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MICHAEL WALTZ: Call to order this hearing of the Readiness Subcommittee of the FY 2024 budget request for military readiness. I ask unanimous consent that the chair be authorized to declare a recess at any time. Without objection, so ordered. We obviously have a lot to discuss today, and you all have -- everyone has my apologies for running a few minutes behind.
It's what happens when my team wants me disappear into a SCIF with HPSCI. We have a lot to -- obviously, we have a lot to discuss is it -- as it pertains to readiness. I want to thank all of you for your time. In -- in having our one on one meetings in the -- in the run up to this hearing, we -- lots to talk about, pilot shortages, recruiting and retention, weapons systems sustainment, infrastructure management and restoration, just to name a few.
I would like to highlight the detriments of operating under a continuing resolution. I want to highlight that as much for my colleagues here as all -- all of our vices well know, that without an on time budget, the department is unable -- and I think this has lost a lot of times in the conversation here.
The department is unable to begin any new projects. There are -- I'm convinced that there is an underlying belief here that the department gets a lot of money. And if it gets the same amount of money as last year, then everybody will be okay. But not having those new starts is -- is -- is just critical and devastating.
I ask the witnesses to elaborate these as you make your -- on -- on these effects as you make your comments. I do remain concerned with this administration's continuing priority on -- on climate change. I want to be clear that we have to deal with climate change. That resiliency is absolutely an important issue.
But as we had today with the secretary of the Army, when we're outfitting our bases and our fleet with things that come from the -- our greatest adversary, with panels, with turbines, with technology, with software that literally comes from China, I have -- I have real concerns with our control of that supply chain as we move towards transitioning our fleet.
In fact, you know, in addition to that, the secretary of the Navy recently stated that climate change is a top priority of his, yet we tend to have those same supply chain issues. I'm supportive of efforts to increase resiliency, I want to be clear there, but these policies can't be an end to themselves.
I'm also concerned -- just to be candid here, and we've had these conversations, of -- of what we're seeing within the Department of the Navy with regards to amphibs. And we want to talk about that today. And in fact, the Marine Corps number one unfunded requirement is a ship for the Navy, and -- and -- and that's something that we have to resolve.
We'll help you resolve it here. But I think that is a -- that is endemic of an ongoing issue. And years of delayed maintenance due to high up tempo, frankly, has gutted the readiness of our amphibs. This has delay -- led to delay deployments for our MEUs and decreased capacity with our ships at sea. These are obviously critical capabilities to INDOPACOM and that combatant commander, and I remain somewhat baffled as why these problems persist.
I applaud force modernization taking place across the services. We support the Army's ReARMM and the Marine Corps Force Design 2030. I'm concerned, however, about the timeliness of these efforts. And you'll continue -- Ranking Member Garamendi and I, I think, agree on this, that the timelines for the threats don't match the timelines to get our readiness in shape and to get our modernization in shape.
And I'm eager to hear how the services have revised and accelerated these timelines to -- to counter China's ambitious -- ambitions. And finally, taking care of our soldiers, taking care of our service members across the board is the utmost responsibility of everybody here in this room. Service leadership continuously touts the rhetoric of people first.
But when we look at some of our facilities, when we look at some of the living conditions for -- for our service members, I still remain skeptical of this actually being put into practice. And so, the condition of some of this housing truly is outstanding. It no doubt affects retention. We must provide safe barracks and housing to our service members and put their welfare first to match -- have our budget match the match the priority.
So, I just look forward to hearing from everybody here today. And I hand over to you, Mr. Garamendi, for your opening comments.
JOHN GARAMENDI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Delighted to work with you. I am pleased to hear you -- your interest and support for climate change issues, and you're quite right about addressing that issue using Chinese materials. That's why we wrote into almost all -- well, in all of the infrastructure and the energy issues of the future very strong buy America requirements.
And so, we need to push the American industry into the manufacturing of these systems, from solar panels to turbines and the like, and we can do that. And that's also an issue for the -- for the military. Are they buying American made equipment for their ships and planes, or are they buying others? And complex issue, but a very, very important one.
So, each year, as we prepare for this hearing, I'm struck by the vast jurisdiction of the Readiness Subcommittee. As I often say, other subcommittees get to buy the new bright shiny stuff, and it's left to us to maintain it and keep it operating. And so, in this subcommittee, we need to pay particular attention to the facilities that support this equipment, that sustain the modernization of the weapon systems themselves, and in which the men and women of the military are trained.
So, we have an enormous task here. And over the years, both the minority and the majority as it has changed over time have paid attention to this issue, as you are, Mr. Chairman, and I thank you for that. Now, we've also learned from Putin's immoral invasion of Ukraine that many of the issues that we have dealt with over the years here trying to make sure that the -- that our military is ready in every way has brought to the attention and to the forefront many of our concerns.
