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JACK REED: Good morning. The committee meets today to receive testimony on the President's budget request for the Department of the Navy for fiscal year 2024. I would like to welcome Secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday; and commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger.
We are grateful for your service, for the service of the men and women under your command, and for the support of all Navy and Marine Corps families. Thank you. Admiral Gilday, General Berger, this will be your last posture hearing before the committee in your current role. I would like to thank you for your remarkable leadership of the Navy and the Marine Corps, as well as your many decades of service to the nation.
You have guided your services through significant challenges with resolve and vision and we are deeply grateful. The Navy and Marines are faced with a dangerous and evolving global security environment. Certainly, threats from Russia, Iran, North Korea, and violent extremist groups remain persistent and the Navy has an important role to play in addressing them.
But the clear pacing challenge for our naval forces is China. In the Indo-Pacific and in seas and ports around the world, the United States Navy and the Marine Corps will continue to be the first line of deterrence and defense against the PRC's expanding global ambitions. Recognizing this challenge, the Biden administration has requested approximately $256 billion in funding for the Department of the Navy for fiscal year 2024. This represents an increase of $12.8 billion more than the 2023 enacted budget, the largest increase among the services.
Within this budget, the Navy has requested nine new ships -- the procurement of several new submarines, destroyers frigates and logistics vessels is well reasoned. At the same time, the Navy is proposing to retire a number of ships before the end of their service lives, including several littoral combat ships and dock landing ships.
I understand the Navy made the difficult choice to retire some of these ships now to free up more resources in the future. But it seems that this plan would take us in the opposite direction of the Navy's goal for a 355 ship fleet, particularly regarding the amphibious force structure. The committee will want an update on these issues, as well as the Navy's forthcoming 30 year shipbuilding plan.
Even as the Navy requests newer, more advanced ships, I am concerned by the continued struggles to maintain our current fleet, deferred ship maintenance, reduced steaming and flying hours, and canceled training and deployments have created serious readiness problems within the Navy. These problems are also being experienced by private shipyards and navy shipyards.
The 2022 National Defense Authorization Act directed the Navy to study how to improve the capacity in our shipyard industrial base and the department has since begun the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, or SIOP. This program represents more than $25 billion in planned investments over the next 25 years to modernize and improve our shipyards.
Admiral Gilday, I would ask for an update on SIOP and the outlook for Navy maintenance efforts. The Marine Corps, while maintaining its ability to operate worldwide, is continuing to restructure around two concepts -- littoral operations in a contested environment and expeditionary, advanced space operations.
The key elements of these concepts is a more flexible amphibious force that can support a broader naval fight once ashore. Rather than simply acting as a landing force, the Marine Corps intends to help control the sea and air in support of the Navy, and as part of the Joint force. To achieve this, the Marine Corps is prioritizing a number of modernization efforts, including deep sensing, long range fires, to include anti-surface capabilities, enhanced air and missile defense, and improved ground and amphibious combat vehicles.
These platforms will equip the Marines with improved force protection and enhanced lethality, with a particular emphasis on providing highly mobile capabilities and addressing contested logistics. General Berger, I appreciated your thoughtful approach throughout this restructuring. Your posture towards adjusting Marine Corps requirements based on the results of experimentation and wargaming has yielded valuable outcomes, such as updating the number of cannon batteries and the size of fighter attack squadrons.
The committee looks forward to continue engagement on these modernization efforts as they proceed. Finally, I would note that the United States greatest comparative advantage over China is our global network of allies and partners. The recent agreement between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom to collaborate a nuclear submarine production, through the AUKUS partnership, is a meaningful step forward in ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Successful implementation of this plan will require responsible oversight and a stable industrial base. I would ask our witnesses for their views on what we have -- the capacity to produce now and in the future, and how we can provide the budget and resources to match. Again, I want to thank the witnesses for appearing today.
I look forward to your testimonies. And now let me recognize the Ranking member, Senator Wicker.
ROGER WICKER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome our witnesses and thank them for their years of distinguished service. I want to associate myself with the generous words of appreciation that the distinguished chairman has made, with regard to Admiral Gilday and General Berger. I would add to that, my appreciation for the talented team of Marines and sailors who are seated behind you and who have been such a great help to all of us in our efforts to get this right.
I do also want to share and associate myself with the remarks made by the distinguished chairman and his concern that the -- the budget proposal would take us in the wrong direction. And I think on a bipartisan basis, we'll be able to rectify that. Members of this committee know all too well that the Chinese Communist Party represents a major threat to the nation.
Today, we are in a more complex and sobering threat environment than we have been in since World War II. In that war, our economy was larger than all of our adversaries, combined, with an unmatched industrial base. We no longer enjoy that advantage, not by a long shot. The evidence is clear, China has launched 75 new warships since 2018, compar -- compared to our 35 -- 75 to our 35, China has over 200 hardened aircraft shelters, more than eight times what we have available in the Western Pacific.
And there are other examples of this imbalance. I'm troubled by China's recent creation of defense mobilization offices, air raid shelters, and wartime emergency hospitals. China is rapidly expanding its military forces and preparedness. We cannot be complacent in our response. And yet late yesterday, the Navy submitted its statutorily required, 30 year shipbuilding plan, which seems to embrace complacency.
Even in the most aggressive, alternative plan, the Navy would not reach the statutory 355 ship requirement until fiscal year 2042. Compared to last year's plan, it trades 35 -- trades 35 amphibious warfare ships for support vessels, harming the ability of our Marines to project force. The Navy's FY '24 budget request is anemic.
Under the President's proposal, the size of the fleet would shrink further. Let me be clear, this budget request has failed, yet again, to build a US Navy fleet that is capable of meeting even basic tasks, to say nothing of growing strong enough to deter near-term threats. Thankfully, there is bipartisan agreement that we must substantially increase the shipbuilding budget.
I'm concerned with production constraints at our shipyards. Despite Congressional support, the Navy has proved unable to achieve delivery of two attack subs per year, three destroyers per year, and two frigates per year. This trend puts us further and further behind the goal to build the Navy we need. Expanding our shipbuilding capacity will require generational investments, combined with new approaches to growing the workforce.
Growing our shipbuilding capacity will also require stable demand signals to industry. The Navy introduced uncertainty in the shipbuilding industry by excluding the LPD amphibious ship from the FY 2024 budget. Congress has reversed decisions like this in the past, and I certainly hope and actually am confident that we will do so again this year for LPD 33. I'm also concerned about ship maintenance, which is essential to avoiding a smaller fleet available in the near term.
Lack of investment in maintenance, together with rising requirements, has left the fleet in brittle condition. As a result of decades of deferred maintenance, the Navy wants to decommission 11 ships, including eight before the end of their expected service life. This strategy of divest to invest does not work.
In fact that failed doctrine is a contributing reason we are in this predicament. The assumptions included in this budget have the size of the fleet shrinking even more in the next five years. I see a whole lot of divest and very little invest in this budget. I fully expect that Congress will work together in a bipartisan and patriotic way to put a stop to this disgraceful lack of commitment to our naval forces.
And finally, I'm concerned that the Navy is not sufficiently leveraging promising new technologies. This is in contrast to the Marine Corps, which has embraced innovative concepts and equipment relevant to the high end fight. The Navy should adopt resilient communication advances, invest in autonomous technology, make use of additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing, and move to alternative materials such as composites.
Navy acquisition must do a better job of moving cutting edge programs into production, and do so urgently. A western Pacific conflict would lean heavily on our naval and air forces. Congress needs to exercise its constitutional obligation to provide these resources, the equipment and ships necessary to provide for the common defense.
And I'm certain we will. So thank you all for your service and thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Wicker. Mr. Secretary, please.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Good morning, Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished members of the committee. It's an honor to appear before you today alongside General Berger and Admiral Gilday, to discuss the posture of our Department of the Navy. Today, our nation, as you both have highlighted, does face challenges in every region and domain that we operate in. From the seabed to the stars, we recognize, principally, the People's Republic of China as our pacing threat, executing a strategy aimed at upending international order.
To preserve our way of life, the National Defense Strategy calls upon the joint force to deter aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict. A strong Navy and Marine Corps are the foundation upon which the successes of the joint force exists. The President's 2024 budget does send a strong signal to the American people of the value that President Biden and Secretary Austin placed in maintaining a robust Navy and Marine Corps to confront the threats that we face, to the tune of an increase of $11 billion.
This year's budget request supports our three enduring priorities -- to strengthen our maritime dominance, to build a culture of warfighting excellence, and enhancing our strategic partnerships around the globe. With your support over the past year, we have made major strides to modernize our fleet and our force.
2022 saw the deployment of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford, providing the Navy with lessons learned that will benefit future Ford class carriers. Construction of high end surface combatants continue, including the first Constellation class frigate, USS Constellation, and the first of our Arleigh Burke Flight three destroyers, the USS Jack Lucas.
We continue progress on our first Columbia class ballistic missile submarine, the USS District of Columbia, while pre-construction activities on the second Columbia SSBN, USS Wisconsin, have also begun. On the innovation front, Task Force 59, just as one example, in Bahrain, continues to test a wide range of unmanned surface vessels.
And we are looking forward to expanding this effort to Fourth Fleet this coming year. When we consider the composition of our fleet, we seek to strike a balance between readiness, modernization and capacity, with an immediate emphasis on readiness. This year, our divestment request includes three amphibious ships, and at least two cruisers, and poor material condition that offer very limited warfighting capability.
Further investment in these platforms just simply doesn't make sense. It's a waste of the taxpayers money. Our decisions to divest or extend a ship life are based on a hull by hull evaluation. For example, we recently announced the modernization of the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke, DDG 51, to keep it sailing through 2031, five years beyond its estimated service life.
We hope to be able to continue that trend with other ships, when possible, in the Arleigh Burke class, and even with our cruisers, the Ticonderoga Class Cruisers. We owe it to the American people to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. Investing in platforms with limited capability conflicts with that responsibility.
Our naval forces are more than just platforms and systems, however. It's our sailors, our Marines, that are truly our greatest strength. This year's budget request contains multiple investments to support them and their families with services, benefits, housing, and education that they deserve. In addition to our commitments to our people, we're reinforcing our international relationships including those with our Ukrainian partners, as they defend their sovereignty in response to Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion.
In the Indo-pacific, we continue to play a leading role in the AUKUS security partnership. Our Navy will be critical to this initiative success, as we support Australia's acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear powered fast attack submarines. We continue to hone our skills with allies and partners in the Arctic, ensuring we are prepared to operate in this challenging and unforgiving environment.
Along with our partnerships abroad, we're committed to also strengthening our relationships here at home. We value your support and we recommit our leadership toward fueling and remediating the Red Hill bulk fuel storage facility spills. We are committed to doing what it takes to address the concerns of service members, their families, the people of Hawaii, and all other communities throughout the United States.
As I have said before, we build trust one day at a time, one action at a time. As I close, I would like to emphasize that to meet these commitments and obligations, the Department of the Navy does require a strong cadre of senior leaders. Delaying the approval of our flag and general officer nominations before the Senate is especially harmful to our readiness.
I urge all of you to reconsider this situation and allow our nominations to please move forward. Finally, I am grateful for the trust that you have placed in me to lead this department. I look forward to discussing how best to support our sailors, Marines, and their families in defense of our nation, working very collaboratively with each and every one of you.
JACK REED: Thank you. Mr. Secretary. Admiral Gilday, please.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished members of the --
JACK REED: --Could you bring that closer to you, please, sir--
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: -- for the chairman and ranking member, I appreciate your -- your thanks for our service this morning. And my wife has joined me this morning. I'd like to thank her, as well, for her support. And I appreciate the opportunity to appear, with both the Secretary of the Navy, Del Toro, and General Berger this morning.
For more than three quarters of a century, the United States Navy has been an anchor of world stability, deterring war, upholding international law, and ensuring access to the seas. Today, our Navy's role has never been more expansive or more consequential. This past year, the Navy Marine Corps team executed more than 22,000 steaming miles and nearly one million flying hours.
We participated in roughly 100 exercises with allies and partners around the globe, including the Arctic. At this moment, we have about 100 ships at sea, a third of the force, reassuring America's allies and partners that we stand to watch alongside them and reminding the world that we speak -- that we seek to preserve peace, but we're prepared for any fight.
We are America's away team, constantly present, in contact with allies, partners, and potential adversaries every single day. Operating forward, your naval forces defend the rules based international order. Our Navy flies, it operates, and it steams wherever international law allows. So that others can, too.
The United States has always been a maritime nation. To preserve our security and our prosperity, America needs a combat credible naval force to protect our interests at peace and to prevail in war, not just today, but for the long run. Our fiscal year 2024 budget request remains consistent with the Navy's enduring priorities.
As the Secretary stated, we are prioritizing readiness first, with an emphasis on the sailors who empower everything that we do, ensuring that we are always combat ready. Next, we are modernizing our current fleet, 70 percent of which we will have in the water a decade from now. And third, we are continuing to build our capacity, ensuring we have relevant, lethal platforms to achieve warfighting advantage with a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned platforms on, above, and below the seas.
Our budget request reflects the Navy's commitment to deliver, to deploy, and to maintain that fleet. It fully funds a Columbia class submarine, ensuring the on time delivery of the most survivable leg of the nation's strategic deterrent triad. It keeps our fleet ready to fight tonight, dedicating the resources necessary to train and educate resilient sailors that can outthink, that can out decide, and that out can -- and that can outfight any potential adversary.. It funds private and public sector ship maintenance to 100 percent, increasing the capacity and retaining highly skilled labor, to get our ships back to sea faster with full magazines and spare parts in our storeroom, to be prepared for any contingency.
It invests in modernizing our fleet, procuring weapons with range and speed, along with integrated systems to improve fleet survivability and a resilient, cyber-secure network infrastructure. And it invests in capable capacity, building towards a larger, distributed hybrid fleet, fueling a ready fleet today, while modernizing for the future.
Our competitors are investing heavily in warfighting capabilities of their own. And the oceans are oper -- we are operating in, are growing more lethal and more contested every single day. Failing to modernize and meet those threats would erode mili -- would erode America's maritime superiority at a time when command of the seas will determine the balance of power for the rest of this century.
This means we can no longer afford to main [ph] ships designed for a bygone era, especially at the expense of readiness and modernization, or at the expense of buying new ships most relevant to today's fight. America cannot afford to feel the hollow force. We have been there before and we have seen the tragic results.
It is a mistake that we must never repeat. Ships, submarines, and aircraft are no doubt expensive instruments of national power, as are the cost of maintaining them. But history shows that without a powerful Navy, the price tag could be much higher. Thank you again for inviting me to testify today. I look forward to answering your questions.
JACK REED: Thank you, Admiral Gilday. General Berger, please.
DAVID H. BERGER: Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, and distinguished members of the committee, I also thank you for your comments. And my wife, Donna's, here also, as is the Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps and his wife. And it's been a privilege of a lifetime, and this is the best team you could ever hope to match up with.
