Defense officials testify about the current readiness of the Joint Force at a hearing of the Senate Armed Forces Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee, May 2, 2023.
Hm, that is distinguished both by their depth of knowledge and experience. I thank each of you for your service to our country and for taking the time to speak with us today. I want to begin by acknowledging the Apache helicopter training accident that occurred late last week and resulted in the tragic loss of three soldiers in Alaska. It was just a month ago that another nine soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters collided in Kentucky on a training mission. These tragedies have led to the army chief of staff, ordering an aviation safety stand down to review the risk improvement process, approval, process training, standardization and flight planning process. It is imperative that we thoroughly investigate the root causes of these and other training accidents and not just from a mechanical malfunction standpoint. The department must ensure that it is evaluating every training and readiness implementation of these implications of these accidents so that we can prevent them going forward. The demands and operational pace for our service members remains high in your prepared statements. Each of you laid out the challenges and obstacles you face. They include difficulties with retention and the desire to appropriately fill out force structure outside factors like low unemployment and just a fraction of the US population being able to serve and the reality that an even smaller number of Americans are willing to serve beyond retention, the department still struggles to maintain and sustain its equipment on schedule to support mission, mission readiness. In the rush to modernize and procure more ships. It is equally critical that the navy finishes its maintenance availabilities on the ships and submarines that we already have on the time on time and without cost overruns. And that is I know an issue for us, we have an extremely capable fleet today but its state of readiness needs to be improved in a variety of ways. Equally important to readiness is the access to and quality of our training ranges across all domains. This issue is top of mind in Hawaii and I’m interested in hearing from the army in particular about how you will ensure land lease remains renewals that are coming up in some major places such as Oaxaca, Loa on the Big island uh in just a few years are handled with dignity and respect for the people of Hawaii while balancing the requirements to train in the Pacific. In addition to the president’s budget request, this committee has aggressively funded almost every unfunded priority listed over the last few years. And I know that this year, we have quite a lot of unfunded priorities so measured in both the operation and maintenance accounts and the military construction program, the demand and pace ammunition support and equipment sent to Ukraine has diminished the amount of ammunition on hand for training and contingencies. Yet, given all the resources you have, I want to hear more about the timeliness and conditions for improvements in readiness recovery. Each of your statements touch upon how important our people are and I certainly agree that’s why I am concerned about the department’s unaccompanied barracks problems. On top of the well documented concerns about privatizing privatized housing on base. The quality of service members housing has a direct connection to unit readiness and their desire to keep serving. And uh if we’re not serving them well where they live, they will leave. It’s not just a matter of building new barracks though that is imperative. We need to ensure that they have access to healthy food at all hours and we need to ensure that habitability standards meet the simple standard of what we want our family to live in these conditions. MS Mo and the G O A have highlighted many of these readiness challenges in the GAO comprehensive work. I thank her and her team. I thank you and your team for the great work that you’ve done and caution your success means that you’ll likely see more work in the future. I want to also highlight the impact that Senator Tuberville’s continued. Hold on. All general and flag officer promotions has on readiness being blunt, this political stunt not only impacts general officers but the chain of promotions behind them. Senator Tuberville’s actions are compromising officers ability to move to key billets required for growth and promotion and is wreaking havoc on military families. His holds completely disrupt Children, moving schools, families securing housing in a challenging housing market and spouses moving jobs. I’ve spoken openly about all this issues, issue from a policy perspective, but it is equally important to discuss the impact that this has on our readiness and the lives of our service members and their families. These holds are in my view, reckless and I hope my colleague will join me and calling on Senator Tuberville to lift his hold immediately. This is not the way to force the dod to change a policy with which he does not agree. Senator Sullivan, thank you madam chair for holding this important hearing on the readiness of our military. I look forward to working with you constructively and respectfully on these and other important issues impacting us military readiness. I appreciate you mentioning the recent uh loss of life in Alaska General. Our hearts go out to the families in my state, but it’s a reminder of the risks that all of our military takes on a daily basis, even when not deployed in terms of readiness. I think across a number of critical realms, the US military is already in a readiness crisis. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Secretary of Defense have come before the full committee in the past two years telling us that we are in one of the most dangerous periods at any time since world war two and yet three years in a row, the Biden administration puts forward defense department cuts that are inflation adjusted cuts to the defense budget. This committee will almost certainly reject the latest Biden budget and significantly increase support for our military’s readiness, modernization and troops above the president’s top line as we have done in the past two years today, I will focus a good part of my opening statement on the Department of the Navy and the challenges it is facing. I want to begin with Marine Corps Force design. 2030 a bold and important initiative that I have complemented the comment on the Marine Corps on. I led the charge in the Congress on the 31 amphibious ship requirement last year and on pushing back against the Navy and office of the Secretary of Defense when they were tempted to pocket the billions of dollars of Marine Corps divestments in order to apply these funds to non Marine Corps programs. I’ve also spent dozens of hours studying and asking questions about Marine Corps Force design of current and former Marine Corps leaders, but more from the Congress needs to be done on an initiative of this consequence and magnitude. Tough probing questions are required from this committee. No plan is perfect, especially military plans and no general is infallible force design needs rigorous oversight, not out of disrespect for the Marine Corps, but out of an abiding respect for this exceptional and unique American institution and the critical role it has played and will continue to play in our nation’s defense. My questions about force design fall into three broad categories. First, the divest to invest strategy shed in a rapid amount of time, a very significant amount of proven Marine Corps combat capability. Some examples in the past few years include close to 10,000 active duty marines and 6000 reservists. A a reduction of 21% of active duty infantry marines and 16% of reserve infantry infantry marines. 67% of cannon artillery, 33% of A A V S 100% of tanks, 100% of bridging along with breaching, clearing and proofing equipment. 100% of law enforcement, the numbers on divestments in terms of Marine Corps Aviation are confusing. Some have stated over 200 aircraft. Others are saying there are no divestments. It’s part of force design, the Marine Corps has brought on or will be bringing on three additional UAV squadrons, an additional C 130 squadron, new loitering and anti tank munitions and three new air defense battalions. These significant combat investments and the focus on enhancing lethality around maritime choke points particularly against the P L A Navy. Have raised questions about whether the Marine Corps is designing a niche light infantry missile, heavy force focused on one A O R at the expense of the Marine Corps, traditional role as a lethal robust combined arms force ready to rapidly respond to any global crisis anywhere in the world. One, Hallmark of the Marine Corps Air Ground task force, the mag taf is its ability to kick in the door anywhere in the world and sustain itself for weeks in heavy combat before follow on forces arrive is force design 2030 degrading the Marine Corps ability to be the nation’s 911 force. Much of force design doctrine focuses on lateral and amphibious operations but what if the next fight is not in the LA to what if we are back in the desert?
What if it is an urban train?
What if the marines need to cross a river?
These are important questions. Second Force design 2030 clearly shows the Marine Corps commitment to support naval operations. Indeed, that is one of the main reasons for this initiative, but the Navy is not reciprocating last year. I wrote an op ed warning that force design 2013 would fail without the navy’s support. In my view that is happening now the F Y 23 N A created a legal requirement which I authored for the navy to maintain 31 amphibious ships identical to the legal requirement to maintain 11 carriers in a stunning display of disdain for Congress, the Navy is now ignoring the law completely as this chart shows the 30 year ship building plan submitted to this body does not once hit 31 amp fib that’s required by the law Secretary of the Navy committed to appearing before this committee to explain how the Navy is going to comply with the law. He needs to do that soon. The real world impact of the navy’s lack of investment in the Afif fleet is already occurring in the past few days. Several articles have been published detailing how the 31st mu base out of Japan has few navy assets to deploy on the insufficient numbers of ships is compounded by their poor maintenance. In March of this year, the commandant said that a ship readiness is 32% and has been well below 50% for over a decade. If AMP fibs can’t leave port Arg Muse can’t deploy if Ag Muse can’t deploy, the US cannot provide a timely response to crises around the world. Third and finally, what if the capabilities of the Marine Corps that is designing and developing as part of force design don’t work as intended. The Center for Strategic and International Studies recently undertook a comprehensive war game centered on a conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Exactly the kind of conflict Marine Corps Force design was designed for and they were unimpressed with the Marine Lateral regiments. L M R S M L R s raised questions about the M R s ability to sustain itself, how quickly it would expand all its anti ship missiles and how it would get to the fight, be it on Taiwan or elsewhere?
Does the Marine Corps have the sea lift an airlift to execute its stand in forces concept using M R S?
The navy isn’t helping, it will only acquire six landing ship mediums L S MS over the next five years. Despite the Marine Corps saying it will need 35 L S MS to provide intra theater lift. And in terms of airlift, it appears the Marine Corps is divesting more assets than it is acquiring as part of force design. Given these challenges, C SI S asked whether other services are better equipped to conduct sea denial operations against the P L A Navy?