We've been forced to think about the organic industrial base, which was heretofore not with this committee, but with the -- even the larger committee often ignored. And so, in this budget request, I am finally seeing evidence that we're getting serious about the modernization of the depots, the shipyards, the infrastructure, the bases, the housing, and all of the rest, and we need to continue to push that.
I know that you intend to do that, Mr. Chairman. And I hope that the members of this subcommittee will continue also with that effort. Through the media, we've also watched the -- the cost of Russia's other readiness failures. For the Russians, we've watched its equipment fail because it was poorly sustained and maintained, and we've witnessed the cost of poorly trained troops, Russian troops.
We cannot let that happen, and it falls to this subcommittee to make sure that, as we go forward, that we are fully prepared. There's another piece of this puzzle that falls within the jurisdiction beyond the training of the troops, and that is that we have to make sure that the access to sustain the fight is available.
And so, we'll be working on that also. Now, the comptroller general has analyzed that the readiness of our weapons systems over the course of years has not been good enough. When we analyze the aircraft type, the majority of the systems in our inventory fail to -- by more than 10 percent below the department's own mission capability rate goals.
So, we have to continue to work on this issue. Cannibalization seems to be the way in which we keep most of the fleet -- whether that's an aircraft or it's a truck or a plane or a tank or a ship, cannibalization seems to be the way in which we keep these things operating. That doesn't work for long. And so, we need to pay attention to that as we have in the past, and we must continue to make sure that all of the equipment has the necessary parts and pieces on time when necessary.
So, I'm looking forward to the hearing today, our witnesses, as they discuss these issues, what they've learned, the lessons they have learned, and it'll be displayed in this year's budget. And we're certainly seeing the lessons in Ukraine, more importantly, what we are doing to operationalize those lessons that have been learned from Ukraine and beyond.
So, look forward to working with you, Mr. Chairman, look forward to working with the members of the committee, the subcommittee, and we'll push along. Thank you very much. I yield back.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, Mr. Garamendi. I'd like to again welcome our witnesses and -- and thank them for their participation today. We're joined by General Randy George, the vice chief of the Army; Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the vice chief of Naval Operations; General Eric Smith, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; and General David Allvin, vice chief of staff of the Air Force; General DT Thompson, vice chief of Space Operations.
General George, over to you for your opening remarks.
RANDY GEORGE: Okay. Thanks, Chairman. Chairman Waltz, Ranking Member Garamendi, distinguished members of this subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the readiness posture of our Army. 80 years ago, American troops were fully engaged in the allied war effort in Europe, in Africa, and in the Indo-Pacific.
Among them was a company of soldiers holding a roadblock near a village of Sanananda in northern New Guinea. They were enduring malarial fevers, venomous snakes, torrential rains, and holding off a perpetual onslaught of competent enemy fighters. I reflect on this because it reminds me that our Army must be ready for anything.
We must be ready to deter war and, if deterrence fails, to take the fight to the enemy anywhere around the globe, even in the most hostile environments, just as we've always done. It also reminds me that war fighting is a team effort. It takes teams on the ground like at Sanananda, and teams at every echelon above providing a menu of lethal options to our combatant commanders.
Our Army is focused on warfighting and training for battle in which all domains are contested, and we are focused on supporting our combatant commands with ready formations around the world. And right now, we have 137,000 soldiers in over 140 countries. We are strengthening our partnership with defense industry and rapidly modernizing our organic industrial base to increase productivity and ensure that we have the stocks to fight when called upon.
We are deterring the pacing challenge of China by exercising and campaigning across the Indo-Pacific theater and holding the line in the European theater along our NATO -- alongside our NATO partners, all the while adapting in real time to lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and rapidly incorporating new tactics into our doctrine and our training.
But readiness for today is not enough. Our Army is also transforming, because honestly we don't have an option. Warfare is changing and we must change because of it to ensure we stay ahead of our potential adversaries. So, among many things, we are modernizing long range precision fires, air and missile defense, ground combat capabilities, and developing counter UAS capabilities and doctrine.
Finally, we are building the team. And like I said, warfighting is a team effort. This includes providing commanders with the resources they need to support soldiers' mental and physical well-being, to maintain a healthy command climate, and to build cohesive teams. And it means investing in the quality of life of our soldiers and our families, ensuring that they have safe housing and barracks, adequate child care, and spouse employment opportunities.
I'll end with recruitment, a critical readiness priority for us right now. We are challenged by the fact that a small number of young Americans, 23 percent, are qualified to serve. Fewer still, we're finding, are interested in serving, and that's something that we are working very hard to change. Our Army remains a great place to be, and I think our high retention rates speak to that.