Three years ago, I appeared before you and described how change, in my opinion, rapid change, was required to meet our statutory requirements and the mandates of the National Defense Strategy for the future. And with the bipartisan help of this committee and the civilian leadership in the Pentagon, I'm here to tell you that force designed for the Marine Corps is not a future endpoint, it is a reality, and it is here today.
A couple of examples -- in the Pacific and INDOPACOM, Task Force 76.3 -- they were built to create advanced information sensing maritime awareness for Admiral Aquilino, which he desperately needs in the Pacific. They took what they learned during experimentation and they applied it in exercises. They turned kill webs, what they call kill webs, into reality, and they did it in the Philippines, and they did it in Japan, right in China's backyard.
In EUCOM, last fall, Task Force 61.2, using some new technology in a different way of organizing, created both air and maritime domain awareness for the European Commander and sixth fleet. And they focus their efforts on the Russian air and naval activities. And Marines, in fact, are in Estonia right now, doing the same.
And they'll be there for the next four months. In CENTCOM, General Kurilla has our Marine Corps MQ-9s. He needs ISR. He needs persistent ISR, and that's what we're giving him, in the key maritime terrain. And this month, in fact, while we're sitting here, the new Marine Littoral Regiment, out of Hawaii, is in the Philippines -- Third MLR. They're using new sensing capabilities and lethal capabilities in the Philippines, and they're demonstrating that right alongside of our Philippine counterparts and other allies and partners, in Exercise Balochistan.
And that's how it should be. A couple of months ago, Japan announced that they would host the second -- the next Marine Littoral Regiment forward. It would stay in Japan, in the first island chain, and that's exactly where I think you want Marine Corps presence. In short, your Marines are forward. I think they're where it matters most.
And they -- that's exactly how it's always been. Three years ago, I described how the Marine Corps would not just modernize quickly, but we would self-fund that effort. We would get leaner, lighter, more naval. And three years later, your Marine Corps, your Marines, have done just that. And the results are in the field now.
And we are not waiting for 2027 or 2025. We're not waiting for 2030. Your Marines are ready to handle any crisis, anywhere on the globe, now -- today. Our major divestments, which we had to do, they are done. We are at our fighting weight. Now we have to sustain our modernization efforts, while we focus on the quality of life issues most important to Marines and sailors and their families.
People, as both the secretary and the CNO have mentioned, people are the real source of our competitive advantage, as a nation, as a Marine Corps. And I asked for your help now to invest in their quality of life. We have to focus on where Marines live, where they work, where they eat. Marines and their families expect that from us. They've earned it and they deserve it and now we have to deliver.
I think restoring -- modernizing our infrastructure, which many of you all have spoken about, is directly tied to recruiting, directly tied to retention. That's how we support families. That's how we generate readiness. So on behalf of all Marines, I ask for your support now, as we bring our infrastructure up to par with the quality of Marines and sailors who operate from those warfighting platforms.
And I also asked for your help, your support for the amphibious fleet. That's how we project power. The CNO and I agree on three, key principles when it comes to amphibious fleet. First, the absolute minimum number of amphibious warships the nation needs is 31. That is the operational requirement minimum.
Second, both of us agree block buys do two things -- they save the taxpayer money and they give the industry, what the CNO calls headlights, which they need. And third, divesting without replacing, I think is a dangerous approach. That creates unacceptable risk. Now, amphibious ships are critical to crisis response.
They're critical to deterrence. That's how we evacuated citizens out of Lebanon. That's how the US made our initial entry into Afghanistan in 2001 -- all from the sea. Today, we are asking them to do all that, plus deterrence, plus integrated deterrence and campaigning. And my concern here is, the first time this nation can't respond to a crisis and someone else does, is the last time they trust us. So in my final year of commandant, I'll just finish up by saying thank you.
Thank you to the individual members of this committee. Thank you for your coaching and your mentoring and your guidance. With that, I look forward to your questions. Thank you.
JACK REED: Thank you very much, General Berger. Mr. Secretary, submarines are critical. In fact, I would argue the most critical aspect of our Navy. And looking at the contracts right now, they're beginning to work on block five. But going back to block four that -- we're seeing already delays, which will translate into the next block, the multi-year acquisition of these submarines.
Block four has been running about 12 to 18 months behind, costs have been increasing, and we are trying to bring the Columbia in, on course and on schedule. But when you see these reverberating, cascading effects, you wonder if that's possible, too. What are you doing, and what is the Navy doing, to get these course and schedule progr -- schedule issues on track?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. There's numerous steps that we are taking. First and foremost, obviously, providing proper oversight over the construction contracts themselves. We believe, by several estimates, that they're at about 1.2 to 1.4 submarines a year, when they need to be at 2.0 submarines a year. I think no one ignores the fact that we've been living in COVID, and COVID has actually had a significant impact on our supply chains and our providers.
And so it takes all hands on deck, basically, to get to a better place. And I hope, and I'm actually optimistic, that we can get to a better place in the next five years. But it's going to demand a lot of incremental progress and a lot of continued investment in the submarine, industrial base. So last year, for example, there was approximately $700 million that was invested alone, in projects like the regional training centers or systems that are so critical to getting to a better place.
Those regional training systems have been implemented in the Northeast. They've also been implemented in Virginia, as well, too, and out in San Diego, working with the community colleges, working with numerous suppliers and vendors throughout the area, so that they can make the CapEx-like investments in those companies, to help them get to a better place with their own capital investments, as well, too.
Fundamentally, we also have a challenge, obviously, with regards to workforce training and recruitment. And so I believe, as I have visited all the shipyards and met with all the senior leaders of the shipyards, that they are committed now, to actually increasing benefits at the shipyards themselves, making the shipyards more amenable to workers coming and working there, looking for housing solutions in the local communities, as well, in places where housing is a real problem.
So I'm hopeful that, over the course of the next few years, we are actually going to see some significant increase in improvements in getting us to the right place, closer to two boats per year on the Virginia class.
JACK REED: I hope we can, because it's essential to the Navy. It's one of our greatest assets, particularly in the Pacific, if there's any conflict there. Admiral Gilday, I recently received a briefing from Secretary Raven about the suicides in the George Washington. The first phase focused on the individual sailors who were involved.
This new phase is more about collective, causal conditions, environmental conditions. But with respect to the first phase, I think not only myself, but some of my colleagues, were interested about accountability to the commanders. Where -- was there a thorough investigation of commander's responsibilities?
And was formally concluded that there was no command or leadership gaps, or in fact, is that still pending?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir, in the -- in the -- in the first investigation, we did not take action against the commander of the George Washington. The secretary and I have both been to that ship. We have walked those deck plays. We have met with those sailors, before and after that in -- before and after that investigation was completed.
The investigation found that those suicides, tragic as they are, were independent. And there were no common causal factors across those three. With respect to improvements, although the second investigation has not yet been signed out, there are many improvements that we've made across the force. They include investments in things that we learned from the George Washington, as an example.
Parking was a problem at the shipyard, so we're investing in two parking lots; two multi-purpose fitness facilities; we brought mini -- mini-marts, if you will, closer to the ships; we improved Wi-Fi; we moved sailors off the ship; we invested in new berthing barges. Yes, sir?
JACK REED: I appreciate that. But very succinctly, was there an investigation of the command -- chain of command? Was it completed, with the conclusion, by you and the secretary that there was no leadership failings?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, that was a rigorous investigation, sir. There were things that -- that went wrong, but -- but tying those -- tying those specific failures to the specific death by suicide did not -- we're not -- we're not clear.
JACK REED: Let me make one other comment, no question. But as we went through the reports on the George Washington, we noticed that one factor was sleep deprivation. That was also a factor in the investigation regarding the McCain and Fitzgerald collision. I would presume that you're now relooking at policies and procedures so that that is not a factor.
And I --
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: --Sir, for ships that are underway, we absolutely have, and we have sleeping policies in effect now, based on what we learned from the collisions in 2017. The particular issue that you spoke to, with respect to GW, is the fact that one sailor in particular was having trouble sleeping on the ship. As I mentioned a moment ago, we have tried to move everybody but the duty sections, off the ship into new berthing barges and other facilities, to get after that problem.
JACK REED: Thank you, very much, sir. Senator Wicker, please.
ROGER WICKER: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. General Berger, let's -- let's talk about LPDs. I think you said that there is a minimum, absolute minimum requirement of 301 am-fibs. Also, you have asked for $1.7 billion as your number one, unfunded requirement to ful -- fully fund the LPD 33. Why have you done that, and why is this so important?
What if we don't do it?
DAVID H. BERGER: Sir, the study that the Secretary of the Navy directed us to do last year, determined the operational requirement -- pretty rigorous study. Thirty-one is the minimum. and that made some assumptions on readiness, but 31 is the minimum, of 10 big decks and 21 medium and smalls. So 31 is both the operational requirement and now the statutory law minimum.
That's where the minimum came from. In the shipbuilding plan and the budget submitted, there's no plan to get to that number, and that's why I put it as a top of the unfunded list. I understand it. I know it to be the operational requirement and the law. And I saw no plan to get there.
ROGER WICKER: What have we -- where will that disadvantage us the most, if we do not do that?
DAVID H. BERGER: I -- maybe a paraphrase, but in the chairman's opening statement, he said that the Navy and the Marine Corps are the nation's first line of deterrence, first line of defense. I agree with that. If we don't have enough amphibious ships, or other naval vessels, then you put at risk both deterrence and defense and the ability to respond to a crisis.
So the short answer is, my concern is, something happens around the world, we will not have the right capability nearby, where the combatant commander needs it.
ROGER WICKER: In particular, how would that help us in the Pacific?
DAVID H. BERGER: If something happened in Taiwan or any of the regions of the Pacific, where there was an aggressive action, and we didn't have a naval expeditionary force nearby, then time -- if you're a combatant commander, if you're an operational commander, as you know, sir, time matters. I think the same, you could say, in Central Command, same in European command.
There are times when you can fly in and land a force, but not always. In fact most of the cases, you need a seaborne force, and you need Marines that can project power ashore, when you need to.
ROGER WICKER: Let's -- let's also talk about production line. Now, we're building LPDs now, but if this current budget is not changed, what will happen to that production line, what will be the consequences of it?
DAVID H. BERGER: That line would stop, sir.
ROGER WICKER: And how -- in the future when, we decide we finally want another amphib, how will that disadvantage us? You got to go find the workers again, don't you?
DAVID H. BERGER: That's correct.
ROGER WICKER: Okay.
DAVID H. BERGER: You got to retrain them, hire them, you got to start from scratch.
ROGER WICKER: Also, with regard to cost savings, I understand the LPD has already gone through some cost saving programs. And someone has suggested a dramatic reduction in flight decks, and you view that as unacceptable. Would you explain that to us?
DAVID H. BERGER: In 2014, the Navy and the Marine Corps, directed by the Secretary of the Navy, took under a stud -- looked at a study, or undertook a study for about 18 months, looking at the LPD 17, and what could be an affordable but capable replacement for the LSD. And that became the Flight II, the LPD Flight II. So reduction of what was an LPD 17 version into a Flight II status -- every bit of efficiency squeezed out of that work.
I think the input from Huntington Ingalls was really important. So now, if there's another effort to reduce that further, I know that we went to the minimums in 2014. Nothing less will do.
ROGER WICKER: Okay. But let -- let's leave it there. And Secretary Del Toro, let's talk briefly about frigates. Now we're building those in Wisconsin now.
CARLOS DEL TORO: That's correct, sir.
ROGER WICKER: And -- and the decision has been made to -- to build the frigates there and at another shipyard. Is that correct?
CARLOS DEL TOR: No, sir, not as of right now. The decis --
ROGER WICKER: --That has not been made?
CARLOS DEL TORO: No, sir. That decision has not been made.
ROGER WICKER: Okay, well, where are we on that?
CARLOS DEL TORO: We're actually waiting for the completion of the technical design package, which is expected by the end of this year. Once that technical design package is fully mature and submitted for review, we will review it. And at that point, we'll make a decision on whether we have the ability to actually take that technical data package and make sure that it's mature enough to actually compete, perhaps compete with another shipyard, so that we can have two shipyards building the constellation class --
ROGER WICKER: Well, we're going to need four years, is that right?
CARLOS DEL TORO: I'm sorry, sir?
ROGER WICKER: We're going to need four frigates a year. And that -- that concept is a way to get that, is that correct?
CARLOS DEL TORO: No, sir. Right now, the President's budget recommends sawtooth pattern of two, one, two, one, moving forward. So it's two frigates a year that we will initially need.
ROGER WICKER: How -- Admiral Gilday, how important would it be to -- to move to four?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: I think very important, based on the comments both you and the chairman at the opening of the committee. If we could get to a second shipyard, and two a year from each shipyard, two destroyers, two to three destroyers a year, we'd be in a much better place. We are catching up, and you can't buy back time, sir, with the seven shipyards that we have, relative to the 30 that we had years ago.
ROGER WICKER: It's going to be hard to get to for a year, without designating two shipyards, do you agree?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: I agree. I also agree with -- with the secretary's comments. I think two -- two shipyards is in the plan. We want to make sure that we're measuring twice and cutting once before that decision is made.
ROGER WICKER: Thank you, gentleman.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, sir.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Wicker. Senator Hirono, please.
MAZIE K. HIRONO: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, very much, for your service, and especially for Mr. Secretary and General Berger. These are -- this will be your last, I guess a year of service. So I thank you. I note, Mr. Secretary, that -- that recently the DOD opened up its Red Hill Clinic to people who were not in the service.
And that is very much appreciated, by a community that has been rocked by the disaster at Red Hill, and continue to raise many questions about what the military is doing and how they're doing it. There were a number of -- of recommended changes to the -- based on what happened at Red Hill, and characterizing what happened at Red Hill as having had a culture of procedural noncompliance, a lack of ownership, and poor training.
These were among the descriptions of what led to the disaster at Red Hill, and there were a number of recommendations made. Mr. Secretary, among the changes that were recommended, can you describe a specific, major change that you have implemented or that is being implemented?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, ma'am. And currently, out of the 253 repairs that were identified in order to de-fuel Red Hill, approximately just over half have now been completed. But the one major change that I would say that I have personally implemented, is to ensure that anyone who actually enters Red Hill is actually being supervised properly.
CARLOS DEL TOR: So out of the many subcontractors that do work at Red Hill on any given day, they have government oversight. There's a plan in place, that they have to demonstrate for exactly what they're going to do, how it was verified, and oversight over the -- the individual actions that they're going to take, with regards to any maintenance that actually gets conducted in Red Hill.