CS. I concluded that could be the case stating quote, a squadron of bombers armed with long range cruise missiles has greater volume of fire than an entire MLR. But without the challenges of transportations, transportation and logistics. Finally, let me touch on the other services, recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. The challenges are threatening our all volunteer force. I would like to hear from the witnesses today how the Space Force and the Marine Corps continue to meet their recruiting goals but how the Army and Air Force are significantly missing those goals. We want to all work together to make sure that we can fulfill our constitutional obligation to raise his art to, to raise armies, provide for the national security that is so important to this committee. The last thing I want to say is to our gao witness MS Mauer. We thank you for your work and your team have done on behalf of this committee. Please do not pull any punches today. I don’t anticipate you will. Thank you, Senator Sullivan. I do share your concerns about the fact that our AFI ship readiness is well below the standards that we want. Today’s hearing is focused on the current readiness of the joint forces and I’ll just go through the uh people on the panel today starting from my left where you have General Randy George, vice Chief of staff of the army, Admiral Lisa Franchetti, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, General Eric Smith, Assistant command commandant of the Marine Corps General David Allen Alvin, I’m sorry, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Thompson, vice Chief of Space Operations and MS Diana Mora, Director of Defense Capabilities and Management at the GAO. We’ll start with you, General George chair, ranking member, Sullivan, distinguished members of the subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss readiness posture of our army. And first, I want to thank you for your condolences on the Apache incident that we had last week and we are taking care of the families and we appreciate the thoughts and prayers and we’ll continue to support our 11th Airborne Division teammates. Our army is focused on war fighting and training for battle in which all domains are contested. All the while we’re supporting combatant commands with ready formations around the world got approximately 137,000 soldiers right now deployed in 140 countries. We are strengthening our partnership with defense industry and we are 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 alongside of our NATO partners, all the while adapting in real time to lessons learned from the war in Ukraine, testing the lethality of our equipment and rapidly incorporating new tactics into our doctrine and training. But readiness for today is not enough. Our army is also transforming. We don’t have an option. Warfare is changing and we must change because of it to ensure that 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 capabilities and doctrine to name a few. Finally, we are building the team. This includes providing commanders with the resources, they need to support soldiers mental and physical well being to maintain healthy command climates and to build cohesive teams. And it means investing in the quality of life of our soldiers and families ensuring that they have safe housing and 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 are interested in serving. And we are working hard to change both of those. Our army remains a great place to be. I think our high retention rates speak to that. So while military service to some Americans seems like a life setback. In reality, it’s a life accelerator that has certainly been my experience since I enlisted as a private, straight out of high school. It’s a great team with an important mission and an ample opportunity to learn, grow and make an impact. And we’ve got to get that story out and we appreciate Congress assistance in amplifying our call to service. Thank you and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, General George Admiral France, chair Hirono, ranking member, Sullivan and distinguished members of the subcommittee. Good afternoon. And 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 interest, uphold international law and respond to crises and natural disasters over the past year, we have safely executed 22,000 steaming days and nearly one million flight hours providing our nation’s leaders with decision space and options. Always ready to fight and win if called to do so as I speak, our sailors and Marine Corps teammates are deployed on more than 100 ships and submarines all around the world ready to meet the security needs of our nation. The navy is inherently flexible in the maritime domain with operations spanning the globe. We have supported the allied response to Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine while conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea. Our ships are assisting in the evacuation of Americans from Sudan while we are conducting operations in the Pacific to deter potential adversaries and reassure our allies. Just last week, the Macon Island Aie completed our largest ever annual Balikatan exercise with our ally, the Philippines with over 12,000 sailors and marines participating. 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 war fighting advantage. We are committed to improving their quality of service by investing in initiatives such as quality housing and childcare, access to mental health, an environment free of sexual harassment and sexual assault. In this 50 th 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’ve decreased maintenance, delays in public and private shipyards, but there’s more work to do 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 our shore infrastructure. We continue to fully fund the recapitalization of our four public shipyards through a program and our budget request supports increased sustainment of our shore infrastructure while prioritizing restoration, modernization for water, electrical and safety systems, 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 at sea. And I look forward to your questions. Thank you. I General Smith, Chair Roo, rank of member, Sullivan and distinguished members of this subcommittee. I’m pleased to appear before you today to discuss Marine Corps readiness in the fiscal year 24 budget. Your Marine Corps remains the nation’s expeditionary force and readiness. We are ready to deploy to deter adversaries and when that deterrence fails, 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 these expeditionary combined armed forces utilizing the minimum 31 amphibious warships that the 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 that 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 pure adversary and to campaign into a position of advantage should deterrents fail and lethal force be needed. Our modernization efforts are required to fight and win on future battlefields make no mistake. Our aviation readiness has increased more than 10% in the past few years. Thanks to the work of this subcommittee to 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 AM FIB warship. Today, they provide the combatant commander with 66% more fifth generation aircraft than before. We made our force design changes. Our efforts to modernize our training and education are bearing fruit as we produce an even more lethal marine from our basic riflemen training to our service level training exercises we are becoming more lethal. Our new training integrates our joint and organic fires, improved communications, 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 for those warriors and to retain them once we train them are vitally important, your continued support matters to them and their families. And I thank you for it. I look forward to your questions and thank you for letting me appear before you today. Thank you, General General Alvin Hirono, ranking member, Sullivan and distinguished subcommittee 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 events of the past year, remind us that global actors have the capability and the intent to challenge peace and stability. In the case of our pacing challenge 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. Our 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 us 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 talented Americans to our formation. We know a focused and resilient airman is a ready airman and we must continue to demonstrate that we value our service members and their families. We continually explore opportunities to expand or initiate programs that support better quality of life and we greatly appreciate this committee’s support in those efforts. The air crew deficit persists due to several factors but this shortage has not extended to the operational units or pilot training base. 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 our trained aviators. We look forward to working with the committee on these programs as well as our pursuit of targeted reform, current legislation to enable the hiring of contract simulator instructors to maximize training and optimize manpower. While a proposed budget increases weapon system sustainment by $1.1 billion. This still only resources. 87% of the estimated requirement due to sustainment challenges of our ever aging fleet, inflation, supply chain issues and labor costs. We’re 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 and adequately funding our readiness accounts while pursuing the right investments to develop the advanced capabilities to meet future threats. This year, we feel we have struck the right balance. And in closing, I would offer that this congress can perhaps make the most positive impact on our readiness through a timely budget appropriation. Thank you very much and I look forward to your questions. Thank you, General General Thompson, Chair Hirono, ranking member, Sullivan 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, the capabilities and benefits provided from space are essential to our way of life and crucial to effective military operations in every other domain. The overriding consideration in assessing space force readiness remains a dramatic shift to the space domain from a comparatively benign military environment to one that is undeniably contested. This shift was a compelling reason for the creation of the Space Force 3.5 years ago. Since then, with the tremendous sport of Congress. The space force has moved out aggressively to address the challenges the nation faces in space. We have begun to pivot to more resilient and defendable architectures to ensure soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have the space capabilities they need across the spectrum of conflict. We’re designing and developing constellations that address the migration of missions to space including moving target indication, domain awareness on land at sea and in the air command and control and the movement of data to enable the way the joint force expects to fight in the future. Finally, the space force has begun the shift to a new training and readiness approach. The space force generation model four gen reached its initial capability on October 1st and once complete will deliver space forces that are truly ready against the pacing challenge. The president’s fiscal year 2024 budget request reaffirms the space forces commitment to that threat informed shift. It extends the pivot to more resilient architectures based on proliferated constellations, intelligence driven space domain awareness, aggressive cyber security measured investment in space superiority and combat credible forces anchored in a full spectrum test and training enterprise while much remains to be done in all of these areas. The main challenges to space force generation today are twofold. The first challenge to creating a combat ready space force is an advanced full spectrum test and training infrastructure with high fidelity threats, realistic mission simulators a professional aggressive force in a suitable range. This system of systems will allow us to validate tactics, test system limitations and train operators in live and synthetic environments against the thinking. Adversary. Without this infrastructure guardians will not have defendable systems, proven tactics or the confidence and competence they need to win conflict in space. The second and primary challenge to space force readiness lies in the availability of budgetary resources in a timely manner to execute all we’re planning to do. Congress has been a tremendous partner in defining and building the space force the nation needs in each year of its existence. The space force has seen a 12 to 15% increase in its budget year over year. The space force is prioritizing its readiness in all facets to effectively deter adversaries and if necessary prevail in conflict, the most important thing Congress can do to help in that regard is pass an on time budget. Thanks for your support and steadfast partnership. I look forward to your question. Thank you, General MS Mueller. Good afternoon chair Hirono, ranking member, Sullivan and other members and staff. I’m pleased to be here today to discuss key findings and recommendations from our work on military readiness. And what we have found is rather troubling broadly speaking, mission capability can units execute their missions has declined since 2017. While the Army and Marine Corps improved in the ground domain, we found declines in the sea, air and space domains when it comes to resource readiness, personnel, equipment, training and supplies. We found that the Sea Domain declined but units in the ground air and space domains generally reported improvements. Of course, improvement does not necessarily mean readiness is where the services want it to be or where they need it to be. There is still quite a lot of ground to make up. For example, only two of 49 aviation systems met their annual mission capable goals. The vast majority missed by over 10%. The F-35 program in particular suffers from a variety of sustainment. Woes. Fleet wide mission capable rates have declined every year since 2020. And the Air Force Navy and Marine Corps face substantial gaps between what it costs to fly the aircraft and what they can afford. We found the navy had nearly $1.8 billion in deferred ship maintenance mainly in its cruisers and amphibious ships. And over a 10 year period, maintenance delays went up and can cannibalization also increased while steaming hours went down. The navy also faces a significant crewing shortfall which can harm mission maintenance and safety. The army needs to improve helicopter safety and address shortfalls and rail support and sealift training that affect readiness and the ability to move to the fight. The space force faces a unique set of readiness challenges and dod can better incorporate the evolving space control mission into its strategic readiness approach to help with these and other challenges we made over 130 recommendations and the 37 reports listed in my statement for the record agreed with nearly all of them but started taking action on many but over 100 remain open. These open recommendations are opportunities to improve readiness. Yet, even with all these challenges, you just heard the US military is the best in the world, our work helps keep it that way gl will continue to provide independent hard hitting and constructive reports to help the services and help the Congress carry out its important oversight responsibilities, madam. Sure. Thank you for the opportunity to testify and I look forward to your questions. Thank you very much. Uh MS especially for pointing out all of the areas where improvements can be made. And I thank you also for acknowledging that in spite of these major shortfalls, I would say that we still remain the best military in the world. And for that, I commend all of you who are here today. Let me start the questioning. Uh being very specific, General George, I am aware that the army conducted a survey of unaccompanied barracks residents last summer and that the army has those results. I have two questions. When can you provide this committee with those survey results?
