer cockpits filled. Then you need the test cockpits filled. And after you fill all the cockpits, then you go to those that our next priority is the leadership. You want the leadership positions filled. And then after you have all those filled, then you to the staff positions. That is where we are currently absorbing. Our shortage is in the staffs. So where you would traditionally want pilot experience, rated experience, we’re manning those at somewhat less than 70%. So we are not sacrificing our front line units. But if this sustains over time, then we will have a sort of a misshapen force where you won’t be able to have professionally developed enough of the rated membership to provide that expertise in the leadership at the higher level. But for right now, we have uh not had any of our combat training or test cockpits go empty. Uh What about reserve units?
Uh Have you looked at the expanding reserve units or uh adding reserve pilots uh to, to the force?
Uh Frankly, the the reserves are having about the same issue that we are having with respect to shortage overall. Now, I I believe as um we are, we are in the act of duty, we are advantaged by retention, but in our total force, we’re disadvantaged because as the retention and the active duty goes, a large part of their sort of business model in the garden reserves is those who want to continue to affiliate with the military will go from the active duty. The Garden Reserves. And so oftentimes when the retention is becomes poor, people still want to stay affiliate with the Air Force, the garden reserves will get a little bit healthier. But as of right now, they’re, they’re feeling about the, the same pain as we are, your reserve bases. Are they, are they based in, in large urban areas where you would have, um, a good, I guess a pool of, uh of, of folks that may be, want, wanting to be, uh are interested in, in serving in the reserves. I mean, if you have a re reserve base somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it’s hard to find, I guess, reservists that actually live around the area. Uh So how do you, how do you, how do you make your basis on reserve bases versus active bases?
Uh For the most part, we, we uh take advantage of being able to leverage uh both historical old fields which used to be active duty. So some of them, they just, um they sort of godfather from or grandfather from being existing old active duty air bases and take advantage of the infrastructure there. Those are the ones that have been around 30 40 years oftentimes, what we have now is the associations uh that the, we have reserve members flying on what are, are owned and maintained these uh classic associations by the active duty. So it really is a mix of those that are just on active duty base. I’m trying to go through my head and see if there are any remote, very remote and isolated, uh, reserve only bases and none come to mind. Frankly. Fair enough. Ok. I guess, uh, most of my time is up. I, uh, are you back?
Thank you, Mr. Jimenez. Thank you again to our witnesses. Obviously, the vote schedule is, is getting in the way of a, of a more fulsome uh conversation here. But I think if you hear a theme, obviously, it’s a real concern about the recruiting crisis that we’re in and I know you share those concerns and are, are getting after it. And, and secondly, though, I’m, I’m just not sure the the department is an institution uh and all the way down through the services and through our contracting officers are really looking at the supply chain issue and I think you’re hearing bipartisan concern across the board and having that supply chain. Surety, uh A one having visibility on it. But then two driving uh our practices uh along those lines in a systematic, in a systematic way. I, I know, I think the committee and I share Mr. uh I think I can speak for Mr. Garamendi here. Look forward to working with you on that. I hope that’s something that the services and the department can get ahead of, rather than really, uh, being driven by this side of the foxhole. Because I, I certainly look forward to hearing, uh, what you’re doing in that regard as we move forward through the, through the defense bill with that, uh, hearing is adjourned. And thank you, genuinely. Thank you again.