MAZIE K. HIRONO: So it's not just at Red Hill. There are other installations where this kind of review needs to take place. It's stunning to note that the lack of ownership, poor training, lack of oversight that characterized what happened in Red Hill may be going on in other facilities. And that needs to be changed. That kind of culture, of -- of lack of oversight, is really very stunning and totally unacceptable.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, Senator, if I could just add that that degree of oversight, actually has been enforced now at all other fuel facilities, as well, too. Immediately after the incident at Red Hill, we made sure that we looked at every other fuel farm that we own and operate, to try to ensure that we up the standards of how those fuel farms are actually operated so that those measures are in place.
MAZIE K. HIRONO: That is -- that's reassuring, Mr. Secretary, because as you know, the community is still very much questioning the -- basically the military's capacity to do the right thing and complete the work that needs to be done at Red Hill. General Berger, many fuel-grade officers who are actually on the ground and closest to the problem, have come out and publicly said the changes made by 4Cs on 2030 have made their units more capable.
And you mention the Hawaii-based, Third Marine Littoral Regiment successes against a more standard Air Guard task force in recent exercises. And these young men are the future leaders of the Marine Corps and are currently tasked with ensuring the Marines are prepared. So their support for the changes made by Force Design 2030 is instructive.
I just wanted to make that statement, General, because I do support the changes that you've made. One thing that does concern me, General Berger, is you noted that infrastructure is very important. The modernization and maintenance of infrastructure that has to do with the quality of life of our people, and -- and yet the Marine Corps only funded 54 percent of the facilities sustainment and restoration funds that it needs.
So why is this, General? Because, for other funding needs, you know, it's a much higher percentage of -- of the items that are being funded, and yet for the Marine Corps it's only 54 percent. Why is that?
DAVID H. BERGER: The approach of 80 percent funding for FSRM, which has been the model that we've used for as long as I've been a Marine, hasn't always allowed us the flexibility to put money where we should have put it, because we're tied to a fixed percentage across FSRM. The model that we're using now, supported by OSD, allows us the flexibility to move money within -- to not waste money where it's not going to do any good.
MAZIE K. HIRONO: So there's a question as to what you consider will not do any good, because there are a lot of infrastructure needs, I think, throughout the DOD. And as you know, to me, Redhill and some of the other events that have occurred, with regard to the Army and the other services, says to me that we need to pay a lot more attention to our infrastructure needs, the kind of deferred maintenance that is exemplified, I would say throughout DOD is an area that I personally, well, I will be focused on as chair of the readiness subcommittee.
I just want to note that to you, that I will be paying attention to the needs of all of our services, with regard to repair and maintenance of infrastructure. I want to know that what's going through our lines, our pipes, our electrical lines, or that those infrastructure needs are being met. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Hirono. Senator Fisher, please.
DEB FISCHER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning. Mr. Secretary, earlier this morning I attended a classified briefing on the modernization of our triad platforms. And I would say, since the Columbia program is on a tight timeline to deliver the first submarine to the Navy in 2027, can you provide us an update in this public setting, on whether the Navy will be able to meet this timeline, given workforce and supply chains challenge -- supply chain challenges?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Senator -- thank you for -- for that question and for your commitment to the nuclear triad, as well. As you know, currently approximately 50 percent of our ship construction funds are devoted to submarines, of which Columbia is the highest acquisition priority. When I came in as secretary, approximately 19 months ago or so, I also foresaw that there always could exist, perhaps, a gap between the decommissioning of the Ohio class and the oncoming of the Columbia class.
So one of the measures that I did take last year, was to start analysis associated with how long it would take and how much resources would be needed to actually look at each one of our Ohio sub hulls, and see if we could extend some of those hulls to close the potential gap between Columbia and Ohio ,and that process is now underway and we should have better estimates, hopefully, by the end of this year, that we can invest in -- in the President's budget, 2025 budget.
In addition to that, all the oversight functions that I mentioned earlier to the chairman, with regards to keeping Columbia on track. And again, I thank the Congress for their investments in the industrial base.
DEB FISCHER: Can you give us a time frame that we are currently seeing for the Columbia? Is it on -- is it on track? Is it -- is it maintaining? Is it dropping back?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes. So Columbia is on track, in accordance with her [ph] contract requirements. There was an expedited schedule that was created by Electric Boat, approximately six months, advanced and it is about approximately 10 percent behind the six month, advance schedule that we would like to adhere to, as well, too.
But rest assured that we're working very closely with the industrial base to keep it on its contract schedule.
DEB FISCHER: Okay. Admiral, do you have anything to add to that?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: I was just up in Connecticut last week, at the shipyard. The secretary is absolutely right. We're about 10 percent behind in the advanced schedule. We're watching that very closely. So that advanced schedule, 78 months versus the 84 months contracted, is intended to give us margin for a first of a class ship, where we're going to have to do weapon systems testing, and we're going to have to do testing of a first of a kind, integrated propulsion system.
And so we're trying to factor that in, watching it very closely. I would say that the shipbuilder is making really great strides includ -- in terms of hiring 4,000 additional workers last year, another 6,000 planned for this year. So we remain confident and keep a close eye on it, ma'am.
DEB FISCHER: In working with the industry on this, what -- can you give us some specifics that you're looking at, to help them continue on that expedited schedule?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: So as you know, the Congress has been very generous, in terms of infrastructure investments that we've made in those two shipyards down in Newport News, and also up an Electric Boat, to the tune of billions over the [inaudible]. Separately, I think that the money that we're applying for advanced procurement in material, particularly given the supply chain challenges we've seen, post-COVID, are also going a long way to get that material well in advance, so that we have no work stoppages.
DEB FISCHER: Okay. thank you.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, ma'am.
DEB FISCHER: What do you assess the role of the unmanned platforms? What are they going to play in future Navy operations? You mentioned those in your opening statement. How -- and how do you think the architecture of the fleet should be structured, so that you can achieve that balance between manned and unmanned?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: So whether it's under, on, or above the sea, we're looking at manned, unmanned teaming. So this will be a phased approach. Initially, you would have unmanned teamed, with manned aircraft, as an example, where the manned aircraft would be the quarterback and the unmanned would be the wingman. We're doing the same thing under the sea.
We're doing the same thing on the sea. Under the sea, we have our first, extra-large UAV prototype in the water now, for testing off the coast of California, with more to follow. This brings a clandestine mine laying capability to -- to the combatant commanders. On the surface, we've been doing a lot of work with -- with drones in the Middle East.
We'll have 100 this year operating, along with six other countries. We're only paying 20 percent of that bill. The other countries are chipping in and paying most of it. That allows us to have more persistent coverage in an area, where -- in the Middle East, that's still a maritime domain, but we don't have the numbers of ships that we've had in the past.
In the air, we have our un-fueley [ph], our drone, our MQ-25, that's operating off our carriers, now in testing. We will go IOC in a couple of years. And so that frees up -- that's our first instantiation of an airborne UAV that allows us to refuel aircraft in the air, give them another 500 miles of range.
And so we're making all of these progressive advancements and trying to do it very deliberately, but at speed.
DEB FISCHER: The lessons you're learning in the Middle East, are those transferable to the Pacific?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Absolutely. The secretary just announced that we're going to scale our unmanned operations from the Middle East to Southern Command. So it's taking a closer look at illicit drugs and illicit persons that are coming up the northern approaches, by the maritime. Also, our intent is to put an unblinking eye on illicit Chinese fishing on both coasts of South America.
DEB FISCHER: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Fisher. Senator Kaine, please.
TIM KAINE: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And to Admiral Gilday and General Berger, my congratulations and gratitude to both of you for wonderful service. General Berger, I just want to pick up one point and make sure I get the -- the punch line version of one aspect of your testimony. The nation needs 31 amphibs. The statutory requirement is 31 amphibs.
The budget we have before us has no path to get to 31 amphibs. Am I reading you right?
DAVID H. BERGER: Yes, sir.
TIM KAINE: All right. Thank you. Secretary Del Toro, I want to thank you for your attention to an issue that has been very challenging for us in Virginia, and that's military suicides, particularly connected with the George Washington, and also the mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center. And you and I went together down to MARMC, and I could tell in your interaction with the command and with the rank and file, both the -- the sailors and the civilians in that unit of 2,500 people, that this is something you take very, very seriously, and you are -- you're focused on trying to figure out a way to improve this set of tragedies.
If I could ask you a set of questions about that, could you first tell me what is the status of Brandon Act implementation?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir. The -- the fine details of how best to implement the Brandon Act are being reviewed by the Undersecretary of Defense, for personnel readiness. I hope that, over the course of the next several months, we'll actually have a path forward on how best to execute it. It's extremely important to bring every tool in the toolkit in order to solve this -- or try to help solve this very, very tragic situation, with regards to not just suicides in the Navy, but suicides in the nation.
And there is no greater responsibility the secretary has, than the safety of their personnel, both in the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the civilian personnel. And as you suggested, we take this responsibility very seriously.
TIM KAINE: I would love to stay in touch with you about this, because what I would -- I would not like to happen, would be for there to be a report about implementation after the NDAA is done, that we don't find satisfactory. So I would like to stay in dialog with you about the implementation, so that, if we feel like we want to offer some additional muscle to implementation, we have a chance to do that before the committee finishes its work on this.
So I'll continue with you on that. I also had the chance to talk to Admiral Franchetti and Secretary Raven about the Phase II analysis of the George Washington suicides, and I know that it's not yet done. I was -- I was heartened by some of the initial discussion about the -- the depth of recommendations that are going to be made.
But I am interested in one particular issue that -- and I'm not sure that it's covered in the phase II, based upon my questions. Last year's house report to the NDAA directed a briefing on personnel assignments to carriers undergoing refueling. Do we need to maintain the entire ship's fleet with a ship, during an extended refueling?
In the George Washington case, it's six years. Senator Scott has raised some similar questions and hearings before. As I asked Secretary Raven and Admiral Franchetti about, is -- does Phase II get into challenging assumptions about whether we have to keep the entire ship personnel component intact during the entire refuel, which can be a very extended one, as the GW? I got an answer that made me think that wasn't part of the analysis.
So -- and yet that was a suggestion in the NDAA language, from the house side last year, that we analyze ship personnel assignments during extended refuels. Tell me if you are doing anything to sort of challenge your own assumptions about what personnel component is needed during a refuel or particularly for first tour sailors.
Are there other assignments that they could take on, that would more closely match the MOS they've trained for?
CARLOS DEL TORO: No, absolutely so, Senator. And in fact, the -- the summary report may not have highlighted that as a fact, but we are taking a look -- close look at this, because it is extremely important. And while the entire crew may not be needed throughout the course of the entire RCOH, especially when the ship first comes into port and into its following stages, towards the end of the RCOH, you do have to build that crew back up. In fact, one of the things that we discovered on the George Washington, for example, is that there was a lack of mid-level leadership in the chief petty officer corps that did not -- they were not providing the necessary oversight for junior personnel, for example.
So, although it is complicated, I don't think the entire crew is needed throughout the entire period, but there are stages where we actually need that mid-level management, overseeing our most junior sailors, who could be challenged with living in a -- in a shipyard environment.
TIM KAINE: Just one final thing, as I conclude, when we visited the mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, following the suicide of four sailors there, within two months, it was, I think a fairly clear that a contributing factor was the -- a manning policy that allowed for a 60 percent increase in the assignment of personnel who were either unlimited duty or -- or pregnancy postpartum, with no additional assignment of medical resources to help them deal with, for example, a med board process or other needs they might have.
What are you doing to try to deal with that issue, to provide more in unit resources in billets like this, where there is a high percentage of people who are assigned on either a limited duty or a pregnancy, post-partum status.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir. So [inaudible] know address the specific actions that are being taken, but we actually have channeled back on that policy. We have way too many LIMDUs going to other places, where they cannot be cared for in the manner that they deserve to be cared for. So we're actually looking at withholding the ones that we can, back on ship, where they have better care and more resources available to them.
But perhaps, as you know, I can go into a little bit more detail on the specific actions --
TIM KAINE: I'm over time, but if you could do it briefly.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir. I'll make -- I make three, quick points. The first thing that we're doing is making a faster determination of what path they ought to be on. They just -- they -- are they just on light duty for a period of two weeks, because they have a sprained ankle, or do we need to move them off the ship on a more permanent basis, getting them the help that they need and at accelerated rate, so that we prevent them from going into a limited duty status?
The point is to get sailors -- keep sailors at work. And the third, for those in limited duty, to get them those -- those medical evaluations at a much faster pace. We're also reducing the ratio of those in limited duty at commands, so that we don't have another MARMC, so the people are properly supervised, sir.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Kaine. Senator Cotton, please.
TOM COTTON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral Gilday and General Berger, thank you for your latest, and presumptively, your last appearance at the committee as chief and commandant. We congratulate you for a lifetime of service and appreciate everything you've done for this country. Mr. Secretary, I want to be the latest senator to ask about this issue of the 31 amphibs.
The budget this year doesn't include any FY 2024 money for the 17th San Antonio class ship. That sets you on a path to fall below the legislatively mandated 31 ship amphib floor, as Senator Kaine pointed out. And General Berger, you testified that you think that's in the needs of the Marine Corps. So I just want to ask, what's up with this discrepancy between that legislative mandate in General Berger's stated needs for the Marine Corps and the budget request?
Can you explain it to us?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, thank you, Senator. First, let me unequivocally state that I don't dismiss anything that the Commandant of the Marine Corps said, with the need for our nation to have the heavy lift that's necessary to provide ex -- our expeditionary forces in the Pacific, in particular the ships that they need to be able to carry equipment and personnel around the Pacific.
The concern that developed over the course of the last year or so, has been the increasing costs of the platforms themselves. There were two studies that were done to address this issue. One is a cost study that was initiated by the office of the [ph] Secretary of Defense, to look at the -- and compare the cost, essentially between the different designs of the LPD and see if we could actually bring down those costs.
And the second is the BFSAR [ph], which is mandated by the 2023 NDAA, as well. And to take a look at the overall requirements for the amphibious ships, both large and medium, in order to make the right decisions necessary in the 2025 budget, to invest in the required platforms. And I think that there's also general recognition that moving towards a multi ship, multi-year procurement is an effective way to bring the cost of those ships down, in the future.
TOM COTTON: So at bottom, it's a cost issue?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir. The cost per ship issue.
TOM COTTON: Yes. General Berger, any further thoughts on this matter?
DAVID H. BERGER: You -- the Senate, the Congress gave the service chief the authority, the responsibility to determine the operational requirement, which I did, which is 31. But the secretary, obviously, has a lot of things he has to fund, as does the Secretary of Defense. So I can't -- I'm not in their position to weigh it against all the other things that they must fund.
I can just tell you that the operational requirement, the minimum is 31 And that -- and that assumes a level of maintenance that provides the availability to the combatant commanders.
TOM COTTON: Okay. Thank you both. Obviously, this matter has a high degree of interest on the committee and I suspect we will be addressing it in the months ahead. Mr. Secretary, I also want to speak about the state of our industrial base, especially what it means for submarines -- the Navy's inability to build ships in the fleet on time and on budget for many years, well before you came along, to be fair.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Trying to make a better, Senator.
