I want to join Senator McCain in welcoming Secretary Spencer, Admiral Richardson, and Mr. Pendleton to the Committee this morning to testify on the issues surrounding the recent accidents at sea, and the Department’s plans for determining what went wrong and what steps need to be taken to ensure such accidents do not occur in the future.    

Service in the nation’s armed forces can be very dangerous.  The country is saddened whenever we lose one of America’s sons or daughters, but it is particularly disturbing when young people are casualties in the course of conducting normal peacetime operations.  I want to extend my condolences to the families of those who were lost and I know I join all my colleagues and Chairman McCain in expressing my profound sympathies for your loss.

We should not prejudge the outcome of internal Navy reviews of the circumstances surrounding these accidents.  However, we do know that the Department of the Navy has been facing serious readiness problems, caused by deferred maintenance, reduced steaming and flying hours, and cancelled training and deployments.  In addition, the Navy, like the other services, has also been operating at a very high tempo for a prolonged period.  These conditions have been aggravated by many years of budget constraints and uncertainty which have forced leaders into making difficult decisions.  All these factors have inevitably taken a toll on Navy commanders and Navy operations.   

Secretary Spencer and Admiral Richardson, I ask your commitment that you are giving this situation your full attention, that you will follow these investigations wherever they lead, and that you will share all findings with Congress.  We must do all that is necessary to provide and sustain our Navy and all of our armed forces.   

I again thank the witnesses and I look forward to their testimony.