The trouble is many Americans don't realize it or believe it. Military service to many people seems like a life setback. In reality, it's a life accelerator. That has certainly been my experience since I enlisted as a private right out of high school. It's a great team with an important mission and ample opportunity to learn, grow, and make an impact.
And we have to get that story out, and we're pouring all of our energy into that effort. And we appreciate Congress's assistance in amplifying our call to service message. And Chairman, the last on -- to answer your question on a continuing resolution, I'll just give you an example from last year. Over three months, we had about 25 new starts that we were looking to get going.
We couldn't because the continuing resolution impacted about $1.9 billion. And you can imagine some of that in there, for example, was OIB modernization that we were trying to get started. So, as you mentioned up front, it's the new starts that a continuing resolution would be a problem for us. Thank you.
MICHAEL WALTZ: [Off mic]
LISA FRANCHETTI: Chairman Waltz, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished members of the committee, good afternoon. On behalf of the secretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Navy readiness with you today. The United States is a maritime nation. Our security and prosperity depend on the seas.
For the past 247 years, your Navy has stood the watch. We are America's away team, operating forward to deter war, protect our economic interests, uphold international law, ensure freedom of and access to the seas, and respond to crises and natural disasters. We provide our nation's leaders with decision space and options, and stand ready to fight and win when called to do so. Over the past year, we've safely executed 22,000 steaming days, almost one million flight hours, and participated in nearly 100 exercises.
With operations spanning the globe, we've supported the allied response to Russia's illegal and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, conducted freedom of navigation operations, interdicted illegal narcotics traffickers, and provided humanitarian assistance. As I speak, our sailors and Marine Corps counterparts are deployed on more than 100 ships and submarines around the world, ready to meet the security needs of our nation.
Our FY '24 budget request is consistent with CNO's priorities of readiness in sailors, then capability, then capacity, with the Columbia SSBN program as our number one procurement priority. We continue to prioritize readiness to sustain our forces through better maintenance performance, more training, improved parts availability, and increased weapons inventories.
Navy readiness begins with our people, the sailors, civilians, and families who are the foundation of our true warfighting advantage. We are committed to improving their quality of service and personal resilience, investing in initiatives such as quality housing and child care, access to the full continuum of mental health care, improved education, and an environment free of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
In this 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, we continue to focus on recruiting, retention, and reducing gaps in our billets at sea. Navy readiness is also centered on the readiness of our platforms. Using data analytics, improving our planning processes, and procuring long lead time materials, we have decreased maintenance delays in public and private shipyards, but there is more work to be done.
Our budget request fully funds public and private ship maintenance, aviation depot maintenance, increases parts and spares, and continues to grow our highly skilled public shipyard workforce. Finally, Navy readiness is also driven by the readiness of our bases. Shore infrastructure is critical, and we continue to fully fund the once in a century recapitalization of our four public shipyards through the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program.
Our budget request supports increased sustainment of our shore infrastructure while prioritizing restoration and modernization for water, electrical, and safety systems. As our strategic competitors continue to improve and enhance their capabilities, maintaining a responsive, combat ready, world wide deployable navy is our first line of defense and deterrence.
Sustained readiness investments in today's Navy are a down payment on America's future security. I thank the Committee for your leadership and partnership in keeping the world's greatest maritime force ready to fight and win at sea, and I look forward to your questions.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you. General Smith, your opening statement?
ERIC SMITH: Chairman Waltz, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished members of this subcommittee, I'm pleased to appear before you today to discuss Marine Corps readiness and the fiscal year '24 budget. Your Marine Corps remains the nation's force in readiness. We are ready to deter adversaries and, when that deterrence fails, we are ready to strike and enable others to strike.
We also provide the crisis response forces that American citizens abroad and our allies have come to expect from their Marines. We provide this expeditionary combined arms force utilizing the minimum 31 amphibious warships that Congress has directed. Those ships provide the organic mobility required to bring all of our assets to bear at the critical time and place for our combatant commanders.
The most important asset we bring to bear remains the individual Marine. Our modernization efforts, known as force design, ensure that we are manned, trained, and equipped to deter a peer adversary and to campaign to a position of advantage should deterrence fail and lethal force be needed. Our modernization efforts are required to fight and win on future battlefields.
About that, we can make no mistake. Our aviation readiness has increased more than 10 percent in the past few years, thanks to the work of this subcommittee to provide us with the operations and maintenance funding we need and due to our aviation modernization and reorganization efforts. When a marine expeditionary unit deploys on a big deck L-class amphibious warship today, they provide the combatant commander with 66 percent more fifth generation aircraft than before we made force design changes.