TOM COTTON: Yeah, we all are. But it's been a source of growing concern. There are press reports that it's now going to take five years for the Virginia class submarine production to reach its target of two boats per year. Admiral Gilday, earlier this year, spoke to industry, and he told them that they needed to prove it. That's a direct quote.
I think that's an apt quote to industry, regarding the ability to ramp up production. Our submarines, obviously, provide us an unmatched, strategic advantage, especially in the Western Pacific against communist China. So could you give us some thoughts about what we can do in this committee and in Congress, to help assist with the ramp up of the industrial base, especially as it relates to submarines?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir. Again, it's all hands on deck approach, everything from trying to improve the -- the manpower issue and trying to get the shipyards to be able to recruit more effectively. I mean, we face, across the entire country a national shortage, when it comes to blue collar workers. I think you know, increasing legal immigration to this country and work visa programs actually may very well help to better, and support that that blue collar workforce that's needed in places like the shipyards, for example.
But again, the investments that you've made in 2023 and 2024, are in the right direction, in terms of the investments in the industrial base itself. One thing that I've been trying to do, Senator, is trying to expand the marketplace, with regards to smaller shipyards, getting them involved in Department of Defense construction and having them actually support the big prime.
So I've been having conversations with the primes, for example, to try to include more smaller shipyards to feed the primes. And a perfect example of that, actually, is being executed now at Austal where even before I got here, the CNO encouraged the development of steel hulls at Austal. They are now building steel hulls, and they're actually contributing to Electric Boat, up in Connecticut, and providing the necessary modules necessary.
And I think HII is doing the same thing, as is Ingalls, down in Pensacola, as well, too. I think continued investment in CapEx makes a lot of sense, where the government invests in -- in these capital improvement programs at the shipyards, so that the shipyards can also make an equal investment and help get us to where -- the right place.
It's all hands on deck, across the entire spectrum of improvements that have to be made.
TOM COTTON: Thank you.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Cotton. Senator Rosen, please.
JACKY ROSEN: Well, thank you, Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, for holding this very important hearing. And I want to thank all of you for being here today and thank you for your service and for your support for things in Nevada, of course across the country, as well. And I want to talk a little bit about Nevada and the Fallon Range Training complex modernization.
So Secretary Del Toro, as you know, we are so proud in Nevada, to host Naval Air Station Fallon, home to Top Gun and the nation's premier carrier air wing and the SEAL training centers. And I want to offer you and your staff, again, my personal gratitude for working with me and the Nevada delegation on a consensus proposal to modernize the Fallon Range Training Complex, which was included in the FY 2023 NDAA. And I appreciate that Undersecretary Raven and other senior leaders will be traveling to Fallon just later this week to meet with the tribal nations.
Because this agreement included key mitigations for local and tribal governments that require future appropriations. Specifically, the Navy's responsible for compensating for the timely reconstruction and, of course, relocation of impacted roads and infrastructure, the displaced grazing permittees, our cultural resource surveys, and environmental assessments.
And funding and completion of these requirements is not just important for my constituents, it's also necessary to ensure that expanded -- expanding the training complex, it can become operational for the future of the Navy. And given that Fallon modernization was the top Navy's legislative priority, the Nevada delegation was expecting that in fiscal year 2024 budget, the request would include funding for those various commitments.
However, FY 2024 budget was silent -- silent -- on Fallon modernization. So Secretaril -- Secretary Del Toro, can you speak to the Navy's implementation plan for modernization of the Fallon Ranch Training Complex, given the urgency to modernize? I'm curious why this implementation is not included in the Navy's FY 2024 budget request.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, Senator, let me first again thank you for your leadership on this issue. And I was so proud to have been -- played a small role by your side basically, to bring this across the finish line. But it is about execution now. I'm unaware that we actually don't have the necessary funds to execute on the plans that were already baked into the agreement in fiscal year 2024. As far I know, and I've reviewed the actual next steps that are required to execute the plan.
I know that there's going to be monies that get put into the President's budget 2025, to continue those efforts. But as far as I'm aware, there are no delays in actually us being able to meet the requirements necessary that were laid out in that plan, in accordance with agreements that were made between the tribes and -- and us and the community and us, as well, too.
So it's my understanding that all the funds that we currently have are enough to fulfill the existing requirements that we currently have. More will come, obviously, in pre -- and pre -- but let me get back to you with more specifics.
JACKY ROSEN: Perfect. I have --
TOM COTTON: Because I don't want to misspeak on that.
JACKY ROSEN: I will have my team circle back and we can --
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes ma'am.
JACKY ROSEN: -- find out about that. And I also want to ask you this, that I understand the Navy is yet to finalize an agreement with the local tribes regarding access to important sites. And so do you -- can you give me an update on the Navy's engagement with the tribes and the timeline for finalizing access?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Ma'am, allow me to get back to you with specifics, because I don't want to misspeak in any way. My understanding was, that everything is on track, and actually Secretary Berger and Secretary Raven are traveling out there to actually celebrate, in many ways, the progress that we have made in the path forward and -- and review what lays ahead, basically on the POA and M.
JACKY ROSEN: I'm going to stay a little bit on Naval Air Station Fallon, because the personnel station there, they do contract -- conduct critical training missions. The fleet is deployable and operationally ready every day. These operations -- incredibly demanding, and so reducing external stressors is important, not only to the sailors, but also to the mission.
I know 172 new housing units are on track to be built at Naval Air Station Fallon. That is going to help ease a little bit of that housing strain, but more needs to be done. And Fallon is still considered a remote duty installation, and I want to ensure that other things for quality of life are also addressed.
So I know I can take this off the record. If you would be brief, can you speak to the quality of life at Fallon -- mental health resources that might be available for our sailors and folks that train there and work there? And what are you doing to support those on remote duty in the NDAA?
CARLOS DEL TORO: So, we recognize that Fallon is a remote site, and we recognize the challenges that go along with that. In general, the CNO, the commandant, and I are hyper focused on, actually, the remote sites across the entire country, more so than the major concentration areas, as well, too, because they undergo a lot more stressors than other locations.
I have actually, specifically spoken to, to the undersecretary of defense for personnel readiness on the hospital issues associated with Fallon, Nevada, for example, because it's so important to get the right mental health providers --
JACKY ROSEN: --Thank you--
CARLOS DEL TORO: -- necessary to fill those billets in Nevada. And we are struggling to fill those billets in Nevada, obviously, as well as in Yokosuka, Japan and Rota, Spain, as well, too. But allow me to get back with a long list of actions that we are specifically taking, with regards to Nevada, on the quality of life issues in the bases.
JACKY ROSEN: Perfect. Thank you, very much. I'll be submitting some more questions on -- for the record. Thank you.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, ma'am.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Rounds, please.
MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And first of all, to all three of you, thank you very much for your service to our country. Admiral Gilday -- 38 years -- long time -- can't do it without family. Appreciate you and your family -- very, very special. General Berger, thank you very much for your 42 years of service, and once again, a -- without what you do, the services here in the United States simply aren't what they are today.
So thank you to both of you. Admiral Gilday and General Berger, there have been efforts to share or take parts of the spectrum away from DOD activities, and to use them for 5G, recognizing that 5G is an important aspect in this country, and it's something that we need to be able to -- to utilize. But in doing so, there is a particular part of the spectrum, which is, I believe very critical to a number of our [Audio Gap]
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: -- I think we have to look at what modifications that we would need to make to probably 188 ships, in terms of their systems, to provide the American people with a degree of confidence that those three areas that I mentioned are properly defended.
MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you. General Berger?
DAVID H. BERGER: I think what seems lost in that conversation, Senator, is we -- those systems, those radar, electronic warfare systems, were designed to optimize that spectrum, for a weapon system. But we had access to that when the requirements were developed. That's why we went with that weapon system. So if we -- if that access is lost, then the very reason you pick that part of the band of the spectrum, for a radar, for electronic warfare, for a training system, all that's lost to us. We have to be able to train realistically.
So for us, I think the same as CNO, the radar systems primarily, but also other sensing systems and electronic -- electronic warfare, that's why we chose that portion of the band.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, if I could just add, the cost of actually relocating these systems would be enormous, I mean upwards of $250 billion, probably. So I'm really fearful of the secondary consequences that some of these decisions could actually lead us to.
MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you, sir. Would it be fair to say that the -- the state of Hawaii is protected by those systems today? Admiral Gilday?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, sir, to some degree.
MIKE ROUNDS: How about the capital of our country, Washington DC?
MIKE ROUNDS: How about the west coast of the United States today?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Absolutely. Yes, sir.
MIKE ROUNDS: All of those are utilizing weapon systems or radars that are specific to this particular part of the spectrum that they're talking about, trying to either share or sell, correct?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, sir. And importantly, also, it would affect our ability to train, to a high degree of proficiency, to use those weapon systems.
MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you. My time is expiring. I would -- I would not want to disappoint the committee. I will ask a question for the record, with regard to the USS Boise --
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: --Sir--
MIKE ROUNDS: -- and your plans for not only the USS Boise to actually get it through dry dock, but those other Los Angeles class attack subs, that are behind it in line, that right now, we don't have the shipbuilding capacity to be able to get those back in operation, in less time than what it took to build them in the first place.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir.
MIKE ROUNDS: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Rounds. Senator King, please.
ANGUS KING: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I'd like to associate myself with Senator Rounds' questions on spectrum and the answers that you've provided. This is a critical issue. There is no reason to move forward with the spectrum auction [ph] before this study is completed. I think there's a significant national security risk.
Secondly, before beginning my questions, I want to compliment General Berger. A friend of mine once said everybody's for progress, nobody's for change. You've managed both progress and change in a remarkable way, I think, during your three years as commandant, and I want to compliment you on that, because it isn't easy to move a large institution.
You've done it with a very forward thinking way of looking at the future demands on the -- on the Marine Corps, and you've done it that -- done that very effectively. Mr. Secretary, we've talked about this before -- I'm concerned about the transition from the DDG Flight III to the DDX, which is currently in design.
Number one, are you supportive of the -- the joint work that's being done by Bath Ironworks and Huntington Ingalls, to be sure that the design is -- is -- is buildable and will be most effective for the Navy and for the taxpayers?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, Senator. Not only am I supportive, but it's actually critical to success for DDGX. And it's part of the reason why we actually moved the schedule two years, to allow for a far more mature design and allow the shipyards to actually work closely with us, to determine exactly, not just the propulsion plant and what it should look like, but to actually build out a land based engineering site that we could actually test the propulsion plant at, as well as the many other technologies, advanced technologies, like helios and others, that will actually provide in the future.
ANGUS KING: You use the right word, maturity of design, because as I've sat through 10 years of hearings on weapon systems, maturity of design is one of the key factors to not -- to prevent a debacle, in terms of acquisition, both in terms of time and cost. And also, we need to be thinking now, about the transition from -- from the Flight IIIs to the new ship, that they're not be a lag.
You've seen me draw the graph of the trap, the trough in employment, if we -- if we don't have a smooth transition. I hope that's in your plan.
CARLOS DEL TORO: I couldn't agree with you more Senator, I think continuing to build DDG Flight III --DDG 51 Flight IIIs is critical to ensuring that we don't have a gap, like we, you know, like we're trying to prevent, between Ohio and the Columbia class.
ANGUS KING: I got that. The issue of suicide has come up several times. There's an aspect of it that hasn't been discussed today, and that is the relationship between the transition from active duty to veteran status and suicide. Unfortunately, there is a correlation. Many suicides of veterans take place in the first one or two or three years after the transition.
I hope that we can work together, and perhaps discuss on -- offline, how we can improve that transition, the handoff, if you will, so that a sailor doesn't walk out the door one day in the warm embrace of the Navy, and then suddenly into the cold world, without the -- the handoff to the -- to the veterans status.
So will you commit to working with me on that?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Absolutely, Senator. And continuity of care is essential to that transition.
ANGUS KING: Admiral Gilday, I think I asked you a similar question, when you were first up for confirmation, about hypersonics, and we'll take this in a classified setting. But a general question is, are you satisfied with where we are, in terms of naval defense to a hypersonic attack? It seems to me that's one of the most serious strategic challenges that we face today, particularly in the Indo-Pacific.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir, no, I'm not. We're working to close some known gaps that we have, with respect to layered defense. Some of the biggest obstacles are technology, including mature technology, that would be -- that we would be able to apply to the -- to that problem set. I think another aspect of it is, being able to confuse and disrupt the adversary's ability to accurately target and use those weapons effectively.
So in classified -- in a classified setting, sir, I think we can talk about that in a little bit more detail.
ANGUS KING: Well, I'm glad you started with the question -- the answer was no, because that implies we have work to do.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: We do.
ANGUS KING: And I look forward to working with you and your successor. I hope you'll pass that sense of urgency on to your successor.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, sir, I shall.
ANGUS KING: And I'll have another couple of questions for the record, on some manpower issues. Mr. Secretary, I commend you for the work you've done, in terms of helping our shipyards with their workforce challenges for -- it sounds mundane, but things like parking and childcare availability, is important to having the workers that we need to -- to build the next generation of ships, whether they be submarines or destroyers or frigates or amphibs.
So please keep that work in mind. Workforce is, in my view, is maybe one of the most significant challenges that we have today. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator King. Senator Ernst, please.
JONI ERNST: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, gentlemen, very much for being here today. And Admiral and General, thank you so much for your service and dedication to our great United States of America, and to your families and your teammates, as well -- truly appreciate them for their support. China's military has raised the risk of great power war and our combat credibility, especially as we look at the Indo-Pacific, is increasingly in question.
And that's why Congress has really called on the department to build our lethal capabilities to deter China. So General Berger, I'd like to start with you. The late chairman, John McCain, had declared that, quote, 'the Marine Corps must modernize itself for the deterrence of great power competitors,' end quote.
And we all know there's been a lot of debate surrounding modernization efforts within the Marine Corps. How did this committee's intent inform your vision for the future force?
DAVID H. BERGER: Probably first, I'd start with, when Senator McCain said that, and four years ago, the Marine Corps very ready to handle the problem sets of today, right now. In fact, if -- if we had the capacity, we would have -- we would have a marine expeditionary unit and amphibious ready group off the coast of Africa right now, so that if Sudan got worse, that that General Langley would have a number of -- of options.
So I think readiness, in terms of handling the -- the problem sets of today is not -- was not the issue. But the national defense strategy, the indicators in the intelligence community, the developments in technology were a clear indicator to General Kneller before me, that we had to change. Holding onto what we had, that was successful in the past, was not going to help us in the future.
So to your point, I think the indicators from this committee, the support from individual members and collectively, that's allowed us, in three and a half years, to get to where we are. But we're very ready today, but we can't slow down. We have to move quickly to stay in front. We have a -- we have a pacing threat, we have a pacing challenge.
