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Below is a transcript of the hearing:
Call the meeting to order. If people will take their seats, we'll go ahead and get started. As I think most people are aware, I want to make sure everybody knows, we -- we -- it is a hybrid hearing again. We have some here, some appearing virtually on the screen. I think we all know how that works these days.
The full committee hearing this morning is on the fiscal year 2023 defense budget request from the Department of the Navy. We are pleased to have three witnesses today, The Honorable Carlos del Toro, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of Naval Operations; and General David Berger, the commandant of the Marine Corps.
I thank you gentlemen all for being here. These are incredibly challenging times, as we all know. And the main theme of what we're trying to at the Pentagon is modernization, you know, catching up with -- with the pace of warfare. To certain degree, warfare has always been about lethality, survivability, and information.
It's just that those things are getting more complicated with the rapid pace of technology. And we are certainly learning lessons from the conflict in Ukraine and some of the other conflicts about what we truly need to be able to be successful and maintain the level of dominance that we want do on the military side.
And I want to compliment the Navy and the Marine Corps for -- for stepping out and -- and looking at the future and mod -- trying to modernize the force and begin to take those steps to get us to where we need to be on a whole series of systems. It is a challenge, because we -- we have legacy systems and we have the future, and how do we balance all of the needs and challenges in the world.
As we've said on this committee many times, it's China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, and transnational terrorist threats. Certainly, our focus right now is on Russia, but those other threats in that list have not gone away while we're dealing with Russia and Ukraine. In some ways, they become even more complicated.
We want to make sure that we're modernizing the force as we move forward. As many of you have heard, I am not as obsessed with numbers as others. I am obsessed with capability. And I'm very interested to hear today from the Navy about how they see the path towards building the capability that they need. We could have 5,000 ships, but if they don't do what we need them to do, it would really be no better than having ten.
What are the capabilities that we're trying to build? And when I look at the systems that we're building going forward, the -- the new attack submarines, the new boomer that's coming online, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers, the frigate that we're building, the increase in the number of drones, and crucially the improvement in missiles.
I was out at Palmdale last week visiting some of our -- our systems as they're being developed as we're trying to catch up, particularly in the hypersonic area. That's where the future of warfare is, our ability to survive not just against China, and I think that's one popular sort of myth, that's like we're building towards, you know, being able to deter China.
It doesn't take much these days to be able to develop missile technology that can take out an aircraft carrier or a tank or even one of our more modern jet fighters. Some of our smaller adversaries can develop those capabilities as well. It doesn't take much to be able to disrupt an information system. We have to make our information systems more secure and to make sure that that information can get to the warfighter that needs it when he or she needs it. All of those things are important for all aspects of that fight.
So, hearing more about modernization on our Navy shipbuilding, it is a controversial issue, as you know. We'd all love to have every single ship that we want right now today, but it takes time, so if you could walk us through the reasons behind the retirements and the ships that we're building to replace them.
And crucially, when we talk about the money that we're saving and the ships that we're retiring, tell us about what it's going to buys us. That money that it's saving is going towards a capability that's going to be crucial going forward. We -- we need to hear about what those specifics are. I also want to compliment the commandant for his leadership of the Marine Corps, modernizing the force there as well, recognizing that the best thing the Marine Corps brings to us is the ability to be an agile, mobile, lethal force, and you have to build the system to enable you -- your -- the Marine Corps to do that.
You know, the -- the future of land warfare and tanks is not terribly bright, so we need to move on and build the force that's going to be able to fight the fight of the future. And I applaud your leadership in doing that. Two last issues I want to touch on before I turn it over to Mr. Rogers. Number one is the sea launched cruise missile.
This has been a matter of some controversy, has been proposed to not build the sea launched cruise missile. It's not actually a decision point right now in terms of whether or not we go forward with it, but there's a general feeling, why wouldn't you want more missiles? Isn't more better? What I am concerned about is the mission of the attack submarines.
We're talking about putting nuclear missiles on attack submarines. Now, as we all know, we have submarines that have nuclear missile capability, and they are crucial to our force. We are modernizing that as we speak. But it was determined back in the '90s the -- the burden of the attack submarines also having to carry nuclear missiles -- and it's not just a matter of swapping one missile out for the other.
If you're going to carry an actual nuclear missile, it is an entirely different mission that retires an entirely different system and an entirely different set of training. It is a major step. And the reason some of us don't support moving to that step is because -- not because we don't want more missiles.
We want the attack submarines to be able to do the job that they do right now to the best of their ability. We don't want to impede that mission. But it's a balance, so we look forward to hearing your -- your comments on that. Lastly, the -- the USS George Washington has -- has been in the news with the number of suicides.
200 crew members were taken off of it. There have been widespread complaints about the living conditions on board that ship. And not just on that ship but widely speaking, we -- we are concerned on this committee about how our sailors, and also service members just in general, are being taken care of, and how responsive in this case the Navy is to those needs and concerns when they are raised.
It does not seem to have worked well in this situation. We have lost lives, a major disruption for the -- for the sailors who are serving. And as you all know and all say, you know, for all the equipment and all the -- it's about the people. The people are what make us the best military in the world. We have to take care of our people.
It does not seem at the moment like we're doing that to the extent that we should, definitely want to hear more about what we're doing to correct that situation going forward. With that, I thank you for being here, and I turn it over to Mr. Rogers for his opening statement.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank the witnesses for being here and for your service to our nation. And it should be no surprise I remain very concerned about the president's budget proposal. Rather than keeping pace with the threat from China, the president's budget would let them lap us. And you don't need to look much farther than the request for the Department of the Navy as evidence.
The president is seeking to build a paltry eight battle force ships by FY '23. At the same time he wants to retire 24. Sixteen of these ships have years and, in some cases, decades of service life remaining. The president's proposal would require an LCS commissioned just three years ago, two ESDs with over 30 years service life remaining, and a cruiser that's about to complete a service life extension that cost us hundreds of millions of dollars.
In all, the taxpayers -- in all, the taxpayer has spent billions on -- these ships. But there is little, if any, return on that investment. Beyond the incredible waste of money, these retirements represent a huge loss of capability for the Navy and the Marine Corps. That became crystal clear when the commandant informed us that the Marine Corps needed at least 31 amphibious ships to meet its statutory requirements.
Yet, the administration plans to slash the fleet from 32 to 24 over the next two years. All of this invites a tremendous amount of risk, and the risk won't be mitigated for years. That's because this administration has no plans to grow the fleet. Instead, they plan to steadily cut the fleet by 18 ships over the next five years.
Forget the 500-ship navy; we're never going to see a 350-ship navy. While the administration dithers, China is rapidly growing and modernizing its navy. It already controls the largest navy in the world. Our fleet of 298 ships was eclipsed years ago by a Chinese fleet of over 350 ships. By 2030, the DOD predicts China will control over 460 ships.
I don't understand how this administration can conclude that making the size of our fleet even smaller will somehow deter China. I'm also concerned about the strike-fighter gap. Last year, the Navy insisted the strike-fighter gap would close by 2025. This year, they're telling us it won't close until 2031, but that assumes Congress grants the Navy the relief it wants from statutory requirements to field an air wing for it -- for each deployed aircraft carrier.
I would caution the Navy to not be very optimistic that we will grant such relief. That means Congress will have to step in again to fill yet another critical capability gap that this administration refuses to deal with. Setting back our credible deterrent even further is the President's call to eliminate the nuclear sea launch cruise missile.
According to the DNI, China is building a full nuclear triad, and is expected to reach 1000 warheads by 2030. And they are developing delivery systems that will almost certainly include a sea launch cruise missile. Meanwhile, Russia has a 20 [Ph] to 1 advantage over us in tactical nuclear weapons, including a bevy of nuclear-tipped sea launch cruise missiles.
In light of this growing threat, the recommendation to end SLCM is both short-sighted and dangerous. It's clear that this budget fails to invest in the capabilities required to deter conflict and, if necessary, to win the next war. I refuse to support it. We should be expanding and modernizing our naval capabilities.
We absolutely should not go along with the administration's plan to cut these capabilities. I look forward to working with the majority to pass a real defense budget that supports the modernization and ensures credible deterrence. Finally, I want to assure the Commandant we understand the importance of Force Design 2030, and continue to support its implementation.
I look forward to further updates on the progress he's making to reorganize the Marine Corps and ensure its evolution into a 21st century fighting force. Congress will continue to -- continue our oversight of Force Design in 2030. In the meantime, I want to thank the Commandant for all of his interactions with Congress on this plan.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Secretary Toro. Could you get the microphone a little closer to you there, and I'm not sure if it's on.
CARLOS DEL TORO:
Good morning. Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rogers, distinguished members. It's an honor to be here alongside General Berger and Admiral Gilday to discuss the posture of the Department of the Navy. I look forward to working with you to ensure that our sailors and marines are equipped, trained and prepared to the best of our ability so that they can fulfill our vital role to provide combat ready forces in support of our joint force.
The United States requires a strong Navy and a Marine Corps. Our global economy and the self-determination of free nations everywhere depends on sea power. Our national security depends on sea power. That's particularly true in the Indo-Pacific where Beijing's aggression threatens the rules-based international order that protects us all, To answer that challenge, your Navy and Marine Corps must have the power to maintain credible integrated deterrence by campaigning forward, forward; forward from the sea, on the shore, and in the air.
Thanks to the leadership of President Biden and Secretary Austin, this budget does provide the right balance of capacity, lethality, modernization and readiness that we need to execute the national defense strategy. We will invest these resources through the execution of a concise, clear, transparent strategy rooted in three guiding principles.
First, to maintain and strengthen our maritime dominance so that we can deter potential adversaries and fight and win decisively. Second, to empower our sailors and our marines by fostering a culture of warfighting excellence founded on strong leadership, dignity, and respect. And third, strengthen our strategic partnerships across the joint force, across industry, and our international partners around the globe.
We are executing this strategy through the integrated visions of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 and the Navy Navigation Plan. I strongly support these visions. I'm committed to fielding the ready, capable and modernized force required to ensure their success. To maintain and strengthen maritime dominance, we have to be serious about fielding and maintaining the right capability to win wars.
That's why our budget strongly invests in a nimble networked and survivable navy, with platforms like Columbia, DDG Flight III, with enhanced cyber and autonomous capabilities that enable our fleet to campaign forward in a distributed manner. Now, this budget invests in a truly expeditionary and persistent Marine Corps, with the mobility and the readiness to respond in force wherever and whenever needed.
To ensure the combat readiness of our platforms well into the future, we are more than doubling shipyard infrastructure optimization program PSYOP investments over the previous budget. This budget invests in the climate resiliency of our force and facilities, while continuing efforts to substantially reduce our impact on climate change.
This budget also invest in facilities that promote the quality of life of our personnel and their families. We owe it to our military families to ensure their safety and well-being at all times. And when we fall short, we look at our problems square in the eye and take actions to fix those problems. We're investing in our efforts to recruit, retain, train and promote the best from all of America.
And we are increasing funding for naval and cyber education and enhance shipboard training, enabling sailors and marines to build their careers wherever service takes them. We appreciate the committee's interest in ensuring our forces have the right facilities to train, fight, and win, including the potential expansion of the Fallon Training Range Complex.
We also appreciate the committee's efforts to include new tools within the NDAA to deter destructive behavior and prosecute sexual assault, domestic violence and other offenses. At every level of leadership, we are determined to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, hold offenders accountable, and create a safer, stronger, more inclusive Navy Marine Corps team.
I want to close by noting the importance of strategic partnerships, from the Joint Force in our industrial base to our allies and partners around the world. I have seen our partnerships in alliance and actions, from F-35b operations in the Indo-Pacific to NATO exercises in Norway and the Mediterranean. But our most important partnership is with the American people.
That's why I'm grateful for the oversight and the interest of this committee. And I look forward to continuing to work with you. Thank you.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY:
Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rogers, and distinguished members of the committee.
Yeah, the light doesn't work that you can see. So you just push it once and then it's on.
Is that on? Perfect, thank you.
Yes, go ahead.
Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rogers, distinguished members of the committee. Good morning and thank you for the opportunity this morning to appear with Secretary Del Toro and General Berger. For nearly eight decades, America's maritime superiority has guaranteed security and prosperity across the world's oceans, and has played a unique and predominant role in ensuring that our nation's most vital national interests remain intact.
Maintaining maritime superiority is fundamental to implementing the national defense strategy. Global competition is heating up, the pace of innovation is accelerating, and the environment of our naval forces sailing and flying every day is more transparent, it's more lethal and it's more contested. Everyone in this room is familiar with those trends, particularly China's massive investment in highly capable forces designed to deny our access to the seas.
Our Navy's role has never been more consequential or more -- more expansive, America needs a combat credible naval force that can protect our interests in peace and prevail in war, not just today but tomorrow, in the long-term competition ahead of us. Our budget submission reflects that imperative. It fully funds the Columbia class submarine to ensure continuity for our nation's most survivable strategic deterrent.
It keeps our fleet ready to fight tonight, funding maintenance accounts, filling magazines with weapons, putting spare parts in storerooms, and giving our sailors the steamy days [Ph] and the flying hours that they need to train and fight. It modernizes our fleet by investing in weapons with increased range and speed, integrated systems to improve fleet survivability and a resilient cyber secure network infrastructure.
It invests in affordable, capable capacity, building towards the goal of a larger distributed hybrid fleet on, under, and above the seas. The investments in our -- Shipbuilding account reflect a rigorous analysis that we've conducted with the Marine Corps over the past year and the capability requirements of our combatant in our fleet commanders.
We need to field a fleet today that's ready as we modernize for the future. This has forced us to make difficult decisions, including the decommissioning of platforms that do not bring the needed lethality to a high end fight in contested seas. While building capacity at the expense of readiness or modernization can sound like an attractive proposition, it is not one that I endorse.
We have been there before and we have seen tragic results. I refuse to repeat it again. We cannot field a fleet larger than one that we can sustain. At today's fiscal levels, quantity simply cannot substitute for quality, especially as our adversaries are building advanced war fighting systems. Failing to modernize to meet those threats would erode America's maritime superiority at a time when the command at seas will shape the global strategic balance of power for the rest of this century.
The stakes in this competition are extremely high, and your sailors and Marines, active and reserve, uniformed and civilian -- civilian, are committed to strengthening our naval power every single day. Thank you again for inviting me to testify, and I'm grateful for the committee's support to our Navy and Marine Corps team.
I look forward to answering your questions.
Thank you. General Berger?
DAVID H. BERGER:
Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Rogers, distinguished members of the committee, as we sit here this morning with the backdrop of a war being raged in Ukraine and malign activities in the Indo-Pacific, I think it's a pretty good reminder that we don't have the luxury of building a joint force designed for one threat or one region or one form of warfare.
We have to be prepared, of course, for the full range of operations in places we might not expect and probably on timelines we did not anticipate. And that's why your Marine Corps' ability to respond to crises in any clime and place is essential to our national security. Three years ago, as the leadership member -- mentioned in the beginning, we embarked on an ambitious program of modernization to ensure that your Marine Corps continues to meet your -- its statutory role as the nation's force and readiness.
And while China does remain the pacing challenge, our modernization efforts are theater agnostic. In fact, earlier this year, we deployed the first set of force design 2030 capabilities to the EUCOM AOR, and we established the first Marine Littoral Regiment in the INDOPACOM AOR. And that is your Marine Corps modernizing at speed.
And with the bipartisan support of this committee, our modernization effort, I would assess, is on track and building momentum. Over the past three years, with your assistance, we have literally self-funded $17 billion worth of modernization. Today, I'd like to offer you a brief update on three areas of significant progress over the past 12 months.
First, over the past year and a half, we've conducted nine force on force exercises out at our combined Arms Live Fire Training Center in Twentynine Palms, California. What we've learned in those nine exercises has validated our initial assumptions; smaller, more mobile, more distributed units employing 21st century combined arms, if they have organic ISR and if they have loitering munitions, have a decisive advantage, and they are more lethal than larger formations using traditional force structures and traditional warfighting concepts, findings, I would offer, that are entirely consistent for what we're seeing in Ukraine right now.
In less than two years, we've formalized a concept for stand in forces, built a capability that I believe has dramatically expanded what we can achieve in support of both land and maritime operations. One of those stand in forces as we sit here this morning is in Europe. And as the EUCOM commander previously testified a few weeks ago, that force is, in his words, precious for effective deterrence.
Second, we achieved some important operational milestones. This year we'll deploy the first amphibious combat vehicles with a MEU on an R [Ph]. And with this committee's assistance and support, the accelerated fielding of the amphibious combat vehicle, the ACV, has allowed us to accelerate the decommissioning -- allowed us to retire its predecessor, the AAV, which was aging.