Our efforts to modernize our training and education are bearing fruit as we produce an even more lethal Marine. From our basic rifleman training to our service level training exercises, we are becoming more lethal. Our new training integrates our joint and organic fires, improved communications, and updated ISR to sense, make sense, track, and destroy targets at ranges and complexities never before seen by our Marine Corps.
Our individual Marine remains the most lethal weapon on the battlefield. Our efforts to improve the quality of life of those warriors to retain them once we train them are vital and important. Your continued support matters to them and to their families, so thank you. Finally, to your point, Mr. Chairman, I would note that, of the past ten years, approximately four have been spent in a continuing resolution status.
During any CR, we're unable to improve as rapidly as we might have otherwise done. Our adversaries don't have that problem. Your help to deliver on time and predictable funding to the 18 and 19 year old lance corporals, who do the fighting for our nation, is sincerely appreciated. As an example, in the past, we had the opportunity to procure our amphibious combat vehicle faster, but were unable to do so because of a CR. That leaves older equipment in the hands of the 18 and 19 year olds who will fight for us. So, the continuing resolution is absolutely detrimental.
I look forward to answering your questions, and I'm grateful to appear before you.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, General Smith. General Allvin, your opening statement?
DAVID ALLVIN: Chairman Waltz, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished committee members, on behalf of our Air Force secretary and chief of staff, thank you for the opportunity to discuss the critically important topic of readiness. We greatly appreciate this body's continued partnership and support in delivering the resources necessary for the Air Force to respond to today's threats while preparing for tomorrow.
The events of the past year remind us that global actors have the capability and intent to challenge peace and stability. In the case of the pacing challenge, the People's Republic of China, the speed at which they are developing advanced capability and capacity should serve as a warning for us to act with a greater sense of urgency.
We must maintain the necessary advantage to deter them from violent pursuit of objectives at odds with our national interests. Your Air Force is laser focused on this task. Readiness starts with our airmen, both uniformed and civilian, who consistently prove to be our greatest strength and competitive advantage.
Since the beginning of the all-volunteer force 50 years ago, we have been fortunate enough to attract the best of America's youth in sufficient numbers, but recent realities have put this under pressure. As a result, we will likely not meet our recruiting goals this year. We are aggressively exploring multiple options while streamlining processes to attract a broader pool of those talented Americans into our formation.
We also know that a ready airman is a focused and resilient airman, and we must demonstrate that we continue to value our service members and their families. We'll continue to explore opportunities to expand and -- or initiate programs that better support quality of life, and we greatly appreciate this committee's support for these efforts.
The air crew deficit persists due to several factors, but this shortage has not extended into the operational units or the pilot training bases. We are continuing on the path to transform our approach to pilot training to increase production while leveraging numerous monetary and nonmonetary programs to retain the experience of those trained aviators.
We look forward to working with the committee on these programs, as well as our pursuit of targeted relief from current legislation to enable the hiring of contract simulator instructors to maximize training and optimize our manpower to produce those pilots. While the proposed budget increase -- increases weapons system sustainment funding by $1.1 billion over last year, this will only still resource 80 -- 87 percent of the estimated requirement due to sustainment challenges of our ever-aging fleet, inflation, supply chain issues, and labor costs.
We are pursuing improvements in reliability and maintainability, supporting initiatives that advance data-driven decisions. This drives efficiency in what we do today and enables responsiveness in dynamic wartime environments. Significant challenges and tough decisions still lie ahead. We must be thoughtful in adequately funding our readiness accounts while pursuing the right investments to develop advanced capabilities to meet future threats.
This year we feel we have struck the right balance. In closing, I would offer this Congress can make the most positive impact on our readiness through a timely budget appropriation. An extended continuing resolution would result in the inability to start critical new programs and continue the momentum that we are building to meet the pacing challenge.
It also creates instability in support to our airmen and families at a time that this has never been more important. A CR will essentially rob us of something both critical and irreversible as we face growing threats to our nation, and that is time. So, Mr. Chairman, to your point as well, specifics, and Chairman Waltz, on a CR, we estimate that the CR will decrease our buying power for the United States Air Force at $5.4 billion, an extended CR. The key things that we are looking at that will directly be impacted by a continuing resolution are the initiation of our research and development in collaborative combat aircraft.
This is integral to our design to have affordable mass against the People's Republic of China to be able to gain and maintain air superiority in a highly contested environment. These combat -- collaborative combat aircraft, we're working not only the platforms, but developing the autonomy to ensure we can leverage them with our crewed aircraft, as well as experimental operational units that we have funded in '24 to be able to better integrate into our formations.
And as I mentioned, with the uncertainty, we see this in every CR, families that are getting ready to PCS and prepare their families for the schools they're going to go into, if we don't have the certainty of being able to do that on time, that just puts more tension into the families. And it doesn't show that we support them the way that we should.