JONI ERNST: Yes, we do. And, General, you shared your predecessor's assessment that the Marines were not organized, trained, equipped, or postured to meet the demands of the rapidly evolving, future operating environment. And you just referenced that. How do your investments meet operating requirements in the Indo-Pacific, specifically?
DAVID H. BERGER: Some of it is the weapon systems themselves, the capabilities. Everything from the MV-22, which this committee and others saved from death, like 25 years ago -- and thank God, we -- we have it right now -- the 53-K, the -- the anti-ship missile capability that were developing -- all this were years in the making.
So I -- I think, in the Pacific, the challenges that General, or that Admiral Aquilino and his commanders face are range, and it's a home game for the PLAN [ph]. We have a couple of challenges out there. We have to be present. We have to be the stand in force there from the beginning, because fighting your way in from the outside, not a good plan.
We have to work on the logistics, so that that forward, stand in force is sustainable, is ready. And you have to be there with allies and partners, because they have to believe that the United States is not running away from them. It's going to be there even when things get tough. And that's where the Marine Corps, Navy -- I mean this is where we make our money, right alongside the allies and partners forward, where it matters.
If we back off, if we pull out of there, we're sending a message, strategically, which is not the message we're going to send.
JONI ERNST: You've outlined a number of -- of gaps that exist, logistically -- support and working with other nations. Are there other gaps that you can address specifically, within the Marine Corps?
DAVID H. BERGER: The biggest one is what the -- most of the members brought up, which is the capacity to get us there, to have that presence forward all the time. If we don't have the vessels, if we're not forward, and we're in the United States and we're fighting our way to get in -- bad place to be. I think, if you still believe, in other words that the three ships, amphibious ships loaded up with 2,300 Marines, if they have a deterrent value, and I think they do, then you want them right in the adversary's grill -- right?
-- right in their face, where they can see them all the time. That is the -- Senator Cotton asked, you know, like basically can we afford the conventional deterrence. Like, absolutely yes, because the alternative is a lot worse.
JONI ERNST: Are you managing that near term risk, as you've -- divest from some of the legacy programs that you to?
DAVID H. BERGER: Absolutely, yes. Absolutely, yes, ma'am.
JONI ERNST: Okay. Thank you very much, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Ernst. Senator Kelly.
MARK KELLY: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for being here. My first question is to General Berger. First of all, thank you for all the incredible work that's happening in southern Arizona, at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. It's home to the -- as you know, the largest F-35 command in the Marine Corps.
It's also the home of the weapons and tactics instructor course. So it's helping train F-35 pilots in the Marine Corps across the country, essentially. So -- but also across our entire state, we've got other flying missions. We've got Luke Air Force Base, Davis-Monthan, we're training F-16 pilots and operational squadrons and A-10s, Air Force F-35s. We've got the Compass Call mission at DM, with C-130s, soon to be getting a new airframe, helicopters, UAVs. We got all this -- a lot of stuff.
And it's the greatest place in the country to train. And I'm not being parochial here, on it being Arizona. I mean, it really has good weather to -- to train these missions. What we -- what we're struggling with right now a little bit, is airspace. We've got a lot of airspace, we've got the Barry Goldwater Range.
We've got MOAS, Outlaw, Jackal, other MOAS. We've got a restricted area over Fort Huachuca. But -- so -- so General, I'm interested from your perspective, the perspective of the Marine Corps, how would expanded airspace in the Southwest improve DOD's ability to support fifth generation fighter aircraft training?
DAVID H. BERGER: Well, Senator, sitting behind me is my wife, and she's probably smiling, because we took our family to Yuma, Arizona. We lived there for three years, raised our kids there. So everything that you described, we lived, when we had kids that were younger. It was a great place to raise a family. It's also a fantastic place to train.
You mentioned the weapons and tactics instructor course. I was in -- that's what my assignment was. And I'm an infantry guy, so first of all, getting invited to teach at an aviation school, I thought they had made a mistake. But off I went to Yuma and learned more about combined arms, Marine, air ground task force, how we fight, than any other assignment I've ever been in. Airspace is critical.
Without that, you can't put all the pieces together. And it was a box that we operated in, in the 1990s, when I was an instructor there. But we didn't have the range of the weapon systems we have now. We didn't have the speed and range of the aircraft we have now. If we can't stretch the legs of the F-35 of the MRLS rocket system, if we can't use the airspace to the maximum degree of the weapon system, then the first time the Marines are going to employ it, is in combat.
And that is not what we want. So absolutely critical -- both altitude and depth of the Barry Goldwater Ranges and the rest of the -- as you mentioned, if we don't have that, then we're putting our air crews, our ground Marines, in a risk, because the first time they're going to really put all the pieces together, is when the fighting starts.
MARK KELLY: Yeah, as -- as you mentioned, as the -- as the stick gets bigger, the airplanes going faster, the AMRAMs going further, we need more space, we can stitch together some of this space by the way. I mean, and that's something we've talked about in Arizona is, we have an opportunity here, with the FAA reauthorization bill, talk to the FAA come up with a plan that works for commercial aviation, works for the airline industry, but also helps us train better.
Now I think Senator Sullivan, if he goes next, he's probably going to jump in here and talk about the airspace in Alaska. But this is really important. And the weather is ideal for this training.
DAVID H. BERGER: Just one quick plug for the FAA. They have been fantastic partners for 35 years, handing off airspace between LAX and 29 Palms in Yuma, great partners.
MARK KELLY: Thank you. Thank you, General. Secretary Del Toro, just real quick. I know Senator Kaine talked about the Brandon Act. I really appreciate all the hard work you've done on this. We need to get it implemented. We discussed a little bit about this, from a more personal side this morning. can you just give me a really quick and -- I don't have a lot of time -- but a status update?
And how is the Navy working with DOD to make this a reality? And what specific actions have you taken to support implementation?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Senator. Well, for starters, I've personally met with the Conserta [ph] family to understand the challenges that they've undergone and -- and what they would like to see, moving forward, in terms of the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense being able to move with -- to work with families, like the Conserta family as they struggle with this tragic incident.
I believe it has to be -- we have to get to a better place, with regards to executing the right of individuals to be able to seek out help from the private sector, privately, but at the same time with the checks and balances necessary, so that the military also understands the struggles that this individual may be facing.
Because if we don't understand the struggles that they're facing, then that presents even greater threats, as well, too, to operations and also to the individuals themselves. And so we have to find that right balance between those two needs, in order to get to a better place. And those are the discussions that I've had with the Department of Defense.
JACK REED: Okay, I --
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: --Sir, I know we're over. Can I make just one comment?
JACK REED: Yeah. Yeah. Yes.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: The department issued a mental health playbook. And so for sailors and Marines, one of the things it does, is it helps them -- it raises their awareness of what options are available. And there are already self-referral and confidential options that are available. We still have work to do, as the secretary is working on, to make this more holistic across the force, but -- but we've made investments and we're trying to head in the right direction in order to make that available.
MARK KELLY: Thank you, Admiral. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, and thank you, General.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Sullivan, please.
DAN SULLIVAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to thank the witnesses, in particular Admiral Gilday, General Berger. Thank you for your incredible service, and to your families, over decades. It's very appreciated. I've enjoyed working with both of you. I'm going to dig into this 31 amphib ship issue a lot more harshly, because I just don't think what's happening right now is remotely appropriate.
So Mr. Chairman, I'd like to submit for the record, a Defense One news article Navy on the Path to Violate 31 Amphib Ship Requirement in 2024, for the record.
JACK REED: Without objection.
DAN SULLIVAN: And the 30 year plan makes it clear that the Navy has no intention of meeting this statutory requirement. Last year, the Congress, United States -- was an amendment that I worked on personally, with -- with the Commandant. Got this in -- in the law. It's the law. Let me read the law. The naval combat forces of the Navy shall include not less than 11 operational aircraft carriers and not less than 31 operational amphibious warfare ships, of which not less than 10 shall be amphibious assault ships.
That's the law. We passed that. I want to compliment the Commandant. It's not easy to be sitting next to your boss saying we need this, we need this, we need this. Your boss, obviously, doesn't agree, General. But here's the thing. There's been these discussions of balancing, costs, another cape study that's going to come out in June 2023, for the FY 2025 budget, on amphib requirements.
That's Irrelevant. The Congress of the United States did the balancing, Mr. Secretary -- working with the Marine Corps. It was unanimous, by the way, in this committee. You are violating the law. Would you come before this committee and say, sorry, we're not going to do 11 carriers? No way. You'd get your, you know what handed to you.
You can't do it, sir. I find it simply unacceptable that we're all just letting you say, eh, maybe that was a suggestion by the Congress. It wasn't a suggestion. It was a mandate. So, Mr. Secretary, I'd like to just ask you right off the bat. Why are you violating the law? And why does your ship building plan have no remote interests for the next 30 years, as far as I can tell, of hitting the statutory mandate that we told you to hit?
I have no idea what your answer is going to be, but you need to follow the law, sir. What's the answer?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, as a member of the executive, it is my responsibility to follow the law.
DAN SULLIVAN: Yeah.
CARLOS DEL TORO: It's also my responsibility to ensure that we just don't waste taxpayer money on vessels, for example, that will never see the light of day --
DAN SULLIVAN: Okay, let me ask you on that one. This Congress has given you multile -- multi-ship procurement authorities, past three NDAAs. This is the third year in a row that amphibs are not being procured with this cost saving authority. So it's a little rich, when you tell me about taxpayer savings, when you're not using the ability to save money that we gave you, on amphibs.
You use it for every other ship, but not amphibs. So I'm not really buying the taxpayer argument, because you're not using that authority. What -- what is your answer to the issue, that you're not following the law? And what I'm going to ask for a request on, because I'm running out of time, I'm requesting that you come back to this committee, soon, and tell us how you're going to follow the law.
That's your only option, Mr. Secretary. Another cape study? We did the study, we told you what to do, and you need to do it. The Commandant agrees with us. This committee agrees with us. So what is your answer to this question? You're violating the law right now. And your shipbuilding plan looks to say, hey, we're going to violate the law for the next 30 years.
It's totally unacceptable. In my view, you haven't been hit hard enough by members of this committee. You're ignoring us -- worse, you're ignoring the law. What's your answer to that? And I do want your commitment to come back here with a statement on how you're going to fix this.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, you have my commitment that I will come back to you with a statement on how we can fix this. And I --
DAN SULLIVAN: And follow the law.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, sir, it is my intent to follow the law, and I hope that, hopefully, by the President's budget of 2025 submission, we'll be able to be back in place, with a multi-year procurement that actually looks at that --
DAN SULLIVAN: Not looks at. That's not your option. We looked at it.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Like I said, sir, as we develop the President's budget 2025, I will look at that as an option that we could pursue, to get us back on track with multi-ship procurements for LPDs.
DAN SULLIVAN: It's not an option for you, Mr. Secretary. Committee, the Congress, the President has spoken. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is a big issue, and right now, the Secretary of Navy is ignoring the Congress of the United States and it is unacceptable.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Sullivan. Senator Shaheen, please.
JEANNE SHANNEEN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank you all for being here this morning. I'm sorry, I missed much of the questioning. We have multiple hearings at the same time. I would like to also echo the chairman and ranking members comments about you, Admiral Gilday and General Berger, and the service that we all very much appreciate.
Secretary Del Toro, I was really pleased to see that the Navy included several new funding options for child care centers.
JEANNE SHAHEEN: I think each one of you talked about the quality of life and the importance of ensuring that we can maintain those people who join our military and child care is one of those areas where it's absolutely critical. In New Hampshire, we were able to have a joint effort between the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and the New Hampshire National Guard, to put a joint child care center on. But one of the big challenges has been recruiting teachers.
So can you speak, Secretary Del Toro, to what more the Navy's looking at, in terms of recruitment for teachers within our child care facilities, or Admiral Gilday -- either one?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yes, ma'am. I'll just be brief and then pass to the Admiral. So one of the initiatives that we're looking at, actually is to be able to provide those child care providers the ability to save costs on the children, if they have children themselves. So we allow up to 50 percent reduction, for example, in child care costs, so that they can actually have their own children at the child care center, as well, too, in addition to trying to increase the -- the pay for those child care providers, as well.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Exactly. So on the -- on the pay piece, we are paying above minimum wa -- above the -- I am sorry, above the average national wage for childcare center workers, about $5 above the -- above the median. Secondly, we've reached out to a couple of schools in Texas and Utah, particularly during peak months, where they are having students come in and help us in those childcare centers, as well.
And they're being -- they're being adequately compensated for that help.
JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, I applaud any efforts that you can undertake that will improve our ability to provide childcare for the men and women in the military. One of the things I learned as governor, when we were trying to address childcare in New Hampshire, was that the military was the role model for the private sector on this issue.
And we need to see that continue. So Secretary Del Toro, I think you mentioned AUKUS in your opening comments, and I wonder if -- it's my understanding, one of the challenges that we've had are the -- is the challenging framework that exists for sharing information and technology about our capabilities. Can you speak to whether we're able to do that through AUKUS right now, what changes we need to make in order to provide that sharing that's really going to make that compact work as it should?
CARLOS DEL TORO: So Senator, when it actually Senator when it actually comes to sharing of the nuclear powered technology for the submarine itself, there ha -- it hasn't been a challenge necessarily. It's actually in the other areas, in terms of AI, machine learning, and other technologies, where we actually have to get to a better place, with regards to being able to share that technology with our international partners and DNO, would you comment a little bit more on that pillar [ph]?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: On the -- on the second pillar?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Yeah.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: So one of the things that AUKUS has done, is it's really opened up the blinders, in terms of our collaboration with both the UK and Australia, and their industry in areas like quantum computing, AI capabilities. We're already doing a lot of that with both of those countries in the submarine force, but this will accelerate it, in terms of investment by private individuals, as well, by -- by equity firms, that are seeing the progress that we're making in those specific areas.
JEANNE SHAHEEN: Well, I would encourage us to continue that. Obviously, if we can't make something like AUKUS work with our closest partners, we're going to have challenges across the board. General Berger, I think several times, when you've been before this committee, I've asked you about the ability of the Marine Corps to recruit women, recruit and retain women.
And I understand that in fiscal year 2022, the Marine Corps was able to recruit a slightly higher percentage of women than in the past. But can you talk about what the biggest obstacles are to that recruitment, and also to retention of women once they get into the Marine Corps?
DAVID H. BERGER: The first obstacle, I think was not having any role models in most of the fields in the Marine Corps where they got promoted to colonel and general. In other words, they couldn't go into combat arms until 2015. So they didn't see anybody at the top that was representing them, except in administrative sort of staff fields.
But the -- the Marine Corps is a war fighting organization. I think, now they're seeing role models in aviation and infantry, that weren't there six, seven years ago. That's a huge plus. Right now, we have an infantry officer school just like the Army does. We have three, female lieutenants in the course right now.