And what are the preliminary results of the survey?
And are you already beginning to address the suggestions made in the survey?
So uh chair Hirono, yes, we did uh conduct uh a survey we went to five different installations um, to look at barracks and the idea of it was actually, um, to conduct a survey on what they would want as we’re building barracks, we’re gonna be spending a billion dollars a year and it’s got to kitchenettes, size common areas and those kinds of things. So that’s what the survey was for so that we could get, um, design feedback as we start to build, um, you know, barracks into the future. So we’ll certainly, I know we normally provide data on housing and we’ll look, uh, in June, I think is when we could provide, I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t provide those survey results. So, um, barracks with kitchenettes, etcetera, that sounds really, really nice. But what are some of the issues that were, um, uh evidenced by the survey such as things like mold, uh things, uh like having more than the number of people that the barracks are designed um, in the barracks. I mean, there’s some pretty basic kinds of concerns that were expressed. I’m sure by this survey. But uh, something like getting rid of mold. That’s pretty basic. I would think that you would want to, um, address those issues first. Am I correct?
Yes, Senator. We and, um, to that we have inspected uh, all 68,000 buildings in the army uh for mold. Um We found uh about 2500 of them that had mold we’ve already undertaken. Um remediation, it was about $3.5 million worth of remediation. So that was immediately invested in um and then, you know, innovation from our young troops that came up with the 3D printing that we’re trying to make sure that we have something out there to notice um that that’s happening, but uh we’re absolutely focused on that. So all of you have testified that, that the people are the important thing and that is why I would be very interested to get this report from you, General George. And um I work with you on how we can achieve the recommendations that came out of the survey. I am concerned about the impact my colleagues hold on military nominations has on the readiness of our forces. Uh When we uh this is for all of you, when we cannot confirm officers to the positions they have worked hard for and are best suited to. It is our military families that uh pay the first price planned moves, school changes, spouse, employment opportunities, all are now frozen indefinitely and um going forward. Uh what are the readiness impacts of freezing General and flag officer promotions on the rest of the force and our senior officers families. We’ll just, we’ll just go right down the line starting with you, General George. Um Yes, Senator, I, I think you, you pretty much um covered it in, in your statement. I mean, I think the real challenge right now. And you know, quality uh life is obviously um impacts, you know, readiness, but really the impact is, is families that are moving um jobs, you know, spouse jobs, getting orders to move kids into school. Um It’s more aligned with that and there’s a cascading effect just given the number of people, you know, similarly, this would impact our families on the flag officer side of the house. A few are critical this year. First of all, the director of naval reactors responsible for 60 reactors, we also have three fleet commanders uh including the one in the Western Pacific and the one in the Middle East. And then all of our especially focused on readiness. Our type commanders so surface, sub surface and air, they all rotate this year and they are the ones that do the man train equip mission. So again, this will have the biggest impact on readiness. There are delays, General Smith, uh I’ll just give one example. Uh one of our expeditionary forces, about 45,000 Marines has a three star and a one star that three star will retire this summer. Um Long service suffered a, a family tragedy as well. So he will retire that will leave that expeditionary force with a one star. So instead of focusing on um the marine expeditionary units, which is at one star’s normal job, he will do that and focus on the rest of the meth. So that’s a significant amount of supervision and experience that is no longer focused where it should be on our most precious asset. The marines in those marine expeditionary units, that’s just a small anecdote, but that is not a one off. That’s a one of many, my time is running out. But I did want to give the other two generals a moment. General Smith and then General Alvin, uh just very similar to what the, what the other leaders here have mentioned. There. We have uh five either commanders or senior officers in the Indo Pacific that are scheduled uh to move their positions and 24 stars who are ready to retire for similar reasons that uh the mentioned Ravi Madam chair, the topic has been covered. Well, just one specific example, we need to put General officer leaders out into the combatant commands to ensure they are effectively integrating space and dealing with the issues of the contested environment. That’s one example of where we need that leadership. Thank you very much, Senator Sullivan. Thank you madam chair, uh General Smith. I want to give you an opportunity to follow up on two of the issues that I raised in my opening statement. The first is at least for me and maybe you and I have talked about it, maybe I’m just too dense to understand it. But the uh confusion on the impacts on the aviation sector of force design, the Marine Corps staff provided my office numbers that said um the Marine Corps would be putting into storage or inventory management. As many as 60 M V 22 S, 30 Cobras 24 Hueys 48 C H C H 53 S and 54 F-35 Bravos. Uh On April 18th, I walked through these numbers with the commandant in a closed session, asked him if they were accurate. He said they weren’t despite the fact that my office got them from the Marine Corps. So what, what are the accurate numbers?
And my next question, you can just take them at the same time. C SI S did a very big comprehensive, important series of war plans. I hope the Marine Corps is reading it. I hope the Marine Corps is looking at it. I hope the Marine Corps is digesting it. I hope the Marine Corps is talking to C SI S about it because they weren’t impressed with the um Marine Marine Corps electoral regiments. I didn’t think they worked very well. Marine Force design is designed exactly for that scenario and you have a big war game that says it’s not really working. So can you address both of those questions for me?
They’re really important and I think we need detailed answers. I I can Senator. Thank you. I’ll do the aviation first. The, the numbers that you cited are correct. Uh I will guarantee you, we, we provided inaccurate to our commandant the numbers you cite in what we call pipeline and attrition. Are, are correct. The biggest issue I would say sir is we haven’t quote, divested of airplanes. They do go in storage and I’ll use and so then we’re not using those. We’re not going to use 54 F-35 Bravos. If I can give you a quick example, Senator, the M B 22 that you referenced 360 was the number we were to buy. We’ve bought them all, we have them, we own every one of them. Those aircraft have to last until 2055. That’s when our budget plans for them to go out of service. The original attrition model that they were purchased upon is not accurate. The attrition models hire hard landings, those kind of things. If we didn’t go from 12 to 10 planes per squadron and change the number of squadron from 18 to 16, we would have run out of those airplanes years before 2055. So just as an infantry officer, infantry officer, sure, I always have something in reserve, but we didn’t get rid of them. But when they are needed, we will use those airplanes. It’s the same for all type models and series. So if we could get for the record kind of details about and this was a cue for in the recent testimony as well. Uh How about on the C SI S um I uh war study?
So I appreciate that question. I I’m very familiar with the C SI S study, one of the key things that it it noted was that the M L R s were still more effective than the previous formations. So war games, as you know, sir, are designed to, to find holes, gaps, weaknesses and then you ex you exploit those. Um and you fix them. We’ve got a total of uh 12 additional war games 10 at the completely classified level that also looked at the M L R using the correct ranges of our systems, the actual employment methods and they bear a different result. I would note that one of the pieces that C SI S noted and, and we, we value that uh that study. Senator we do was that there would be a political challenge but the, that’s proven not to be, I would say fully correct. The Japanese and the US governments just agreed in the two plus two to keep 12th M L R uh in Japan. And we’re using the third M L R in the Philippines now. So it’s a valuable study. But when it found that we lost 300 airplanes on the ground, most air force, um lost carriers and cruisers. We don’t or pardon me, destroyers. Uh We don’t stop procuring. We, we find ways to fix those challenges that that war game presents. So the M L R is better than what we had not as good as it will be when we finally get all of our pieces implemented. Let me talk about those pieces. Uh Admiral, uh as you can tell. And if you watched any of the full hearing, uh the Secretary of the Navy kind of took it on the chin with good reason because uh he got his 30 year ship building plan to this committee the night before, got your climate action plan done 18 months ago. But your 30 year shipbuilding plan, uh you got to this committee the night before the big hearing and in that shipbuilding plan, 30 years, you don’t hit 31 a fibs once. And that is just as the guy who wrote that provision. And by the way, he is unanimous in this committee. I find it stunning that the Navy can come up here and just say, you know what Congress take a hike. So when are you gonna come back here?
