Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988
Washington D.C. –Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, today released the following opening statement from the House Armed Services Committee’s posture hearing on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the U.S. Air Force:
“I’d like to start out by saying thank you to our witnesses, Secretary Wynne and General Moseley, for their service to our nation and for being here with us today.
“Every year we get together at this time to talk about the budget request and each of the services' priorities and constraints. We talk about goals, plans and programs. We talk about budget shortfalls and acquisition strategies that aren't working out so well. Yet, it strikes me that we never seem to really change much because, as I said, every year we come back here to talk about more troubled programs, more fiscal challenges and the ever-increasing need to field equipment to our men and women serving this country. These brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines continue to perform their duties with extraordinary professionalism and courage despite all those over-cost acquisition programs, budget shortfalls and unanticipated mission requirements. These are the folks that we should never fail to praise and thank for their unwavering commitment to this nation.
“I want to read you a bit of my opening statement from last year's Air Force Posture hearing
‘The DOD budget legacy is one of missed procurement opportunities. This, as you point out in your statement, gives us the oldest fleet of aircraft in the history of the Air Force, with the fleet having been engaged in or supporting some level of combat for the past fifteen years. The aircraft fleet has been operating at utilization rates far beyond those planned. The consequence of age and high operational tempo is reflected in reduced readiness rates. It is to the Air Force’s credit that professional fleet management has achieved the safety record that it has.’
“So, gentlemen, I ask you, as you sit before this committee one year later, what is different? What lessons learned have been applied to make this nation's Air Force better? I ask this because I look at your budget request and I see operations and maintenance shortfalls. I see excessive cost growth in acquisition programs like the C-130 and C-5 modernization programs, and many of your space acquisition programs.
“Why is it that we cannot identify a requirement, develop a solution and get it to the warfighter in a reasonable period of time? We've all heard the problems—everything from ‘requirements changes due to operational needs’ to the ‘contractor failed to perform.’ The bottom line, gentlemen, is that we are a nation at war. Our airmen have been flying combat missions over Iraqi air space for 16 years. The need to recapitalize and modernize our legacy systems is clear. What is not clear, however, is how we go about doing that successfully and responsibly.
“You notified us last year that you were planning on reducing your end strength by 40,000 in order to ‘self-finance’ many of your modernization efforts. Despite these planned personnel reductions, you tell us that you have nearly 10,000 airmen deployed to fill shortfalls in the Army and the Marine Corps. How do you plan to successfully accomplish your primary mission, which now includes support for the airlift requirements of a growing ground component, absorb a personnel reduction of 40,000 airmen and continue to help the Army and Marine Corps fill some of the ground combat support gaps?
“While the conflicts of today deserve our utmost attention and ample resources, we should not lose sight of the strategic challenges of tomorrow. The recent Chinese anti-satellite test was a clear display of China’s capability to hold our satellites at risk. American military forces and the American economy are dependent on space for everything from battlefield communications and intelligence to ATM transactions. I hope that we can take some time today to talk about Air Force investments aimed at strengthening the protection, redundancy and reconstitution of U.S. space assets.
“I am glad you are here with us and I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the state of our Air Force and the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request. I also look forward to hearing your thoughts on the difficulties we are having in developing and acquiring the new systems Congress has authorized. On a final note, I wonder if you would be facing a reduction of 40,000 airmen if you weren't seeing so many procurement programs over-cost and behind schedule.”