Five years ago, there were none. We have female enlisted Marines that are in infantry course in both coasts, in the East Coast and West Coast. We have them in infantry battalions now that are mortar men. These were not even thinkable things five, six, seven years ago. So first of all, I think it's produce, you know, make sure that we advance the -- the ones who can serve as role models.
I think the initiatives that Congress has given us in the last few years have helped a lot -- being able to opt out of promotion. If it's not the right time in my family career, can I just step out of promotion and then come back in without a penalty? Yes, you can. Can I ask to step out of command -- not be considered for command?
Sure. can I take an intermission from my career? I want to do something for a couple of years and come back in, without any penalties. All these are provisions that Congress has given us, which are now, I think becoming more and more useful. You made it -- we changed a policy last year, where dual military people, which are more prevalent now I think than they were a decade ago -- for us to -- to assign them to different duty stations, it takes your general officer to approve that now.
So we're making it better for females to stay and raise a family and have it all, instead of making a choice. And I think over the next 10 or 15 years, if recruiting continues like it is right now, I mean, in a decade, we have -- we have 85 percent more female aviators now than we did ten years ago, 85 percent.
Last month, Colonel Nicole Mann, she -- she came back from the International Space Station. She's a jet pilot, test pilot, astronaut, mission commander. These are -- these are the kind of role models that we need.
JEANNE SHANNEEN: Thank you very much.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Shaheen. Senator Tuberville, please.
TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, thanks for being here today. And -- and your sacrifice and your family sacrifice. We know how tough that is. You know, guys, I'm proud of our Navy. And I want to talk a little bit about team building and recruiting. Americans are proud of their Navy. Outside of ports like Norfolk and San Diego, many Americans don't see the work that your sailors do. They don't see it. The Navy's work is often unseen.
It's far from our shores. Even the Navy's history, the -- like the Midway and Manila Bay, it's hard to see. So to recruit new sailors, you must tell the Navy's story to both internal and external audiences -- got to be told. Today, we have more ships named for politicians and activists than we do for great Navy battles and heroes of our past.
We have a USS Carl Vinson, but no USS Enterprise. We have the USS John P. Murtha, but where is the Yorktown? New sailors should be on the USS ships like the Wasp, the Midway, the Vengeance or the Intrepid. Mr. Secretary, you were the commander of the DDG 84, who was named after who, sir?
CARLOS DEL TORO: John Duncan Buckley, Senator.
TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Yes, sir. And he was a medal of Honor winner. And I know you were proud to serve on that ship. You know when he was asked about charging two German ships when he had only one working gun, Admiral Berkeley said, quote, 'what else could I do? You engage, you fight, you win.' That is the reputation of our great Navy.
Mr. Secretary, in your capacity to name ships, I hope in the future that we get back to naming ships after heroes -- people that's actually done something. Now, we've had politicians that's been in the military before, and I understand that. But our history is told through our battleships and -- and the things that we put names on. Our sailors need to hear and see all these stories, instead of divide us -- sometimes they do divide us. This week many of us watched the video that has gone viral, online, of a young Navy lieutenant, J.G. I have a lot of problems with this video.
This non-binary officer said the highlight of her deployment on the USS Gerald Ford was reading a poem to the entire ship. Admiral Gilday, have you seen this video?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: I have.
TOMMY TUBERVILLE: I hope we train our officers to prioritize their sailors, not themselves. Did it surprise you that a junior officer says the highlight of her deployment, her first, and the ship's first, was about herself and her own achievement?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: I'll tell you why I'm particularly proud of this sailor. So her grandfather served during World War II. And he was gay and he was ostracized in the very institution that she not only joined and is proud to be a part of, but she volunteered to deploy on Ford, and she'll likely to deploy again next month, when Ford goes back to sea.
Sir, we ask people from all over the country, from all walks of life, from all different backgrounds, to join us. And then it's the job of a commanding officer to build a cohesive, warfighting team that is going to follow the law. And the law requires that we be able to conduct prompt, sustained operations at sea.
And so we have to -- our -- that level of trust that a commanding officer develops across that unit has to be grounded on dignity and respect. And so if that officer can lawfully join the United States Navy and is willing to serve and willing to take the same oath that you and I took to -- to put their life on the line, then I'm proud to serve aside them.
TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Admiral, I agree with that. I don't care who you are, as long as you join our military to fight for the freedom of our country and protect our country. The problem that I'm having, is the obsession with race, gender, sex. It's focused on self. It's not focused on team. and if we don't start building team, we have no chance to win individual in this country.
We have no chance. Everybody else is building. And to do a poem with all the 8,000 other people on this ship, and to focus on herself -- and don't get me wrong, her uncle or whoever that fought, hey, my dad died in the military. Okay? I'm all for that. But I'm all for building a machine. We don't -- our recruiting and suffering.
We don't need to have another Bud Light moment. I mean, we don't need to have a Bud Light moment in the Navy. I mean, we have to build a killing and fighting machine. And, you know, it just -- it concerns me that we do all these things and we focused on one thing, one person. We're all Americans, that's what we are.
And I hope we, as admirals and generals and people, secretaries, that we start pushing Americans first -- not a gender, not a race, not nationality. We all got to come together. If we don't, we have zero chance, because this is not the country we used to have. This is not the military we used to have. And we've got to get out of that rut of saying we are individuals.
We're not individuals. We are the best country on the face of the earth, and the best military -- the United States of America. Thank you. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Tuberville. Senator Blumenthal, please.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Thank you all for being here and for your service to our nation, Admiral Gilday and Commandant Berger. Thank you particularly, and your families for your extraordinary service over many years. I want to just take a moment to tell my colleagues about a bill that I introduced, along with Senator Sullivan, to commemorate the United States Marine Corps 250 years, in a commemorative coin, to mark this important milestone.
I'm really grateful to my colleague, Senator Sullivan, to join with me in this tangible reminder of the Marine Corps contributions to our nations. And I hope all my colleagues on the committee will join us in this legislation. It may seem symbolic, but symbols often tell an important story, particularly, Commandant, in a time when the force design 2030 has created issues within the Corps.
This kind of point of solidarity, I think, can be important. Admiral Gilday, I want to come back to the questions raised by the chairman about accountability and the USS George Washington. I was in the briefing that we received, and I have no question that you and the briefers and our top command in the Navy are deeply concerned about those three suicides.
But what I heard in that briefing was that phase I didn't address accountability. Phase II didn't have it as a specific topic, but that accountability might emerge, somehow, from phase II. I'd like your assurance that accountability, that is holding responsible anyone in command who knew or should have known about the desperate straits of those three sailors, will be at least named and held accountable in some way.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Yes, sir, I know that you understand, everybody does, how complicated death by suicide can be, and the number of factors that can be involved. And I am no way trying to be evasive on this issue. I take personal ownership for some of the failures that we saw in -- in Norfolk and other places that we are currently correcting.
That said, in any specific investigation -- and we have, the Navy has relieved 15 commanding officers over the past 12 months for various reasons -- we have to connect those actions directly to the findings to the facts of those investigations. I commit to you, sir, that we will look very closely to that and come back to you.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: And we are at the one year anniversary of the death of one of those sailors, Master-at-Arms, Seaman Recruit Xavier Mitchell-Sandor. And I want to suggest that one way to alleviate, and I know you're taking steps on the USS Stennis to alleviate some of those issues that were involved in those suicides, may be to procure housing on the open market, when ships are in maintenance for many years, using the BAH -- a bigger topic for further consideration.
Secretary Del Toro, I think you -- we all have seen the recent leaks of classified documents that are so deeply alarming, appalling, and that show Americans how many members of our military have such wide access to top secret documents. I wonder if you are considering measures that might restrict access, particularly on the part of junior members of the military and the Navy for example, to classified documents?
I've been a longtime advocate of declassifying documents that don't need to be kept secret, but at the same time maybe we ought to be looking at who has access to those documents that truly have to be kept secret to protect vital information and sources and methods.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, thank you, Senator we very much are, in the Department of the Navy and throughout the Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, just this morning, actually has requested a 45 day review of security clearances and accesses across the -- the department -- and so we'll be looking at this issue very, very carefully.
CARLOS DEL TORO: And as you know, on the one hand, you have a desire to be able to share more intelligence information with our allies and partners, and that presents risks, obviously. And on the other hand, there's a need to actually protect the secrets that we do have. And so it is a bit of a dual edged sword, but we have to do better across the department to ensure that we keep it to only those that really need the intelligence, in order to be able to fulfill their responsibilities and their duties, both substantively and administratively, as well.
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL: Thank you. Thank you, all. Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, very much, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Budd, please.
TED BUDD: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And again, thank you all for being here. Thank you, each of you, for your service. General Berger, a common criticism of force design 2030 is that the Marine Corps has depleted its combat power, for example, by divesting of its main battle tanks and a significant portion of its aviation assets.
To the extent that you can talk about it in this setting, can you talk about the underlying analysis and your logic to these divestment decisions?
DAVID H. BERGER: Yes, Senator. First, the underlying analysis was derived from a series of war games five, six years ago, seven years ago, where each individual war game was testing the force against the pacing challenge, pacing threat. In every case, it's not a good outcome. So the conclusion there was, if you don't change, the outcome is not going to change.
So that drove us towards devising, first of all, if that's -- if that's the case, keeping our original equipment and our formations, everything the same, is not going to keep up with the pacing challenge, then what do we need to do differently? And we started with, how we're going to operate -- not equipment -- but how we're going to fight.
So the first step was, as the chairman said, a more distributed way of operating in an expeditionary naval manner that fits right into the joint concept for the future concepts, drive everything in the Marine Corps. So first, get the concept right. Second, if that's the underlying concept, that the Navy-Marine Corps Joint Force is going to operate upon, then test it in a series of war games, and then go out into the field and experiment with it. And that's exactly what's happened for the past four years.
TED BUDD: Thank you for that. So to those that are criticizing force design 2030, the simple answer, and I'll let you fill in the blank for that, is it -- is it divestment, is it a change? How would you approach the critics of force design 2030?
DAVID H. BERGER: This July, this summer, when the President sends me home, that'll be the last day that I get a morning intel report. It'll be the last access I have to every bit of technological development that the CNO and I and the other services chiefs have. We won't have access to all of the information we need to develop the force anymore.
So my answer to the critics is, you know, beginning on the next day, I'll be the biggest supporter of whoever the next commandant is, because I'll know he has information I don't. And I'll trust that the Marines who are doing the experimentation out in the fleet, as long as we have a mechanism for feeding that back into the headquarters of the Marine Corps, and we make the changes, we'll be fine.
So I trust that the -- this current commandant, past ones, future ones have access to the best information available. We have the best process for developing the Marine Corps that fits into a naval construct, complements the joint force. All that I'm very confident in.
TED BUDD: Thank you, General. Admiral Gilday, much has been made about the growth of the Chinese Navy and the need to grow the number of the US ships in the fleet to meet that growing threat. I'd like to hear from you, not about the quantity of ships and their fleet or in our fleet, but about the relative qualitative advantage of Navy power.
So what kind of technological advancements are we seeing from the Chinese and how should we be viewing this issue?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: So sir, we're watching the Chinese very closely. And to the Commandant's point, what we're going to fight with is being informed by how we're going to fight. And that's what we're out there doing with our strike groups, with our amphibious ready groups, and our fleet exercises and our wargames, to try and refine that, based on how we're watching China.
There's no question, our biggest asymmetric -- asymmetric advantage is people. The investments we're making in live, virtual, constructive training, as an example, allow us to -- to train, as a fleet marine force and as a Navy, at a scope and scale that we could never do by getting individual ships underway, firstly.
Secondly, is we're completely revolutionizing the way we're training individual sailors through a -- through a framework called Ready, Relevant Learning, where it's beyond brick and mortar classrooms or schoolhouses. We are getting information to young sailors at the right time and in the right quality -- quantity.
With respect to -- you mentioned capacity, if I could for a second, sir. For the last two decades, the nation's been focused on ground wars. That's been the priority and understandably so. The investments that we're making now, and largely due to the support of this committee, we have 56 ships in construction across seven shipyards with another 77 on contract.
We are -- that -- that rudder turns the ship very -- the ship of the United States Navy very slowly, but we are really trying to get after that capacity issue, as well. And the modernization investments that we're making, we have increased. If you take a look at our operations and modernization accounts, we're up 5 percent from we were last year, a total of $11 billion.
And much of that is going into readiness. I mentioned in my opening statement, we are funding maintenance at 100 percent. We are investing in new submarines, expanding the amount of missile tubes. We're improving torpedoes that they fire. With surface ships, we're giving them longer range weapons, both tomahawks and -- and defensive weapons.
We are -- we are investing in the electronic warfare capabilities. We're investing in the weapons, doing multiyear buys of weapons that our aviators fire from their F-35s and their Super Hornets. So we're trying to, wherever we can, buy down risk and close on vulnerabilities so that we can pace China instead of trying to follow them.
TED BUDD: Very good. Thank you, all.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Budd. [Inaudible], information to my colleagues, the vote has started. And of course, at the conclusion of this open hearing, we will go into a closed hearing in SPC 217. With that, Senator Duckworth, you are recognized.
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: Yeah, thank -- thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to say thank you, a deep and profound thank you to both Admiral Gilday and General Berger, to you and your families, for your extraordinary lifetime of service to our country. I do want to associate myself with Senator Sullivan's concerns that the current Navy budget proposal significantly undercuts Marine Corps amphibious capabilities.
In fact, I think it undermines Marine Corps doctrine. At a time when we need to be looking at the Indo-Pacific region and -- and a shift towards a forward deploy, island based force to cut back on LPDs, in particular, I think is a misjudgment. That said, you know, I do want to talk about logistics in the Indo-Pacific.
General Berger, I have appreciated your leadership among the service chiefs in recognizing the challenges posed by sustaining forward deployed troops in a contested logistics environment, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region, which is characterized by island formations and huge swaths of open sea. And I've been ringing alarm bells about this problem, especially in a contested logistic environment for years.
Not just because of my own experiences or because the US Transportation Command is in Illinois, but also because I truly believe that, for the sake of our service members and for the credibility of our deterrent, we have to get this right. General Berger, what -- in what ways does this year's Marine Corps budget request support congested -- conges -- contested logistics?
And how does this benefit the Marine Corps? And how does it benefit the joint force?
DAVID H. BERGER: We've had some long discussions on contested logistics. I'm going to miss now. First of all the structure, the lay down of where we have pre-positioned supplies and parts and munitions and equipment across the Pacific, across the world -- we have to relook now, quickly. It was built for a different time frame, under a different set of circumstances.
So where we have, afloat and ashore pre-positioning, has to be revisited, has to be changed, and there's funding to do that. But that's going to take a fundamental -- it's going to take a different look and some tough decisions in the next few years. A second is that, I think the platforms that we use to move that equipment, those supplies around.
