Contact: Josh Holly (HASC), 202-226-3988 Lisa Wright (Bartlett), 202-225-2721
Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Ranking Republican Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) released the following opening statement for the Subcommittee’s hearing on the procurement of Navy force protection barriers:
“Good afternoon, ladies and gentleman. I wish I could say we were here today to applaud the Navy’s responsiveness to an urgent force protection requirement that emerged after the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen on October 12, 2000. This is a personal and important issue to me – it may seem unimaginable, but two of the seventeen sailors who were killed on the USS Cole came from small towns in Washington County, Maryland.
“U.S. Navy Seaman Craig Wibberly from Williamsport and Fireman Apprentice Patrick Roy from Keedysville were both nineteen. What I will always remember—and this was before 9/11—were the hundreds and thousands of people who lined the routes to Craig Wibberley's grave at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Boonsboro and to Patrick Roy’s grave at the Antietam National Cemetery. This Civil War hallowed ground was reopened by the National Park Service at the request of Patrick’s family.
“Unfortunately, the good work the Navy did do to ensure our sailors and marines were protected from small boat attacks, while they were at port or at anchor, has been overshadowed by the recent article in the press headlining the millions of dollars wasted on this important effort. So, for the record, please let me echo Chairman Taylor’s remarks and emphasize that, in comparison to the amount of time it traditionally takes the Department of Defense (DoD) to procure a new capability, the speed of this program was impressive.
“From the time of the attack, the Fleets’ requirements for barriers were identified and the funds provided within three months. A solution was found and tested within five months after that and orders were being placed within five months after testing. By the time allegations of procurement irregularities surfaced two years later, most of these systems were installed and protecting our men and women. That’s good news.
“Sadly, we now know that this program had its share of bad news. I am interested in the testimony from our witnesses today, because I believe there is more to this story than appeared in the press. I am hopeful that we’ll learn that the system responded appropriately and addressed any wrongdoing that may have been found. But whether this story represents another example of systemic problems with our defense acquisition system or whether this is merely a case of a few bad apples, there are two important take aways.
“First, Mr. Taylor is right – the first time I learned of this was when I read the paper a couple of weeks ago. While I understand that an investigation is ongoing and that it would be inappropriate to reveal too many details publicly, I would strongly encourage the Navy to keep us informed about these matters. It does a disservice to the good work that our acquisition personnel perform every day on behalf of the warfighter and taxpayer, for Congress to remain in a reactionary mode in responding to incidents after they are first reported in the media.
“Second, we have another lesson in the need for thorough acquisition workforce training and for an understanding of contractual issues not only within acquisition programs, but also within the investigative services and the prosecutors’ offices. Clearly, it is possible that a more thoroughly trained acquisition staff within Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) might have caught these issues earlier, or better yet, kept them from happening in the first place. This Committee is strongly supportive of keeping inherently governmental functions within the government, in part to avoid the cost of contractors who provide little value added to the procurement process. I sincerely hope the Department of Defense and the Congress can work together to stem the erosion of these critical functions within the Government.”