Thank you, and I look forward to your questions.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, General Allvin. And -- and those specifics, General Smith yours -- your -- yours as well, are incredibly important for us as we go out to our respective caucus as we try to get that -- as we try to get this done. General Thompson?
DAVID THOMPSON: Chairman Waltz, Ranking Member Garamendi, and distinguished members of the subcommittee, on behalf of the secretary of the Air Force and chief of Space Operations, thank you for the opportunity to testify today regarding the readiness of the Space Force. In examining the readiness of the Space Force to accomplish its missions, the overriding consideration remains the dramatic shift to the space domain from a comparatively benign military environment to one that's undeniably contested.
Given that the capabilities and benefits provided from space are essential to our way of life and crucial to effective military operations in every other domain, this shift was the compelling reason for the creation of the Space Force three and a half years ago. Since then, with the tremendous support of Congress, the Space Force, Department of the Air Force and broader Department of Defense have moved out aggressively to address the challenges the nation faces in space.
We've begun the pivot to more resilient and defendable space architectures that ensure soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines can count on space forces across the spectrum of conflict. We've begun designing and developing satellite constellations that address the migration of missions to space, including moving target indication, domain awareness on the land, at sea, and in the air, key elements of command and control and the movement of the data and information that enables the joint force in the way it expects to fight in the future.
Finally, the Space Force has begun the shift to a new training and readiness approach that I described last year as the Space Force generation model. We achieved -- we achieved initial capability for this approach on October 1st of last year. Once complete, it will ensure our space forces are combat ready against the pacing challenge.
While much remains to be done in each of these areas, the main challenge to Space Force readiness today are twofold. The first is creating a combat ready force that is at -- the first to creating a combat ready Space Force is an advanced full spectrum test and training infrastructure. This infrastructure will be a system of systems that provides test and training opportunities with high fidelity mission simulators and threats, a professional aggressor force, and a suitable range.
It will allow us to validate tactics, test system limitations, and train operators in a live and synthetic environment against a thinking adversary. Without this infrastructure, guardians would not have defendable systems, proven tactics, or the confidence and competence they need should it come to conflict in space.
The operational tests and training infrastructure will be a force multiplier, allowing guardians to maintain and improve our strategic advantage in space. The second and primary -- the second primary challenge of Space Force readiness lies in whether budgetary resources will be available in a timely manner to execute all we're planning to do. As I stated previously, Congress has been a tremendous partner in defining and building the Space Force.
In each year since its existence, the Space Force has seen 12 to 15 percent increases in its budget year over year. The 2024 request is nearly $4 billion more than it was in 2023, a 15 percent increase. In the event of a continuing resolution, that increased budget authority would not be available to meet our needs.
This budget request includes at least 17 new initiatives, many of which are focused on this operational test and training infrastructure. Beyond that, new initiatives that were begun in 2023, already delayed because of a continuing resolution this year, are programmed for increases in 2024. As an -- as a specific example, the missile warning system that will track advanced hypersonic threats was begun in 2023. The budget for this vital capability doubles in 2024, allowing us to deliver real global capability by 2027. None of that additional authority and none of the new starts required for the -- the test and training infrastructure can be -- be begun during a CR. The president's fiscal year 2024 budget request -- request affirms the DoD and Space Force's commitment to a bold, threat informed shift.
It acknowledges the need for a more robust proliferated architecture, intelligence driven space domain awareness, aggressive cybersecurity, measured investment in space superiority, and combat credible forces anchored in a full spectrum training enterprise. The most important thing Congress can do to help us in this endeavor is pass an on time budget.
Thank you all for your steadfast partnership and support. I look forward to your questions.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Yeah. Thank you, General. I'm just going to dive right into -- I just have one question, and I want to get to -- to other members that we have since we have votes looming. Can we just go down the line? I'll start with you General George. What are your current projections for your recruiting shortfalls this year?
RANDY GEORGE: Chairman, right now we're doing better than we were doing. I would say right now we're probably projecting to be about 55,000. We had set our goal up to be 65,000 this year, which is higher than what we did last year. So, that's where I expect we'll be, somewhere --
MICHAEL WALTZ: About 10,000 short?
RANDY GEORGE: Yes, sir.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Admiral?
LISA FRANCHETTI: Chairman, we expect to be about 6,000 short. Also doing better than we started, but about 6,000 short is our projection.
MICHAEL WALTZ: General?
ERIC SMITH: Chairman, the Marine Corps will meet its recruiting mission this year, as we did last year.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Roger that. Semper Fi.
DAVID ALLVIN: The total force Air Force will be coming in approximately, on this path, 10,000 short. That's about 3,400 in the active duty, 3,100 in the Guard, a little over four -- or in the Reserves, and a little over 4,000 in the Guard.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you. General?
