Thursday, May 14, 2009

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps FY 2010 Budget Request

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) Hearing on the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps FY 2010 Budget Request

Ike Skelton, Chairman
For Immediate Release: May 14, 2009

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Request:

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today the House Armed Services Committee meets to receive testimony on the fiscal year 2010 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Appearing before the committee are the Honorable B.J. Penn, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations; and General James T. Conway, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps.

“Welcome, gentlemen. I should note that Secretary Penn is the permanent Assistant Secretary for Installations and Environment. We have asked him to walk into the proverbial briar patch this morning in his role as Acting Secretary. Don’t worry sir, you may deflect any questions you wish to the two gentlemen beside you.

“Our sea services are this nation’s fast response force, and they continue to perform magnificently. Our Marines have brought a level of security to the Anbar province of Iraq with a balance of might and diplomacy. Our Sailors have gone ashore in both Iraq and Afghanistan bringing needed skills to the joint force. Now we are increasing our forces in Afghanistan, a long overdue effort. Our nation has again asked our Marines to respond and again they are answering the call. And in the midst of the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, our Navy continues a worldwide global presence, as they have always done, ready to respond to any contingency, be it combat operations, counter-piracy efforts or disaster relief.

“We remain committed to provide our Marines and Sailors with the equipment they need to accomplish the tasks set before them. The wear and tear of years of combat operations will require a significant investment to reset our forces. However, the Navy must, I repeat, must come to terms with the number of ships they need to construct, develop a reasonable plan to construct them, and then execute the plan. And this plan must be affordable. You must build your ships more efficiently.

“We will not be able to increase the size of our fleet until you and your contractors agree on the capital investments necessary to modernize the construction process. I know that you are moving in the right directions.

“Some shipbuilding programs are making progress—notably the Virginia class submarine program. This committee will closely watch your progress with the Littoral Combat Ships. These vessels are too expensive. You must get this program on track, and soon. The progress of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS, which will be installed in the Ford class carriers is also of great concern. It joins just another list of vital programs behind schedule and far over budget. I also think there is a Strike Fighter shortfall. And yet, the budget request reduces the procurement of F/A 18 aircraft from the projected number submitted last year.

“On the movement of Marines to Guam, the heavily encroached Marine Corps basing structure in Okinawa represents continued risk for a stable Marine Corps presence in the Pacific. Moving some forces to Guam is a smart move, but it is expensive—costing at least $10 billion—and it must be done right. We’ll be looking carefully at this year’s request for $673 million. Further costs associated with expanded training opportunities in the Guam region are still being evaluated in the context of the Quadrennial Defense Review, and this committee will have to consider this reality carefully.

“On Navy readiness issues, the Navy today has more officers and sailors on the ground as individual augmentees than it has at sea in the Central Command area of responsibility. We are pleased the Navy has halted its drawdown to maintain an end strength that allows for this mission as well as improving the manning of the fleet.

“However, the Navy intends to extend the operational life of its ships five years or more beyond their designed service life at a time when the Navy is experiencing a series of incidents, which raises concerns regarding possible systemic problems with the Navy’s manning, training, and maintenance.

“Moreover, even though U.S. forces are withdrawing from Iraq, Navy operational tempo is expected to remain high because demand for the Navy’s services is up, including anti-piracy and ballistic missile defense operations as well as operations in support of Africa Command and Pacific Command, and in Afghanistan and the Arctic.

“Despite the efforts of U.S. and coalition forces in the surrounding waters, the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden remains. The Navy and Marine Corps can date their involvement with these types of conflicts through the history of the services.

“As history has shown us, these types of attacks will continue until we commit to a clear short and long-term policy that deals with the pirates on the water as well as ashore. While the policy decisions on this issue will reside with the President and the broader Department of Defense, there is no doubt that Naval and Marine forces are critical tools in any strategy to counter piracy.

“These are just a few of the challenges facing the Navy and Marine Corps team. I’m sure we will explore others here today. I again wish to thank our witnesses and now yield to my friend from New York and Ranking Member of this committee for any opening comments he may wish to make.”

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