Opening Statement of Ranking Member Jim Saxton

May 1, 2007
Press Release

Contact: Josh Holly; 202.226.3988 

Washington D.C. –Rep. Jim Saxton, (R-NJ), ranking Republican on the Air and Land Forces Subcommittee, today released the following opening statement for the subcommittee’s mark-up of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008:

“Mr. Chairman, first I’d like to thank you and your subcommittee staff for your continued professionalism and all the hard work that has taken place behind the scenes to get this mark done.  Your mark for fiscal year 2008 reflects an objective of balancing the health and capability of the current force with the needs of future capability. 

“As I said at our very first oversight hearing back in January, this subcommittee has a long tradition of focusing on those issues that can most impact and help our brave men and women in uniform.  And this mark meets that end by once again making force protection issues the top priority of this committee. 

“The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicle is the number one priority for both the Army and the Marine Corps in theater.  As the chairman said, this mark recommends an increase of $4.1 billion for MRAP in title XV and I commend him for his leadership in regards to taking this issue on.

“As in years past, this committee holds to a belief that a strong and healthy airlift fleet is a basic requirement for national security.  The Department of Defense relies on our organic airlift as a key enabler to global response.  The increases in Army and Marine Corps end strength, as well as the increased reliance on C-17s to provide airlift for our troops inside the theater of operations, are a clear indicator to this committee that we need more C-17s.  I’d like to thank the Chairman for all his hard work in ensuring that the nation continues to strengthen this key national security enabler.

“While I said this was a balanced mark, I didn’t say it was a perfect mark.  There are several programs that take significant cuts and I want to address the subcommittee’s reasoning behind these reductions; particularly in regards to the Future Combat Systems (FCS) program.  There is no doubt that every member of this committee wants to ensure we have an Army that is ready today and prepared to meet the challenges of the future.  The problem is that the Army simply has too many bills to pay and not enough funding to cover them all.  I wish this wasn’t the case and that the Army had a higher top line so that these difficult choices wouldn’t have to be made.

“I would like to note, as the Chairman knows, this committee has been asking the hard questions in regards to FCS all the way back to 2004.  Recently, the Chairman and I spent the better part of day at the Pentagon with senior Army leaders learning more about this program.  In years past, our legislative provisions and funding reductions were meant to provide better oversight of the program and to steer it in the right direction.  For example, this committee highlighted two years ago that the Army had traded-off too much survivability in order to try to fit one vehicle into a C-130.  Consequently, the Army has added more survivability back into the vehicles and the current requirement is to put three on a C-17. 

“However, this year I am concerned that the recommended reduction to FCS may do more than just ‘steer’ the program in the right reduction.  Yesterday afternoon the Army came to see me because they had gotten wind of a significant funding reduction to the FCS program.   The Army believes this action would have a detrimental impact to the FCS program. 

“I don’t know if this is accurate or not, but I understand why the decision to decrement the program was made and I support the chairman’s difficult decision in terms of balancing priorities.  However, I would ask the Chairman to work with me prior to the full committee mark-up to find a way to mitigate the funding reduction. 

“Given the demands of an ongoing war and the need to continue to buy and develop new equipment, this subcommittee mark strikes a balance given the funding available.  On balance, this is a good Chairman’s mark and I encourage all members to support it.”