DAVID THOMPSON: Chairman, we have a little different challenge than the other services. We need about 700 new recruits off the street. But we still need, and will for the next several years, need about 700 inter service transfers from the other services. And while we're doing very well in recruiting off the street, as the other services have challenges in their recruiting, it becomes more difficult for them to release folks for inter service transfer.
MICHAEL WALTZ: So, will you fall -- are you projecting to fall short in those transfers?
DAVID THOMPSON: Don't know yet. We -- we -- we -- we will meet our off the street needs. The question will be working with services, how much can they afford to give us. And we just don't know that yet. We'll need to wait and negotiate later this year.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you. And minus the Army because you're already doing it in terms of polling and collecting data on why we're in this crisis that we're in, will all of you commit to the committee to begin collecting data, look at programs, initiate programs to start understanding why this shortfall is happening? I -- so, I'm looking at Navy, Air Force.
LISA FRANCHETTI: Yes. Yes.
DAVID ALLVIN: Absolutely, Chairman. That's underway and will continue.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Great. Thank you, Mr. Garamendi.
JOHN GARAMENDI: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I've had the privilege of meeting with each of the presenters today ahead of this meeting, and I'm going to turn over my time to Ms. Sherrill.
MIKIE SHERRILL: Thank you. And thank you all for your service and for your support to our troops across the globe. It's important that we build and procure clean energy sources appropriately without influence and ties to our strategic competitors, who use forced labor, conduct intellectual property theft, and forced technology transfers.
It can be done. GAF, a national roofing company headquartered in my district, has been able to successfully transition from Chinese suppliers to manufacturing and producing solar panels in domestic facilities in Texas and California, as well as in Southeast Asian nations including Vietnam, Cambodia, and Taiwan.
As we work on increasing our energy resiliency, we need to ensure our armed forces are looking at all energy options available. And General Smith, we had a discussion yesterday about how this impacts logistics. Can you talk a little bit about that discussion and how energy options can improve your logistics challenges?
ERIC SMITH: Yes, ma'am. Logistics is the pacing function against the pacing threat in the expanse of the Pacific. As a warfighter, I don't want to move one pound that I don't have to move. I want to reserve every poundage of movement for lethality. So, if I am -- for example, if I don't need to bring diesel to operate a reverse osmosis water purification unit to produce water in the middle of the South China Sea, which doesn't seem to make sense to me, to -- to ship water, I want to produce it there, and I can do that via some other means, it's about -- for me, it's about lethality, because that eight pounds, give or take, per gallon, that's eight pounds of a warhead that I can bring.
This is about lethality for us. And anything we can do to move less, and polymer ammo means I can bring more bullets instead of more casings, that is what we want to do, because it is about warfighting and lethality.
MIKIE SHERRILL: Thank you for that plug for polymer ammo. We are working on that in my district. And with that, I will turn it back in the interest of time. Thank you.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, Ms Sherrill. Mr. Wilson?
JOE WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thank each of you. I -- I particularly appreciate your service, as a 31 year veteran myself. And -- but I'm really grateful to be a Army dad of three sons who've served in Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan. I also can claim the Navy, a son that served in Baghdad. And so, I'm really grateful as a doctor.
And then I have a nephew in the Air Force, and one day I'll have somebody in the family smart enough to be in Space Force. So -- but thank you all for what you do. And General George, I'm so grateful to represent Fort Jackson. It trains over 50 percent of all soldiers in the basic combat training facility.
And I'm also grateful that what you're doing is providing -- all of you are providing opportunity for young people to achieve to their highest level and to be so meaningful, and that's why I appreciate what you're doing. And General, there's the Future Soldier Prep Course. And can you explain what that is and how successful it's been?
RANDY GEORGE: Yes, sir. It's been very successful for us. We have come into this -- we -- we did not want to lower our standards, and so the idea of the Future Soldier Prep Course is actually to get people to meet our standards. So, they basically come there -- on average, I would say they're there four or five weeks.
We have some that need help with the ASVAB testing, some that need help with the body fat. And we've seen about a 97 percent -- percent success rate, 96, 97 percent on both of those accounts getting through basic training. So, we're really proud of that program down there at Fort Jackson.
JOE WILSON: And in lieu of a question because of time, I just want to commend all of you for the placement of troops in Eastern Europe to provide for peace through strength with deterrence. I -- I've met with the military personnel in Poland. President Donald Trump was ahead of the curve to put troops there. I've met with our American troops working in Novo Selo in Bulgaria, with young Bulgarians to be at MK Air base in Romania, to see success there and the Larissa in Greece.
And so, over and over again, to me, it's just so important that we have sufficient military effectiveness backing up our NATO allies to back up the very courageous people of Ukraine. So, thank you for what you've done. And any other enterprising maneuvers you can do to back up the people of Ukraine, I know the chairman and I would appreciate it. Thank you.
