Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on the Posture of the Department of the Navy
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to join Senator Inhofe in welcoming Secretary Spencer, Admiral Richardson, and General Neller to the Committee this morning to testify on the plans and programs of the Department of the Navy in our review of the fiscal year 2020 authorization request. We are grateful to each of you for your service, for the service of the men and women under your command, and for the support of all Navy and Marine families.
I particularly want to thank Admiral Richardson and General Neller as this is likely to be their last posture hearing before this Committee. We thank you for your dedicated years of service to our nation.
As the leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps, you face huge challenges as you strive to balance the need to support ongoing operations and sustain readiness with the need to modernize and keep the technological edge so critical to military success.
In the near term, the Marine Corps has $315 million in the Disaster Emergency Relief Supplemental that they need relatively quickly. I hope we can focus on the potential consequences of delaying recovery activities and move the Disaster Emergency Relief Supplemental forward.
In addition, because significant levels of funding are being transferred to build the wall on the southern border, the amount of reprogramming authority will be limited this year. I remain concerned that the Navy, Marine Corps and other Services may run short of headroom in reprogramming authority, which could lead to other delays and shortages. In addition, I am concerned about the opportunity costs of deployments to the border.
The Department of the Navy faces serious readiness problems, caused by deferred maintenance, reduced steaming and flying hours, and cancelled training and deployments. We are all keenly aware of the collisions of the McCain and Fitzgerald and the loss of life that resulted. I am interested in hearing about the progress the Navy is making in implementing changes that will ensure such incidents will not happen in the future.
All areas of our naval forces are maintaining an extremely high operations tempo. Demand is overwhelming for attack submarines, air and missile defense cruisers, destroyers and strike fighter inventories. In addition, the Navy is now in its seventh year of operating with fewer than the legally required eleven aircraft carriers. The Ford is listed in the Navy inventory, but that ship which is more than four years behind schedule, and will not be ready to deploy for many more months. In addition, during the next decade, the Navy will need to buy the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines to replace the Ohio-class submarines. This is an extremely expensive undertaking that is on a very tight schedule.
The Marine Corps continues to make modernization of ground vehicles a priority, which requires balancing the procurement of new systems while upgrading existing platforms to meet current operational needs. The Amphibious Combat Vehicle will replace the aging inventory of Assault Amphibious Vehicles in order to provide the Marines with increased force protection and enhanced lethality. The Marine Corps is also partnering with the Army to develop the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, or JLTV, to replace the HumVee. I would welcome an update from our witnesses on the status of these programs, particularly in view of Army plans to cut back the JLTV program.
Two years ago, Admiral Richardson, you released the Force Structure Assessment, that identified a new force structure goal. The Navy’s current high level of operations contributed in part to your conclusion in this assessment that the goal for the Navy fleet needs to increase from 308 ships to 355 ships. I would like to hear what progress the Navy is making in filling these needs. I am also interested in learning how the plan to retire the USS Harry S Truman (CVN-75) rather than refuel her is consistent with achieving the 355-ship goals.
I again thank the witnesses and I look forward to their testimony.