Here, the good news is, everything from the 53-K to the medium landing ship to every other conveyance that's unmanned, that the CNO is working on, and we are working on, that's going to move that around, we are going to need it all. It's going to be planes, trains and automobiles. We also have to educate, train our logisticians in a different way, which you've talked to me about before.
It's not business as usual for them, because it's not an administrative move of materials. Even the way that we contract has to change, because it's peacetime, exercise approach is not going to work in a conflict, in a contested environment. Lastly, I would say the resilience part where, if it comes to a conflict, we're both going to -- there's going to be some degradation across the board.
How fast can we come back? And that gets into applying the same methodology for kill webs into, as you pointed out, before to me, logistics webs. How do we create logistics webs that look like kill webs.
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: And I think LPDs are going to be an important part of that, and this budget does not support the number of LPDs that I think that we need. A critical vulnerability for any military or logistics tale [ph] associated with delivering operational energy to its fielded forces, both our readiness and our allies and partners readiness would be bolstered by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and employing more diverse and renewable operational energy sources, as well as seeking more creative and cooperative ways of supplying operational energy to US troops and to our overseas partners.
Secretary Del Toro, General Berger, how much could we gain from cooperating with our allies and partners in Europe and in the Indo-Pacific to improve our logistics availability and distribution? What efforts in your budget request work towards operational energy, security and resilience?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Senator. It's an incredibly important topic. We have significantly improved, I would say, our alliances across the Indo-Pacific for this very nature. We were kicking off with Balochistan, for example, 2023. with 17,500 Marines right now, working side by side with our allies and partners. The ability to actually move our -- our forces forward and provide the logistical bases that they need.
As you know, the Secretary of Defense just came from the Philippines and negotiated four additional bases as logistics bases in the Philippines, as well, in the north, as close as Taiwan is one can possibly get, providing operational energy investments to those bases is always critical. We have, in the Marine Corps is another example, in Albany, Georgia for example, where we have become zero dependent on outside sources for energy, for example.
The same thing applies to Miramar in California, for example, where we actually have provided energy out to the local communities. So these are all investments that are necessary. They're also necessary at sea, as well, too. For many years, biofuels have been very, very expensive, and it's been hard to get the price point of biofuels down to the point where it actually makes sense to be able to invest in that.
So we have, in the President's budget, committed -- commitment to continuing the R and D effort that's necessary to try to discover that biofuel that will provide the biggest return on investment to our forces.
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: General Berger?
DAVID H. BERGER: For us, it's not as much of a money issue as it is an operational, tactical imperative. We cannot fly in batteries fuel the way we used to. It's not going to be possible. It's not going to be practical. We've got to find other ways to power our equipment, vehicles, everything. And it -- there's money in the budget to do that.
Butt it's going to take time your support.
TAMMY DUCKWORTH: According to DOD's own reports, 50 percent of all casualties during the war in Iraq occurred during convoy operations, and 80 percent of all convoys were conducted to move fuel. We need to do better. Chairman.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Duckworth. Let me recognize Senator Cramer and also give the gavel to Senator Warren while I go vote and return quickly. Senator Cramer, please.
KEVN CRAMER: Thank you -- thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, General and Admiral, for your decades of service and congratulations on another, good, solid year ahead. Mr. Secretary, I'm going to get right to -- to the point with you. I worked with the Navy for a little better than a year and a half to this point, on a -- on behalf of a Navy SEAL and an officer who wanted to get out of the -- his service a few months early, so that he could pursue his next level of service, his next area of service in political office.
KEVIN CRAMER: It's a -- it's pretty much over, the case, but I wanted to highlight it in this form, because it's really a horrible vignette of how the Navy, I think far too often, treats its people. I brought it up with you once quite a while back, with Admiral Gilday, as well. And I'll make it as brief as I can. Lieutenant Adam Schwarze asked, in July of 2021, for permission to run for office while serving his final few months in the Navy.
He -- the paperwork got lost, and it took me getting involved for the paperwork to find its way back into the process. And then, the CNO endorsed his request, and then it was denied by you. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Schwarze also tried to get out using an old, but still authorized early retirement authority.
Again, process stopped unexplainably, but I weighed in and the process then continued, with the commander of naval personnel endorsing the package only, again, to be denied at your level. Then, from my vantage point, Mr. Secretary, began what I think was a witch hunt. He -- he was called back from his skill bridge assignment in Minnesota, to his last assignment in Hawaii, where he could then be punished.
The Naval Special Warfare Group lawyers proceeded to rip apart his history, his dedication, and questioned his integrity, with statements that literally, quote, 'call into question his sincerity and trustworthiness.' I'm happy to provide all of this for you, in case your team has lost it. In fact, you went after his -- this decorated hero with a veracity that made my staff, including a commander in -- in the military, reach out to him to check his well-being, and reached out to the Navy to make sure that they were looking out for his well-being.
You pulled his trident and then prevented him from retiring on time. You did an investigation that included false statements about me and my connection with Lieutenant Schwarze, statements that seemed quite political, for what's supposed to be an apolitical organization. The whole time that my office was trying to get information from the Navy, it faced roadblocks, barriers, it was like pulling teeth.
Then, after all of that, a board of inquiry was held. And on all counts, the board voted tree to zero, that the ponderance of the evidence did not support any basis of misconduct, three-zero, seven times. In summary, you screwed the sailor's paperwork up constantly, repeatedly. You made a political decision on his future.
You tarred and feathered him out of revenge -- a board of inquiry unanimously absolved him of all charges. You held him -- him past his retirement date, until the law actually required you to let him out, and you left a patriot feeling like the Navy doesn't care about him or worse, at the end of his service, and you kept his trident.
I just -- after hearing all of this stuff about how important the people are, Mr. Secretary, I'm perplexed. And I hope it's not too late to -- for some corrective measure to -- to replace this person's integrity and dignity. With that, I'll just let you respond.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Senator. I'd be happy to continue to work with you on this situation. However, first, I'd like to make a statement that I personally did not make any statements against you or Lieutenant Adam Schwarze myself. But I will add that we have a responsibility in the Department of Defense, that all service members actually act in accordance with the Hatch Act. And Lieutenant Adam Schwarze knew exactly what the rules and requirements of the Hatch Act were.
We cannot allow uniformed, service personnel, even if they are one day from retirement, to polit -- to participate in political activities, especially election related activities. That is a standard that must be met. It has been adhered to since the beginning of the founding of our nation, and we have to actually meet that standard.
KEVIN CRAMER: So -- so is there a standard where Navy lawyers can -- are allowed to just absolutely trash a guy's reputation, create misstatements, factually untrue statements about his career and his claims, so that they can somehow prove their point? Is that -- is that a standard?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, I'd be happy to look into the case further to see if those statements are accurate. I don't know the details of --
KEVIN CRAMER: --I do. I do--
CARLOS DEL TORO: -- statements that were made by lawyers. I would be happy to work with you on that.
KEVIN CRAMER: I know them -- I know them, including the statements about me that are -- that are in the -- your lawyer's records, so.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Be happy to collaborate with your and your office on --
KEVIN CRAMER: I look forward to that. I'd rather not have to do it so publicly, but you know, after a year and a half of being stonewalled, I'm glad you're here today. Thank you.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Thank you. So I recognize myself now. Last year the White House released a report telling agencies to prioritize union shops with pro-worker employers when awarding government contracts. This includes the Department of Defense. Workers are central to the United States national security and the strength of our defense industrial base.
I'm concerned that the Navy is not following through on the President's commitment to unions and workers. For example, I've heard reports that the Navy is consistently passing over union shipyards for contracts and giving them to nonunion shipyards instead. And some of these nonunion shipyards are already at capacity, working on multiple contracts at the same time, while the docks at the union shipyards are sitting empty.
So it sounds like, even though there's plenty of work to go around, the Navy is actively choosing to ignore union shipyards, where workers generally have better wages and better protections, in favor of nonunion shipyards, that are already overburdened with contracts. Secretary Del Toro, do you agree that the Navy contract should prioritize union workers when their shipyard is ready and able to do the job?
CARLOS DEL TORO: I do, Senator. In accordance with all the other regulations that drive the issuance of contracts under the FAR.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Good. Thank you. I agree with you on this. You know, this has serious consequences. Missing out on contracts can mean closing the doors for these shipyards and laying off hundreds of workers, especially for smaller shipyards. And it means the next time that the Navy needs a ship repaired, it'll have to go to a nonunion shipyard that's likely already overextended, resulting in delays and threatening our ability to protect our coastline and to support our allies.
The implications of this are huge. As ongoing conflicts like the war in Ukraine and the threat of future conflicts, fuel demand for weapons and other equipments, delays in competing crucial projects could leave us vulnerable when we most need security. So Secretary Del Toro, do you agree that the closure of union shipyards is a threat to the defense industrial base?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, the closure of any shipyard in the United States can present a threat to the United States, in terms of our ability to build our ships and maintain our national security. And I would be most interested in actually getting the details of those reports that you mentioned, so I could validate whether they're true or there's other issues at play that I'm just not familiar with.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, that's good. But we also -- the good news is that the Navy still has time to change this approach. You said earlier this year that now is the time to invest in the defense workforce, and I couldn't agree more with you on that. Part of the solution should be to take advantage of the resources that we already have, but we are not using, or not using enough, like union shipyards.
And more broadly, there's a lot that the department can do. For example, making sure that contractors are properly notifying employees of their right to organize, improving contractors compliance with anti-union consultant disclosure forms, and ensuring that federal funds aren't spent by contractors on union busting.
So Secretary Del Toro, can you tell me what steps you plan to take to ensure that the Navy is reinforcing the defense industrial base while preserving union jobs?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, Senator I am committed to preserving union jobs, as I said earlier, and we actually have several union shipyards that are already under union labor agreements, as well, too. And my commitment to you is that I will work with my acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, that I hope will actually have a permanent Assistant Secretary RD and A for, so I could actually invest more time in looking into these issues and many other issues, as well.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Well, I appreciate it and I look forward to working with you on this. President Biden has made an historic commitment to empower workers by prioritizing union labor in federal contracting. And as you know, DOD is not exempt from that pledge and should not want to be exempt from that pledge. Protecting union jobs in the defense sector is a question of national security.
And I look forward to working with you to make sure that the Navy can fulfill its duty to the American people. Thank you.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Thank you, Senator.
ELIZABETH WARREN: Thank you. And I now recognize Senator Scott.
RICK SCOTT: Can we talk about Taiwan a little bit? So it's sure appears that China's building the military to somehow intimidate or defeat Taiwan. And if the -- if that happens, the US Navy, and most likely the Marines, are going to be front and center in doing whatever we can to support Taiwan. In the meantime, the most important thing we can do is make sure it doesn't happen.
So could each of you talk about what you're doing to get Taiwan prepared to -- to make sure this doesn't happen? One thing you keep hearing up here is the fact that, I think it's something like $19 billion worth of US military equipment has not been -- has been ordered and not been delivered. And so what are we doing to make sure Taiwan's doing their part?
What are we doing to make sure our military industrial base provides the resources? And what can you do to make sure that happens? Because it doesn't make any sense to me that -- that the equipment's not there, and Taiwan is not actually doing more than what they're doing right now. So if each of you could answer that.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Senator, if I could start? Our national defense strategy is hyper focused on China as the pacing threat, obviously, with regards to their interest in potentially using military force against Taiwan, which we have to avoid at every possible moment. Part of the challenge that we face in providing the equipment, obviously, is the -- the challenges that we've had in the supply chain over the last three or four years.
And so that's an issue that the office of the Secretary of Defense is trying to address with special authorities [ph].
RICK SCOTT: Can I just stop you right there for a second?
CARLOS DEL TORO: I'm sorry?
RICK SCOTT: I have -- that sounds really good. I've not heard one thing that's going to accelerate the $19 billion or whatever the number is. I've not -- I've -- we've -- we've had these hearings and it keeps coming up. I've not heard one thing that actually has been done to -- to accelerate it.
CARLOS DEL TORO: I will happy to provide you a list of things that have been done in the industrial base to actually accelerate the deliveries of those equipments and authorities.
RICK SCOTT: So is there a -- is there a -- is it happening? Is there anything that's happening?
CARLOS DEL TORO: There are discussions at the OSD level, both at the DSD level and the undersecretary for defense for acquisition, and sustainment across the entire department, working with suppliers of munitions providers and other equipment across the board, to see how fast they can accelerate their production lines. But it's going to take some time to do so, because capital investments need to be made, both materially and also in the workforce, in order to increase the production rates that are necessary to get them to Taiwan, in addition to our other international allies and partners, as well, too, who have been asking for additional munitions, as well, too.
So industry has to do its part. I think that they see the commitment that the President and the Secretary of Defense is making in terms of ensuring a reliable, solid pipeline in the future and now is the time for industry to make those capital investments.
RICK SCOTT: I'd love to see what -- I'd love to see concrete actions that are actually going to change the timeline, because I was just in Cyprus week before last, they got the same issue. They're not getting everything they want. They don't have any expectation of the dollar numbers. But even a country like that, can't get what they want.
So what -- so what -- what are -- what is -- what is the Navy doing, what the Marines are doing, actually to get Taiwan in position on top of the equipment, ready to make, hopefully, deter China from doing something?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir, I think it's better if we talk about that in a classified session, in terms of the things that we're -- we're looking at. In terms of our responsibility to field ready force every single day -- so our priorities have been readiness of the current force, modernization of the force, 70 percent of which we're going to have 10 years from now.
And that's important from two aspects. One is, you've got to be ready to fight tonight to put doubt in Xi's mind that today is not the day. In a series of speeches last month, in one of them he challenged his generals to be ready for war now. And so we take those kinds of assertions very seriously. So readiness has to be our top priority.
Getting ships out of maintenance on time, which we're improving at, but yet sat -- not yet satisfied with, has to improve. As the Commandant said earlier in this hearing, pushing everything we can forward. That's where we need to be. The Navy and the Marine Corps needs to be forward. And it's not just likely that it'll be the Navy and the Marine Corps.
It's definitely that it'll be the Navy and the Marine Corps is the away team, and the first on the scene. Again, we're making balanced investments in the forces that we have today, the best we can put in the field, in terms of weapons. We've just done, in this budget proposal, four, big, multiyear procurements, based on the authorities that the Congress has provided us, for weapons with range and speed.
Two of those are between the Navy and the Marine Corps. The other two are with the United States Air Force. And so -- sir, I will give -- already approaching your limit, but Commandant, you --
RICK SCOTT: Commandant, you want to add anything?
DAVID H. BERGER: We've been training with the Taiwanese Marines for more than a decade. I think lately, the last two years I would say, focus on command and control, air defense, defense from the beach in mining, and building out their National Guard and Reserve. In other words, making it a whole total force, which is what they're going to need.
RICK SCOTT: Good. Thank you. Let me recognize Senator Schmitt.
