Tuesday, February 23, 2010

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

House Armed Services Committee: Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton - Hearing on the FY 2011 Department of the Air Force Budget Request
House Armed Services Committee
February 23, 2010

Opening Statement of Chairman Ike Skelton- Hearing on the FY 2011 Department of the Air Force 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 Air Force:

“Today, the House Armed Services Committee meets to receive testimony on the Fiscal Year 2011 budget request of the United States Air Force. Our witnesses today are: The Honorable Michael Donley, Secretary of the Air Force; and General Norton A. Schwartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force.

“Thank you both for appearing here, and let me take the opportunity to thank all those you lead—the Active Duty, Reserve, and Air Guard personnel and the Air Force civilian employees.

“Every day, the Air Force flies well in excess of 200 sorties a day in Iraq and Afghanistan, totaling over 570,000 sorties since September 11, 2001. Additionally, about 29,000 personnel are currently deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, including over 4,000 serving in Joint Expeditionary Task billets—that is, in nontraditional billets, often outside the wire. This continues to be an exceptionally busy Air Force and one that is contributing greatly to the current joint fight.

“To support this level of activity, the administration has requested a $5.3 billion increase over last year’s base budget level. This would support a 1.4% across-the-board military and civilian pay raise and support the Air Force’s continued focus on providing support to military families. As someone who has often commented that if ‘momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,’ I strongly approve of the continued emphasis on personnel and family issues.

“Nonetheless, there are aspects of this budget request that cause me concern. For starters, I see we’re back to square one on building a new bomber. Two years ago, Secretary Gates gave his blessing for the Air Force to begin a new, well thought-out bomber program. As I understand it, the direction is now to reconsider where to go with this program—going back to first principles. I find this confusing as these issues were recently studied in depth over a five year period.

“I hope the witnesses will explain to us why redoing this study is a good use of taxpayer dollars. Our national security will continue to require bombing capability and the smart design engineering workforce—a national treasure in my opinion—should not be lost.

“I also hope the witnesses will discuss the F136 alternate engine issue. We have long funded the development of an alternate engine for the Joint Strike Fighter as an insurance policy for our national security. Twenty five years from now, the F-35 will comprise 95% of all U.S. fighter aircraft.

“It seems to me then that relying simply on one engine means accepting a potential single source of failure. The Secretary of Defense promised us, starting on February 1st, that he would provide us the analysis on which this year’s decision was made. We have still not received this analysis and remain deeply concerned about receiving it quickly.

“I also have questions about the status of the F-35 program more generally. This is a critical program for us and for our allies, but three recent reviews of the F-35 program have challenged the current development schedule, cost increases in the F135 engine, and the future production schedule. Given this, I ask our witnesses to help us understand how we can stay on target for a 2013 initial operating capability and—in the absence of full testing—why the Air Force wants to buy 23 in 2011, an increase from 13 in 2010.

“There are many other important issues that I hope we can get to in during questions--including our strike fighter force structure requirements, cyber attack and defense, and future plans for a light attack aircraft, to name a few. In addition, I will say that I am pleased that OSD and the Air Force will soon be issuing the final request for proposal for our next tanker. We must get a new tanker contract awarded and start replacing current planes as soon as possible.

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


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