The secretary said he’d do it soon to show us when you’re gonna follow the law. And what I don’t want to hear is, well, we’re gonna do a study, Senator. We’re gonna look at more options. Kate told us we’re gonna do like we did the studies. Your job is to follow the law secretary needs to get back up here. That hearing for him was a disaster. I’ve been on this committee for eight years and I haven’t seen anything like that. So I hope you have a better answer than he had in the last committee hearing. What’s the answer on getting to 31 AMP FIBS which the Marine Corps desperately needs. By the way, that’s a minimum. You can’t just come to the Congress and say, uh we think that was a suggestion wasn’t a suggestion. It’s just like it’s actually the same language we gave you on 11 carriers. So what’s the answer on that admiral member Sullivan, as you know, and as the secretary of the C N O and the commandant testified, the commandant and the C N O fully agree and understand that 31 AMP is the law. We are doing the study, coordinating that with OS D this summer that will determine ahead. Sorry, we did the study. I again, I don’t understand why you keep telling us. We did the study. You’re done. You don’t have the option of doing so you just have to follow the law. I don’t know why this is so hard on the navy. We did the study, we did the costs. If you, if you don’t have the budget for it, request a bigger budget, we’ll give it to you. But we don’t want another study. We want you to follow the law. I, I, I’ve gone over my time. But can you just answer that again without saying you’re gonna do another study?
I wanna know when you and the secretary are gonna come back here with a plan that doesn’t blow off the Congress and the law for 30 years, which is what your current plan, your plan does not hit 31 amp once in 30 years. That is completely unacceptable. Yeah. Well we will finish the study and we believe that this is a PB 25 discussion. We put an Ahem on contract this year. We’re going to deliver another one next year. We currently have 32 we look forward to that discussion as part of the PB 25 discussion. Senator Kaine. Well, I just, I want to associate myself with, with uh the, the punch line from Senator Sullivan. Um I, I do think that this is a matter for the president’s budget and I know that the, the service chiefs and you as witnesses don’t get to lobby against the president’s budget. You, you know, the president sends us a budget and you’re not gonna come and testify counter to it. I, I think this is at the level of the president’s budget. Um and the comment that was pretty clear in the hearing that 31 was not only the law but 31 was the requirement in terms of the military mission. And when I asked him point blank, does either the president’s budget or the shipbuilding plan get us there if he was one word answer. No. So I, I, I think the punch line is, we are expecting an answer. We understand. I, I understand that you’re not gonna come in here and lobby against the president’s budget. That’s, that’s not what you do. But I think we do need to find what’s up, especially since this is the second year where we’ve had this conversation with a set of mixed messages. Admiral Friend Ken. I wanted to share with you. I have been visiting some of our surface ship, private surface ship yards in the Hampton roads area and I’ve heard a very particular um challenge that I think could be easy to fix, could be that it might help us with getting ships in and out of repair in a timely way because, you know, I think there’s been some suggestions that oftentimes ships under repair don’t come out timely. Um The, the navy has a stated policy on these repairs and we’re not talking about like the mid career refuels of carriers where surface ship non nuclear repairs. The navy has a policy of trying to enter into the contracts on these repairs 100 and 20 days before the work is supposed to start. But it’s more common that the navy enters into a contract 30 to 60 days before. Ok. We, we need to have it in dock in 45 days and we need to have it in dock in 60 days that makes it really hard for the shipyards to staff up. They’re bidding on work, they get a bit of work, they’re really excited about it, but the labor market is really tight right now. And so if they’re getting the contract and being told and you got to start to work in 60 days. It’s hard to staff up to really go at it from day one. Whereas if you can get the contract 100 and 20 days out, which isn’t that long, that’s four months. Um The at least the Nasco uh general dynamics and the B A E shipyard. These are the two that I’ve been at in the last month. So if you can hit that 1 20 day mark, they can staff up and be ready on day one and then really comply with time guidelines. At least one of the ship yards was saying, even though it’s dramatically short of that, they still think they have a pretty good track record of turning the ships out according to the navy timetable. But that doesn’t seem like an unreasonable request to me that we try to enter into contracts and then give the yard 120 days from the date of that contract being signed to fully staff up. And I think if you can do that, you’ll get ships out the back end in a lot more reliable and regular way. And I just wanted to kind of report that from the field as something that I’d like you to pay attention to general drudge. I wanna congratulate you on your nomination to chief of staff of the army. Just say that really quickly and ask you this question. What’s the army doing to ensure a constant supply of energetics uh in order to meet current and future munitions requirements and maintain a responsive organic industrial base, particularly as we’re talking about uh the uh the support that we’re providing in Ukraine that can have the effect of diluting some of our efforts in that way. Um Yes, Senator, obviously the uh organic industrial waste is, is critically important. We spend a lot of uh I would say right after recruitment um for us, something that we’re talking about. Um all the time we’ve invested about a billion and a half in the army budget uh on that for our, for our O I B. And then uh thanks to the supplemental, there’ll be another 1.6 billion. And for example, down at Radford is one example of uh some um the, you know, investments that we’re putting down there. So, and as I think you can see, I think uh or you may have heard we had there was another uh I think we did a uh there was a $5 billion deal just done here for, for gamblers. And so it’s also the defense industrial base um that we’re working on. I think what’s helping us is the multi year procurements. Um Another thing that I think that we’ve talked about and we need to look at is, you know, what do we do to, to your point of stockpiling, what are ways that we can get because we’ve had some of these supply chain issues that we would actually have this stuff um that we know we’re gonna need and we’re really supporting the joint force. Um So we’re looking at all of those things, Senator I I appreciate. Thank thanks madam, Senator Mullin. Thank you, madam chair. Uh General George Fort is becoming a hub for innovation uh for counter U A S space. And in the process of standing up the Counter Us University Law has also step up the fires, innovation Science and Technology Accelerator in support of Fort Sill for the army’s priority mission, great achievements and advancements have been made in the counter U A S technology such as lasers and high power microwaves. What is development uh in fielding a plan for these systems?
Ok. Um Senator Yes, Fort Hill is critically important to us um not just um for in uh integrated air and missile defense in addition to the counter U A s and, and long range fires. So that is the center for us for, for Counter U A S. And, and I mentioned in my opening statement about getting lessons um from what we’ve learned in Ukraine and and what we’re really attempting to do and that’s happening there. And then we’re doing other testing that’s out in uh in uh both white sands and Fort Wachuka um to rapidly innovate with those products. We’re getting ready to stand up um A counter U A S University um that’s gonna, that’s gonna start with initial operating capability, the whole joint force will train there. Um And that will be full operational capability here in uh October by October. October. No, answered my other question. Do we have the right level investment for counter U A?
Si think we do this year. Uh There was an additional uh you know, $100 billion that was put towards that. And so, and that’s something for the army is the executive agent really for the for the joint counter U A s. And it’s really supporting um research and development across all the services that we’re focusing on. We’re, you know, kind of just helping to facilitate that. Um And, and we’re all, it’s a real joint effort um throughout thank you. Uh General Alvin uh pilot training is a major priority uh for this committee uh and Advanced Air Force Base which is in Enid, Oklahoma is one of the best in the business training, more pilots per year than any other training base in the country. Unfortunately, both the pilot training center and their dorms need major work to reach their full potential. Uh That work was not listed as a priority for the Air Force, but rather included on the air education training commands. Unfunded priorities list. Uh with the nation experienced a shortage of up to 2000 pilots. Uh Why was this not work?
Why was this work not a higher priority?
Well, Senator uh you’re absolutely right in advance really leading the way. As a matter of fact, our U P T 2.5 initiative really was started in advance and they, they will be the uh the lead uh unit for that with respect to the dormitories overall. Uh There is a dormitory master plan in which actually in the uh OS D scoring system of the facilities uh conditions index uh 99% of our dorms to include those at, at Enid are above the adequate standard. We’d like them to be better than adequate, but they do exceed uh that standard. So we are prioritizing those dorms that they’re the closest to 80% or below. But we will continue to look at the uh the the dormitories as well as the uh pilot training. The pilot training center obviously is gonna be need to transform as we transform in the way we do pilot training as well. We’ll continue to have you, have you visited V I?
Have I was, have you seen the training facility?