I yield back.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, Mr. Wilson. Ms. Tokuda?
JILL TOKUDA: Thank you very much, Mr. -- thank you very much, Mr. Chair. In the interest of time, I'm just going to go over a few questions. Admiral Franchetti, in February, the Navy closed three dry docks at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and another at the Trident Refit facility in Bangor due to seismic concerns, I believe.
This means that at least right now, of 18 dry docks in our four public shipyards, almost a quarter of them are offline at a time when over one-third of the Navy's attack submarine fleet desperately needs maintenance and repair. Admiral Franchetti, given our already limited shipyard capacity and the growing demand for ship maintenance, what is the Navy doing to address the challenges posed by these closures and continue to meet our shipyard needs?
LISA FRANCHETTI: We are very focused on our shipyards in general, the focus through SIOP. But specifically to the shipyards in Puget Sound, so there are three dry docks that are being repaired right now. One of them is already complete and in testing. The other one should be complete by the beginning of June, and the other one by late June.
So, right now, we don't see any impact to the closures of those dry docks. Separately from that, we are continuing to work through all of our public shipyards to improve their performance through project management fundamentals, workforce development, and taking a big effort to buy long lead time supply materials in advance.
That will help us get our shipyards our -- our submarines out on time.
JILL TOKUDA: Thank you. That's very good to hear. Related to the SIOP and shipbuilding industry -- industrial base, recently you may have heard the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a letter to Navy Region Hawaii about the discovery of an invasive octocoral, or soft coral species in Pearl Harbor.
What was initially ten acres when discovered back in August 2020 has now grown to be at least 20 acres, and is estimated to be potentially impacting 90 acres. Unmitigated, the spread of this invasive species has potential risk to operations at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, including the new Dry Dock 5 at Pearl Harbor Navy Shipyard, and obviously poses serious threat to our native corals but, more importantly, just the operation of this area.
Can I get your commitment that the Navy is going to work quickly with us to address and mitigate this invasive soft tissue coral so that we can continue operation and, of course, the -- the new dry dock at Pearl Harbor?
LISA FRANCHETTI: Yes. As part of the -- the SIOP program, the Navy's been working with National Marine Fisheries, all of the interagency, to better understand the problem and develop that mitigation plan originally for the nine acres of this invasive coral. And the cost for that removal effort was included in the MILCON. We're also looking at how do we adopt biosecurity protocols to mitigate any risk of spreading of the coral for any work we do there.
Right now, we don't anticipate that there will be impacts to Dry Dock number 5, but we're continuing, again, to work. And you have my commitment to work with -- with your team and with everyone to make sure that that does not spread any further.
JILL TOKUDA: Thank you very much. As you can see, it's exponentially increasing, and we want to get this addressed before it impacts. Thank you. I yield back, Chair.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you. Mr. Scott?
AUSTIN SCOTT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for being here. I want to piggyback a little bit on what Ms. Sherrill said just a second ago. Less than 15 days after China flew a spy balloon across the United States of America, Ford Motor Company announced a partnership with communist China and CATL battery technology.
I want to just make sure that none of our DoD funds are going to purchase Chinese battery technology or any other technology that is coming from China. I think that you will see language to that effect coming in the NDAA. They're -- we are not going to spend US tax dollars to support Communist China or CATL battery technology.
I don't need you to comment on it. I just need you to be prepared for it. And if -- if Ford Motor Company decides that's who's going to develop their batteries, this is America, they've got the right to -- to decide who's going to develop their batteries, but we're not going to buy them. General Allvin, I'm gonna -- I'm gonna focus on the Air Force, if I could.
Seven months ago, General Kelly, commander of Air Combat Command, said that he has 48 fighter squadrons, nine attack squadrons doing the work of 60 squadrons, three squadrons short of what he needs. He said he needs 28 fighter squadrons to protect power in the Indo-Pacific region, Europe, and the Middle East, eight squadrons to respond to an unfolding crisis, 16 squadrons for homeland defense, eight squadrons for modernization and training.
We're in pretty much peacetime right now as we speak. Do you agree with his assessment?
DAVID ALLVIN: I -- I do, Congressman. And I think the -- the point that General Kelly was trying to point out is not only that we can't just count the numbers, but the missions that those were -- are tasked to do. So, those nine attack squadrons are primarily the A-10 squadrons that aren't as survivable and they aren't multirole.
So, that's why we are aggressively -- in the FY '24 budget, we're asking for 72 fighters, front line fighters, to include 48 F-35s and 24 F-15EXs, which will enable us to be -- to be able to do those missions and be able to compete and succeed in the Indo-Pacific theater.
AUSTIN SCOTT: But the A-10s are deployed right now, correct?
