Hunter Opening Statement for Posture Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request for the Navy and Marine Corps

Feb 28, 2007
Press Release

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 for the House Armed Services Committee’s posture hearing on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps:

“Good morning Secretary Winter, Admiral Mullen and General Conway.  It’s a pleasure to have you here today to learn more about the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. While hearings like today’s may seem pro forma because we do them every year, I believe it is critical for the members serving on this committee to have an opportunity to review the budget, then ask you hard questions about it so we can ensure we make the right decisions for not only the 50,000 Sailors and Marines serving in Central Command, but also for the Navy and Marine Corps as a whole.

“Budgets also tend to serve as signals for policy shifts.  Today, I hope that you will elaborate on a few key areas of interest to this committee, in order to help us understand how the Navy is addressing some very tough challenges and how we might see those decisions reflected in the budget.

“First, I am pleased with Secretary Gate’s decision to increase the Marine Corps’ end strength to 202,000. This committee examined the end strength needs of each of the services last year during our Committee Defense Review.  As a result, we became convinced that such an increase was necessary to relieve stress on the force and to enhance the ability of the Marine Corps to effectively respond to any contingency.  Today, Secretary Winter and General Conway, I hope you will expand upon the areas within the budget, above and beyond the additional personnel costs, which reflect funds necessary to ensure you can accomplish this goal.

“Second, I would like you to address the acquisition process—from requirements definition through fielding and sustainment.  The question is the same today as it was last year, why can’t we identify a requirement, develop a solution and get it to the warfighter in a reasonable period of time and at a reasonable cost?  The most frustrating part of this problem is that it seems like we identify the same deficiencies on nearly every program that runs into trouble, whether it’s requirements creep, failure of the contractor to perform or unrealistic schedules.

“Two glaring examples of these problems are the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV).  The third ship in the LCS class has been under a stop work order since early January, due to cost growth on the first hull.  It is unclear at this time, what sort of cost risk we have on the second LCS.  It appears that the major cost drivers on this program were the parallel development of design requirements with the detailed design itself, the drive to meet launch and delivery dates over all else, and the lack of qualified Navy technical personnel to oversee this program.  The cost growth on LCS has major impacts on other Navy programs. 

“Admiral Mullen, you have told us that you need support to sustain funding for our shipbuilding account—consistent with the 30-year plan.  But you can’t get there if every ship the Navy buys is over budget.  Congress set cost caps on several key shipbuilding programs for that explicit purpose – to help the Navy control costs. LCS is nearly 20 percent of your 313-ship Navy.  Mr. Secretary, we are waiting to hear what course of action you plan to take on this vital program.

“As for EFV, Congress was notified at the time we received the budget request that the EFV program had experienced a Nunn-McCurdy cost threshold breach, meaning that its per unit cost has grown by at least 25%.  Of course, this should not be surprising given that the Marine Corps reviewed the requirement for EFV and found that the requirement had changed—they only needed only half as many EFV’s as they had previously planned. Moreover, last fall’s operational assessment revealed reliability problems.  In the push to get to the next program milestone, the warning signs about these reliability problems may have been overlooked. 

“Again, this may be due to a lack of depth in the government’s technical and systems engineering expertise to properly oversee the program.  The truth is that in the 1990s, these competencies were gutted from the Department and an increasing reliance was put on contractors to deliver the products and services needed by the warfighter.  I believe the pendulum has swung too far.  We’ve got to get this right, for both equipment reset which is desperately needed to replace equipment that has been worn out in Iraq and Afghanistan and for the weapons systems we’re buying to transform our military’s capabilities. 

“Today, I hope our witnesses will tell us how the budget for 2008 reflects their attempts to get this right.  What are you going to do to change how the Department of the Navy does acquisition?  How are you applying lessons learned to another important program, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle (MRAP)?  Once more, you have a program that is attempting to fulfill a critical warfighting gap and you have an aggressive schedule to achieve that goal.  What steps are you taking to ensure that the same kinds of stumbling blocks—requirements change, imbalance of priorities leading to poor contractor performance, and lack of technical oversight—won’t impede your progress?

“Lastly, I would like to hear about how the Navy is taking ownership of the missile defense mission.  The missile and nuclear developments in Iran and North Korea are a clear and present reminder of the need to get our nation’s missile defense capabilities built, tested and fielded—in sufficient numbers—as soon as possible.  Last October, in the wake of the North Korean nuclear test, I sent a letter to the President urging him to further accelerate the schedule for fielding Aegis ballistic missile defense capabilities, including SM-2 and SM-3 interceptors.  What options were considered and what acceleration decisions are reflected in the budget request?

“I have been particularly concerned about the transition of missile defense capabilities from the Missile Defense Agency to the Services.  I am pleased that starting this year, the Navy has committed operations and sustainment funding for Aegis BMD; however, no missile procurement funds are requested in the budget.  I am a strong supporter of Aegis BMD.  As such, I would encourage the Navy to identify its Aegis BMD force structure requirements and the resources needed to meet these requirements. 

“With that, I’d like to conclude by thanking our witnesses for their service to our nation and for being here with us today.  Your commitment to this country is much appreciated.  I look forward to your testimony.”