I have not recently seen training. I I was I was just there and it is literally in temporary facilities, temporary, that’s become permanent. Uh And as you said, V is leading the way there needs to be, there needs to be more done there. And on top of that bank is leading the way and then we also received a 2% cut on reimbursements for housing. Uh When I don’t think there’s any place in the country that’s got a reduction in housing. Uh, it’s, I mean, housing is a competition and, and, and it’s even a bigger competition. I, I believe that is something we need to get addressed if we want to recruit the best and keep the best. And unfortunately, we’re competing with commercials too at this point. Uh, but we should recruit the best. We can train the best. We also got to make sure we give them adequate housing. We can’t, we obviously are never gonna be able to compete with, with, with the majors and, and pay. But we also know that most of these pilots are, are gonna be married and their spouses uh uh need to be like, need to like where they’re staying and they also need to know it’s not costing them to be there. And with the 2% cut, I felt like that was kind of a slap across the face. And so I’d appreciate if you’d pay attention to that, but that I yield back. Thank you, the Senator Shaheen. Well, thank you generals and admirals for being here and for your service to the country. Um I have a whole list of questions, but I’d actually like to throw all of those out and go directly to M Mauer’s statement because I, I was disappointed to hear your um comment that there’s been a decline in mission readiness, especially in the sea and that’s despite additional funding over the period since 2017. And I wonder if each of you could tell me if you agree with Gao’s assessment or if you have a different view, General George. Um Yes, Senator. So uh specific to the Gao report that uh that she mentioned in her opening statement, one was um for us, mobilization, rail cars. Yes, I agree with that. That is something that we’re investing in um 10 million mainly for the big, you know, for tanks and Bradley and heavy equipment. And then the other aspect of it was uh was safety and I I agree with that as well. Admiral, I think from the ship and submarine in the sea domain, we are improving our readiness. Now, I think since 2019 and as we’ve been able to implement a lot of our perform to plan and data analytics and really focus on the maintenance and getting ships out of the shipyard on time, submarines out on time, we’ve been able to decrease our days of maintenance delay which will improve our ability to train. So again, we have a lot more work to do and we’re grateful for the work that the G O provides on the aviation. Um Again in back in 2018, when we were challenged to move up from 241 ready Super Hornets, we invested a lot of time and energy in this analytic process to get after the root causes and the drivers of uh lack of readiness. Um We’ve been able to achieve 80% readiness between 80 and 85% readiness for the Super Hornets. And now we are scaling that to the remainder of our T model series. So again, we have had some challenges, but I think we’re moving in the right direction. Well, let me just zero in on that a little bit because, um, one of the findings has to do with the shipyards and submarines and it says from fiscal year 2014 to 2020 navy submarines spent 9563 more days in depot maintenance than expected. Now, as somebody who represents the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, I really appreciate the shipyard optimization plan and what that’s doing for the shipyard. And um they’ve had a very good record of getting ships um out on time and under budget. But how to, how do you approach that kind of delay as we’re thinking about how we make sure our submarines are operational when they need to be, that was a very significant delay and we are really focused and this has really been the focus of me as the vice chief, as I’ve gone around to visit the different shipyards to understand the challenges and also met with private industry to see where we can focus on that. I think the three things that we found that have been impacting that one is workforce development and the project management fundamentals production throughput. The second one is long lead time material and that has really been a challenge especially for Virginia class submarines. And then the third one is growth work, unplanned work that we’re finding. And so again, we now have developed a 15 year plan, a strategy to get after all of those things, we’ve also put in requested in this budget $3.1 billion in the Virginia class parts uh to help us get rot pools and get rid of challenges with obsolescence. So in the submarine world, I think we are again moving in the right direction. Thank you, General Smith, Senator. The aviation portion of that report is correct. We are not where we need to be and have committed to be in the last uh four or five years. We’ve increased marine aviation readiness by just over 10%. So we’re moving in the right direction, but we’re marines. So we’re not gonna be satisfied until we achieve the objective. We’re doing that through a combination of ensuring that personnel ranges, fuel parts, aircraft are all available at the right time because if any one of those elements of readiness is not there, you you’re not gonna train and be ready. So that’s a focus for us. It is the compilation of, of manpower training ranges and assets at the exact right time. General. Uh Yes, Senator, unfortunately, for the Air Force, those are correct as well. Uh And and what uh it’s not good news but it’s better news. So we’re up to uh in 20 F Y 23. This is an F three F Y 21. We had eight aircraft that did meet the MC. That’s not nearly where we need to be, but eight uh better than two. And, and ours is a combination of a bit of a spiral we’re trying to come out from which is um as we have 53% of our aviation assets are right now exceeding their expected life cycle, average 2029 year old platform. So they break 25% more. Uh they take 15% longer to fit and because of that, they are longer times in depot, which means we can, we have a fixed uh depot pipeline so we can put fewer through depot. So therefore it has that spiraling effect and because they’re finding new and interesting ways to break, it takes some of them are our best maintainers to be able to keep those. So as we’re trying to transition to these more modernized platforms, that’s where some of our maintenance shortfalls come. So uh not an excuse, it’s, it’s a condition we need to work through. Uh I think another one of the, the real good recommendations that they made that we’re trying to action on right now is these uh sustainment reviews for each of the systems that get after the individual pieces of the maintenance and supply issues. We have completed several of those sustainment reviews. Right now. We’re trying to develop useful mitigation plans, not just mitigation plans we can submit as a report and make it complete, but things we can action on through things like condition based uh maintenance plus and uh stockpiling of supplies and those sort of things. So we, we are on a journey. Uh and but the again, the answer to the question is these are accurate. You madam chair, can I ask General Thompson to also respond?
Uh Senator, we agree with the G Os assessment as well. Um Such an incredibly dynamic period addressing a newly contested domain. Um We don’t really have the readiness metrics. Yes yet, we don’t have the systems, we don’t have the training infrastructure. Um but I absolutely believe we have the, the plan that we’re executing too. We, we had uh $390 million in this year’s budget focused on that plan and our request has another 340 million above that. So agree with the assessment, but believe we have the plan to get after the readiness needs of the space force. Well, thank you. And General Thompson, I think you’re um admonition that on time budgeting and being able to count on a budget from Congress is really important to all of the work that you all need to do. So I hope that we can comply with your request. Thank you, madam chair. Senator Kelly. Thank you, madam chair. Um I’m gonna start with General Alvin and Miss Mauer on the pilot retention issue in the Air Force. And if I have time, I want to address this to uh the Admiral and, and General Smith as well. Um So I think we share this concern about pilot retention challenges uh in the Air Force and what this means for the future joint fight. I think the Air Force currently has a 10 year requirement after um a pilot gets winged. Um But I wanna get into some specifics on this. So what’s the data say about um when pilots are separating from service after their commitment is it, does it tend to be right after the 10 year commitment or the folks tend to stay in for a little bit longer and then get out before they, let’s say complete uh 2020 years of service and, and then what’s like the root cause like what, what are they citing as reasons why they’re, they’re leaving after a 10 year um commitment to the Air Force Senator?
Thank you for that. So, uh the, the biggest uh decision point is after that 10 year commitment. So it’s not like it’s a cliff after that, but that initial 10 year commitment uh is where the first decision point is. I’ll talk in a second about the rationale why. And as, as we understood, when they approach that 10 year um commitment from their pilot training time as you know, is that you to get trained and maybe sometime you have to wait to get the pilot trains. So you may be 11 or 12 years in what we had been doing in the past is we have been approaching him at that 11 or 12 year point. And at that point, as you know, from your service, you, you’re making decisions two or three years before then. So what we have done now is offer these incentives to them three years before the commitment is done. Now, obviously, we’re asking for a longer commitment, but at that time, it’s helping them cement their future, see where their families are. See and have that predictability and the incentives. You mean the pilot bonus, the aviation incentive was, but it also also offering non monetary incentives. And this goes to your point of why are they getting out?
Why are they leaving?
And uh we had an air crew engagement survey that happens every year. The one we just had in March had three primary reasons. Uh One of them was location stability. Second one was compensation and the third one is uh resource initiatives to get after the additional duties because pilots like to fly. Um So the location stability, we, we’re doing things now like um trying to reduce the number of overseas deployments. Those with the reduction in Afghanistan and Iraq are sort of helping that naturally. As a byproduct, we’re looking at some of these second assignment in place opportunities. One of the advantages of technology is it allows us to be more interactive with the individuals in the assignment process before needs of the Air Force, we shape your career. Now we have talent market place where they can go out and at least provide some more input, have more agency in their future assignments. So we’re helping them with that. And then on the uh resource initiatives, we’re looking at other opportunities to shed some of those additional duties. Uh and on the compensation, it’s the aviation bonus. So those are the three ways that we are addressing. But we’re really interested to see. We just started this to see what the feedback is on the engaging them earlier because we’re, they’re making those decisions, not the year of, but a admiral has, has the navy done anything here with trying to provide some stability in one location for pilots. I know in my 25 years in the navy, that was something that you would hear the air force would do but wasn’t typically something the marine or the navy did. And I’m pretty sure the marines probably um did not as well. Are they are, is either service doing that now?
Yeah, I think, you know, just like the air Force, we’re working hard to retain people and uh look for some of those non monetary incentives. Of course, the monetary ones are important being able to award, the bonuses and the incentive pays at the right time uh to help them with their decision is one thing, um Some of the other things that we’re looking at really are, uh as you mentioned, family stability, very important. Um Some of the reasons cited for departing are high operational tempo, long deployment lengths and again, not enough flying time because they do really like to fly. Um The other one is looking at potential alternative career paths and designating a professional uh flight instructor and because some people would like to do that as opposed to uh moving on through some of the other uh career choices, general send it along the same lines. Um We are through our process called talent management. We’re just trying to treat each individual marine as an individual. Some pilots wanna fly a lot more. There are some who want a three year out because they’ve been flying for eight years straight. So we are offering not just to pilots but all marines. If we’ll, we’ll ask them, what would it take to keep you?
And if they say I wanna stay here at for another three years, then we can get to. Yes, if it’s, I want to stay here at m forever. That’s probably a no. But if, if you, we can extend you, if we can give you a three years out of the cockpit, uh You do a Ford Air controller tour that helps, you know. So there’s three marines at this table and uh we all do it because we love being in the Marine Corps that will only get you so far because we do have to compensate them, can’t compete with the airlines, but we have to give them a career path that matches what they need and what the core needs. But we are doing uh stabilization in uh in their, their geographic location of choice anywhere we can because we have to retain those pilots because they are a huge element of our lethality. And some of our allies also will allow. And I think that’s what you alluded to as a in maybe an instructor pilot, but allow somebody to be sort of a squadron pilot. They don’t advance so much in their career. They stay um in a squadron and that helps in some retention. I don’t think we’ve gone that far yet. Is that accurate?