And that was years in advance due to your support. This year also marked the first deployment of our F-35Cs on board a Navy aircraft carrier, our F-35Bs on board a British aircraft carrier for the first time. That seven month deployment onboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth I think demonstrated both significant progress in building interchangeability, not interoperability, but interchangeability with the UK, but also our commitment to standing astride our allies and partners.
The MEU, enabled by amphibious ships, remains the crown jewel of our naval expeditionary forces. No naval vessel in our inventory is capable of supporting a more diverse set of missions than the amphibious warship. Secretary Del Toro, the CNI -- this CNO and I all agree that 31 L class traditional amphibious warships is the minimum that the nation needs, and your support for sustaining that minimum capacity is essential to national security.
And finally, this past year we published our plan to create a modern personnel system, better aligned to the realities of what we face in the future. That plan will better allow us to recruit, to develop, to retain, and align the talents of Marines with what the Marine Corps needs in the future, maximizing the performance of both.
But what the Marine Corps does for this nation, that will not change. We remain America's force in readiness, capable of diverse missions across the operational spectrum. But how we accomplish those missions is changing. My role, to ensure that the members of this committee understand where we are headed and why and how your support is critical to our collective success.
And to that end, I welcome the opportunity this morning to continue working closely with the members and leadership of this committee, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
Thank you. And thank you, General Berger. Thank you for your leadership in modernizing the force. I know it has -- hasn't been easy, tough decisions that had to been -- been made. And I think you're moving in the right direction. And for my part, I -- I support the 31 amphibious ship requirement that you need.
I mean, that's central to what you're -- you're trying to accomplish. And we will continue to work to -- to make sure we achieve that. Admiral Gilday, I want to drill down a little bit on what you said about, you know, being able to maintain the -- the force. And let's talk about the ships that are being retired, some of them that are not that old.
But regardless of how old they are, the cost of operating them has been much higher than expected. They are not frequently ready for a variety of different mechanical problems and the capabilities, particularly when we're talking about the LCS and the missions that they were supposed to be able to do, they haven't been able to do. Could you drill down on some of those specifics?
Because it's easy to say, my gosh, why would you get rid of ten ships? You know, they're sitting here. Why can't we use them? Well, we can't use them, number one, because a lot of times they're not ready to do anything, number one. Number two, when they are, they still break down. They're incredibly expensive, and they don't have the capabilities that we expected.
So, regardless of how old they are, that's a lot of money to be spent to get pretty close to nothing. Can -- can you walk through some of those specifics for us?
Our entering argument is what -- what can we afford. So, in other words, you won't have a Navy bigger than one that we can sustain. So, in taking a look at our top line, we then stratified all of our platforms based on their -- their -- their return in the fight. So, with respect to lethality, with respect to sustainability, with respect to reliability, could we count on them to actually move the needle in a high end fight with an adversary like China?
So, that stratification caused ships down at the bottom, as an example, to drop out, older cruisers. So, of the -- of the five cruises that we've had in modernization, they are over eight years in delay days out of shipyards and over a half a billion dollars above budget with respect to the modernization programs.
With respect to the weapon systems on those -- on those platforms, the older spy radars can't see the threat. So, if they can't see it, they -- We even had to pull em in for repairs overseas with leaks below the waterline. We've had to pull em back into their home ports in the United States for leaking fuel tanks.
So there have been survivability, reliability, and lethality challenges with the cruisers that are near the end of their service life at 35 years. We think that at this point we're putting -- we're throwing good money after bad. And the investment, the -- the money that we save from those cruisers gets reinvested into readiness, into modernization, and into capacity in that order.
The LCS ships, the primary reason why the nine LCS ships are on the retirement list has to do with an anti-submarine warfare system. That was the primary battery -- main battery of that ship that did not work out technically. So after about a year and a half study I refused to put an additional dollar against a system that would not be able to track a high end submarine in today's environment.
With respect to the older LSDs, the Tortuga is a really good example. She's three years delayed coming out of maintenance right now. So these decisions we made, Sir, again centered around lethality, be -- being able to actually move the needle in a fight, survivability, and -- and reliability. And we've reinvested that money -- tri -- or our proposals is to reinvest that -- that funding into our top priorities: readiness, modernization, lethality.
And if I could just continue for a moment to talk about that. So with respect to readiness, we are trying to maximize the domestic production lines for all high end missiles -- LRASM, JASSM-ER, Maritime Strike, Tomahawk, SM -- SM-6 -- so that the ships that we do send to sea actually have systems that matter -- that matter from both a deterrence and from a fight --
-- But if I could just put a fine point on that --
-- Sure --
-- Ra -- rather than spending money on ships that aren't capable and don't perform, you would like to spend it so the ships we do have actually have missiles that they can use, which seems to make sense to me. And look, Mr. Rogers is not wrong about the amount of money we spent on these things. But throwing good money after bad, as you said, spending more money on them to not get what we need, that's not the solution to that problem.
Sir, and the cost of maintaining those numbers over quality, we're going to pay for that in terms of people. We're going to pay for it with less ammunition and magazines, fewer spare parts in store rooms. We're going to pay for it with reduced maintenance, reduced flying hours, reduced steaming days. Everything that'll yield you a ready force today with -- with as -- as some have mentioned, we won't -- the -- the size of the Navy, the shape of the Navy is not going to change much within the next five years.
Given the fact that we face a rising China, a very near threat perhaps in 2027 or sooner, the fleet that we feel today has to be ready to take it on.
Thank you. Just one -- one quick thing back on our sea launch cruise missile, lest anyone have the wrong impression. We have sea launched nuclear missiles. Okay? They're just on the -- the boomers, on the Columbia Ohio class, soon to be Columbia class submarines. So it's not like we don't have the capability.
The question is whether or not we want to move that -- oh, sorry -- add that capability to attack submarines who by the way actually have a mission that -- that is unrelated to the nuclear mission that we want to make sure that they perform. Just very quickly one more time, can you walk us through the concern about adding it to the attack submarines, understanding that, yeah, great -- Chinese are developing, you know, sea launched -- sorry, submarine launched nuclear weapons.
We have submarine launched nuclear weapons. We're not walking away from that capability. We're talking about whether or not we want to add that to what our attack submarines already do. So walk us through your reasons why --
-- Yes, sir. Having served -- having served on a nuclear capable surface ship in the late 1980s, that mission does not come without a cost. There is a significant amount of attention that has to be paid to any platform that carries that -- that type of weapon. In terms of training, in terms of sustainability, in terms of reliability, in terms of the force's readiness to be able to use -- to be able to conduct that mission.
I'm not convinced yet that we need to make a $31 billion investment in that particular system to close that particular gap. I do think that it makes sense to me that we keep a small amount of money against R & D to keep that -- to keep that warm if you will within the industrial base while we get a better understanding of the world we live in with two nuclear -- two nuclear capable peer -- peer competitors.
At the same time, the fact that we are about to put hypersonics into play this year with the Army in 2025, with the Navy, that's also a deterrent that we should factor in the conversation in terms of the investments that we're going to make in my opinion.
Thank -- thank you very much. Mr. Rogers.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral the -- the -- in response to the Chairman's question, you framed it out of the box about we're going to have to make decisions about what we can afford given the top line. That's my problem. This is an arbitrary top line that is inadequate. And you're trying to fit the number -- and I know you've got to pick some number.
But what I ask for is what do you need? And let us worry about the number. Because the fact is President's proposed budget -- Congress writes budgets. And we want to make sure we -- that we give you what you need to be successful as a Navy. With that, we'll talk a little bit about inflation. We're hearing from industry that significant inflationary increases in price and materials -- in commodities.
For example, we've heard there's significant cost growth in the price of the next oiler the Navy has budgeted for.
How is inflation currently impacting your service? Are you concerned about the impacts of this record inflation through FY 23?
Yes, Sir, I am concerned. So with respect to unfunded requirements that inflation has exacerbated this year, potentially an additional two billion dollars for fuel alone. I think you -- you mentioned the industrial base. So we will see increases in our military construction projects. We will see increases in ship production, submarine production, airline production, aircraft production lines due to inflation.
It makes -- makes sense. On our sailors and their families, that's where we'll see an impact as well. A good example is basic allowance for housing. And although the 23 budget proposes about a 2.4 percent increase in -- in housing allowance, that does not keep pace with a housing market that exists today.
And so that puts them under pressure.
The bottom line, Sir, is that yes, inflation adds another stressor to this -- to this budget as we try to field the most lethal, capable, effective Navy and Marine Corps today.
Thank you. Admiral, in your best professional military judgment does the retirement of 24 ships in fiscal year 2023 and the accelerated reduction of 10 percent of our fleet's conventional strike cap -- capability in the next five years make our conventional der -- deterrence stronger or weaker?
I don't think it puts us in a better place, Sir. However, it's not just about numbers. And if I could briefly describe what this proposed budget yields under, on, and above the sea it's fairly impressive. Based on the support from this Congress, we maximized the submarine industrial base with two SS ends and an SB in a year.
And that set of head lights goes out to 2037 with a high degree of confidence that part of the industrial base probably better than any other sector in the Department of Defense is able to -- is able to remain sited on their investments in a workforce and -- and infrastructure. So, we're fielding the world's best submarines and we're also investing in world class weapons for those submarines.
Our Navy SEALs are pivoting from primarily counterterrorism focus to their frogman routes under the sea. And so we have that again as an added -- as an added enhancement for the undersea piece. On the surface we're -- we're commissioning Flight III DDGs, the new Constellation Class Frigate. We're putting hypersonics on zoom world class destroyers.
We are investing in hypersonic weapons with SM-6. Maritime Strike Tomahawk as I mentioned earlier. We're trying to max up those production lines. In the air by mid-century in 2020 -- by mid-decade in 2025 half of our air wings will be fourth, fifth gen integrated. We are trying to maximize domestic production lines for LRASM and JASSM-ER, weapons with range and speed.
The unmanned capability that we have that we're fielding in our air wings right now to go IOC in 25 is the MQ-25. Extends the range of our -- our air wings, allows us to -- to free up strike fighters from that refueling role to do what they have been traditionally trained to do. And lastly we're making investments with the help of Congress for the human weapons system.
So in areas of training, live, virtual constructive training, relevant learning, mental health. We're also making investments in cyber that are significant. So when I take a look at what we are doing given the top line that we have, it's significant in terms of not only deterrence but also to put us in a position to prevail and win.
Could we always use more? Absolutely. My unfunded list gets at some of that, but we are fielding a -- a highly lethal -- lethal capable force. Thank you.
Admiral -- General Berger, the Administration has proposed cutting the number -- -- amphibious vessels from 32 to 24 ships. How does the reduction impact your ability to support operations and forceable entry options, and do you support the reduction?
The study that the Secretary of the Navy commissioned this past fall, which was I think the second one since 2018, took a different -- little bit different tact in answering your question in that, A, was based on both the 2018 and the '22 NDS. And the problem was how many -- the question from the Secretary was how many amphib ships do we need.
The second part is it took -- used a more realistic availability goal. In other words, historically, where are we with amphib ship readiness and factor that in. Not aspirationally, idealistically, but realistically. We need amphibious ships and Marines embark on them to do, I think, three basic things. One is to deter to campaign.
Deterrence underpins this strategy. Second, we have to be able to respond to crises and contingencies. And third, in a war fight, we have to be prepared to fight. Thirty-one is the bare minimum, and that assumes risk even at 31.
Okay. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
Thank you. Mr. Langevin is recognized for 5 minutes, and he is virtual.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Can you hear me okay?
Yes, we can.
Very good. Good morning to our witnesses, Secretary Del Toro and Admiral Gilday and General Berger. Thank you for your testimony this morning and for your service to our country. Let me begin by saying I'm very proud that our nation's finest nuclear submarines are built right in the great state of Rhode Island, which I have the privilege of representing.
And I'm glad to see such strong support for their construction and procurement, as well as robust support for the necessary workforce development average in this year's budget request. But let me -- let me just shift to another area right now, and I want to focus on -- on cyber. Many would agree this is the greatest national security threat that we face, or one of them, that we face in the 21st century.
Mr. Secretary and Admiral Gilday, we've -- we met quite recently to discuss the state of Navy cyber force. And in that meeting, you made clear that it's a priority for the Navy's leadership team. Yet we have -- we've heard multiple concerns about the state of the Navy's cyber forces, and the Secretary's 28 page of written testimony for today's event meant to reflect the highest priorities of the Navy doesn't mention cyber once.
Admiral Gilday's remarks did touch upon cyber briefly, but only to basically say that there's a team working on this. Well, in the conduct of this committee's oversight, we've looked into the quote/unquote get well plan that was directed at the Navy's cyber activities. And I'm not sure that the plan which aims to fix this is -- supposedly urgent problem by 2027, demonstrates that the Navy take cyber seriously.
So taking all of this together, why should this committee believe that the Navy is prioritizing cyberspace operations?
Thank you, Congressman, for that question. And let me reassure you that cyber is critically important to our national security and our Department of the Navy's strategy. We actually have made major investments in fiscal year '21, '22, and '23, in both capability and also with regards to policy and how we address cyber.
Right now in the Department of Navy, for example, within the scope of our CIO, he is embarking in an entire new enterprise called cyber ready in order to be able to effectively make all our weapon systems cyber ready all the time, as opposed to in a cyclic fashion which has occurred in the past with regards to a complicated and really difficult ATO process to be able to designate our systems cyber ready.
On the personnel side, we have also made major investments in cyber readiness of our force, training our officers. We have the first cyber curriculum at the United States Naval Academy. We're graduating cyber warriors, implementing them into our fleet and our force. The Marine Corps has actually made tremendous advancements in terms of cyber readiness.
And I'd like to, with your permission, allow the CNO and the Commandant to talk specifically to their own operational cyber readiness.
Sir, thanks for the question. You, I think, were -- our most recent conversation had to do with cyber readiness of our teams. Since that conversation, we've taken a deep dove and taken a look at the cyber readiness kill chain, if you will, all the way from recruiting talent to sustaining that talent on our cyber teams.
We found deficiencies with respect -- with respect to the recruiting side doing a pretty good job in terms of getting talent, then matching up that talent against -- against the right -- against the right mission areas. What we have instituted through working very closely with the University of Maryland behavioral scientists is we've developed a cyber aptitude test that allows us to take our -- our entry-level cyber sailors and to essentially pair them against the best, most appropriate skill sets that they can excel at. We have -- within the past month, we have increased our pass rate in the initial course down in Pensacola, Florida, from 40 or 50 % to 80 % by doing remedial training.
So we put people, extra trainers, against that problem. We're doing the same thing at Fort Meade. We've gone out to the fleet. We found 80 additional cyber operators that we felt could have better been used in the teams. We've moved those 80 operators to teams. We've taken our cyber warrant officers that we created over the last two years.
We have moved them back to their cyber teams, in order to increase readiness. We've increased our -- I'm increasing our retention bonuses, doubling them from 14 --
I do apologize. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Wilson, who is also virtual, is recognized for 5 minutes. Joe, you're still muted there. How are we doing? Joe, we don't have you. We're going to go to Mr. Lamborn and then we'll come back to you. We can't -- we can't hear you. Mr. Lamborn is recognized for 5 minutes.
Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Del Toro, it's great to see you again. During this hearing last year, your predecessor promised certain documents and emails related to the rumored -- then rumored cancelation of the SLCM-N program. Last year's NDAA fenced a large amount of money until these documents and the analysis of alternatives for SLCM-N were provided to Congress.
We have yet to receive any of this information, despite the proposal in the Nuclear Posture Review to cancel SLCM-N and it being zeroed out of this year's proposed budget request. When can we expect the Navy to comply with our directives and produce these documents?
Congressman, I was not aware those documents had not been provided to the Congress. However, I will promise you that I'll go back and ensure that we do provide the necessary documents that you have requested with regards to --
Please do, that's essential.
-- SLCM-N. Yes, sir.
Thank you. Admiral Gilday, it's great to see you again, and Admiral Joyner. I saw you both last month at Fallon Top Gun, and it's good to see you again. This year, we have heard testimony from Chairman Milley, Admiral Grady, Admiral Richard, and General Walters that their best military advice was to continue with the SLCM-N program, which we've been discussing here today.
Do you believe that we should continue the program or at least the research and development that keeps it as a viable option for the future, should it be needed?
Sir, I'm a proponent, as I stated, about keeping a modest amount of money against the R&D effort so that we don't lose that capability in the workforce and in our labs. It's actually proceeding at pace right now. And then from that, make informed decisions about whether or not we want to invest a significant amount of money in that capability, understanding what both of those nuclear powered peers potentially bring -- bring to the table.
Okay, thank you. Now, also Admiral, I share the concern Ranking Member Rogers expressed about this administration not supporting SLCM-N. Some of you have argued against continued -- continuing it imply that the Navy simply doesn't have the bandwidth to support it, and it would be difficult to accomplish.
So let me ask you several yes or no questions to sort of set the stage for -- for this issue. The currently -- the Navy currently does handle nuclear weapons atop ballistic missiles, right?
