Jul 12 2011

How Does the Navy Get Ready, and Where are We Today?

Forbes Opening Statement

Washington, DC – On Tuesday, July 12, 2011, the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness held a hearing entitled “How does the Navy get ready & where are we today?” Chairman Randy Forbes (R-VA) released the following prepared remarks: 

“I want to welcome all of our members and our distinguished panel of experts to today’s hearing that will focus on how the Navy gets ready, and the current state of Navy readiness.  No one will dispute that we have the most capable Navy in the world.  However, a dichotomy exists when you contrast the decline in our Navy readiness posture due to decreased funding with the increase in military capabilities of many emerging powers.  In January of this year, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates admitted that Beijing’s military modernization caught the U.S. intelligence community off guard.

“Juxtapose that against a backdrop of looming defense cuts in the U.S. that are expected to be submitted by the Administration in the very near future.  Our Navy already has insufficient resources to preserve its current fleet let alone reverse the negative trends of years of underfunding, deferred maintenance, and gaping holes in Navy readiness.

“According to the Pentagon’s “Quarterly Readiness Report to Congress,” in many areas the Navy has not met their goals and is not prepared even with the current level of funding.  For example, currently only 45% of our deployed Navy aircraft are fully combat ready.  Everyone can do the math, but, I am startled by the fact that fewer than 5 aircraft out of every 10 in combat are prepared for their mission.  We continue to see shortfalls throughout the fleet including an almost 16% backlog for aircraft and engines, fewer spares available, and more than $815 million of unfunded maintenance requirements to cite a few examples.  During inspections in the last two years, more than 1 in 5 Navy vessels were deemed less than satisfactory or unfit for combat.  Coupled with manpower shortfalls, an increased number of Commanding Officers being relieved, greater ‘cannibalization’ of parts from other vessels, and insufficient training, all of these statistics add up to glaring deficiencies that are nothing short of alarming.

“Earlier this year before this very Subcommittee, Vice Admiral Bruce Clingan admitted that in his opinion, “the Department of Defense, and certainly the Navy budget, is carrying a level of risk this year, fiscal year 2012, and in the out years ... That would cause me to suggest that one of the solutions to the deficit spending that I would not advise is to diminish DOD, and certainly the Navy’s, budget.”  Admiral Clingan went further to suggest that to decrease the funding “at a time when we are trying to reset and reconstitute the force and meet an evolving security environment, [would] invite multiple concurrent diverse crises, [and] would in fact increase risk.

“Fundamentally, I am very disturbed because over the horizon I see our adversaries continuing to expand their military might, while a masthead of a $400 billion cut to national defense is looming.  In the last few days, the press reported that after meeting with Admiral Mullen, China’s top general recommended that the U.S. should reduce its military spending; which is consistent with what we anticipate from the Administration in the very near future.  And, while some in Congress may agree, this is not a position that I am prepared to accept.  Unfortunately, this is exactly the direction we are headed if we do not take strides to preserve the budget and our critical investments.

“It is incumbent on this subcommittee to focus on today, and it is our obligation to preserve and defend strategic investments for the future.  I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today not only how the Navy gets “ready,” but delving into detailed discussions regarding the current state of Navy readiness.”