Mar 22 2012

Navy Readiness Posture

Chairman Randy Forbes

Chairman Randy Forbes made the following opening statement.

"I want to welcome all of our members and our distinguished panel of experts to today’s hearing that will focus on the Navy’s Readiness Posture in the context of the Fiscal Year 2013 budget request.  

"I welcome this discussion and the opportunity to dive into the details of the Fiscal Year 2013 President’s Budget submission for the Navy Readiness accounts.  First and foremost, I commend the Navy for its sustained focus and improvements to surface ship maintenance led by the Surface Maintenance Engineering Planning and Procurement Activity.  The rigor that has been introduced into the process facilitates a more comprehensive, standardized and accurate assessment of fleet maintenance requirements and requisite investments in the operation and maintenance accounts.  

"In the next few years, we look forward to seeing the full impact of actions taken as a result of the Balisle report, but, the indications are positive and progress has been steady and measurable in that short period of time.

"Meanwhile, Naval aviation has remained relatively constant – with a level aircraft inventory and steady maintenance requirements.  However, in the FY13 request, I am concerned that we decreased the funding in this account from FY12 levels by $36 million - resulting in a backlog of 74 airframes and 170 engines.  We recognize the challenge the Navy has in balancing the maintenance requirements for both new and aging systems in its inventory, and the logistics tail associated with parts availability.  The Readiness trends for full mission capability rates suggest less than satisfactory performance, but, I look forward to discussing that later in the context of this hearing to garner a greater insight into the rates reflected in the most recent quarterly readiness report. 

"Despite relatively level funding, I remain concerned that we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.  The Navy has been operating in a sustained surge for the past few years.  We have been burning out our ships more quickly because the demand has been high.  The strategic pivot to the Pacific would result in continued, if not increased demand for these assets in a maritime environment.  And, the FY13 budget request includes an increase in ship operations to 58 steaming days per quarter for deployed units and 24 for non-deployed units with base and OCO funding.  

"In my estimation, this situation does not lead one to logically conclude that it is an appropriate time to retire additional assets, particularly when the existing force structure only satisfies 53% of the total Combatant Commander demand in FY12.  Yet, the Navy proposed a top line of 285 ships this year, and possibly through 2017.  And, Secretary Panetta said it is his 'hope to increase the fleet to 300 ships.'

"The Navy already anticipated the retirement and deactivation of 16 ships over FY13 to FY14.  However, with this budget, the Navy announced its proposal to retire an additional 2 amphibious ships and 7 cruisers, 6 of which lack ballistic missile defense capability, across FY13 and FY14.  Excluding the USS Port Royal, the committee has estimated that the approximate cost to upgrade the assets and sustain them in each respective fiscal year would be $592 million in FY13 plus an additional $859 million in FY14. While only an estimate, the cost to retain those 8 assets is significantly cheaper than the price for one new destroyer, for example, at more than $2 billion.

"Admiral McCoy, last year before this very subcommittee, you stated that “the cheapest way to afford our Navy with the force structure that we need is to maintain the ships we already have.”  And, the age of these ships is well before the 35-40-year expected service life.  The cruisers proposed for retirement have approximately 13-15 years of expected service life remaining, and the amphibious ships have approximately 13-18 years remaining.  So, why would the Navy propose to reduce the fleet size at a time when all trends indicate that demand is increasing?

"We do not expect the budget to get any better, and in fact, reflecting on the unfunded requirements in FY12, I know that the Navy is now forced to deal with an additional $939 million shortfall due to the difference between the Department’s projected fuel cost and actual costs.  I look forward to hearing how you will deal with that bill.  I recognize that the Navy is a consumer of the fuel and does not dictate the prices. However, that amount is not inconsequential, and it wreaks havoc during the year of execution – regardless of your budget posture when presenting it to Congress for consideration.  Put into perspective, the cost of that shortfall would cover approximately 65% of the amount required for upgrading the cruisers and retaining the amphibs proposed for early retirement in FY13/14.

"In my estimation, the proposal to reduce force structure at a time when the demand for naval assets is increasing creates a risk that I am not prepared to accept.  It is a proposal that is fraught with danger and will not only degrade the readiness of our forces, but will burn out the assets we have even quicker while reducing availability to support combatant commander demands. 

"Let me be very clear.  I will oppose any initiative that seeks to undermine the preeminence of our military, I will oppose any effort that breaks faith with our service members and veterans, and I will oppose any effort that seeks to diminish the capabilities of our naval forces.  Speaking for myself, and what I believe is the majority of Americans, our nation cannot afford additional reductions in our military.  

"As to the request that is before our subcommittee this morning, I look forward to better understanding the reason the Administration believes that the Navy can do more with less.  In my initial assessment of this issue, I believe that not only is our current force structure insufficient, but the future reductions of fleet assets with approximately 40% of their service life remaining compromises military readiness for the future."  

Date Title
3/29/12 What is the Price of Energy Security: from Battlefields to Bases
3/29/12 Oversight of U.S. Naval Vessel Acquisition Programs and Force Structure of the Department of the Navy in the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request
3/28/12 Army and Marine Corps Materiel Reset
3/28/12 The Security Situation in the Korean Peninsula
3/27/12 FY13 DOD Rotorcraft Modernization Programs
3/27/12 Understanding Future Irregular Warfare Challenges
3/22/12 Hazing in the Military
3/22/12 Current record
3/21/12 Defense Health Program Budget Overview
3/20/12 Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Tactical Aviation Programs
3/20/12 Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Request for Information Technology and Cyber Operations Programs
3/20/12 Recent Developments in Afghanistan
3/8/12 The Request for Authorization of Another BRAC Round and Additional Reductions in Overseas Bases
3/8/12 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for National Security Space Activities
3/8/12 Army and Marine Corps Ground System Modernization Programs
3/7/12 Assessing Mobility Airlift Capabilities and Operational Risks Under the Revised 2012 Defense strategy
3/7/12 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Requests from U.S. Central Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Transportation Command
3/6/12 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request for Missile Defense
3/6/12 Military Personnel Budget Overview—Service Personnel Chiefs’ Perspectives
3/6/12 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Requests from U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Northern Command
3/1/12 Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from U.S. Pacific Command