And the Navy has a decades long history of handling a nuclear Tomahawk which was retired less than a decade ago, correct?
Sir, the nuclear Tomahawks were retired back in the late '80s during the first President Bush administration. So it's been decades since we've actually had nuclear tipped Tomahawks on those -- on surface ships or our submarines.
Okay, Thank you for that clarification. So, if given the mission of certifying and carrying a SLCM-N, are you confident that the Navy would be up to the task, if given that assignment?
Given the assignment we would, sir. I think it would come, again, at a cost. I think it deserves some study in terms of how we're going to balance that, given other things that we're doing. Remember today, particularly when we talk about our submarine force, we are dealing with a higher end threat than we were -- than we were back then.
And so, the missions that we're conducting are very intense and don't come without risk.
Okay. Thank you. And as the chairman has mentioned, it's one of my, and I think our committee's, top priorities, to accelerate our development and fielding of hypersonic capabilities. My understanding is that the Navy is currently tracking deployment of conventional prompt strike in 2025 on the DDG-1000 and on the Virginia class submarine in 2028. Are these plans still on track, and is there anything we can do to help maintain this progress?
Sir, they're still on track. The continued support for those programs would be most appreciated. Also, in my unfunded list, I have -- requesting additional money for a program called HALO, which would be an air launched hypersonic missile that we would hopefully field in this decade.
And I know the Air Force is working on ARRW, which is a similar capability.
Yes, sir, very similar.
With adequate -- and lastly, with adequate funding, would it be possible to accelerate the deployment of conventional prompt strike on subsurface vessels, even by one hull, sooner if you had that adequate funding?
Sir, at this time I would say no. So, within the industrial base we are really struggling to deliver Virginia class Block 4s and Block 5s on time. And so, I would not pressurize that if I could avoid it by yet increasing -- you know, accelerating the schedule for conventional prompt strike, which right now is on track, as I said, for 2028 on the third Block 5 Virginia class.
Thank you. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Mr. Larson is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. A lot of questions about doing things and paying for things you aren't doing. I'd like to ask a -- a question about things that you are doing that you don't want to pay for, and that is the decommissioning of the five Growler -- Expeditionary Growler squadrons. We had this discussion a few days ago.
You're planning to save $807 million over some period of time by decommissioning active expeditionary squadrons, two of which are actually deployed, one in Germany, one in Japan. And so, can you -- can you cover for me again why you're planning to decommission the expeditionary squadrons and keep only the carrier squadrons?
And that's for the secretary or for the admiral.
Congressman, we've taken a hard look at the Growlers. And I still have much to learn -- much more to learn, actually, about these deployments that have been recently made. But there's five squadrons. We've racked and stacked the investments that the CNO and I have had to make in the Navy. And this is a mission that played lower, essentially, than some of the other missions that we have to face right now in terms of major investments, specifically with regards to the high end fight against China right now.
And therefore, the determination was made that, in fiscal year '24 -- in POM '24, these -- these squadrons would be -- begin to decommission. However, I think that there's still enough time between now and then for further analysis to determine if they all need to be decommissioned or if a portion of them needed to be decommissioned.
It -- it seems worth looking at, since you have actually deployed expeditionary squadrons since the -- well, recently. And -- and the other -- the other part is, in your rationale you said that, if you need to fill the gap, then you'll use a CVN squadron -- or carrier based squadrons. That would assume that the carrier based squadrons have the bandwidth to become expeditionary squadrons instead of being deployed to carrier based squadrons.
Have you considered the impact that would have on the -- on the carrier based squadrons?
I'll ask the CNO to expand, but my understanding is that those -- those Growler squadrons on carriers are fully deployed and don't have excess --
They're pretty busy.
Capacity, basically, to support expeditionary.
That's correct, sir. We don't have excess capacity in our nine air wings right now to support that expeditionary mission. Of our -- of our carrier air wings that go to sea, the Growler is the only type model series aircraft that we -- that we deploy in an expeditionary manner, as you mentioned, right now both to Europe and to -- and to Japan.
Right now they are making a difference in Europe. They absolutely are. As the secretary mentioned, this is a POM '24 decision that'll end up getting revisited. So, as we spoke the other day, part of the entering argument for the Navy is whether or not this mission, this expeditionary mission, is core to what we do as a naval service and what we bring to the joint force.
And so, that's the heart of the debate within OSD as we take a look at this truly joint capability and whether or not that investment should continue.
Yeah. And as we discussed a few days ago, the -- you know, I've been on the committee for 22 years, and it's been a conversation for 22 years as well. And the other aviation force in the Pentagon has yet to actually come up with a plan or make any sort of commitment to returning to this -- this particular EW effort.
So, it just, you know, keeps going on and on and on. Okay. So, we've covered that. You know what my intention is on that one. On the -- on the Triton program timeline, we discussed that as well. And you've stood up a second squadron also at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. But as we noted, we've -- we've built the building to support the operations, but we don't have the actual platforms to -- to support.
Can you give us an idea of the timeline on the -- the -- the unmanned platforms?
Yes. Go ahead.
Sir, that --
Sorry. You just turned yourself off. Yeah.
The timeline run right now is FY '27 to move the operators up to Whidbey. And so, essentially we would have two squadrons, one in Jacksonville, Florida, VUP-19, and then establish VUP-11 in -- in Whidbey. We are still assessing, based on our program of record with the number of aircraft that we have, on whether or not we will split those aircraft on each coast.
We're still evaluating that.
Okay. Well, the -- the building is built, largely. And so, I mean, just -- we'll hopefully have a plan for the building other than having it sit empty for three years.
Yes, sir. We're taking a look at the most efficient, effective way to use -- to use the resources we have. Your point's very well taken. The program of record has changed a bit since those initial plans were laid, and those buildings were built at a minimum --
And I'm sorry, the gentleman's time has expired.
Yeah, the operators going to go -- the operators would move up there.
Thank you all.
We are -- we are going to try Mr. Wilson again.
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And I -- I'm grateful to be with you. And I really appreciate the service of all of our witnesses today. What a difference they make on behalf of our country. And indeed, Admiral, you're correct. Your service has never been more consequential as we have the situation of Putin's war against the people -- a mass murder in Ukraine.
With that in mind too, I'm also very happy that I grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. I was a sea cadet and I saw firsthand the benefit of the Charleston Naval Base. I remember very much the Nautilus submarines going by the city of Charleston. It was just so important. And then I'm also grateful. I'm a Navy dad.
I have a Navy doctor son. A benefit of his foreign service in Italy at Naples, I now have three grandchildren who speak perfect Italian. So, military service has great meaning. Additionally, Commandant, I'm grateful that my late father in law and brother in law served as Marines. And then my predecessor, Chairman Floyd Spence of the Armed Services Committee, was the Navy Reserve commander in Columbia here in South Carolina.
And finally, a point I want to make, over the years I -- I have represented Parris Island Marine Corps Air Station in the district. With redistricting, it's no longer in the district, but I want each of you to know that our office -- as I'm the only member of the Armed Services Committee from South Carolina, we want to work with Parris Island.
We want to work with Marine Corps Air Station. So, I would hope that their commanders could get back in touch any time with my legislative director, Drew Kennedy, 202-225-2452, and we're -- really, I want to work and back up the extraordinary facilities there of Parris Island Marine Corps Air Station. With that in mind, General Gilday, I was fortunate to serve as a -- in the Army National Guard for 31 years, and serving with the exceptional noncommissioned officers who we refer to as the Army's backbone.
The Navy's Get Real, Get Better call to action places heavy emphasis on the type commanders, flag officers and senior executive leaders. In addition, the Chief of the Naval Operations Change -- charge of command letter gives targeted guidance to incoming commanders. This is really good, but it seems like there needs to be initiative
-- That only a targeted toward officers. And so Admiral, what leadership development programs are you tailoring toward junior and senior petty officers who are generally the individuals empowered to execute the Commander's orders?
Sir, Get Real Get Better is not just intended for senior leaders in the Navy. It absolutely is aimed right down to the deck plates. And most importantly, we count on our chief petty officers to really lead on a day to day basis and make a fundamental difference in -- in the quality of our warfighters from a training standpoint, from a morale standpoint.
And so they're absolutely essential. My charge of command -- actually, although the word command then is taken by most to be aimed at commanders it's aimed at everybody, officers and civilians, enlisted as well. And so I've received feedback from enlisted sailors, from chiefs, from officers, and civilians on their charge of command.
I actually sought their input when I developed it and I continue to receive their feedback as we implement it. And so that -- that document has been folded into all of our leadership training programs at every level in the Navy, both officer and enlisted.
Well, we just so appreciate the NCOs and what they mean. Oh gosh, and hey particularly I've seen the drill instructors how inspiring they are at Parris Island. Another issue, Admiral, is the budget request for -- there's no funding for the F-18 Super Hornets. And with the circumstance of the F-35C plan. So what -- what's the latest on trying to address the next generation of air dominance?
Yes, Sir. In terms of closing our strike fighter gap, there's really two pieces of that. The first is the F-35. And so hands down, it's the best aircraft in the world. And we continue to believe in it, continue to invest in it. It has its challenges, but we're co -- also committed to working through those challenges.
With respect to the Super Hornets, what we're doing -- because the Super Hornet line will -- will actually be terminated here this year or within the next year, we are investing in our existing Super Hornets to increase their flight hours to 10,000 hours as well as upgrading all their combat systems --
-- And again, I apologize. The gentleman's time has expired. Should have explained this --
-- [Inaudible] --
-- As the questions go, even if you're answering, we try to move on to the next person. So when you see the clock go down, if you could wrap up I'll -- I'll not have to in -- interrupt you. Mr. Courtney is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you to all the witnesses this morning. I'd like to just note at the outset of my questions number one, you know, the budget that came over for shipbuilding at roughly 28 -- between 28 and $29 billion is the first time in six years that it's been higher than the prior year's enacted level.
And that is significant. We're not beginning our deliberations on this committee in a hole. And -- and I certainly consider that significant. Secondly, we also got a 30 year shipbuilding plan which is the first time since 2019. It's the headlights, as Admiral Gilday said, you know, in terms of at least allowing us to sort of have a -- a longer horizon to make judgments about again this -- this year's FY 23. Again neither one of them are the 10 Commandments.
You know, we're -- we're going to take an independent look at it. And -- and we look forward to working with all three of you as we get closer to markup. You know, there's been a lot of talk this morning about decommissioning and divesting. One item which you have to kind of dig a little bit in terms of the documents that we've gotten that actually I think is an interesting sort of counternarrative, which is that for the attack submarine fleet which we've been looking at a -- a downward trough as the Los Angeles class submarines are retired, we're actually now seeing some progress in terms of shallowing or reducing that trough with the service life extensions.
Again, the seven reactor cores that the Navy is going to install in the holes that are still safe. And I know that takes a lot of work to evaluate that. Portsmouth, I believe is the site of the first of those.
Admiral Gilday, can you maybe just sort of talk about how again there's not a knee jerk opposition to older platforms. You're -- you are still trying to extract value where it makes sense.
Yeah, absolutely, Sir. Thanks. So as you mentioned, we're trying to take seven of our 688 submarines that have a vertical launch capability and to actually invest in them to increase their service life, probably get four or five additional deployments out of there. So almost 40 additional deployments potentially out of those submarines.
And because there are our most stealthy, most survivable strike platform that is not insignificant against a rising China. And so we want to double down on the -- on the submarine force. And I think that's a very good astute observation in terms of where we are making smart investments in -- in a legacy platform, if you will, that's still highly lethal.
So put that -- to put that in perspective, the last shipbuilding plan that we had showed that the -- the fleet was -- was dropping to 42. The new documents that you've submitted shows that we actually hold the line at 46. And as you point out, that's significant because they clearly are the most survivable with all the missile threat that's out there.
You know, just sort of segueing from that in terms of maintaining the new construction for attack submarines of two per year, as you point out, you know, they're -- we're running into some real challenges. But I would just note that the budget that you sent over includes real money for workforce development and also supply chain development, which I've been doing these for a few years.
I never have seen, again, that sort of moving upstream into the industrial base to -- to, you know, invest in -- in real capacity which is the -- the people who build them and the facilities that -- and -- and the supply chain and -- and the facilities where it's going to take place.
The -- President Biden last December issued a defense production order which sort of doubled down on that which designated the submarine workforce as essential, which I -- again I don't -- I don't -- I can't think of another place in the defense budget where a President has ever designated that.
Secretary Del Toro, maybe you can talk about again that -- that, you know, surgical emphasis in terms of making sure that, you know, the actual people that build them are going to have the -- the -- the support and the bodies to make that happen.
Absolutely, Congressman. And you are correct that, you know, this Administration, this President's commitment to the nuclear triad actually and to the investments in the submarine force are truly substantial in every possible way. And when you look at a $28 billion investment across the entire shipbuilding budget, it is significant.
And it is the first time that we've actually increased that since the last time it was enacted. The 30 year shipbuilding plan is also a very serious attempt to take a look at what the nation needs to meet the national defense strategy and to also take a look at it from a lens of what the future threats are as well too and what the future capacity for the shipbuilding industry is to support the type of shipbuilding that we want in this nation.
And as you suggest, part of that solution is working very closely with the industrial base to make sure that we have the right capacity, the right investments to reach those shipbuilding rates that we hope to reach.
Thank you. Gentleman time has expired. Mr. Wittman is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary Del Toro I want to go -- go to you. You said on April 5th that the US Navy's budget should be driven by strategy and not the strategy driving the budget. Do you agree that China remains a pacing threat as identified in our national defense strategy and by our INDOPACOM leaders and that the Navy's budget should indeed be driven by strategy?
I do, Congressman, very much so. I think this President has made the -- the commitments to ensuring that the budget meets the strategy. And as you read the National Defense Strategy, it focuses on China as the pacing threat and the -- and the ability to deter China while at the same time deterring aggression elsewhere around the world.
And the investments that have been made specifically in the Indo-Pacific have been very, very substantial over this last budget.
Thank you. Thank you. Admiral Gilday, I certainly agree with the Secretary about strategy needing to drive the budget. Unfortunately, the budget that got sent over this year I think doesn't do that. I have severe misgivings about the Navy shrinking by 16 ships. I think future platforms and capabilities that you project to arrive don't arrive in the next five years to the fleet.
I think that creates incredible vulnerabilities for the United States and opportunities for China. We're still -- a 30 year shipbuilding plan that provides three different profiles. Only one of those profiles gets us to 355 ships. And by the way China is at 355 today. There'll be at 420 by 2025. So I wanted to -- to get your perspective.
I think this is a dangerous place for us to be. In your professional military judgment do any of these shipbuilding profiles presented in the 30 year shipbuilding plan allow us to pace China as is required in the National Defense Strategy?
I think so, Sir. I -- my recommendation would be the third alternative if we were going to pursue one, and if we had additional top line to do so. So this would have to -- this wou -- this would result in -- -- growth, so above inflation. And our estimate with that alternative is about $75 billion, conservatively $75 billion over the 30-year -- over their 30-year shipbuilding plan.
But that's what would be required. That would get us closer to our requirement, but it wouldn't necessarily exactly meet the requirement because we're constrained to some degree by the industrial base.
Right. Well, thank you. And I know what goes along with that is the sustainment tail, too.
So maintenance, sailors, the whole nine yards. General Berger, in a letter to myself and our Chairman of Seapower and Projection Forces, Joe Courtney, the one you sent to us on April the 7th, you stated the bottom line In order to meet statutory requirements, the Marine Corps needs no fewer than 31 L-class ships, and no fewer than 35 light amphibious warfare ships.
For this committee, could you confirm that this number, this 31 number, is indeed the floor, and that the 35 number for LAWs is indeed the floor as you see what needs to happen for Force Design 2030?
I can, sir. Thirty-one is the floor, further broken down into 10 LHA/LHDs and 21 LPD-17s and Flight IIs. That's the combination. As far as the light amphibious warship, initially I thought 35. It's hard to tell at this point because we don't have any. So initially, the study that we have just completed, the Navy and Marine Corps together says somewhere between 18 and 35 to be determined by, once fielded, what we learned from that and how they're employed, sir.
Very good. I know recently that you've worked with the Navy on the upcoming amphibious ship study that looks to align the force structure assessment with the 2022 National Defense Strategy. I wanted to get your perspective. Have any of the requirements in your mind through that process changed from where you see the Marine Corps, not only today but where it needs to be in the future?
And in your professional military judgment, does the Marine Corps still require a fleet of no less than 31 ships, even in light of all the things that may be forthcoming from that amphibious ship study?
There's no doubt in my mind; 31 is the minimum. And even that 31 is [Off-Mic}. The role of the Marine Corps going forward in the study [Off-Mic].
So even if that study comes out and says something different than the 31 as the floor, you're still very strongly behind 31 as the floor for L-class ships.
