WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Michael Turner (R-OH), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled "Ground Force Modernization Programs and the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request ." For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"The Subcommittee meets today to review the Army and Marine Corps ground force equipment modernization budget request for fiscal year 2018. From our previous hearings held in March we are aware that the Army and Marine Corps continue to face significant challenges in rebuilding full spectrum readiness from years of deferred modernization funding. We are particularly interested in understanding how this budget request will begin the process of reversing the trend in deferred modernization funding.
I’d like to welcome our witnesses representing the Army and Marine Corps:
Lieutenant General John M. Murray, Deputy Chief of Staff, G-8
Lieutenant General Paul A. Ostrowski, Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Acquisition, Logistics and Technology)
Lieutenant General Gary L. Thomas, Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources
Brigadier General Joseph Shrader, Commanding General, Marine Corps Systems Command
Thank you each for your dedicated service to our Nation.
Today the subcommittee will review a broad portfolio of ground force equipment modernization programs and their associated acquisition strategies. We expect to gain a better understanding of Army and Marine Corps modernization priorities in fiscal year 2018 and beyond.
As such, the witnesses have been asked to identify their top 5 modernization requirements and briefly summarize how the budget request addresses them. The subcommittee will be particularly interested in learning of any unfunded requirements the Army and Marine Corps may have for fiscal year 2018.
Yesterday, the Administration released its budget request for the Department of Defense that amounts to a $603 billion topline. Since we just received the request we are still in the early stages of reviewing the specifics of the budget request which makes this hearing so timely. As I’ve stated at previous hearings, I support the President’s commitment to rebuilding the military.
However, I am concerned that the current budget request does not go far enough.
I support Chairman Thornberry’s statement that quote: 'The Administration’s budget proposal for defense is not enough to do what the President said he wants to do. In order to begin to repair the damage that has been done to readiness and to build the capability needed for today’s dangerous world, we believe that $640 billion is required for fiscal year 2018' --end of quote.
A topline budget of $603 billion for defense in fiscal year 2018 really only represents 3 percent growth above President’s Obama’s projected budget request for fiscal year 2018 from last year.
To be fair though, it appears that the Army modernization request (procurement and RDT and E) and the Marine Corps ground equipment procurement request do provide for some improvement over fiscal year 2017 projected levels. The problem is that due to multiple years of underfunding and reduced budgets, these relative modest increases aren’t enough to actually reverse the damage that has already been done.
For example, the request provides the funding necessary to modernize about half of one armored brigade combat team, meaning the Army is on a path to fully modernize all of their armored brigade teams by 2035--which is a problem.
Finally, I continue to have concerns that we are losing our comparative advantage in ground combat overmatch against near peer and peer competitors. Legacy combat vehicle platforms, in some cases are nearing the 40 year mark in terms of service, and I’m concerned that these vehicles are reaching limitations in terms of capability. So I am particularly interested in understanding how this budget request begins to address next generation combat vehicle systems."