WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's joint hearing titled “Mobility and Transportation Command Posture.” For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"I want to welcome General McDew and Admiral Buzby and thank them for the time and effort they have made on this most important issue. I also want to thank Chairman Wilson for offering to have this joint subcommittee hearing today. I believe that there are a number of overlapping issues with the Readiness Subcommittee and I look forward to working with the gentleman from South Carolina to move these issues through the NDAA markup process.
I think the Department of Defense needs to reassess its commitment to a core military competency: logistics. At the heart of any successful campaign is a logistics train that provides the bullets and butter to the combatant forces in a timely manner. While high-profile acquisition programs are prioritized, little-known capabilities are left to continue their operations with little funding. It is obvious to me that we need to turn our attention to airlift and sealift elements of our military strategy and take immediate steps to improve our logistics capabilities.
Today, we have a surge sealift force that averages 42 years old. Certain officials have referred to this sealift force as the last bastion of steam powered technology in the world. In fact, by 2020, TRANSCOM will own almost all of the steam plant ships in the world. This is not a moniker that I relish but it is a good example of the plight of our sealift forces. While MARAD has done a good job of maintaining and activating select ready reserve force ships, the reality of a full activation of this aged fleet is at best circumspect.
I am equally perplexed that the military has not, to date, presumed attrition in their auxiliary forces requirements. It is pretty obvious that we have overly optimized our forces for peace. As envisioned by the National Defense Strategy, it is time that we shift our focus to getting ready for a future of potential conflict. I look forward to General McDew's assessment as to the impacts of the National Defense Strategy on the mobility forces. After meeting with General McDew last week, it is also my understanding that an updated report on auxiliary forces, to include attrition, will be complete this fall.
As to our strategic airlift capabilities, today we depend on a much smaller fleet to move cargo, personnel, to MEDEVAC the wounded, and to support disaster relief around the globe. For example, of the response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma last October left an insufficient strategic airlift capability available to move troops and cargo to Afghanistan in a timely manner-threatening the ability of the Department of Defense's ability to blunt Taliban territorial gains.
I am concerned that outdated planning assumptions need to be reviewed; I believe that assumptions made for the on-going Mobility Capability and Requirements must take into account the logistical needs of a future dispersed battlefield. Furthermore, the administration has made it clear that it wants to increase Army and Marine Corps force structure that will drive even greater mobility requirements. Additionally, areas are becoming less permissive for civilian aviation operations to deliver these additional Soldiers and Marines to their areas of operation increasing the demands on an already insufficient fleet of strategic lift aircraft. Consequently, I believe it is critical for TRANSCOM to thoughtfully consider how best to increase strategic airlift capacity and its ability to operate in contested environments around the globe.
At the conclusion of World War II, Fleet Admiral Ernest King reflected on our success and our shortcomings. He indicated 'The war has been variously termed a war of production and a war of machines. Whatever else it is, so far as the United States is concerned, it is a war of logistics.' It is time that we reflect on Admiral King's assessment… an assessment that was paid with the blood and sweat of the greatest generation. Today, we need to ensure that our logistics capability will provide the lift required and in a timely manner to support our military objectives.
I thank Chairman Wilson for working with the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee on this important issue and I yield back the balance of time."