Everything that we have seen [Off-Mic].
Thank you, very good. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Garamendi is recognized for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you very much for your testimony, for your leadership. A lot of issues ahead of us. A couple of them I want to focus on. Logistics, the Russians are learning about logistical challenges. We certainly, if we're looking at the Pacific, there are significant logistical challenges.
As I look at the shipbuilding plan 350 or any number less than that or more than that, the logistical support is not in that among those ships. So the question for you gentlemen is how do you propose to meet the logistical challenges that exist in the Pacific, given the current shipbuilding plan? Mr. Secretary, let's start with you.
Absolutely, Congressman, and thank you for your support of our Navy and Marine Corps team, and particularly your support of this particular issue in the Pacific, especially as it applies to the challenge we face in the Indo-Pacific via China. I would argue that we have actually suffered in the area of logistics for quite some time.
But my -- my cup is half full. I think it's getting better. And when you take a look at the investments that are being made over the next 10 years, for example, with regards to sealift, regards to the number of oilers that we're building and the number of other support ships that we're building, I think we're moving in the right direction.
And perhaps the CNO can further comment on the investments that we're about to make.
Sir, in this -- sir, in this budget we have five oilers over the -- over the course of the [Inaudible]. And so it's easy to take your eye off supply ships, but they're actually fundamental to everything we do, particularly when we think about what the Marine Corps brings to the fight with MLRs and their work in the first island chain with -- with their advanced expeditionary --
I'm sorry, Admiral, I don't think your microphone is on, and our virtual folks can't hear if it's not.
I'm sorry, sir. I just mentioned that we have five -- we have five John Lewis class oilers in this budget, fundamental to what we want to do with both the Navy and the Marine Corps. One area that we haven't talked about is the experimentation we're doing with unmanned, particularly in the area of contested logistics.
And in a -- in a theater kind of environment, how can we better supply Marines ashore, ships that are forward, using -- using unmanned; whether it's unmanned in the air or unmanned on the sea. We've been experimenting in the -- in the Middle East with not only concepts but actual platforms, and we believe that there's a lot of promise there.
As the Secretary mentioned, sir, -- we are not taking our foot off the pedal with respect to an investment in supply ships going forward.
I want to move on to another question, General Berger. We've had a conversation about this. I would recommend to you that we could meet the needs of logistics, maybe that second half of the half-full cup, by utilizing the Jones Act ships that are presently available. Repurposing those that are essential, so that they can meet some of the requirements, and others that could be made to be militarily useful.
They're in the fleet. Treat this much as we treat the airline craft and provide the necessary support. You might call it a national maritime security program. I'm going to spend a lot of time working with you gentlemen and this committee on this this year. So I'll let it go at that. I do have another question.
Shipyards -- Admiral, how are we doing? And Mr. Secretary, how are we doing on our shipyards, the SIOP program, the 5-year versus the 20=year program?
Yes, sir. Well, the good news is that there's major investments coming, and there's actually a lot of progress that's being made even today, actually, up in Portsmouth, for example, with the completion of dry dock number one, and the ability now to be able to not have to worry about floating submarines to actually get them in there.
And that's the beginning of much more to come. In my travels, I've actually visited all the four public shipyards and I've visited all the private shipyard -- many of the private shipyards as well, too. And I'm really excited about these investments that are going to be made. As you know, it's a $21 billion investment over the next 20 years.
What I believe we owe the Congress, however, and owe you is a plan to better reflect the timeline and the POAM, basically, that's going to take effect over those 20 years. We've given you sort of the short story. I think we now need to do a better job in informing in Congress what the long story is going to be.
Yeah, tying the need, the immediate need to the immediate repair and upgrade of the shipyards. I talk about a 5-year. Twenty years, I don't know, maybe some in this committee will be around 20 years from now. I won't. So what are we going to do in the next five years? How does that tie into the immediate needs?
The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Scott is recognized for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I have a similar question to Mr. Garamendi's, but I'll be a little more specific with it. Admiral Gilday, the -- the ready reserve fleet or Ready Reserve Force, I believe what we call it today, I think we're all concerned about just how ready they are, no pun intended. But what is the Navy's plan for recapitalization of that -- of that fleet?
Yes, sir. We have an ongoing life extension program. We are funding life extensions on -- on -- on a double-digit number of those ships. I don't have the specific number on the tip of my tongue. As you're probably aware, we just purchased two UC lift vessels, and they're up in Baltimore right now. We're going to -- we're going to provide enhancements to those ships.
And we're looking at purchasing another couple here in the near term, and then another couple after that. So we've been moving in a deliberate fashion, although at a -- at a -- at a conservative pace, but we think a deliberate pace in order to -- to refurbish that fleet. We're not ignoring it.
I want to -- I very much support buying vessels that are out there in the -- in the private market, and using them when they can be used and retrofitted. We have the potential, I think, as well for our hospital ships, The Mercy and The Comfort are both approaching 50 years of age. The Navy has, in years gone past, proposed standing them down.
What is the current plan for The Mercy, The Comfort, and the hospital fleet for the Navy?
Sir -- -- Actually extending the life of both of those ships right now. They're both undergoing repairs or -- or have been undergoing repairs. We are taking a look at providing a medical capability on two -- two of the EPFs that we're building. And so -- so instead of building a new hop -- hospital ship, we're taking a ship that essentially a -- a large ship that -- that is really multifunction.
It's really a Swiss Army knife. And we're putting a medical capability on there. And so that is our quickest way to add capacity in that -- in that mission set.
Okay. I -- I'm certainly in favor of the mission and in favor of finding those efficiencies. So look for -- look forward to further discussion about that. I -- Mr. Del Toro, one of the questions that I have is as we stand down different systems inside the United States I do not think we've done a very good job of going to our partners in other countries and asking them if they're interested in -- in the assets that we're going to be retiring.
Do we -- do we have a program for that currently? Is that something that the -- that the Navy is looking at? And that if we determine that we do not want an asset are we going to make that asset available to a partner nation?
We actually do, Congressman. And actually we have used it very aggressively throughout the years. Actually the number of ships in the program right now have dwindled down to about two or three capital ships, mostly our older frigates. However, as we decide to -- and if the Congress approves to divest some of these ships, particularly the LCSs, I think those are very strategic opportunities to move some of those ships to our allies and partners.
And we're already in some very preliminary discussions about, you know, where they could go perhaps and -- and be best suited.
I -- I think that you would find more support from several of the members on this committee if we knew what the actual plan was for the divestment of those assets and making sure that they're still going to be available in a -- in a -- in a fight, even if they're not a US flagged --
-- Yes, Sir. And of course we have to do that with the permission of the Congress.
Sure. Are we coordinating with our partners in our procurement? In -- in other words, when we talk about our NATO allies, if we -- if we determine that we need to -- to procure just say eight destroyers over the course of the next 10 years for a NATO based --
-- Yes --
-- Strategy are we saying, you know, the -- the Germans will have this many, the Brits will have this many, and the US will build this many. Is our strategy coordinated on procurement?
So there's a very robust -- discussions are always ongoing with regards to how we can actually interoperate and actually be interexchangeable[Ph] as well, which includes the sharing of technologies with our allies and partners. And those discussions are quite robust with our NATO partners, with other partners in -- in Asia as well too so we can [Inaudible] --
-- I'm -- I'm out of time. I do want to mention one thing. I'm very concerned about the demands of India on technology transfer to companies that -- that they own. I -- I want to just express that publicly. I'm very concerned about the demands of India on --
-- Thank you --
-- Technology transfer --
-- And we watch that very closely --
-- Gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Norcross is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Chairman. And thank you gentlemen for being here in service to our country. The 30 year shipbuilding plan. It's great to see that. And certainly, Admiral, we appreciate your focus on the raw numbers, which I am less concerned about. Cause I do not put one of our new modern aircraft carrier which gets a number one with a small rowboat which would get a number one.
It's about capacity and what they're able to do. So I'm more interested in what we have available. So I applaud your position on that. I look at our Virginia and Columbia class; it is remarkable moving forward. We certainly have some delays in it because of COVID and supply chain, but really pleased with the way that's going and the carriers, the backbone of so many of our strategies.
The core to much of the decisions we're making revolve around the carrier and what it can do and where it fits into, particularly in -- in the China question. A couple of quick questions here with the assets we're putting on that. So, the strike fighter deficit is not predicted to close til 30, 31, somewhere in that area.
We made decisions last year not to fund certain fighters because of what we believe the timeline would be. This year, the FA-18s, Super Hornets, no request there. The F-35Cs -- the -- are less than we originally anticipated. The removal of the FA-18 service life modifications. All of this is based on next generation of air dominance.
We're putting all our eggs into that basket in terms of this decision. Would you bring some clarity to us? We have a tendency in not delivering new programs on time. Yet we're looking at not closing the gap till 30, 31 and the next gen air -- air dominance. Would you bring us up to speed on the air dominance next platform?
So -- so Congressman, if I could just start the conversation and then turn it over to the CNO and the Commandant for additional comment. Without question I think the consequences of -- of COVID in particular has a huge impact on our supply chain, and that obviously has had an impact on the ability to deliver F-35s on time as well too with the originally intended capability that they would bring.
So this is unquestionably complicated, the -- the supply chain and the -- being able to bring these additional F-35s in a timely fashion as well. So as we look to next generation air dominance, I think it's very important to fully understand that platform before we actually fully commit to it. We are making investments in R & D in a substantial way, but we -- before we actually make a commitment to start buying them in great numbers, we got to fully define the requirements associated with them, the technology that's going to go on them, and make sure that we can make that transition between F-35 and that next generation fighter.
Well then let me ask you that question. If we're basing the retirements and not buying additional of the Hornets for an illustration, and we're not sure what our requirements that means we're not sure of our timeframe. Yet we're trading that gap in time. So if we're not sure we're going to next generation air dominance, why are we trading these capabilities today?
Well, the F thir -- I'll allow the CNR to comment. But the F-35 actually as the CNO commented is the most capable aircraft that we have --
-- No question --
-- And the hope would be that coming out of COVID the supply chain actually will improve, that the manufacturer will be able to start delivering those jets in greater numbers that we need so that we can actually close that gap quicker. CNO, would you like to further comment?
Sir, your question was -- I want to make sure I get it right. It's really -- is it strike --
Strike fighter shortfall. So two levers to pull. One is F-35s, right? We wanted to buy 100 over the fit up. We're down at -- we're down to 69. I'm requesting an additional six on the unfunded list to bring us up to 75. We need more F-35s in order to -- to -- to help bring down that shortfall. The other is the surface life modernization on the existing Super Hornets to bring us up to 10,000 hours in each jet and a -- and a more capable aircraft.
Right now those turnaround times in those jets in industry is 18 months. We think we're going to walk that down to 15 months within a year. The goal is to get it down to 12 months to help close that gap. The MQ-25s, the unmanned right now on -- that we're going to -- IOC on 25. That's the path forward for unmanned hybrid mix on an aircraft carrier.
It's going well. That's one to watch. We want to make sure that that's -- that that actually is successful before we put a lot of money into it.
Ge -- gentleman's time has expired.
Thank you. I yield back.
Mr. Kelly is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you gentlemen for being here today. We really appreciate your service to our nation in both capacity -- both capacity for you, Mr. Secretary. The first thing I want to talk about, I want to hit -- I want to double tap what Mr. Norcross said. You guys owe us a 30 year ship plan.
You've owed us that since I've been here, I think. And we can't understand what you want to do if you don't lay it out in writing what you're going to do. And we've asked and asked and it's always it's going to be next year, next week, next month. So when are we going to get the 30 year ship plan that is required by law?
Congress -- Congressman, thank you for your question. So the Administration has delivered the 30 year ship building plan --
-- Okay --
-- And in that shipbuilding plan you'll actually see the fit up, the numbers as reflected in the fit up. And then you'll see three alternatives. The first and second alternatives are very [Inaudible] --
-- Okay. Good. If we deliver it -- cause I've got other things I want to get to -- because it was a long time getting here and it's hard for us to plan when we don't have something to plan on. The other thing I want to talk about is the strike fighter inventory shortage, the same thing that Mr. Norcross talked about.
We -- we are so heavy in divesting of things currently to get things in the future that may or may not exist. And there's a sliding scale of risk to that. And I know you guys look at that and I appreciate that. But we really have to be careful. We have to be able to fight tonight in the -- Pacific or in Africa or in South America or wherever we called.
We have to be able to fight tonight with what we have. So, we have to be real careful about investing in the future and divesting in the current until we know that we're going to have those systems. So, I -- I know that y'all are doing that, but I ask that you continue to do that. And General Berger, I know there's been a little bit of talk -- not a little bit of talk, several talks about the new Marine Corps force design.
And I don't want to go into that here because I don't have a side on that. What I would ask is I would love to sit down sometime and to hear your side of the story, not what I read in the paper, and be able to discuss that so I understand so I can be an advocate, if that's where I stand, or against it, but at least I'll know what I'm for or against.
So, I would love to do that, General Berger.
Happy to do that, sir.
And then final question's, General Berger, you provided a letter to our Seapower and Projection Force Subcommittee expressing your requirement of 31 L class amphibious ships, which includes ten LHA, LHDs, and 21 LPDs, plus 35 light amphibious warships. Can you elaborate on the need for these ships and how they play into your force design 2030? And how much risk does the Marine Corps assume, given the Navy's plan to retire four LSD, truncate the LPD by about ten ships, and to delay the LHA and LAW procurements?
The amphib ships that you referred to you, sir, are not nice to have, they're essential. If we're going to achieve the objectives of the national security strategy, the national defense strategy, the national military strategy, we need those 31 ships plus the light amphibious warships. They're not nice to have, they're essential.
They're essential to deter a campaign forward. They're -- they're essential to be able to respond to a crisis. They're essential in a war fight.
I always love Marines. You guys are always straight answering. Thank you, General Berger. Secretary Del Toro and Admiral Gilday, this year's budget request includes one LPD amphibious ship, but indicates that this will be the last LPD procured. Moreover, this year's budget request requests to retire four LSDs before they reach the end of their expected service life.
What is the Navy's position on the requirement for L class ships?
Congressman, if I could start off. So, Admiral Gilday talked about the LSDs and their age and -- and the high cost of their repairs, which is why they're being recommended for decommissioning. With regards to the LPD, the administration is very thankful for the support of the Congress. Right now we've got over $2 billion investments right now in an LHA and in LPD as well.
When I came in as secretary, I committed to trying to best define what the actual requirement is going to be for future L class ships, both large and small as well, which is why we initiated the amphibious study. That will be -- that will actually inform the national force structure assessment that's going on for '24 based on the '22 NDS And so, by POM '24, I think we'll have a very clear path forward about what the exact requirement --
Is going to be for both our --
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And just two more points I want to make. And we keep talking about these, but we never fix them, or when we -- partially, is, number one, icebreakers. That issue is not going away. We need to figure out how to invest in icebreakers and adequate capacity to make sure that we don't continue to get further behind.
And then the second part of that is our hospital ships. I sat here, and Austin Scott and I fought when they were going to divest of both hospital ships, and they came in pretty -- pretty handy during the COVID pandemic. I just want to make sure that we're investing in that capability, because it's both soft power and hard power.
And with that I yield back.
Thank you. Mr. Moulton is recognized for five minutes.
General Berger, if there is one thing I learned over four combat deployments in the Marine Corps infantry is the value of speed and aggression. Force design 2030 is by far the most aggressive modernization strategy to meet the National Defense Strategy priorities of the next decade. You're leading the way, and you're preparing us for a incredibly more dangerous era of modern warfare.
Now, our adversaries are modernizing quickly too, particularly China. Now, that said, change invites critics, and you've received some criticism over this and some legitimate questions have been raised. So, I want to make sure that you address some of these legitimate questions, so here are a few. You're divesting of critical capabilities, of existing capabilities like tanks and artillery that have been critical in the past.
You mentioned the Twentynine Palms exercises proved the Marines of today will be more lethal with updated tactics, loitering munitions. Will the Marine rifle platoon of 2030 be more lethal than the Marine rifle platoon of 2020?
It'll be lethal -- more lethal long before 2030.
And why is that? What specific capabilities are you adding?
Capabilities in loitering munitions, which are organic precision fires, the capabilities like the amphibious combat vehicle, the F-35, the CH-53K. But primarily I would -- I would focus on, aside from the hardware, the Marine, how we train them, how we recruit them, how we retain them.
Will those new capabilities, both the changes you're making to training and as well as the technical capabilities like loitering munitions arrive soon enough? You're already divesting of tanks and artillery. How are you managing the balance between divestments and investments?
This is the value of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. We can modernize at speed because, in fires, organically we have the capability. To cover where we're modernizing or where we're short, we have the capability to cover it internally. We'll field the first -- we've fielded the first element, the first MLR this year.