All right. All right. Thank you, Senator Duckworth. Thank you. Um I’m gonna follow up on, on um Senator Kelly’s uh questioning about um retaining uh aviation flight crew. General George, the army made headlines this week when Human Resources Command alerted hundreds of active duty aviation officers that their service commitments are about three years longer than previously thought due to an hr error. And I actually, I’m quoting um uh uh the language and General Alvin last year, Congress gave the Air Force the ability to offer retention bonuses to pilots up to three years away from contract expiration in addition to a base preference for future assignment location and to date, the Air Force has not published its aviation retention bonus or base preference plan for eligible aviators for the current fiscal year. And we’re, I mean, we’re well into the second quarter. Um Are the gentlemen, are these issues the result of slow staffing processes on behalf of your service, are your human resource staff properly trained and equipped to administer these types of programs?
What what’s going on?
You have, you have this in air force, this resource and yet you’re not using it. And how is it that we are telling people, by the way, you owe us three more years than you initially, we initially told you because of an hr error. What’s going on?
Um Senator, yes, there was uh there was an error that you read that actually um they should have known that they had had the branch or the additional uh service obligation. Um It wasn’t on there. We are treating that, you know, going to every individual um for some, it’s, it’s not, it’s kind of gets back to the individual preference. Hey, I was planning on staying anyway. There are some that it is uh there is a challenge for and our human resources command uh C G um General Drew also an aviator is reaching out to every one of those directly, but you’re not answering my question. You’re, you’re putting it back on the individual service member. What I ask you is what is going on with your hr training and, and your personnel that they are making these kinds of mistakes. Well, I, I, I agree with you. We need to make sure that we don’t have mistakes like that, but like I said, we did have, we have had a mistake, we did identify it and we’re, and we’re just trying to deal with it right directly to take care of. So it doesn’t happen again. And we’re, we’re addressing that as well as far as how uh what gets into, uh you know, how the service obligation, the other thing is we, we’re bringing on and we’ve got had, um I do think our integrated um, personnel and pay system, you know, getting data, we had a bunch of old systems um that we kind of have been clued together and we’re working through that. And I, I think that that will help us, but obviously, um for all of us have been in here, anything, you know, that something happens to your own pay or anything else that has a big impact, we realize that um and we are focused on it. I it’s, it’s, it’s six months into the fiscal year and you still haven’t published your retention bonus and, and your base preference. This is, this is something you never like to hear at hearing, but I will tell you first heard, I will get back. I was not aware that that was not being done as well. I just, I just extolled it as a virtue of what we’re doing. So, Senator, uh, at very soon as so I will find out what it is and I will personally make sure that you have that because that is certainly not a, it, it certainly things are credibility if we don’t follow through and the things we’re saying we’re doing. Thank you. Um, I, I wanna backtrack and talk about aviation safety. Um I do want to offer my condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of those soldiers killed in last week’s um Apache crash in Alaska as an aviator and a member of this committee, I’m following it closely and I’ve asked the army to come back once you’ve done all your investigations to, to brief me. Um, this is the second, second class a that has rocked the army aviation community in the last two months and aviation units are currently on a stand down much needed. Um, the Marine Corps and Navy and Air Force all hosted safety stand down days in recent years after their own strings of mishaps. Um, study after study points to common causal factors in experience in the training school houses and in the operational cockpit, increasing workload on the flight line and in maintenance hangars and a lack of timely access to spare aircraft parts. Uh General George Admiral Franchetti, General Smith, General Alvin, how is your service working to address these factors to prevent future tragedies and what can we do to help you?
Um, Senator, as you know, from, uh, from being an aviator. Um, it is something you have to constantly address before this, the previous four years, um, had been the safest aviation for us in history. Um, but, you know, you obviously have to keep focused on it right now. So we’re doing exactly what you said with the safety stand down day. We’re looking at, at everything out there, how we’re, what are, you know, the crew mix, um, maintenance, uh TT P S, you know, and all the things that the tactics that people are using and we’re studying that was part of the address by the chief of staff in the, in the stand down and we’ll obviously get the investigations. We know we get the, um, safety center that’s out there looking at both of those right now and we’ll certainly follow up with you. Um, beyond just aviation accidents are, we have had other accidents and we’ve learned many things from, I would say two things that we’ve done to really try to get after them. First, we elevated our safety center, uh to a two star safety command. The safety center dealt primarily with individual units, um, and information wasn’t shared across the broader community in the safety command. Now, he assesses uh all of the oversight entities and, uh, they do regional assessments as well as community assessments and provide that information. So we’re already learning a lot uh from them. I think uh the other one is really going after the root causes through our get real, get better uh cultural renovation that we’re focused on right now is really identifying them. So if the root cause for many of these things is fatigue, we’re really emphasizing using our human factors engineers to understand what is happening and then how do we better train our people to know what to look for, create better watch bills and move forward from there?
Senator, the last part of your question, uh, steady, predictable operations and maintenance dollars for parts and flight hours is the best thing that, that can be done for flight, uh, pilot proficiency. Um, we do twice annual safety stand downs preemptively, we call them bits back in the saddle training, but also in that preemptive lane, we just had a A V 22 have an in flight emergency a few weeks ago at, uh out at cherry point, the group commander said, and the pilots landed it very safely. So rather than wait for something, they simulated that same emergency. They stood the uh, entire group down a colonel level command uh, for two days and they made every single pilot go back through that scenario until they got that. Exactly right, because we don’t want to wait for an incident. We always want to be proactive and for us, I am the Safety Officer of the Marine Corps Safety Division works for me. There’s no one between me and the colonel who runs it. It’s, it is me. So I’m responsible to you. Thank you similarly for the Air Force. Uh the last two years, uh so far in F Y 23 the same as uh last year, 1.2 per 100,000 flying hours. We’d like to get that obviously to zero. Uh We have had a couple of very safe years. But to your point, we to General George’s point, we’ve got to be, even though you might have the safest on record, it only takes one or two and suddenly becomes the worst on record. Uh We found over our, our analysis shows over the last two years, our incidents have been a product of uh material, as you mentioned, risk management and non-compliance with guidance. So we really have been attacking the, the material to, to the General Smith’s point. We wanna make sure we have the right parts and availability, but the risk management and non-compliance, these are things we’re finding those Ben diagrams and our safety center manager. Uh She is brilliant in getting back and, and finding root causes reeducating. And I think it’s those human elements that we need to continue to focus on uh with all the en environment environmental that my uh colleagues here talked about for resource management, understanding the risk. We’re also starting to better integrate our human performance wing to understand those things in fatigue that we can now hold ourselves better accountable for with the advent of technology. But those elements are the things that we’re really focusing on. Now. You’ve been very generous madam, Chairman, Senator Blumenthal. Uh Thanks madam chair. Uh I wanna focus uh on a different aspect of uh readiness and personnel which is recruitment. Um And uh in particular, the some of the numbers that I know are troubling you as they have troubled us. Uh the levels of recruitment uh and the failure to make many of the recruiting goals, which I think is troubling, not only for the present but also what it indicates for the future. And I note particularly General George, um the numbers on the army that are provided here today, only 23% of Americans aged 17 to 24 are qualified to serve without a waiver, which I think is a pretty damning indictment of education, health, however, you want characterize it. Um And um the, as you say, the problem is not just finding qualified recruits propensity to serve among young men and women is also the lowest in recent history at 9%. Um Only 21% of youth from generation Z believes that army culture is consistent with their values and beliefs. And 56 percent report that their impressions of the army mostly negative in parentheses are driven by non army media um, I don’t know how we keep our military as the greatest in the world and it is now as a parent of two sons who have served one in the Marine Corps, the other is a navy seal. I don’t know uh what we can do to change the culture, the propensity to serve the readiness and physical and mental and emotional and educational qualification. But I’d like to know from the services perhaps beginning with you, General George, are we strategizing this fundamental longer range problem?
I know that the army wants to meet its immediate recruiting goals. That’s certainly on your mind. But what about the larger problems?
Is there, is there a strategy in the services for, for recruiting?
We’ve been talking mostly about retention so far, I think. Yes, Senator. Um So, I mean, obviously, uh we talk about this all the time and in two aspects that you kind of talked about. I mean, what are some of, what are the, some of the adjustments that we can make?
Um But we’re obviously we’re having a big challenge and we don’t, we want to see this also as an opportunity to, to change how we go about doing things. Um We’ve done some where it’s like the future soldier prep course that we’re doing to get people in to actually raise them. So they, they go down and they are able then to meet the physical standards. Um, they’re able to, to pass the ASVAB test and that’s working, I mean, greater than 95% that have going there, you know, going through that. And we’re looking at how we select recruiters. And do we have recruiters in the right places?
We’re looking at J R O T C programs, we’re looking at um marketing and then, you know, we’re just looking longer term at, at how we have approached this, you know, we’re at the 50 year mark of the All Volunteer Force, what do we need to change?
