Wednesday, February 24, 2010

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton - Hearing on the FY 2011 Department of the Navy Budget Request

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton - Hearing on the FY 2011 Department of the Navy Budget Request
House Armed Services Committee
For Immediate Release: February 24, 2010

Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton: Hearing on the FY 2011 Department of the Navy Budget Request

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) delivered the following opening statement during today’s hearing on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget request of the Department of the Navy:

“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 Ray Mabus, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief of Naval Operations; and General James T. Conway, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps.

“Mr. Secretary, I note that this is your first time testifying before this committee, welcome. Admiral Roughead and General Conway, thank you for your continued service as you lead the wonderful Sailors and Marines in the active duty and reserve forces of our sea services.

“Today the United States Navy has 194 ships underway; of those, 143 are deployed. These numbers equate to over 53,000 Sailors deployed in support of the Navy’s missions worldwide. To support current ongoing combat operations, the Navy has 15,600 Individual Augmentees deployed in the CENTCOM area of responsibility.

“The United States Marine Corps has almost 30,000 Marines deployed. A little over 15,000 Marines are on the ground in Afghanistan. Many of those are currently engaged in hostile combat in and around the town of Marja in the Helmand province. I am sure I speak for all Members of the committee when I say that our thoughts and prayers are with all the deployed Sailors and Marines, and with their families, with particular concern for those Marines who are currently engaged in combat operations.

“I have said this before, but it bears repeating. Our sea services are this nation’s fast response force, the Navy power base is ‘maneuver from the sea’, and our Marine Corps is, and should remain, an amphibious assault force and a crisis aversion force. Current operations over the last seven years have stressed our Marine Corps and fashioned them more to a medium-heavy ground combat force. I am concerned about that.

“We remain committed to providing our Sailors and Marines with the equipment they need to accomplish the tasks before them. However, there are challenges. The Navy must recapitalize the main battle fleet to numbers which can support the COCOMs requirements. The 30-year shipbuilding plan submitted with the budget request only partially accomplishes this task. From that plan it appears the cost associated with replacing the Ohio Class ballistic missile submarines is so high that efforts to restore numbers in the surface force and the attack submarine force may have to be sacrificed to pay for the national strategic deterrence mission of the ballistic missile submarine.

“The shipbuilding plan does not address the requirement of a 38 ship force of amphibious assault ships; at best the shipbuilding plan provides a force of amphibious ships in the low 30s. It seems to me that might be an unacceptable risk. I am sure that this committee will carefully review the Navy shipbuilding plan.

“I am very concerned about the looming strike fighter shortfall in Naval Aviation. In short, I do not understand why the F/A 18 strike fighter program has not been extended. By any analysis, more Navy and Marine Corps fighters will be needed to meet validated inventory requirements by the middle of this decade. Delays in the Joint Strike Fighter program only exacerbate the problem of a near-term strike fighter shortfall. Just as worrisome, internal Navy analysis estimates that it will cost 40 percent more to operate JSF than what the current fleet of strike aircraft now costs.

“The Navy and Marine Corps continue to be challenged in maintenance and recapitalization. I am pleased to see an increase in the Navy’s request for operations and maintenance funds. I note that in Admiral Roughead’s response to the Ranking Member’s request for the Navy unfunded priority list, the CNO lists spare parts and deferred maintenance as his three most vital shortfalls.

“Year after year, deferred maintenance seems to pile up. If we cannot seem to find the funding to maintain our ships, planes, and equipment, I am deeply concerned about the additional costs of replacing them prior to the end of their expected service life.

“Deployments have always been a part and parcel of the sea service. The sea services have always lived in a reality of deployment, reset, re-training, and then re-deployment. However, I am very concerned that the average Navy deployment cycle has gradually increased from the traditional 6 month deployment with an 18 month maintenance and re-training period to deployments averaging 8 months with comparable reduction in the maintenance and re-training period. The stress on the force seems to be increasing.

“Finally, I would like to address the relocation of Marines from Okinawa. It is essential that we preserve the unique, strategic relationship that exists between Japan and the United States. At the same time, it is imperative that we reduce our force structure in Okinawa and retain the strategic capabilities associated with the third Marine Expeditionary Force. While I understand the desire of the new Government of Japan to review the current basing agreements, we need to move forward with the overall realignment that includes a Futenma Replacement Facility and the Guam relocation. In the end, we need to ensure that the Marine Corps and the supporting communities are in a better position. We need to get this right.

“I now turn to my good friend, the Ranking Member of this committee, Buck McKeon for any opening comments he might care to make.”


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