Next year comes Nemesis. The rest of the capabilities begin later this year or early next year. We're not waiting until 2030.
Admiral Gilday, is the Navy supportive of force design 2030, including the stand in force concept? And how is the Navy preparing to support this concept and implementation?
We're doing it right now. So, I talked to the NAVAIR commander yesterday. His headquarters has about 30 Marines in their Joint Force Maritime component. So, their deputy commander is a Marine. There are Marine elements under his command in places like Estonia, Iceland, Norway today. And so, the concept of operations signed by his three -- three star fleet commander, the commander of US Sixth Fleet, is also signed by the commander of 2-MEF. If I go to you Yokosuka, Japan and talk to the Seventh Fleet commander, his concept of operations is also dual signed by the -- by the 3-MEF commander in Japan.
And so, we're working side by side every day. That is where Navy-Marine Corps integration gets real, is at -- is at the fleet level right now today. The stuff we're doing with -- with unmanned experimentation is groundbreaking for both the Navy and the Marine Corps. And we continue -- we will continue down that path.
Admiral, what does has changed that would require two more years to begin procurement of the light amphibious warships? And -- and what is the impact to Navy and Marine Corps' operations in the Pacific because of that delay?
So, sir, I'm not sure I'd look at it as a delay. We need to get that right. So, if we take a look at where we are with LCS, where we've been with Zumwalt, where we've been with the Ford class aircraft carrier, we know -- we know what wrong looks like in terms of stumbling. We don't want to stumble with LAWs. So, when we come out of the box and we buy this ship in '25 and then when we field it in '28, we want to make sure that we're highly confident that we want to double down and scale it. And so, I would tell you, sir, we haven't had the best track record of procurement, as you're aware.
We want to make sure that in this case we get it right.
Well, I can tell you that, for all three of you, it is incredibly important this -- to this committee that they're all on the same page. And the fact that you arrived here this morning on the same page with 31 amphibious ships is a huge step in -- in that direction. General Berger, we don't much time left, but another concern with the stand in force concept, prepositioning forces on Pacific Islands prior to hostilities is a singular focus on the Indo-Pacific.
Is this strategy of limited relevance to the defense of the Republic of Korea or Japan or to contingencies outside PACOM?
No, sir, it's not. It is theater agnostic. It's paced against PLAN, but it's applicable anywhere on the globe.
Great. Thank you, gentlemen. Mr. Chairman, I yield back.
Thank you. Mr. Gallagher is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So, we have a couple of challenges. One is that inflation, left unaddressed, could effectively cut the Defense Department and hollow it out by, by some estimates, $160 billion. And then add on to that the Navy is proposing to cut the fleet size over the course of the FYDP to about 280 ships at the end of the FYDP. And the concern you're hearing from a lot of people is that that means we are going to be weakest at the worst possible moment.
We will be weakest when China is strongest. So, if we go down that path of divest to invest, and I strongly suggest that we don't for all the reasons that Mr. Whitman has addressed and that I'm sure Representative Luria will eloquently address, then the Marine Corps in particular and standing forces in general might actually give us our best shot at near-term conventional deterrence by denial.
And with that in mind, I'd like to follow up on -- on Mr. Moulton's line of questioning, Commandant Berger, ask you to address some of the criticism you've received from retired Marine general officers head on. The overall criticism seems to be that you are putting all your eggs in the basket of INDOPACOM. Mr. Moulton's question just addressed that.
But at a higher level, yes or no, in the 2018 NDS produced by the Trump administration and in the 2022 NDS produced by the Biden administration, these -- documents make focusing on China as our top threat the clear DOD priority?
And similarly, were you ordered by our nation's civilian leadership to, therefore, focus on the Indo-Pacific when adjusting the Marine Corps due to the China threat?
As our primary theater by direction, yes, sir.
Can you address then the criticism that you have not gone through the proper processes or war games and experimentation to justify such far-reaching changes to the Marine Corps?
I'll leave the defense of that to members of Congress and the previous secretaries of defense and Navy. But I know what I have done, which is asked for and received a lot of cooperation and support and, frankly, guidance from leadership and members of this committee and other military committees steering along the way.
The full support of the Secretary of Defense and each Secretary of the Navy, in terms of retaining the resources that were needed to modernize the Marine Corps, because that was the risk. That was the primary risk. So I'm very confident that they understood the plan. They were active participants in the plan, and they have helped guide where the Marine Corps is going, including the members of this committee.
And still understand the plan.
And when it comes to having, as Mr. Bolton talked about, small teams of Marines operating in the first island chain, operating within the PLA's weapons engagement zone, do you at present have the basing and access agreements that are necessary, particularly in the northern Philippines and the Ryukyus, in order to realize your vision?
We do, because the stand-in force is a combination of what's ashore and what's aboard ship. Sometimes your best expeditionary advance base is a ship. So the combination of what the Marine Corps has in terms of ashore [Ph] capability and MBAR capability is part of the Naval Expeditionary Force. That's what you need in an inside force.
That's your best chance of deterring. That's your best chance at identifying what's going on in front of the Joint Force commander. That's your best chance of responding to a crisis. Otherwise, you are fighting your way in blindly, which we don't need -- we don't need to be doing.
What about the criticism that these small teams of Marines, armed perhaps with a nemesis system doing armed reconnaissance and a variety of other things, threatening PLA ships, will simply not be survivable; that they're sitting ducks and, you know, they're going to have to forage for food or rely on the host nation population?
Could you address that criticism?
Yes, sir. I think probably the best way to -- to visualize that is we don't fight, of course, one ship, one person, one weapon system versus another. It's a system versus a system. So we're always going to fight as a joint force, and any assessment of an individual with one weapon system versus another counter systems is not accurate.
That's not how we operate, that's not how we fight.
And then -- well, finally just comment. Some of the pushback I've heard is that, well, you know, it's highly unlikely that China is going to try and invade Taiwan in the next five years. And, therefore, why would we focus on this? Well, one, even if you felt that way, you would not be at liberty to ignore the civilian direction you've gotten, as you confirmed at the outset of my questions.
And two, I just fundamentally disagree with that analysis. I think -- and even though we hope that China is rethinking -- that she may be rethinking his lifelong ambition because his junior partner Putin has encountered unexpected friction in Ukraine, the alternative could be true, right? He could be going to school on Russian failures and expediting his timeline, and we have to account for that.
And I've -- my time has expired.
Thank you, Mr. Carbajal is recognized.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses that are here. General Berger, this committee has been very focused on analyzing your Force Design 2030 initiative. And listening to all the perspectives, we have seen the very public debate in the press. But I want you to know that I support you and your modernization proposed Force Design 2030. This will allow the Marine Corps to continue to be relevant and have the increased capabilities and readiness to meet future challenges.
And go figure, you're one of very few leaders in the Department who actually are saying, I could do it pretty much with existing resources. I don't think I've met too many leaders in the DOD department that come here looking at restructuring within existing resources. They always want more. So I commend you for your leadership.
I commend you for -- for the bold action you're taking. I think it's outstanding. I appreciate your transparency and continued engagement, as you don't shy away from tackling concerns and critiques head-on. Change is never easy and deserves robust debate, but that doesn't mean we should shy away from making difficult choices and progress.
That's leadership. With that, I want to ask about a specific critique to better understand your analysis and thinking. There are concerns that the initiative may face significant logistical challenges since future Marine units are intended to be smaller and distributed. How does this plan intend to address concerns with logistics, especially in contested environments?
And how does your May 2022 update make progress on this question?
Congressman, I read a quote maybe a week and a half, two weeks ago. It was from General Shinseki and he said, if you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance a lot less. It's a pretty accurate statement today. It was accurate back then There are a number of warfighting functions as the Marines in this room and other service members, veterans, know.
My assessment is of all the warfighting functions going forward, logistics is the pacing one. Logistics is where we have to make up the most ground. Why? Because the -- the theater that is our primary challenge is very vast. Logistics is just naturally going to be a challenge. But second is the fact that we're going to face an environment where logistics is challenged all the way from the ship or the island all the way back to the factory.
We have not faced that before. That is our pacing challenge. So how are we going to attack it? Couple of things. First, everything from air to subsurface, as the CNO mentioned, from the 53K to unmanned undersea vessels, we got to employ it all. Distribution for that forward force in a contested environment will not be easy.
We can't approach it with the old way of large bulky stores of munitions and parts that are piled up somewhere to be distributed. That will not work. Very large maritime prepositioning ships that do an administrative offload, not going to be the entire solution. We have to be able to distribute to sustain that force under pressure.
Smaller, more distributed forces tied in to the naval logistics system; not our own, tied into the naval logistic enterprise is the key. Even things like the munitions themselves. We chose to use the naval strike missile and our ground based air defense for a reason. It's a common munition between the Navy and the Marine Corps.
Logistically, that makes sense. Lastly, I'd say we have to go down the road of reducing every step we can make in reducing our consumption of fuel matters.
Thank you, General. Admiral Gilday, I think it is safe to assume we all agree that the strength and effectiveness of our Navy is dependent on the sailors who show up every day to serve our nation. That is why I'm very concerned when we see the tragic impacts of when we fail our service members. So I want to focus for a minute on the USS George Washington.
The information that has come to light about conditions on the ship and access to mental health services after three suicides in one week is alarming. Accumulating to ten deaths in ten months, absolutely heartbreaking. Before the special psychiatric response intervention team was activated, what was the average wait time for a sailor assigned to the USS George Washington to receive mental health appointments?
I hear it was up to six months. Can you touch on that, please?
He cannot, because he's got one second left. He's going to have to take that one for the record, but we do -- we do --
I will take that for the record. We actually have a mental health team on board. It includes a doctor, one psychiatrist. It includes behavioral health specialists. It includes three chaplains. And so I owe you a more detailed answer, sir. I'd be happy to [Inaudible] face to face.
In fact, to the overall committee, we want to have more discussion. If you could get us a detailed answer on how that situation, the George Washington, has been handled by the Navy and is being handled, that would be important for all of us.
Mr. Gaetz is recognized for 5 minutes.
Admiral Gilday, I come from Pensacola, a proud Navy town. And our community was rocked December of 2019, when a Saudi student opened fire, killed three sailors, injured others, injured members of our law enforcement. And I've been to many briefings since then, in public and in private, and the picture emerges that definitely the kingdom of Saudi Arabia was not doing enough to send only their best people, as one might say.
They were not doing enough to monitor potential radicalization and, frankly, we weren't doing enough to ensure that that was happening. What assurance can you --
Give my constituents in Pensacola that we have improved.
So, sir, since that incident, under -- under then Secretary of Defense Esper, significant changes were made in the screening process for all foreign students from any military, including our NATO allies, that come to the United States to train with us. And so, I met as recently as yesterday with a -- with a senior leader from a partner nation who -- who expressed concern about the amount of time it's taking to get his sailors into our country to train.
And I explained to him how important it was that we work together to go through this process very deliberately and methodically so that we don't make any mistakes, and he accepted that. But we have -- but we have -- we have, leveraging the intelligence community and the FBI, made significant changes.
I really appreciate that. And as much as we want to host these missions for the benefit of global security, we have to put the safety of -- of our sailors, of our service members first. And Admiral Gilday, there was, in 2019, base specific guidance for these Saudi students, wasn't there?
There was, yes, sir.
And -- and there also were -- were specific rules for the installation regarding these students that were -- that were there, right?
And there were arrival packets for each of the Saudi students who arrived with their specific information, such that we knew it, right?
Yes, sir. They were assigned liaison officers with each of those students. They were assigned in-boarding processes for each of those students. Yes, sir.
And on January 13th, 2020, there was a memorandum issued by the undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence for continuous review for international military students, right?
And there have been written policies and procedures off that memo subsequently, right?
Yes, sir, there have been many changes.
And we've specifically required changes from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, right?
All of these things are probably not that difficult to find, right? Would -- would you be willing to provide those things to my office that I've just asked for?
Yes, sir, I will provide a detailed briefing for you.
That is incredibly helpful and comforting. I know it's a work in process. I know the social media tools and the technologies change. My one concern is that the first responders, who were running in the direction of the bullets to save our sailors, they are in litigation now with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
And I posit no perspective on how courts will rule on those things. I'm certainly not asking you to do that. But they've made a FOIA request of the Navy for the things that I've just asked you to provide and that you said would not be all that difficult to -- to put our hands on. And that FOIA request has been pending since March 23rd, and the correspondence from the Navy back sort of says, well, gosh, this is voluminous.
You know, there may be other people who, you know, block our access to it. And I just think that the Navy ought to stand up for our sailors and their family members and the law enforcement that protects them. And I'd want your assurance that the Navy will do everything possible to provide the documentation and evidence, because the way this has to work in court is that there's this JASTA law where there have to be specific elements pled and there has to be evidence for those elements to unlock discovery.
And some of these documents that these litigants are asking to -- to get from the Navy are necessary to sync jurisdiction in that matter. So, again, I -- I won't ask you to opine on the status of litigation or the law. But just these things that seem pretty basic, I'm -- I'm very grateful for your focus on it and for your willingness to facilitate the delivery of those records.
Yes, sir. We'll find out what constraints might be in the way here that are causing -- that are causing --
I'm sorry? Who might be in the way?
Well, we will take a look at what constraints may be inhibiting the release of those documents under the FOIA request. But I owe you a more detailed answer in terms of the --
I'm just used to this with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where they seem to have a lot of people sympathetic to their cause wandering around the Justice Department and wandering around elsewhere. And I -- I take your sincerity here that you are going to do everything possible to make sure that -- that we resolve this and that we get better going forward.
Yes, sir, we will.
The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Kim, who is appearing virtually, is recognized for five minutes. Mr. Kim, do we have you?
Yes, we do. You're on.
Thank you, Chairman. Thank you. Well, I'd like to start with Secretary Del Toro. I wanted to touch on a situation with -- in the Navy SEALs that has devastated one of our communities in New Jersey, the death of Navy SEAL candidate Kyle Mullen, who passed away after completing the Hell Week portion of training.
I appreciate that the Naval Special Warfare Command out in Coronado have been conducting the investigation. They've been briefing us on -- on some of the details as we've been going forward. But I'll be honest. I'm still adamant that we need a full independent investigation through the Inspector General to get to the bottom of what happened and to address any reforms that are needed going forward.
So, Mr. Secretary, I wanted to ask you if I have a commitment from you that you'll keep track of this investigation so we know with confidence what took place and that the reforms necessary -- that you will push forward any reforms necessary to ensure that something like this doesn't happen again.
Congressman, the safety of our people is paramount, and you have my -- my commitment that I will continue to monitor this investigation as it plays itself out and will take appropriate actions once the -- the results of the investigations are -- are revealed.
Thank you. I appreciate that, Mr. Secretary, because, you know, I think as we've heard from the family, as well as families of other candidates that were there at the time, you know, I think what has become clear is that there's -- appears to be some potential issues here when it comes to the medical care, oversight, access to medical records that isn't just about Kyle Mullen, but just something that we want to look at more closely to -- to make sure that we're addressing these issues.
You know, specifically what it comes to, in Kyle's case, not only was there not a doctor on site at the time of his emergency, following his death it had been increasingly difficult for his family to get information from the medical team. So, there appears to be room for improvement in the Navy's medical observation systems during the training exercises.
I wanted to ask, you know, if you have any thoughts on what changes you would suggest to ensure the safety of the recruits. Are there any resources that you need from Congress to help accomplish this mission of that paramount safety of our service members that you talked about? You know, what changes would you propose to the SEAL training regimen to ensure that the Navy does have enough health capacity to be able to -- especially when it comes to something as grueling as Hell Week?
So, Congressman, while the -- the investigation is not completed, I assure you we've already taken some preliminary steps to ensure, as one example, that medical providers are immediately available at all times immediately after the exercise as the training is completed as opposed to being on call. And that's just one example.
Okay. Well, look, I look forward to keeping that conversation going as we get more details of the -- from the investigation, and -- and hopefully a thorough discussion about what we can be doing going forward. I'd like to just keep on this issue about military personnel because, as I know, we've have talked a lot during this hearing about a lot of the hardware, a lot of equipment we need to be able to push forward with the Navy.
But one aspect of -- that I keep hearing about, especially on the joint base in my district, is about child care. And at this point, what we're hearing is about 22,000 children of active service members are on a wait list with the hopes of receiving care on base. For our military families, not being able to access that child care is now an issue of readiness, a challenge in terms of their ability to do their jobs.
You know, I'm proud that an effort in the NDAA and defense appropriations process to follow through on this effort to expand the allowance cap that families can receive under the child care fee assistance program by $400 per month. I wanted to ask you from your perspective, what you're seeing, how do you think this increase in the childcare fee assistance program for the Navy will help our military families?
And what are the things that -- that you're thinking about doing to help try and shorten this waitlist at Navy facilities, things that we can do to try to help our military families?
