Washington, D.C. – United States Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Readiness, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on the state of aging and under resourced infrastructure and housing across the Department of Defense.
Rep. Waltz’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
Welcome everyone to our first Readiness Subcommittee hearing of 2024. We are fortunate to have a new member joining the subcommittee this year. I would like to introduce Rep. Lance Gooden from the 5th district of Texas. I look forward to working with him and the other members of the subcommittee to address important issues through the rest of the 118th Congress.
Unfortunately, today’s topic is not a new issue. Infrastructure across the Department of Defense and the Military Services continues to age, and the deteriorating conditions at military facilities have broad effects. Neglect and disrepair of military facilities doesn’t just harm operational readiness or capability, it has significant impacts on everything from quality-of-life for our servicemembers to sustainment and innovation.
I am going to linger here to underscore the most recent and most glaring example of the problem with aging infrastructure. The GAO report on the conditions at barracks across the military departments should be a wake-up call to all leaders. Our servicemembers deserve better than what was detailed in the report. Ranking Member Garamendi and I sent a letter to Secretary Austin last year stating our commitment to conducting oversight and finding a solution to this problem because poorly maintained and neglected barracks only aggravates the recruitment and retention crisis that we are experiencing.
Disrepair at barracks facilities, however, is only one of the symptoms of the underlying chronic problem. Facility, Sustainment, Restoration, and Modernization budget lines are routinely underfunded in the budget requests every year. These budget lines are routinely used as “pay for’s” in budget reprogramming requests. Via the FY24 NDAA, this subcommittee authorized amounts for FSRM above the President’s request to help mitigate this issue. Underfunding for repair and modernization only causes conditions to deteriorate faster.
The consequences of that scenario are bleak enough, but infrastructure issues are also prevalent at our innovation and testing facilities. We rely on our RDT&E infrastructure and DOD labs to advance the concepts and capabilities we need for great power competition. We must be prepared for potential conflict with China; these national facilities are critical to that effort but are often overlooked by the Military Departments.
I thank the witnesses for appearing today and I look forward to hearing their testimony. I hope that each may be able to speak to how we can work together on solutions for transparency in the use of FSRM funds as well as other opportunities to better address aging infrastructure