Um And as I mentioned, when I, I enlisted right out of high school, uh um and, you know, we have a lot of people in our service that have done that. It is a great, you know, way to, to advance and we just gotta, you know, we’re pouring our heart into getting the message out and I think everybody has got that and across all the services. And so, you know, we have a big part to play in that admiral. Now, I would just, I would just add that. Um, we too are doing a lot of the things that the army is doing with regards to having a future sailor prep course first for physical fitness, we just started that and then this fall, we’ll be doing one on the academic side. I think we are looking hard at our campaign forged by the sea, uh and working hard for it to make it to where all of the young people will be able to get a better understanding of what the Navy is all about and really what can learn and what they can have as a career in the navy, whether it’s through social media, whether it’s through career fairs. Um making sure that we take the time to educate people who may not live near the navy. So they understand what it is. We’re kind of taking the approach of every sailor as a recruiter and giving them opportunities to go back home, talk about it and be part of our fleet weeks and engage not only the, the youth but the influencers in their lives, coaches, school teachers, principals and then of course their parents senator, as you know, you, you don’t join the Marine Corps, you become a marine and that is what we will stay with. We value our recruiters heavily. When our recruiters finish a successful three year recruiting tour, they select their duty station or they’re sent to one of our service schools. My own son is a recruiter right now. I was a recruiter. Uh, most of our senior leaders were either on the recruiting side or the drill field side. Uh Fleet Marine Force specific three all recruiters. Um The key for us is that professional recruiting force and incentivizing them to do great work. Um, for us, those recruiters, uh it is, it is a big reward in that the bulk of our meritorious promotions go to the recruiting force because we believe it is so important. And the final thing that I think is a secret sauce for us. The Commanding general of Marine Corps Recruit depot, San Diego and then recruit depot Paris Island, dual hat as the commanding generals of the eastern and western recruiting region. So they have to both find and train the individuals. So you better find good ones and you better train them right?
Because the same general is responsible for both and we just value the recruiting force and we stay on it. We made a mission last year. We’ll make it this year. I know we’re over, but I will, I’m, I’m over time. But uh thank you chair, I because I think this is very important. I by the time it gets down to this end of the table, there may be fewer things. It’s because we have lunches together. We, we understand this is not just a service problem. We have many meetings together where we look across the table. So I’m stealing things from what Eric is doing. And this idea of, of for us as the air force last year we barely made and this year it looks like we will not. So this is, we have a wake up call. We are looking at everything. Why do we have this particular restriction in place?
And sometimes it was because we could before and because we’re able to make that and that’s, that’s part of it. But Senator, I want to talk about your larger point, which is so all these things are making it harder on the outside. And we’re trying to figure out that as, as a group of senior leaders. And I think one of them is this, that there is a cacophony of narratives out there that we are competing with it again. No excuse. It’s a fact. It’s now there, there are so many uh different um media that the youth of America can get insights from and get their impressions of. And so we need to be uh both a amplified and unified in the way that we describe the value of service. And that this is not uh something that puts your life on hold is something that accelerates your life. So there is a, there is a, a combined thing that we, we need to do to have this awareness because there’s a lack of familiarity with the military service. And so that’s those are some of the things we’ve been talking about as we look across the services do that in, in addition to what we’re doing individual service. And senator just briefly, if I can, uh since our challenge is a lot different than everyone else, our numbers are relatively small. Uh we can’t be in every home town in a recruiting station and we don’t need to be. So we’re looking a lot at new approaches to recruiting, targeting regions, targeting specialties and, and, and when we look at that and the use of social media and some other things, there are perhaps things that we can learn and trail blaze for the rest of the force that may help them in, in future recruiting opportunities as well. Thank you all. Thank you. We’ll start second round of questioning. I’m glad that you all get together and learn from each other and share best practices as applicable. And as long as we’re on the subject of uh how important recruiting and retention issues are. My impression is that the Air Force and the Space force have fewer recruiting and retention challenges. Is that right?
Although, um, em Alvin, you said that you are currently facing some recruitment issues, but I am, I uh do I have the accurate impression that the two of you face fewer of these kinds of challenges than the other services?
And if so why?
Sure I’ll, I’ll try and then you can do it. But, but I think the, the space forces is different because they do have a lot of folks wanting to come in and, but I guess ours is a, is a disturbing trend because we have made it all the time this year. We’re actually seeing the things that the, that the Army and the Department of Navy, uh the Navy has dealt with for a while. So that’s why I want to learn those lessons earlier. So, but overall, we, we’ll be closer to meeting our numbers than, uh, than perhaps some of the other shows. So, what do you think is causing this trend?
All of the other kinds of, uh, of uh uh opportunities that a young person could have then besides joining the Air force, I think, uh part of it is that we, because we are always uh making our numbers before we might have maybe under uh populated our recruiting force. Something I’m learning from my fellow, my marine here that says the value of the recruiting force, the individual face to face. That’s how they, they’re making their numbers. The idea that we had had some standards, they were not really standards. There were restrictions that we had that were tighter than the dod uh standard. So now we’re finding if we loosen those and we may, we, we stay within the dod standards, uh We are allowing more to be able to come through our door. So we’re just, like I said, uh, chair, we, we’re looking at everything we had done before that was maybe unnecessarily restricted. And then we believe also the, there’s the chickens are coming home to roost with respect to the uh to serve. And we’re, we’re gonna have to counter that as well in the airport. Yes. And one of the trends being that there are so few people who even qualify and even fewer are still who are willing. Uh, this is for the Army and Navy in particular. How important are the junior R O T C programs to your recruitment efforts?
Um I’ll, I’ll be real, real quick chair. We have uh about 1700 J R O T C. And what we see is whether or not people are actually in J R O T C or not. If they have that exposure, I think that’s where it’s helping us the most. You know, we’re at like 44% of the folks who have AJ R O T C in their high school are more likely to serve. So that’s where I think it helps us. And we’re looking at how we can expand some of those. We’re in the process of doing that. Now, what about Navy?
Yep, J R O T C is very helpful for us as is the sea cadet program. So again, the more opportunities we have to expose people to what the Navy does and what it can do for them, I think is a really great opportunity. And how much of an inducement are the educational opportunities that you all provide to people who join in terms of particularly, I suppose, of recruiting and retention. Anyone want to respond. General Alvin?
Yes, I I will mention one thing that we have reinstituted this year that’s been very successful and it is actually our enlisted college loan repayment program. So these are individuals who are out of high school, maybe thought right then they weren’t that, that maybe military service wasn’t for them, have had a couple of years of college and have built up some debt and now are rooking that. So some of our incentives are just that way because not only are we offering the ability to repay their college uh education, but they can continue their education through our community college, the Air Force and other educational opportunities. So we’re seeing some of that cohort coming and maybe a boost as well. So we do believe that’s an attractive feature. So knowing how expensive college is, so do the other services also provide college repayment programs?
We have similar programs, by the way, do, do you um help with the cost of graduate education?
I E becoming lawyers?
You need your jag. Um Do you, do you pay for someone to go to law school?
And I can tell you, we, we do, we have a program called funded law education program. Um Those individuals that we select from a very competitive board, go to law school. We pay, we also have phd programs for select individuals who, who fill things at the Marine Corps. How long have you had that?
Because I have a jack person on my staff who didn’t get her law school paid for. Uh We have two, we have a couple of programs. We have a funded, which is pretty small because it is expensive, but we also have excess leave law program. Um We have, I think that that it, it seems to me that the educational opportunities that you provide could be a, a big incentive for people to um consider joining. I just want to get to one thing. In recent years, storm damage has had major impact on dod infrastructure in places such as Tin Air Force Base Camp Lane and the army’s military Ocean til survey point. What plans do your services have to improve the resilience of your facilities in the face of extreme weather?
And what kind of readiness impacts have you observed when our facilities are not resilient?
And, and I would like the G O M Mueller to chime in also. So let’s do this really quickly. Um Chair. Yes, we are looking at that. Some of that is when anything that we’re gonna construct new is make sure it’s at the right standards. The other things that we’re looking at is actually for power having, you know, ways that we can store power so that we have resiliency. And then the other aspect I would say would be uh cyber and strengthen yourself there. A similarly, we look at that. We are especially concerned about any sea level rise as we’re building our new piers, uh making sure that they are above the 100 year flood plain uh as well as our dry dock down in a Norfolk naval shipyard, building a flood wall there again, to make sure that it’s perfected from any sea wall, sea level rise General Smith, Senator. Those bases are our power projection platform. So they’re vital to us. Camp Lee, for example, rebuilding after that significant hurricane, it is about rebuilding the building such that they are ready to withstand a hurricane. We have bases such as Marine Corps recruit depot, Paris Island who export power. We have our own micro grid and we’re off actually off the grid at uh Albany, our logistics base and we pass power back out into the communities by being off base. That that’s a combat multiplier lethality for us. It is, it is less about green than it is about being able to, to project power from those platforms when we’re cut off from outside power. And uh really the same program says the other services do I would say. In addition, uh we also have uh our instituting energy uh resilience exercises where we make sure we start what happens when the base goes dark to make sure we have a primary alternate contingency emergency. So we can operate in those energy degraded but to the extent of building codes and, and hurricane zones and flood plains. We do the very same thing with our maybe space force doesn’t have quite those kinds of issues. We know uh uh Madam chair, we have exactly the same issues. Um The one additional factor is since it primarily our missions are employed in place, we operate every day in our satellite command and control centers. We also create redundancy and backup such that when you have uh uh weather problems in one area, you can transfer the mission to other areas and continue in that regard. So we do all the things the other services have in terms of power and building codes. But then we also build in redundant control centers to be able to continue to operate MS Maher. Yeah, it’s great to hear all the actions being taken by the services to address the issue of climate change vulnerability. It affects all of the services. Some of our work has identified some of the mammoth environmental future environmental liability facing the department. I think one of my colleagues testified recently on that. It said that that price tag is about $91 billion and that’s on top of 100 and $37 billion in deferred maintenance across the dod facility enterprise. So this is a, this is an infrastructure issue in part that sort of mirrors some of the broader infrastructure challenges facing in the country as a whole. Thank you, Senator Sullivan. Thank you madam chair. I’m gonna continue my line of questioning Admiral with uh the Navy s support for the Marine Corps. The navy’s forward deployed naval force in Saso, Japan was cut from five amps to four. The navy wants to cut it again to three. My understanding is with a 32% readiness rate. That really means one amp fib ship will be ready for deployment out of the theater. Again, to me, this is a real problem is that the current plan for the navy out of and then General Smith, I’d like to follow up with a question to you. How effective is the 31st with one ship?