Well, thank you, Congressman, for caring so much about this issue. And actually, the waitlist right now sits at about 6,700. Over the past year, we've actually been able to bring that down by 2,300, so we have made significant progress this past year. In this president's budget, actually we -- there is a -- a proposal for $56 million for an additional child development center in Point Loma, California.
And over the FYDP, there's actually monies that are being proposed in MilCon for an additional 12 CDCs as well too throughout the country. And of course, the increase in the allotment for those who choose to go out into the economy of $200 is significant.
Thank you. The gentleman's time has expired. Mr. Bergman is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. If my math is correct, and we always joke about math for Marines, a year from now both you, Admiral Gilday, and you, General Berger, will be in your final year of testimony before the committee before you -- the passage of command. Did I get that correct in a four year tour?
Hopefully yes, sir.
Well, as you -- -- look forward. We've talked a lot about, again, things, platforms, people. I noticed the last couple of years, you've both made the recruiting numbers. One quick question. Going forward, when you break down recruiting officer and enlisted, where do you see the biggest challenges going forward as a group, officer or enlisted?
Just quickly, either/or. Admiral?
I think we're going to be challenged this year to -- I think we'll make our -- our numbers in the active force this year, but -- but if we do, it will be narrow.
So long term, I think it's -- it's competing in those places where we have most -- we're most challenged, cyber --
Officer or enlisted?
Both. Both officer and enlisted.
So you're going to be challenging both. General Berger?
I think probably enlisted more than officer, but we are all really concerned about the shrinking demographics from which we're drawing out of America, clearly headed in the wrong direction.
The pool is shrinking.
And I heard others say, you talk about, you know, different metrics, When we're recruiting young men and women, we're also recruiting their families. We're recruiting their influencers. And if those families don't feel confident that we are, as a force, lethal, survivable and sustainable, the propensity of those young men and women to want to become marines or sailors, I believe we're going to have our challenge.
General Berger, you mentioned in your opening comments that over the last three years, the Marine Corps has self-funded over $17 billion in modernization. Do you feel as though that you've gotten a return on that investment with guarantees of other things? Because you bought it upfront. Are you getting that $17 billion back, if you will, in whoever guaranteed you support?
I do. It's -- it's taken all of the support of Congress and Pentagon leadership to do that. It wasn't quite 17 that we were able to recoup, but the balance, the less than $2 billion in that balance is adjustments, economic adjustments and compliance issues. That aside, every dollar that we have divested of, the Congress and the Pentagon leadership has allowed us to keep.
And that has been the magic of it, but we are complete with that now, just to be very clear. There is no more divestment for us to do. That last three years is what we had to do.
Thank you. And Admiral Gilday, you mentioned about investing in LVCT or Live Virtual Constructive Training. You already have it existing. You have a program of record that does that. Is there within the Navy, because as we see in technology, one company may have the lead technology today. But there's competition in the marketplace.
Does the Navy look at something like live virtual constructive training and say, you know what, There are other entities out there that could provide us a better product at a cheaper cost, and is willing to move on from a contract that -- it's a legitimate contract for a time -- but yet move on to something that is better and less expensive?
Sir, there are dozens of vendors right now that actually are involved in that live virtual constructive training effort that is global, and involves nearly every sailor in the fleet. And so it's not just one company that has a lock on that technology and -- and has us handcuffed with them forever. And so there's a lot of different spirals going on in LVC in different communities, whether it's information warfare, whether it's the Navy SEALs. And so there's -- there's an awful lot of opportunity in that.
That equates to competition.
Okay, thank you, and I only got 17 seconds. General Berger, take this for the record, please. Is there any evidence to suggest that in a non-mobilized environment -- in other words, you've got your reserve component who's in a drilling reserve status -- that reserve units, battalion squadrons, would be more ready and capable if operational control was changed from the RC to the AC?
Sorry, your time is expired, so that will have to be taken for the record. Ms. Sherrill is recognized for 5 minutes.
Thank you. General Berger, a Foreign Policy Research Institute publication outlines that the new Force Design adds more capacity and greater range and precision to marine forms of firepower, and a potential family of munitions for different missions and targets. The ground launch missile systems will increase range significantly from 40 kilometers to 70 kilometers or more.
If these regiments are expected to influence naval forces far from the shores they occupy act as a forcing function to guide enemy vessels and formations into favorable naval engagements with friendly forces, will the need arise for MRLs to field longer-range hypersonic weapon systems?
Well, for the Marine Corps, too early to tell about hypersonics. But your point about the increased range, increased accuracy -- in other words, long-range precision fires writ large -- absolutely spot on. I would just make sure that no one narrows it too -- too narrow to just maritime, just naval targets.
In other words, the force that's employing them, they're usable against either ground targets or maritime targets, either one.
Certainly. So that actually brings me to a different question. So in its report to Congress, US INDOPACOM requested $408 million for the FY2022 and $2.91 billion for FY2023 and 2027, for ground-based long-range fires, highly survivable precision strike fires that can support the air and maritime maneuver from distances greater than 500 kilometers.
Clearly, the need for a survivable ground-based platform is essential to the Pacific Deterrence Initiative. In addition to anti-ship missiles, as you were just stating, the importance of a maneuverable and survivable platform that can deliver precision fires at great distances cannot be understated. General Berger, I think you yourself stated that the US Army is pursuing longer range, but much larger, heavier, bulkier systems [Inaudible]. But they're not either/or. We're going to need both, and you were talking about both the Army and the Marine Corps.
Looking forward to 2030, do you see the Marine Corps employing the smaller hypersonic or other long-range platforms the Army's currently developing?
It's hard to speculate. I would say if they're light enough, expeditionary enough for us to put aboard ship, to sustain ashore with a small enough signature, perhaps. But the focus for us for survivability is maneuverability, the ability to stay hidden, the ability to displace. Size matters, in other words.
If they can detect you, and -- and the -- the battlefield that we're going to operate on is going to be saturated with sensors, you have to operate within that spectrum.
I'm going to sound like I'm beating a dead horse here, but ground-launch missile systems will generate a significant signature on adversary radar and early warning platforms, which again, as you were alluding to, could lead to exposing the MRL and alerting adversaries of the location of our friendly forces.
So would a hypersonic platform with a smaller signature that could conceal itself from radar with a low trajectory better meet the intent of the MRL shore to ship precision fires and enhance the overall survivability of the MRL?
Yes, ma'am. I think potentially, absolutely. A pure ballistic trajectory, easy to do the math on; find out where it came from, where it's going to land. One of the big advantage of hypersonics is not just the speed but the maneuverability of it and the challenge in countering that, and even determine where it was fired from.
So everything that you laid out, I think absolutely that's the direction we're headed.
Thank you, General, I appreciate it. And I yield back.
Thank you. Mr. Banks is recognized for 5 minutes.
General Berger, how many marines have been separated or discharged because of the COVID -- COVID vaccine mandate?
I don't have the numbers this morning, but it's approximately 2000, Congressman.
Do you believe the COVID vaccine mandate has impacted your recruiting efforts?
Not to date.
But how many -- how many marines have we separated?
Approximately 2000 so far.
Does the COVID vaccine mandate outweigh the importance of a fully manned Marine Corps?
I don't view them as binary choices. Readiness is our number one priority. Every marine has to be fully medically prepared to deploy anywhere on the globe on short notice.
General, are we above or below our recruiting goals in this fiscal year?
We are below recruiting goals this fiscal year.
And are we offering signing bonuses to -- to men and women that join the Marine Corps?
Signing bonuses, no. There are bonuses for specific specialties who are marines who are already in, but not signing bonuses for enlistees, no.
Admiral Gilday, I understand we're offering minimum enlistment bonuses of $25,000 for men and women who join the United States Navy. How many sailors have we -- Separated or discharge because COVID.
About 1,000, sir.
Do we expect that number to grow?
By exponentially more, a little bit more?
It's -- it's difficult to tell, sir. We -- we have people that thought they were going to -- that thought they were going to separate voluntarily who have changed your mind. Every -- every week I see 100 plus people getting vaccinated.
Is that a high or low signing bonus? I mean, it seems -- it doesn't seem normal to me.
So, it's about half of what the Army's offering, to put it in perspective. It's a competitive market right now that we're in. We're on glide slope, as I mentioned earlier. I think if we make it in the active side, it's -- we'll narrowly make it. It's a challenging environment.
So, how -- how do we justify separating sailors and Marines when our recruitment is so low, and offering unprecedented signing bonuses to attract new sailors and Marines?
So, number one, we have a valid order from the president. Number two, it is a readiness concern. I can't predict, I don't know if anybody can, what the next variant of -- of COVID might look like, how it may affect us. I know the challenges we've faced on ships over the past two years, and so I do have readiness concerns tied to those vaccinations, that we continue to toe the line and obey the order, because I think it's -- fundamentally, I think it's the right thing to do right now, given that is a threat to the readiness of the force.
Admiral Gilday, I noticed the new -- your new reading list came out. I -- I enjoy the reading list. I look forward to it every year. Last year, as we discussed before, the list was very political. I noticed this year the list isn't political. There are no books that preach political ideologies or viewpoints or talk about radical gender theories.
Was that a -- a decision on your part to divert away from politics and make the reading list about naval leadership in history and about the United States Navy? Was that a -- was that a decision on your part?
In both years, I've actually received significant feedback from the fleet. I actually do listening sessions and get ideas. And so, it has been influenced by that by -- by the fleet. I did want a smaller list this year, so I went with a dozen books. But I don't have a political agenda, sir, or a -- a -- an ax to grind.
I'm just trying to -- I'm just trying to share books that I've enjoyed or -- or take recommendations from others. I'd appreciate your feedback.
Yeah, I -- I -- again, I -- I enjoy the list, I learn a lot about naval history and leadership when I read books in a list, but I was surprised by the -- the political nature of the list last year. It seems like a -- a big difference between last year and this year. Furthermore, the Naval Information Forces hosted the inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Summit just a few weeks ago in April.
Your wife participated and spoke at the summit. How much -- how much did that cost us, Admiral? And what did we get out of it? What do we get out of that summit?
I don't know what the -- I don't know what the cost of that summit was, sir. I think there were -- there's -- there's power -- there's power in harnessing the differences among us, whether they be some --
What did we get out of it? What do we gain -- what did we gain from the summit? What are some takeaways from the summit that justified the resources --
That were --
I had not had a detailed readout of that particular gathering, sir.
You're largely credited for the reason that -- that we organized it and hosted it. I mean, the -- the articles that come out of the summit suggest that you're the reason that we hosted. I'm just wondering, I mean, how do you -- how do you justify it? You haven't had a readout, but how you justify it? What -- what came out of it? What -- what did we gain?
Sir, I'm don't get a readout of -- of many conferences. I will seek a readout of this one. Usually, I get something weeks later that gives me insights in terms of what -- what the goods or others were that that -- that were evident as a result of the conference. I look forward to --
For -- for the record, can you give us --
I look forward to getting --
A report when you get it to tell us what good came from it, justify it, justify to the taxpayers why we hosted it?
Be happy to share that with you, sir.
The gentleman from Maine, Mr. Golden, is now recognized for five minutes.
Thank you. General, I was enlisted, '03 NCO, who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, Gallagher talked about foraging and surviving off the land. And I will note in the Hindu Kush in '04, I ate enough goat and rice for a lifetime. Now, in Afghanistan and Iraq, we really focused on shooting, on being agile and fast, and on delivering effective overpowering fire on the enemy.
We were good, but I know there was room to get even more lethal and even better. My experience tells me that the force design 2030's focus on screening and recon alongside lethality is spot on. Now, some critics of the small distributed unit strategy that you've talked about have suggested that this isn't survivable, essentially that you're asking Marines to do basically a suicide mission.
So, what is your level of confidence that your Marines are ready to carry out that mission? Because to do it, they need to be highly skilled hunter killers. So, are they there today? Are they ready to do it and survive it? I -- we know it'll be a tough mission, but what -- what is your level of confidence in these small units' ability to get the job done?
I am very confident, and I know that from visiting units just like other service chiefs and seeing the training that they're doing at the high end against a very thinking adversary, in other words, in a force on force sort of scenario. It's not canned. It's not fighting against a computer. You're fighting against another Marine who's trying to -- trying to beat you.
I'm very confident in them. The -- I think to focus on the first part of your question, the reconnaissance -- kind of reconnaissance, it doesn't lower lethality, but it doesn't do any good to be lethal if you can't find them. It doesn't do any good to be lethal if they find you first. So, the -- the -- it doesn't diminish the lethality part, but it does bring to the fore the importance.
If it's a sensor saturated environment, you need to be able to hide and you need to be able to find them first and get the first round down range. And that first round' got to be accurate.
Thank you, General. I'd love to have the opportunity to maybe visit and see some of the training taking place to ensure that small unit lethality is -- is taking place, and -- and see what these Marines are -- are learning and capable about -- capable of. General Gilday, the -- the FYDP calls for two -- I'm sorry, Admiral Gilday.
Marine here. You know old habits die hard. The FYDP calls for two destroyers a year. So, why not a baseline of ten for the multi-year? Because recently you spoke at a Center for Strategic and International Studies dialog and talked about your recent visit to BIW, along with Senator Collins and -- and myself.
And you noted at CCIS that BIW is at a rate of production of about one ship a year. But you also said that you wanted to see them get to one and a half so that you could someday see three budget -- three destroyers a -- a year in future budgets. But a nine ship multi-year actually raises concerns that one of the yards might not have demand for even one ship a year over the period of time that it covers.
So, I agree with you that one and a half ships is definitely achievable, and BIW was just under one and a half ships recently, although they've now struggled a little bit with recruitment and retention in this tough labor market. But we -- we know it's critical for our national security that these yards make that investment in that future workforce, which is going to be the workforce to build the DDG(X). So, my opinion is that these yards need to see a positive signal from the Congress and Navy, and a 10 year ship multi-year with a five ship option demonstrates stability at one ship a year while green lighting an effort to get to that one and a half over time.
So, what's your thinking on the nine plus one proposal?
Yeah. So, sir, the nine plus one was a decision inside the Pentagon, and it's a decision that -- that we're going to live by. I think it's a -- it is a clear signal for industry. I think specifically with respect to Bath, when I was up there and I talked about aspirationally getting to 1.5, I know that there's a mismatch between what the shipbuilding plan says right now and what I asked them to shoot for.
I hope over time that we can get to three destroyers a year and actually send -- solidify that in the shipbuilding plan. And the reason I say that is because, particularly with respect to Bath, it's not lost on me the significant investment they made in infrastructure and workforce to support a Zumwalt program that never panned out.
And so, they are looking at us and are -- are questioning whether or not what we say is going to match what we do. So, I think we owe it to them. I -- I intend to keep, as the secretary also keeps, close tabs on industry so that we can set a demand signal that's both reasonable and that puts us on a path of stable and predictable ship delivery for the Navy.
Thank you. And I would just note for the committee, and we've talked a lot about this and how to develop that industrial base, getting to one and a half ships per year for the large surface combatants is a five to seven or eight year project. If you want to get to one and a half in the future --
We've got to start that -- we've got to start that process now.
Thank you. Before recognizing Mr. Waltz, I want to, without objection, allow members to submit statements, records, whatever they want, by business -- within five business days after the hearing. Without objection, so ordered. Mr. Waltz is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I ask unanimous consent to submit this chart into the record.
Without objection, so ordered.
Admiral, can you -- can you see the chart here?
Yeah, thank you. I think -- I think it's very important for the American people to see visually the trend lines of what's going on with our Navy and what's going on with the Chinese navy. And these are according to DOD and Congressional Research Service numbers. Yesterday the intelligence community briefed the Senate with a much talked about timeline that we basically have five years, 2027, until the Chinese Communist Party believes they have overmatch in -- in the Western Pacific.
Do you disagree with that assessment?
I do not.
Okay. So --
I agree with the assessment.
Thank you, Admiral. So, I think this is important. This here shows the
-- Size of the Chinese navy. And this is the various shipbuilding plans we've received over the last -- since 2015. Within blue here is the size of the US Navy. And I think it's important for the American people to understand that 2027 figure -- it's right there. That's 105 ship delta. Now I get it, we can have the capability capacity debate.
But I'm not buying that we can make up for 105 ship delta that they can concentrate all in one ocean with short supply lines. And the problem is with your divestment strategy, we're at our lowest point at 2027, when they're at the highest point. And even when we come out of it, let's say -- I mean, let's look at the next gen air dominance 2031, future frigate 2028, ready reserve fleet modernization 2030. I mean that's all right around here.
We still have these massive deltas. Gentlemen I think we are being set up and these budgets are setting us up to lose in a war with China. And that is a disservice to the sailors that are going to be out there on old, broken down ships and outnumbered in five years. So with this fight up, what we're buying right now is what we have to go to war.