ERIC SCHMITT: Thank you, Senator Scott. And unlike Senator Scott's home state, Florida, Missouri is landlocked -- my home state. But when I started on this committee, I wanted to be on the Sea Power Subcommittee. So we have an Army base. We have an Air Force base. Missouri, obviously, does not have a naval base. Mississippi's not deep enough.
but because I believe that -- and the reason for that is because I think that our biggest challenge, from a national security perspective that we're facing -- Missourians, Americans -- is China. And so that is a focus of mine. And I know that it is a -- a focus of yours, with the -- with the Navy and the Marines.
And to that end, there are several very concerning trends that I want to discuss. The first is the fact that China's naval fleet is rapidly outpacing our own, and that gap is only widening. The Pentagon reports -- that suggests China may have 420 ships by 2025 and 460 ships by 2030. What's worse, Beijing is devoting significant amounts of its maritime training on island capture scenarios.
In 2021, the People's Liberation Army, quote, 'conducted more than 20 naval exercises with an island capture element, greatly exceeding the 13 observed in 2020,' according to a Pentagon 2022 report on Chinese military developments. This is another indicator, I think, of China's ambitions, and Taiwan's in the crosshairs.
There's no -- no doubt about it. So to sort of follow up on Senator Scott's questions -- to me, the best way to support Taiwan's ability to defend itself from Chinese aggression is to bolster their defensive capabilities today -- harpoon, anti-ship missiles, which the US government has already committed to providing is critical.
Providing 100 new delivery systems, which I think has already been committed, as well as 400 harpoon block two surface launched missiles. But the fact is that these aren't going to be fully fielded until 2027. So to expedite this critical capability as a stopgap, until the new systems can be fielded, the US should transfer, from several hundred older missiles in the military's inventory, that are under consideration for demilitarization or destruction.
Secretary Del Toro, will you commit to working collaboratively and creatively with the Taiwanese and the administration, to leverage existing munitions and support equipment to expedite defense aid to Taiwan?
CARLOS DEL TORO: Absolutely, I will. And we have been actually collaborating within the letter of the law, and the authorities that are allowed by law, for us to collaborate with the Taiwanese, to provide them the munitions that are necessary, the equipment that's necessary for them to be able to defend themselves.
ERIC SCHMITT: Well, I think -- that's good to hear. I think we've heard a lot about these supply chain issues. But Taiwan -- the shot clock's probably started. It's between now and four years, right? I mean that's -- this is coming. And I just don't know how much time they really have, to have the support that they need to deter a Chinese offensive, which they are -- seem to be dead set at. So in that vein, and also in this broader sort of industrial base, you mentioned the discussions that have been had.
What would you -- let's say we were at war today. Let's say today the United States is at war with some power, China, whoever. What would we do differently than we do right now, to ramp up that industrial base? Like what -- what is holding us back? There's a demand signal -- right? -- which I think is being sent.
There's a demand. What else would we do? I mean, like three or four things that we would do differently than we're doing right now, to be prepared. And also -- this also relates to Taiwan.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Well, there are war authorities that would be exercised that are not currently exercised. But let's -- all right, the goal here is to prevent war with China --
ERIC SCHMITT: Correct.
CARLOS DEL TORO: -- to deter China from going to war. And I think the power of our coalitions, with our allies and partners internationally, has much to do with that, in fact.
ERIC SCHMITT: I agree. and I have limited time. And I think the Philippines -- I see what's been happening re -- I think this is a
CARLOS DEL TORO: --A South Korea and the other --
ERIC SCHMITT: --Yes--
CARLOS DEL TORO: -- countries in the Indo-Pacific that we rely on as partners, actually.
ERIC SCHMITT: But as -- as it relates specifically the industrial base, other than the war powers, what is it that can we do differently? Are there -- are there -- are there state barriers in the states where we have naval shipyard? What is it?
CARLOS DEL TORO: So this President's budget actually has increased the amount of funding for increased munitions by 50 percent, for example. That's the most significant increase that we've had in the several past years, and it's investments in SM6, LRASM, and -- and numerous other munitions, as well, too. We're also investing in CPS, for example, to try to get deployable on the Izumo-class [ph] destroyer by 2025, and on the Virginia class submarine by 2030. Those -- we're pushing on all fronts, on all cylinders to actually try to move as fast as we can.
But just like in the shipbuilding industry, and with regards to the shipbuilding plan, as well, too, we can only move as fast as industry can actually produce, as well, too, because the opportunity costs associated with making major, multibillion dollar investments, when industry can't keep up with those productions, means that we can't spend money in other places, as well, too, where that's badly needed, as well.
So it's all about finding the right balance and the right compromise to move forward, as a --
ERIC SCHMITT: Well, right, which is why I'm sort of highlighting Taiwan, because we are -- I think they've been on the back burner, and I don't think they can be anymore.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir, can I make one?
ERIC SCHMITT: Yeah.
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: So if I would use Austal shipbuilding in Alabama as an example. That company shifted from completely working with aluminum to working with steel. The reason they could do that, the sole reason they could do that, is because of the Defense Production Act. So to answer your question, there needs to be substantial investment by the US government in those industries in order -- in order for them to surge.
We stopped doing that in shipbuilding in the Reagan administration. You saw 30 shipyards go down to seven. We saw that in the 1990s, during the Clinton administration, with -- with the aircraft industry and how it supports the military. That's the first thing. The second thing is, you need a bigger Navy and Marine Corps to protect those approaches from the sea, to keep the United States economy humming and to deny that to any adversary.
Those are the two things.
ERIC SCHMITT: Well, I'm going to ask my hypersonic question in closed session. So thank you.
DAN SULLIVAN: I'm taking over as the chairman until the chairman gets back. So I'll call on myself. General Berger, you've gotten a lot of compliments on force design. I've complimented you on it previously, but it's not without risks, significant risks. You acknowledged this in your testimony last year. Like the Navy, the Marine Corps has minimum force levels that are required by Congress.
I've been reading a lot about the history of the 82nd Congress. Marine Corps loves to cite the 82nd Congress in the aftermath of the Korean War. You know this General -- the only reason the Marine Corps exists, only reason the Commandant of the Marine Corps, is a co-equal to the CNO in a hearing like this is because of Congress.
Very importantly, the 1952 law that the Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Navy, the President of United States all opposed, mandated that the Marine Corps has three, full combat infantry divisions, three full, air wings, and task organized for combined arms operations. Now I'm going to talk about some of the force design divestments.
They've been dramatic. But I have concerns they've been so dramatic that the current US Marine Corps does not meet the Congressionally required minimums. And again, that's not your choice. We gave that to you. So I don't want to debate that right now. What I'd like, for the record, to this committee, I'd like you to provide a detailed T and O of the Marine Corps, as it currently stands.
You can use MCR P1-10 -- three regiments, everything in here that the Marine Corps has kept these minimums that are required by the Congress. Can I get a detailed -- detailed -- of the current T and O of the Marine Corps today, to make sure force design is not taking us under the statutory requirements of the 1952 law?
DAVID H. BERGER: We can provide you, absolutely. It's unclassified -- a task organization of the Marine Corps today. The law -- the statute as you accurately depicted -- three divisions, three wings --
DAN SULLIVAN: --Correct.
DAVID H. BERGER: There was nothing more specific in that. And we've changed it significantly over 70 years.
DAN SULLIVAN: I just want -- just look at the T and O. I've been looking at this. Look at the same one for the air wing, and just say that you're -- you're -- you have -- you are meeting it. That's -- again, that's not your call. That's our call, and you need to meet that. And I'd like to see details on that. You know, I've been focused on force design more than any other US senator.
Again, I've been very complimentary of your bold approach. It takes a lot of guts, as Senator King said. I have been, as you know, General, frustrated by some of the answers that the committee's been provided with. I think this idea that everything has to be classified -- I think even your comment to Senator Bud that, well, you get classified stuff and the other generals don't -- I get classified stuff.
So I think it's really in the Marine Corps interests to be able to explain this. There is a lot of criticism of it. One of the criticisms is that the Marine Corps is creating more of a niche force, focused on one combatant command with one littoral mission. And putting at risk, the critical, statutorily mandated global crisis combat capability, kick in the door capability of the Marine Corps anywhere in the world, for any contingency, not just littoral contingencies.
And without 31 amphibs, I believe this is a real concern. Lieutenant General Heckel -- recently you see our power subcommittee, when I was asking him -- said, having a hearing on this. I've talked to the chairman and others. Just getting it out there -- Marine Corps defend this, critics come, and I think it's good for the Marine Corps.
Would you be supportive of that, General?
DAVID H. BERGER: Senator, earlier this week, we finished another briefing, as you all have requested, that was by our count, 429 briefings --
DAN SULLIVAN: Those are classified -- those are classified briefings, General. You need a hearing on this. The Congress of the United States, the biggest undertaking of reorganization of the Marine Corps in decades is -- it merits a hearing. I don't know why you would resist that, and I don't know why we keep getting classified --
DAVID H. BERGER: I've never said no to a hearing from any committee in four years.
DAN SULLIVAN: Okay. So would you be up for a hearing?
DAVID H. BERGER: Any hearing that's requested by a committee with jurisdiction over the military, absolutely, I would say yes to.
DAN SULLIVAN: Okay.
DAVID H. BERGER: I've not said no yet.
DAN SULLIVAN: I've run out of -- I'm running out of time here, and I've committed to the chairman. Let me just ask one -- one of the things that I put in this section 1023 of last year's NDAA -- and again, I don't think we've gotten it in the way in which I was expecting it, and it's been classified, which doesn't help -- is the extent to which the Marine Corps has divested so much capability -- and I have the long list here, and it's very long.
And the aviation side is enormously shocking to me -- that the Marine Corps would have to rely on the Army to provide such capabilities. I don't think anyone's, at least as far as I can tell, given me that, given this committee that information requested -- bridging, armor, assault breaching, route clearing, MPs. There's a lot that we don't have anymore, that if we go to war tomorrow and there's a river the Marines have to cross, they can't cross the river.
So can you -- can you commit to this committee, again, to take a look at Section 1023, and the letter I sent you on April 5th, to answer those questions? Do you have answers? Maybe I'll just ask [inaudible]. You have answers that question, on what capability have the Marine Corps given up, that the Army now has to take?
And then that's my final --
DAVID H. BERGER: The act required us -- asked us to give briefings, which we provided this month, in accordance with the statute. We checked with the committee to make sure that it answered the --
DAN SULLIVAN: --I don't mean classified briefings do that justice, but go on.
DAVID H. BERGER: That was what was required in the NDA --
DAN SULLIVAN: --It wasn't classified. I wrote it. I know what I'm talking about.
DAVID H. BERGER: It did not specify classified or unclassified. I think, across the joint force, to get the whole picture of what the capability of any element of the joint force is, you need to have unclassified and classified, put together, so you get a better picture of both capability and capacity.
DAN SULLIVAN: The Army question?
DAVID H. BERGER: Pardon me?
DAVID H. BERGER: What is the question again, Senator?
DAN SULLIVAN: This is in the law -- the extent to which the Marine Corps is relying on the Army to provide capabilities it has divested.
DAVID H. BERGER: The -- the -- what requires the -- the combatant commander to make decisions on how to employ the force? That's the combatant commander's decision, not mine. We provide man trained and equip forces, as does the other services. How they're employed, that's up to combatant commanders.
JACK REED: Thank you, Senator Sullivan. I have two additional questions, gentlemen, before we break. First, unfortunately there's been a impasse in confirming general offices, at a regular schedule. We previously used a unanimous consent for all panelists [ph] to accept those at key positions, requiring hearings. Are you seeing an impact, Admiral Gilday, in the service, not only in terms of readiness, but also in terms of quality of life of families, planning for families, planning for schooling, and also decisions at that level about whether they retain themselves in the service or depart?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Sir, we're not at that point yet. We're not at that point yet, but we will be soon. And so to give you just a few examples, the director of naval reactors, responsible for more than 60 reactors -- and in the middle of -- of AUKUS -- is a concern. Four fleet commanders, including the fleet commander forward in the Western Pacific and the fleet commander in the Middle East, is a concern.
Three force commanders -- surface, air, and subsurface -- three star officers. The head of Naval Installations Command, the superintendent of the naval academies, were begin -- as were -- as we're on the -- on the verge you're bringing another class, and to keep that production line moving, uninhibited, is another example.
That -- we have five promotional lists with over 50 people. And so it's -- it's close to 80 right now, and growing, sir. But I would double that, it in terms of the amount of families that are affected this summer.
JACK REED: General Berger, your comments?
DAVID H. BERGER: I think our view would -- is exactly the same, within 90 days, we're going to have significant impacts. At the one- and two-star general list, we can move those, at the three and four star level. They are one by one assignments, as you point out. Without -- without confirmation, there is no moves. There are vacancies or delayed retirements or family plans that, they don't know when that will happen.
It -- it is a -- I think by this late summer, early fall, you'll have fairly -- you'll have significant impacts to both readiness and quality of life, both.
JACK REED: Thank you. Let me follow-up one question that is, this force structure is an interesting -- and should be pursued. But you train regularly, I presume, in the Marine Corps, with Army armored units. And the Army has far more tanks and mechanized vehicles than the Marine Corps could ever want, not only need.
And the whole thrust, I think of our strategy over the last several decades has been joint fighting, not individual services with that -- their expertise. So you would -- you have available, armored vehicles, if the combat commander believes that's for the mission. Is that correct?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: Absolutely do -- everything that we do is as a joint force -- the Navy, the Marine Corps will not do anything on a large scale, by itself. It's entirely as a joint force. And there's some duplication, as you know, Senator. But mostly, we want complementary capabilities. We have capabilities the Army doesn't, they have capabilities we don't. I think that's what you want.
JACK REED: Yeah, I tend to agree. And I, you know, and you could want everything in the world, like your own fleet of C141s, so you could be flown everywhere with Marine pilots, but that wouldn't make a lot of sense, would it?
MICHAEL M. GILDAY: No.
JACK REED: So I think, again, we have to look carefully at this, because it -- we do have a responsibility to view the force structure changes and make sure they're correct. But I think, so far, what we've done is try to incorporate the threat that's emerging, not fight the last war.
CARLOS DEL TORO: Mr. Chairman, you could not have said it better -- I'm sorry to interrupt. It is about today's threat. And I fear that some of the critics of both, perhaps, force design or our Navy operations, fail to understand that the threat very much has changed in the Indo-Pacific. And when you take into account, you know, satellites and cyber security and everything else, cyber warfare that's at play here, they failed to understand that we have to evolve and we have to be able to innovate in order to be able to effectively fight, not yesterday's war in 1953 or 1952, but tomorrow's war.
JACK REED: Well, thank you all very much. We are going to recess until 1230 hours to go into the closed session. And in the meantime, I hope the second vote is called. So we will re -- re -- reassemble in the SVC 217, at 1230. Thank you very much.
Honorable Carlos del Toro; Admiral Michael Gilday; General David Berger
18 April 2023
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