It’s really not even a or an a at that point, is it?
But why don’t we begin with you?
Is that, is that the plan we currently have five amphibious ships there and we are currently reviewing our strategic lay down plan. And uh once that is finally approved, we will be happy to come back and review on that. So is that going to three ships?
You believe the five ships 5 to 3 is that’s what I’m hearing, is that, is that what you’re contemplating?
So I’m the pro the strate strategic lay down review is still ongoing. It has not been briefed up to the secretary yet. So I’d be premature for me to say what the Secretary General assumed that the navy goes to from 5 to 3 amp fibs. 32% readiness rate means essentially one amp fib. How effective is the 31st, a lot of articles in the last 48 hours on how ineffective the 31st mu is because it has no ships. So one ship for the 31st is that even a what is that enable General Thompson who has a hard stop to enable you to go and testify at another committee. Thank you very much, chair, ranking member, Sullivan. Thank you so much. We’ll certainly take other questions for the record. Yeah. Thanks. Mhm. Senator. Anything less is not an amphibious ready group or a it is an amphibious task force. Um When you, when you do not have a full three ships, depending on which ship you don’t have. If you didn’t have the big deck, for example, you lose 10 F-35s, you lose four seats, 50 threes, et cetera. Um So you have to have three, but it’s not just for deployment. You have to have those ships to train the, the first time that you’re sailing away into harm’s way because crises happen when you don’t expect them and you don’t want them to happen. That is not the time for a young first lieutenant uh V 22 pilot to do their first deck landing call or for a young lance corporal driving an amp combat vehicle into a wet well, in three ft seas to do it. So you need them for training safety, but you have to have them for combat ready. So three ships all stop. So I’m assuming the Marine Corps recommendation in the navy would be as they’re doing their strategic lay down. Don’t go from 5 to 3 amp fibs at the forward naval force in Sassi Senator. What we would say is provide three ships for the yard. We wouldn’t say how to do it, but provide three ships for the yard to train and deploy to train and to deploy. And I’m mindful. I got the former 31st new commander sitting right behind me. He’s the mean looking one. Um He just finished that deployment. He and I talk about this all the time. Let me uh go on to the a point I raised in the, in my opening statement, the Marine Corps requirement is for 35 landing ship medium naval vessels for force design and the Marine Electoral regiments right now. It looks like the navy budget through 20 F Y 28 would be for six. So again, combination of Admiral Franchetti and General Smith. Um why is the navy not even in the ballpark on what the Marine electoral regiments need?
This goes again to my broader point. A lot of marine generals are saying force design is meant to support the navy. I hear that. Ok, naval forces, ok. We’re gonna shoot Chinese warships out of this ocean, ok?
But the navy isn’t coming back on and we’re gonna make force design successful to my very obvious reading, there’s not much support at all. So is the navy plan on trying to get to 35 L S MS at all?
And General Smith is a Marine Electoral regiment, a viable fighting force without L S MS because right now you’re not gonna get many, you’re not gonna get it. You’re not gonna get hardly any at all. May I start with you, Admiral, you plan on going about five or six. So the Navy is continuing to work with the Marine Corps to identify the requirements and we will continue to work to support them throughout our shipbuilding plan. As far as the readiness goes, you know, we are fully committed to supporting the Marine Corps training requirements. Uh We have met all of our deployment requirements. In the particular case of 31st, we were able to search a different ship to Ashland to support them after an emergent repair to the uh Rushmore. So again, we are fully committed to supporting the Marine Corps training requirements on the, I’m not talking about just training force design again, lays out the need for 35 L S MS. Is that even remotely in the Navy’s 30 or ship building plan?
Again, we continue to work with the Marine Corps to define the requirement and put that into our budget as it goes forward. General is a L M R viable fighting force without any means of delivering it. Senator, it has to have you be viable with five or six L S MS. Our studies show that that maximized one M L R requires nine landing ship mediums. So nine for one M L R to absolutely maximize it. The organic mobility for the M L M R uh marine regimen also comes from our C 1 30. As you noted sir, we added a second squadron into the Pacific. So we need all of our organic mobility L class L S MS, et cetera. Um all the way down and, and the one thing I would, wouldn’t wanna note, sir is that the force design issue was um for the joint force, it certainly supports the naval force, but it supports the, the joint force. And for Admiral Frank Ty’s point, what we want is is we just, neither of us want a gap in time. So when one ship is trading for another one, any, any day you lose at sea is a day lost. We, that’s what no one wants. Let me ask one final question to you, General Smith. I want you to respond to some of the criticism. I re I I mentioned it in my opening statement that the mag taf ability to kick in the door anywhere in the world and sustain itself for weeks in heavy combat to enable the Marine Corps to continue to be the nation’s 911 force is being somehow degraded or de emphasized by force design. What I know you don’t agree with that. It’s a criticism that’s out there from some very respectable marines. What’s your argument against that?
And doesn’t that argument have some weight when we’re looking again?
No offense, admiral at a navy that’s not supporting you guys at a navy that won’t get the AMP fibs that you need at a navy that won’t get you the L S MS that you need. I mean, the Marine Corps does become less effective as the number of a fibs decreases. Uh That is a fact. What’s your response to those kind of questions that I’m raising that others have raised, including the a fib component?
Yeah, thanks, Senator. The Marine Corps is ready. So sir, we, we have and have retained. The critics are saying, well, you just, and I, and I listed some of it. You, you just divested an enormous amount of combat power. I said, I, I used a line like that. Didn’t agree. It was enormous. I think it’s pretty enormous but maybe not enormous. Let’s just say significant. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the numbers I read are significant. So, so let me, let me focus the, the part on expeditionary force and ness and, and kicking in the door as you said, because I agree both is sustainability and sustainability. The 82nd and 114th Congress both gave a sense of the Congress that we should be most ready when our position of the Congress, pardon me, most ready when the nation is least ready. And we, we firmly believe that. So we have seven new headquarters. We have the infantry battalions, we have the fixed wing squadrons, the combat engineer platoons, reconnaissance platoons, high March batteries, uh artillery batteries. We have those to deploy heel to toe marine expeditions, but we do not have is the amphibious ships So when you’re talking global crisis response, kicking in the door, you have to get there. So those aphids are absolutely vital because we have the forces that are ready to go to the pier, but they have to have the amphibious shipping to deploy. That is what makes us ready those combinations. But the marines are in fact ready to go, sir, madam chair. Can I ask one more question?
I didn’t want General uh George to be so lonely over there in the corner. So, um um so general uh two initiatives, one that’s taking place in Alaska that I I think is going well is the stand up of the 11th Airborne Division and your work on multi domain task force that in some ways, I don’t know who’s mimicking who, but some ways does look like Marine Corps Force design and the tour regiments. Um Your multi domain task force. How are both of those initiatives going?
Uh I talked to General mcconville. I know you’re looking at a third multi domain task force for deployment. We think Alaska is a very strategically uh important place that you might wanna look at those there. Can you just give the committee an update on those two initiatives that are important for our nation’s defense?
Um Senator I’ll start with 11 there morning. Um And I know you we just had a very big Arctic exercise. So, I mean, really what we’re focused on is reestablishing ourselves as um Arctic experts up there. And I think, uh General Effler and that whole team up there is doing um, great things. They just did a joint force. Um, up there had 8000 people. We’ve given them the new Arctic equipment and they’ve got the TV. So very good training up there and then, you know, working some of that with our partners. And is that still the number one requested unit in the US army?
Uh It’s up there as far as you know, places that people wanna go, they definitely, we saw a definite uptick on that up there. So the other, the other thing is the on the multi domain task force. Um And, and we’ve stood up, I stood up the first one several years ago as the first corps commander, um very capable units that are exercising right now across the Pacific. We have the other one that’s um out in, in uh Europe supporting and is very active out there. We have one temporarily stationed right now um down in, in Hawaii and there’s two more that we are actually, you know, are part of our army structure that’s coming up that we are standing up with those capabilities. We haven’t made any final decisions, those are, you know, forthcoming on where those assets and those capabilities um would go thank you, madam chair. I thank each of you for your time today and we will um continue to dialogue with you and I also want to thank you, MS Marra. This hearing is adjourned.