And you're not going to change that significantly between now and 2027. And so our emphasis is -- is to -- is to deliver for the nation the most lethal -- lethal, the most ready, the most capable navy that we can based on the resources that we have.
But I don't think your plan gets us there ,Admiral. I mean, just candidly.
What we do --
-- Because we're going -- we're going backwards, and we've pro -- vor -- so first of all, those estimates, 2031, 2028, those are best case scenarios. And this blue line's a best case scenario. This is on your option three of the shipbuilding plan.
But we've seen from the Ford class carrier, the Joint Strike Fighter, to LCS that those estimates are often grossly off --
We're -- we're -- we're deploying the Ford class this year. So --
-- It's been around for 20 years. The -- the office came in in 1997. So the estimates are off. Which means, look, at the end of the day I think we have allowed this committee and the building to fall into a false choice of readiness versus modernization.
I think the real choice is how much money should you be asking for to be ready to win. I don't want to -- I don't want to pace, I want to overmatch. I want to win in the next five years. So if you were given more money, Admiral, would you accelerate the ready reserve fleet modernization? Would you accelerate the frigates?
Would you accelerate much of what you're trying to do? And would you keep more cruisers? Not all of them, but would you keep more if you were -- if this committee gave you more?
Given the window that we're looking at right now that you described, I would take you to my unfunded list. And if you take a look at the priorities on the unfunded list, it's for SM-6 missiles, it's for -- it's for LRASM, it's for JASSM-ER. It's for the most capable missiles in the world to put on our ships --
-- Why are they unfunded?
-- And actually -- Why are they un -- I'm trying to maximize those production lines. So I'm -- I -- I am -- we're funding them inside the budget. We're trying to maximize those production lines. We are -- we are funding ships' maintenance to 98 percent. We're trying to -- we're trying to increase --
-- But Admiral, the problem is all of those things that you described and to the Ranking Member are all aspirational. Right? And that's -- and that's not all your necessarily issue. I mean, you've had a lot of predecessors, but we are where we are now. And I think we need a drastic increase to be able to cover the gaps within the next five years.
We just talked about the industrial base. Right now we've given a clear set of headlight -- we -- we are maxing out the -- the production lines for attack submarines and for SSBNs. Two destroyers a year is what the industrial base can support right now.
What -- just in the remaining time I have for the record, can I get what investments do we need to make in the industrial base -- rather than letting that limit you and the budget limit you -- what investments can we make in the industrial base to close that gap?
We're making over two billion right now in the -- in the --
-- It's not enough --
The time has expired. I suspect this -- this conversation will continue --
-- Thank you, Mr. Chairman --
-- Now with Ms. Luria. So you will get your chance. Ms. Luria is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I request unanimous consent to enter these documents in the record. I'll start with --
-- Hearing no objection, so ordered.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. So Secretary Del Toro, what I have here is from the 2017 Strategic Readiness Review. I assume you're familiar with and you've read that document --
-- Yes, Ma'am --
-- It followed in the wake of the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions.
So this chart shows that the fleet shrank from about 600 ships in the 1980s to about 300. And it also shows a rapid rise in the percentage of the fleet that's deployed over that course of time. Do you agree that you see that blue line going up? It goes from about, say 20 percent to about 35 percent. And this is a narrative that's been recently portrayed a lot across discussions of the fleet that we're actually, like, running the fleet into the ground.
We're deploying ships more. But, you know, then I forwarded to this year's budget book, which is the -- the -- the real thing that I want to dig into the meat of because I think it paints a rosier picture than actually exists. So are you familiar with this? This was in the budget book that you submitted this year.
So right here in red, I've circled this.
So it says that as of March 17th, the Navy has 298 ships. Of that 128 are deployed. Well, I thought that was curious because it's significantly higher than the average for the preceding or following year. So I reached out. I received a list of those ships that were deployed on March 17th of this year. So I came to find in there some interesting things.
Of that 128, 39 of them are ships that are forward deployed. And when I say that they even include ships that are in port in home port, ships that are in maintenance. The Ronald Reagan for example is included in that as well. So all ships forward deployed regardless of their operational status, all eight minesweepers, every ship forward deployed.
And in fact also 39 of those 128 ships are also MSC ships. Regardless of their underway status, whether they're deployed, MSC ships don't operate under the same op tempo requirements as the rest of the fleet. And then last, most puzzling thing that I found is that 13 of the 14 SSBNs are on this list. So I know it's above the classification level of this hearing, but I can say with all certainty that 13 of 14 SSBNs are not deployed or underway on any given day.
So then when we get down to the math, you subtract all of those things out, I came to find that there were actually only 37 ships which are rotational CONUS base ships deployed on this day in your budget report. And that's about 20 percent, which makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense because the OFRP, the way the rotational forces work, seek to have about 20 percent of the ships deployed on any given day.
So, you know, going back to this chart in the 2017 strategic readiness review, I think there's been a narrative that's been carried forward that talks about, you know, the amount that we're employing the -- and overworking the fleet, which I think when you dig into these numbers in fact this paints a rosier picture for the number of the ships that we actually have deployed today as well as exaggerates -- I mean, 43 percent, you may agree that's twice as much as actually the numbers show.
And then the next thing I went to also in this year's budget book were these two graphs. This is two parts of a four part graph series. But what it shows is our VLS cell capacity over time. It's broken down in this chart. It separates it between surface and subsurface. If you were to look at this chart you'd think, wow, you know, we're pretty steady.
And then we start going up on this chart between now and 2055. But this is a 0 to 12,000 scale. So, I mean, you can manipulate data to make things look flatter depending on the scale you use. So everything on the entire graph is between these two lines right here and it doesn't combine the two. So, oh, there's a dip in SSGNs, but that's going to go back up. So I just decided out of curiosity sake to change the scale, to put them on the same chart, and to look at the time frame.
And I drew that vertical line that Mr. Waltz did as well where you have the Davidson window, which is the 2027 time frame. So this is the same data with both of those things combined using your 30 year shipbuilding plan between now and 2035 which shows that we will lose 1,668 VLS cells in the Davidson window as well as between now and 2035 1,980 VLS cells.
So again, you know, as a member of Congress receiving this budget document that you've presented to us I found that it really presented quite a rosy picture of the future of our VLS capacity as well as the number of fleets -- ships in the fleet that are being employed. And there's a little bit of time remaining.
Would you care to -- to comment on why that is so different as has been displayed by myself and others on this committee throughout the hearing than -- than what we actually see today?
Well, Congresswoman with my 26 seconds -- and I'd be happy to respond to the record as well too -- one can interpret data a thousand different ways. I actually do know that today we actually have 81 total ships underway for 27 percent of the fleet. And it's a very accurate accounting of how many ships we have today.
And I'd be happy to present you with this data. With regards to the -- if I could just --
-- But why did you choose -- why did you choose, Mr. Secretary, to use deployed versus underway? And why from year to year end budget books can one not track the difference? And if you go back to the 1980s, for example --
-- Gentlelady's time has expired --
-- The percentage is [Inaudible] --
-- We'll take the rest of the -- the [Inaudible] --
-- There are many variations of that.
And one of the things we're -- that I think we should get briefed on on the committee is, you know, we talk about how it's about capability, not about numbers. But we -- all we see from the China -- China, well, they've got this number. Well how capable are their ships? How many ships does China have deployed all around the world in any given moment?
That's a very low number from what I understand. And -- and the capability of those ships are not as great either. So we can all -- -- like freak ourselves out about all the trillions of dollars a year, apparently, we have to spend on our defense budget. I think it would be helpful if we had a realistic understanding of our adversaries and where they're at and what we need to counter.
I watched a fascinating video the other day, economists pointing out that China is a net importer of both food and energy by a really large margin. They don't have the naval capability of protecting that energy and food that's coming in from all over the world, because their ships can't get very far away from China and still operate.
So let's have a reasonable picture about what we need to build and what we need to have. And I think it would be -- it'd be good to get more information on that and have a longer conversation on that, which we will attempt to find time to do. Ms. McClain is recognized for 5 minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all for being here. The Navy, and it's in the same vein that we're all talking about. And Chairman, you talk about capability and looking at the future. I think that's what we're all concerned about, is capability, looking at the future, making sure that we are the leaders, that we are protected, that we're safe.
The general theme that I'm sort of getting is there's a disparity between -- or there's not a reconciliation of here's what we need to be safe and here's where we're at. There seems to be some -- some disparity. The Navy has requested -- is requesting legislative relief from -- from the statutory requirement to support the carrier air wings.
However, you've stated that you believe the Navy needs 12 carriers. In your assessment, how many aircraft carriers are needed to meet current and future, which I think is important, operational requirements? So I don't understand if we're looking towards the future, why are we reducing our -- our -- our -- our standards, so to speak?
If I could start off and kick it over to the CNO. So we're not reducing our standards, Congresswoman. We actually have 11 carriers that actually are being proposed all the way through 2039. Beyond that, it goes to 12 carriers.
Okay, so you're not requesting legislative relief from the statutory requirements. I read that wrong.
So -- no. If I -- if I could just finish. However, at any one given moment in time, not all of those carriers are available, which means not all those carrier wings need to be available to deploy on the carriers themselves. Now, I'll allow the CNO to expand on that.
So nine is the right number. Nine is the right number, given the fact that we have 11 carriers. So you're always going to have two carriers that are going to be in drydock. So you don't want to pay -- you don't want to pay for the readiness for -- for excess to need if -- you want to -- we want to make sure that we're putting the right money in the right place at the right time.
And so to have a wing sitting around that you won't be able to -- that you won't be able to deploy, that won't fly at the same rate --
So, I -- I understand that, sir.
So -- so I guess my second question is, I thought you had stated that you believe the Navy needs 12.
Correct. Over -- over time, the analysis shows 12, that's correct. And so we would -- and so we would scale our carrier air wings to meet that requirement when it's needed.
When it's needed.
In what -- well, I'll get into that. So, in your assessment, how many aircraft carriers are needed to meet current and future operational requirements?
As the Secretary stated, at least 12.
We have 11 right now.
I understand. See where my confusion comes in, is you need 12, we have 11, but we're prepared for nine?
So if we had 12, we would be -- we --
Well, let's start with what do we need. Let's start with capability and what we need.
What is that answer? 12, 11, nine?
So the President's budget right now proposes 11 carriers through 2039.
And I -- I appreciate that. My question is, and maybe I'm not phrasing it correctly, what do we need? Not what is proposed, but what do we physically need now, to be prepared now and in the future? What is that number? I'm looking for a number.
We need 11 carriers now.
We need 11. And that, in your opinion, is plenty good --
To meet the four fighting requirements; yes, ma'am.
Okay, thank you. So based on China's current 2030 force projections, how many carriers and carrier air wings should the Navy be fielding? So -- I'm looking at Mr. Smith. He's not the Chairman Smith. In comparison to our competition, what do we need, specifically China? Because it looks by all of our accounts that the Chinese trajectory, from what Mr. Waltz has shown as well, we have -- you know, we have some disparity.
I know those are naval, but we have disparity. So, in comparison to our competition, what do we need?
So the estimate is that we will need 11. China does not have nearly as many carriers as we have. And it's not just about a 1 to 1 capacity. It's about strategy. It's about a lot of the things that the Chairman just previously spoke about as well, too. It's about geography. It's about how you employ strategy to defeat the enemy.
It's about cyber, It's about space, and a lot of others.
So, in essence, less -- less is more; working smarter versus harder, so to speak.
Hypothetically, but both capacity and capability matter to be able to deliver the lethality that you have to deliver to your enemy at any given time.
Okay, thank you. Also, we know aircraft carriers cannot project power without the carrier air wing, right? Several members of this committee believe that there is a great deal of risk in the Navy's current tactical air -- aviation plan. The next generation air dominance schedule has slipped over the past few -- few years.
Fewer Super Hornets than initially planned are being inducted for service life modification and BLOCK III upgrades. F-35 sea procurement quantity has still not been reached, 24 aircraft per year, right? Last year the Navy suggested, and I'm going to run out of time, that the Stryker fighter shortfall would be resolved by 2025, but now it doesn't look like it's going to be resolved to 2031. Can you explain the disparity on that?
So the supply chain has a very negative effect on the ability to deliver F-35s.
The member's time has expired. We can take that for the record. The Chair will now recognize himself for 5 minutes. Mahalo, Secretary del Toro, Admiral Gilday, and General Berger for appearing before this committee today. I'm going to focus my questions on the number one issue on the minds of the people of Hawaii, and that is the closure of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility.
Mr. Secretary, thank you for including Red Hill in your testimony before this committee. Last Friday, the Hawaii Department of Health issued an emergency order regarding the closure of Red Hill. It sets specific timelines that the Navy must comply with for the safe and expeditious defueling and closure of Red Hill.
On Monday of this week, the Navy waived its right to contest the state's order, effectively paving the way for Red Hill's permanent shutdown. It requires the Navy to provide the state with an independent contractor's assessment on facilities' operations by May 15th, a plan and implementation schedule to defuel by June 30th, and a plan for closure of the facility by November 1st. Secretary del Toro, in the interest of time, I have three yes or no questions for you.
The first is, will the Navy be able to meet these three Department of Health deadlines this Sunday for the NAVSUP FLC Norfolk Contract Assessment Report, June 30th for the defueling schedule, and 1 November for the closure plan?
So, Congressman, that's to be determined. As you know, that there's language in the executive order that actually allows us to actually have further discussions on the exact timeliness of the dates.
Will the Navy be able to meet the SecDef's March 7th memo, which requires both yourself and the Director of the DLA to provide a defueling plan of action to the SecDef by May 31st?
I can't speak for the Director of the DLA, but the Navy will meet its requirement to the Secretary of Defense.
Excellent. Finally, there are multiple ongoing investigations. The commander of Pac Fleet ordered a command investigation on November 29th, nine days after the catastrophic leak. The Pac Fleet commander received that report, Admiral Paparo, on January 14th, and turned it over to the Pentagon. In mid-March, the Pentagon ordered a supplemental investigation because the original report was insufficient.
When will the Congressional delegation, the state of Hawaii and the people of Hawaii, as well as our 100,000 In military service members and their dependents that are on the Navy's water system, get to see and review the results, redacted or unredacted, of this command investigation? Could you give me a timeline?
Can you give the people of Hawaii a date?
So, Congressman, that investigation has been completed. It is under review by the leadership of the Department of Defense, and it will be released in the next several weeks.
Okay, just want to reemphasize it's been six months since the November 20th fuel leak. The full extent of this public health crisis and environmental damage is still not yet known. As recently as April 1st, a little over a month and a half ago, there was another release of approximately 30 gallons of fuel and water mixture from a maintenance line connected to Tank 15 at Red Hill.
So -- This is very, very important for the delegation and -- and for the people of Hawaii, and I appreciate your promptness in this issue. Secretary Del Toro, of the approximately 93,000 people in the Navy's water distribution system on Oahu, it is still not clear how many people have been affected by the May and November 2021 fuel spills.
Secretary -- Assistant Secretary Merritt -- Meredith Berger's memo to you on March 29th, she mentioned that the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry conducted an expanded public health study that included all nonfederal, civilians, and DOD personnel served by the Navy's water system in their homes, their workplaces, their schools, and their child care centers.
The preliminary analysis of this survey determined that 86 percent of the surveyed individuals exhibited symptoms consistent with acute petroleum exposure. Can you elaborate at all on this study and share any of this data with the public?
Sir, that was a survey that -- that was conducted. We -- obviously, in our interest to protect our sailors, our Marines, their families, and all other individuals in the Department of Defense also in the state of Hawaii, have ensured that we've had two surveys now, one conducted by the CDC, another one by -- conducted by the Navy to try to capture all the individuals that are impacted by this.
And that survey result of 86 percent is a -- is reflective of the answers that were provided by individuals.
Okay. Last question. The Navy's compromised water system is also con -- currently contributing to a water shortage on the island of Oahu. The Red Hill well and the nearby Aiea Halawa well remain offline, disconnected from the Navy's water distribution system. Honolulu Board of Water Supply anticipates a water shortage this upcoming summer.
It's calling for a 10 percent water reduction for urban Honolulu. What is the status of the Red Hill and Aiea Halawa wells? When can we get that back online? And we can take that for the record, so if you'd like to answer --
So -- no. Yes, and I'd like -- I'd to comment real quickly. As you know, sir, we've been testing the -- the Red Hill. All indications right now -- now are that it's safe. That's a determination that has to be made by the Department of Health in Hawaii. And we continue to work very closely with the Department of Health and other officials on Hawaii to come to that proper conclusion at the right moment in time.
Thank you so much. The chairman would like to now recognize Mr. Jackson for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate that. Mr. Secretary, Admiral, General, thank you guys for being here today. I apologize I had to step out. We had a little get together with the King of Jordan, so I don't know exactly what's been asked, but I don't think anybody's asked my question yet because I'm going to ask you about the V-22. So, with you, General, and I'll start with the Marine Corps included funding for the MV-22 nacelle improvement on its unfunded priorities list for this fiscal year.
I anticipate that Congress will provide full funding for that, because we here on the committee recognize the game changing capabilities that this aircraft provides. Upgrading the current fleet is essential, but I think we should also look at expanding the current number of MV-22 aircraft. General Berger, how important is it to improve the readiness of our platform such as the MV-22 when implementing force design 2030?
It is critical, as you pointed out. It's proven in combat and on every deployment since it is one of a kind in the world. We can't do our job without it.
Thank you sir. I agree. And we'll do whatever we can to help you on that front. Admiral, I want to ask you a quick question. As you know from your close coordination with in NNSA, much of the nuclear enterprise is in desperate need of modernization. When we look at the possible future conflict with China, the timeline keeps shifting further and further to the left.
It's become clear that the platforms and capabilities that we're looking to field in the 2030s and the 2040s will be needed much sooner than we anticipated. How important is the W-93 warhead program as we transition from Ohio class submarines to Columbia class submarines? And further, from your perspective, how helpful would it be for Congress to accelerate funding for nuclear modernization in support of the sea leg of the triad?
Sir, I would tell you that -- that modernization is -- is critical with respect to that weapon systems, and right now we're on track. I will -- I will get back to you on whether or not we could actually physically accelerate that program.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. And then this -- just a quick question here, just kind of one of my -- my areas that I -- I am concerned about, but anybody who's been to a House hearing this year has heard me express my serious concerns about our medical readiness and some of the dangerous cuts being made to the military medical community.
Mr. Secretary, I just wanted to -- there's a particular area of concern I have. I wanted to know what is the justification for cutting the position of the Medical Officer of the Marine Corps.
Congressman, the justification has been an overall look across the balance of flag officers and SES's that we have in the Department of Defense. As you know, the Department of Defense has put -- there is a cap on the number of flag officers that we're allowed to have, and so we've had to downsize the number of flag officers and the number of SES's as well too.
That has been congressionally mandated. And it's our intent to meet the intent of the law.
Thank you, sir. And I may be a little bit bias -- I may be a little bit biased on this one in particular. But being a former Navy physician and spending time with -- with the Marines, I feel like the -- make sure that we provide the absolute best leadership we can possibly provide for Navy medicine with regards to our support to the Marine Corps is really important to me. So, I know that there's a finite number of flag and general officers, and you're -- you're operating within -- within that -- within that framework, but I would really like to try to find other ways to -- or find a way to -- to reestablish that position.
I think it's really important.
And we'd be happy to work with you and the Congress on that issue, sir.
Thank you, sir. With that, I yield back, Mr. Chair.
The chairman recognizes Ms. Jacobs for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. Nice to see you all. Mr. Secretary, I hope you enjoyed your recent time in San Diego with Tom Cruise, of all people. You know, several of my colleagues have already highlighted the importance of the 30 year shipbuilding plan. I just want to reiterate how important that is and, you know, want to make sure we're thinking long-term.
And thank you in the department for delivering it this year after several delays. So, over the years, the Navy has seen several platforms kind of come in over budget, such as the DDG, or underperform, such as the LCS. In addition to the unnecessary waste that this has forced on taxpayers, these mistakes have also had a direct impact on Navy's ability to meet its mission.
So, what is the Navy doing to ensure that this new 30 year plan will not repeat mistakes of the past? And how are you and the department incorporating lessons learned as we look to meet the challenges of the future?
It's a great question, Congresswoman, and I've been deeply engaged on that issue since I became secretary of the Navy. It's obviously important for us to build these great platforms and these great capabilities. It's also equally important for industry to deliver these things on time and on cost. And so, we've spent an enormous amount of time in the Navy and the Marine Corps talking to our PEOs about ensuring that we're providing proper oversight over the acquisition programs in order to be able to hold the builders accountable for what they have contracted with the Department Of Defense to deliver on. Equally important, I think it's important to control requirements creep on the part of the government to ensure that, when we agree to certain contracts, we just don't continue to increase the requirements on those contracts, which adds a tremendous amount of additional cost to these individual contracts.
CNO, would you like to comment further on this topic?
Ma'am, thanks for the question on the shipbuilding plan. I think a real key here is predictability and stability in the plan. And so, we have that for submarines out for the next 15, almost 20 years. We aspire to do the same thing for the surface force. So, the secretary's fought very hard to keep two destroyers a year in the shipbuilding plan this year.
He's fought hard to keep an LPD in the plan for this year and hopefully to continue that line. But to give industry and the surface build and the surface production line the same kind of predictability that you have in the undersea is -- is what we're really trying to do, you know, and work closely with the Congress in order to follow through on that.
Well -- well, thank you. Representing San Diego, I will look forward to working very closely with you on that. General Berger, last week I had the pleasure to visit with General Smith at 1-MEF. And one of the things we talked about was the health and deployability of the MEUs. And given that the 22nd MEU was unable to deploy on the updated timeline, what additional resources do you need to ensure the MEUs are deploying on time with proper manning, training, and equipment?
I can handle the -- the Marine part, and probably a tag team between me and Admiral Gilday. The cycle is very predictable for the Marine Expeditionary Units. They have the lead time that -- they have the planning time that they need to prepare and to train up and to man. So, I'm very comfortable with the cycle of the Marines.
The ability of the team to marry up with the amphibious ships is where the center of your question is; absolutely bare minimum number of days to work together. Prior to that, the ship's crew has to have dedicated time to do their preparation work. So, in the end, it's a function of the maintenance -- the level of maintenance readiness of the amphibious ships.
And part of the driver there -- again, this admiral can speak clearer than I can, is how we have used them in the past. And when we have extended them unplanned, all of that affects readiness now. But I'll turn it over to Admiral Gilday.
First thing we have to do is actually do the maintenance on the ships. And so, there was a period of time when we did not. We took a holiday from doing that. And as we get into a discussion about priorities, when we talk about readiness
-- Things like ship maintent -- ships maintenance. That's not where we want to be. We've seen the second and third order effects of that including the impact in the -- getting the 22nd MEU out on time. So we are funding our maintenance accounts at 98 percent. We are trying to drive delay days down to zero.
We were at 7,700 a couple of years ago. We're down to 3,000 right now. We're not satisfied. We want to get that down to zero delay days so that in terms of how we generate forces, how we generate ships to go to sea, that you can on any given day have 100 percent assurance that the ships that are supposed to be out are actually out at sea.
Well, thank you. And for the record, since I'm running out of time, would just love to hear what the Navy's doing to increase manning and when surface ships will be fully manned given that a GAO report found that the surface fleet is 15 percent undermanned compared to required levels. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Take it for the record. Ms. Bice is recognized for five minutes.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you, Secretary, General, and Admiral for being here today. As you know, my hometown of Oklahoma City is home to the Navy -- excuse me -- Strategic Command Communications -- sorry, Strategic Communications Wing One also known as TACAMO based at Tinker Air Force Base. TACAMO carries out a mission of critical national security providing comms backbone for the nuclear arsenal.
Like many aircraft in the fleet, the E6 aircraft used by TACAMO is aging and is in need of replacement. The Navy has requested 554 million for RDT&E for 23 to start capitalization of the C-130J. Given the differences in the aircraft specifications, the C-130J does not have the cruise speed, service ceiling, or the range of the E6. My question is what criteria did the Navy use to select the C-130J to replace the E6?
Ma'am, that was a war fighting criteria driven by the commander of STRATCOM, who actually -- who actually is serviced by those aircraft. So his command and control is contingent upon it. So that was a driver in terms of re -- in terms of determining what the replacement would look like and what it would actually be.
I think I'm concerned about the diminished capability of this replacement aircraft. Given the long distances the Navy aircraft may need to travel to alert at sea, how can the Navy justify the significant shorter range of this aircraft given the mission?
Ma'am, if I could, what I -- what I'd like to offer -- and not to be evasive but is to offer you a classified briefing that compares the existing TACAMO with -- with a platform that we intend to replace it with. And also to talk about what we are doing to extend the service life of the existing platform so that you will understand completely what we're -- what we're moving towards and why.
If that's all right.
I would a -- very much appreciate that, Admiral --
-- Thank you for that offer. To follow up can you talk about the Navy efforts to monitor, predict, and respond to supply chain threats? You all have talked a little bit in earlier questioning about supply chain. Do you have concerns that the vulnerabilities could impact readiness? And do you have any specific needs to ensure the acquisition and maintenance processes have a reliable supply chain?
So this is a -- a problem, not just for the Department of the Navy but for the entire Department of Defense. And we're working very closely with the Department of Defense, particularly the Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment, and to try to identify a greater number of supply chain vendors that can provide the necessary commodities and -- and very specific equipment that's necessary, especially in the area of our subcontracting force.
You know, we see a lot of the shortages not just in the prime vendors but actually in the subcontracting force. And so with -- without going into details on our more highly classified programs, there's a great amount of effort being placed here to track exactly what those vulnerabilities are and to see what we can do to actually try to sup -- expand the supply chain in every possible way.
The Department of Defense is embracing our small business program very aggressively across the country to try to include a greater number of vendors to provide these necessary products across the board. So there's a lot of effort going on, Congresswoman. And we'd be happy to provide you a brief with more specifics on those.
Thank you for that, Mr. Secretary. There has been noted concerns with the Navy's cybersecurity posture. It has been very clear to me in meetings that I have been in that workforce challenges continue to be a limiting factor in this space. Do you find the pipeline for cyber force growth limited -- limiting in order for the Navy to meet and sustain US cyber comms demands?
So this is an area that is extremely important to us and we're putting a lot more attention to this here this year than ever before. The pipeline is an issue, of course. Cybersecurity jobs in the private sector are in high demand. And so recruiting people into this field is challenging. But I'll give you an example of one thing that I think we're doing very creatively in our community college program.
For example, there's now a cyber track where our young enlisted sailors can actually apply to and start to build -- be, you know, to become new cyber warriors basically. So we're trying to be as creative as -- as we can. And perhaps our -- our former tenth fleet Commander can address a few other issues.
Ma'am, we have -- we have challenges just like industry does, just like NSA and CIA do in terms of attracting talent. What we've found is we haven't been doing a satisfactory job of managing that talent once -- once -- once they're in the Navy. And so some deep dive efforts over the past couple of months have uncovered some shortfalls in terms of our -- in terms of the way we're training people, the way that we're preventing their skills from atrophying is another example.
Not all of these fixes require that we lather it was a lot of money. Most of it's leadership and putting the right people in the right place.
-- Gen -- gentlelady's time has -- has expired. Mr. Carl is recognized for five minutes.
Thanks, Mr. Chairman, for allowing the best questions to be here at the end of -- of this brief meeting. Mr. Secretary, great to see you as always, Sir. General, hoorah. Admiral, I got some questions for you real quick. We showed a -- a lack of medical capability. And -- and I'm intrigued by the shallow water -- the shallow draft capabilities of dedicated medical ships such as the EMS. How does the EMS capability fit into the warfighter and the HADR needs?
And how can -- how can having a better and more agile medical ship capability help our warfighters?
So I see the -- I see that -- that ship's an opportunity. And so you're hon -- honestly limited only by your imagination in terms of the missions that you can actually put that vessel against. So one of the things that we're doing is investing in a medical capability on two of those vessels. So essentially to give us -- to give us two additional hospital ships beyond Mercy and Comfort.
So that's something that after the initial two we can take a look at. We can see whether or not we should -- we should scale that further, whether or not that's satisfactory. But I think it allows us to close the capability gap rather quickly.
Thank you, Sir. I appreciate that.
Also my next question is on the USS Enterprise which was re -- retired in 2012, decommissioned in 2017, and has sat in storage at Hampton Roads since then. What is the schedule for the RFP in order to appropriately dispose of this vessel?
So the R -- the RFP is actually being developed and final determinations have not yet been made with regards to its -- the approach. But it is currently being worked and you should see that I think within the next month or two at the latest.
All right. Thank you, Sir. We're getting a 100 percent here. As man -- as many of my colleagues have discussed here I -- I would like to add for the record that this shipbuilding plan is not sufficient. And -- and I do understand -- you started talking about capabilities, how important that is. And I -- I would love some time to get a briefing on that and -- and expand my knowledge.
So I'm not just looking at numbers. And anyway it's not significant to meet our threat in the -- especially in the Indo-Pacific. Admiral, you have recently spoken about a need for a 500 ship Navy. How can the Navy possibly justify a ship -- shipbuilding plan that not only does not meet the threats but falls short of what specified outline of the Navy's needs are?
Why are we making the fleet smaller rather than larger?
Sir, so the shipbuilding plan itself doesn't truly capture those requirements in -- in full. And the reason -- the reason the alternatives don't is because the limiting factor besides funding is what the industrial base can actually produce over time. And so one of the things we've been talking about with the committee today is potentially as we offer industry a -- a clear set of headlights in terms of our demand signal that we actually see those improvements on the production line in places like Bath, Maine and Pascagoula, Mississippi so that we can actually produce more ships and actually put us in a better place with respect to closing down on those requirements.
Thank you, Sir. I -- I watched a documentary last night on B42s. B42s they were turning out one an hour. They -- they built all that, the plans -- they drew the plans, they did everything in a one year period of time, Henry Ford did. America has the capabilities to build more. If there's a need, let's build em. And I -- and I -- and I -- I call on you to let us know what you need to defend this country.
Cause that is all of our goals, Republicans and Democrats, defend this country. Mr. Chairman -- -- Turn my time back over. Thank you.
And those are all the questions we have for you Gentlemen. Thank you very much for the hearing. Lots of challenges to work together, but I think the -- the plan you've put together is -- it gets us in the right -- right direction. Need to work together to figure out what the budget's ultimately going to be and how we can cover these costs.
But I thank you very much for your work, your service and your -- for your time today. And with that we are adjourned.
List of Panel Members
REP. ADAM SMITH (D-WASH.), CHAIRMAN
REP. JIM LANGEVIN (D-R.I.)
REP. RICK LARSEN (D-WASH.)
REP. JIM COOPER (D-TENN.)
REP. JOE COURTNEY (D-CONN.)
REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CALIF.)
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D-CALIF.)
REP. DONALD NORCROSS (D-N.J.)
REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-ARIZ.)
REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MASS.)
REP. SALUD CARBAJAL (D-CALIF.)
REP. ANTHONY BROWN (D-MD.)
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CALIF.)
REP. BILL KEATING (D-MASS.)
REP. ANDY KIM (D-N.J.)
REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA.)
REP. JASON CROW (D-COLO.)
REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MICH.)
REP. MIKIE SHERRILL (D-N.J.)
REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TEXAS)
REP. JARED GOLDEN (D-MAINE)
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA.)
REP. JOSEPH MORELLE (D-N.Y.)
REP. SARA JACOBS (D-CALIF.)
REP. KAIALI'I KAHELE (D-HAWAII)
REP. MARILYN STRICKLAND (D-WASH.)
REP. MARC VEASEY (D-TEXAS)
REP. JIMMY PANETTA (D-CALIF.)
REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FLA.)
REP. STEVEN HORSFORD (D-NEV.)
REP. MIKE ROGERS (R-ALA.), RANKING MEMBER
REP. JOE WILSON (R-S.C.)
REP. MICHAEL TURNER (R-OHIO)
REP. DOUG LAMBORN (R-COLO.)
REP. ROB WITTMAN (R-VA.)
REP. VICKY HARTZLER (R-MO.)
REP. AUSTIN SCOTT (R-GA.)
REP. MO BROOKS (R-ALA.)
REP. SAM GRAVES (R-MO.)
REP. ELISE STEFANIK (R-N.Y.)
REP. SCOTT DESJARLAIS (R-TENN.)
REP. TRENT KELLY (R-MISS.)
REP. MIKE GALLAGHER (R-WIS.)
REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FLA.)
REP. DON BACON (R-NEB.)
REP. JIM BANKS (R-IND.)
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WYO.)
REP. JACK BERGMAN (R-MICH.)
REP. MICHAEL WALTZ (R-FLA.)
REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA.)
REP. MARK GREEN (R-TENN.)
REP. STEPHANIE BICE (R-OKLA.)
REP. SCOTT FRANKLIN (R-FLA.)
REP. LISA MCCLAIN (R-MICH.)
REP. RONNY JACKSON (R-TEXAS)
REP. JERRY CARL (R-ALA.)
REP. BLAKE MOORE (R-UTAH)
REP. PATRICK FALLON (R-TEXAS)
SECRETARY OF THE NAVY CARLOS DEL TORO
US NAVY NAVY OPERATIONS CHIEF MICHAEL M. GILDAY
US MARINE CORPS MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT DAVID H. BERGER
Adm. Mike Gilday
11 May 2022
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