DAVID ALLVIN: I'm sorry, sir?
AUSTIN SCOTT: A-10s are deployed right now, correct?
DAVID ALLVIN: They are right now on their -- I don't think they're in CENTCOM, but they are set to go to CENTCOM in a single role mission. And they're adapting to that as we speak.
AUSTIN SCOTT: Quantity to me is equality in and of itself, in some cases. And I do worry about standing down fighter squadrons when we -- when we have an acknowledged need for -- for more squadrons. But I under -- understand the A-10 is an old platform, and -- and it's not going to be the platform of the future. You did say over the past two decades that we've offered forces to the joint force in an unsustainable manner, and the readiness impact is becoming more apparent in the face of our pacing challenge.
I assume that means it's safe to say the Air Force needs more resources to maintain current levels of readiness, and that our current levels of readiness are not what they have been in the past.
DAVID ALLVIN: Congressman, I would say for sure to the latter, that readiness is not what it's been in the past. If that's reference to my written statement, primarily the point we're making is, in addition to additional capacity and more modernized capacity, what we do need is also to reimagine ourselves and understand to be ready for what, to optimize our training to make sure we're generating and presenting the forces in the best way.
In the past, we've just been all-in without really looking at how to focus on the high end readiness. And so, our new Air Force force generation model is enabling us to see that and really hone in on our new mission essential tasks and get the very best readiness out of every flying hour that we can get.
AUSTIN SCOTT: So, when we talk about -- about the best readiness, one of the concerns I have is, when I look at the readiness rate, it's significantly below where any of us in this room want it to be. And yet, there're two different -- two different definitions of readiness. One of them is able to perform one of the primary missions, and the other one is able to perform all of the primary missions.
My understanding is that we're using the definition, when we talk about readiness, that they're able to perform one of the primary missions, not all of the primary missions. Is that -- is that correct?
DAVID ALLVIN: In some -- that is correct in some cases. I -- the readiness is really talking about the mission essential task which, as I mentioned, we are rewriting specifically to go against the China threat. So, there is -- there is both a shortage of being able to do the full spectrum of missions.
AUSTIN SCOTT: Okay. So -- so, if I could, again, it's written specifically for the China threat?
DAVID ALLVIN: We -- we are adapting it to make the primary mission --
AUSTIN SCOTT: Okay.
DAVID ALLVIN: The China threat.
AUSTIN SCOTT: Okay. And I -- again, Mr. Chairman, if I may, in the last -- the primary mission being the China threat, and yet less than 15 days after China flies a spy balloon across the United States of America, we have one of America's most iconic brands announcing a multibillion dollar partnership to buy a Chinese battery technology, which they intend and think that they're actually going to sell to the DoD in some cases.
And I would just encourage you to make sure that you're not preparing to buy any CATL batteries. Thank you.
MICHAEL WALTZ: I think your -- your sentiment is shared across multiple supply chains. Ms. Kiggans?
JEN KIGGANS: Thank you, Mr. Chair. And briefly, I know that votes are happening, but just to echo Mr. Scott about having the corporate buy-in for -- I mean, you guys are doing a great job on the ground and -- and with people and weapons and lethality. But -- but getting that corporate buy-in, we're not -- this is not a -- a -- just a military fight with China, and we've got to get the -- the corporate buy-in as well.
So, I fully support everything he just mentioned. And also to echo the previous comments about ship repair and shipyards, in my district, I'm Hampton Roads, so Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and -- and I hear from those guys all the time about challenges. And I know it's -- that's multi -- multifaceted too, from workforce to supply chain.
But scheduling, gosh, and it's like this. They want to blame the Navy and the Navy wants to blame them. So, if -- if we could get it together on that front, and I don't know if that's doing a better job at repairs out at sea, internally what we're doing, but then when they come to port, making sure that we are staying on schedule, because we can't keep this old fleet of ships that's already fewer numbers than I wish we had at sea if we don't get our ship repair industry behind.
It's not just the shiny new -- new ships and toys, but we've got to keep those old ones out there too. So, that's important to my district, whatever you can do to help that. I just specifically and real quick want to ask about pilot training. I've asked about this before. But we know that all of those new toys and wonderful things that -- that we can purchase go nowhere without the people behind it, specifically the pilots, which I know Army, Navy and Air Force and Marine Corps, you know, all of us. So, how long does it take?
And if you guys could -- could answer just in order, how long does it take to train a pilot from commissioning time til the time they touch a gray combat ready aircraft?
RANDY GEORGE: Ma'am, that -- it does depend a little bit on the -- on the aircraft. But I would say on average, we're at a year to 15 months, you know, for helicopter pilots that are down at -- at Fort Rucker after they do their other initial training.
JEN KIGGANS: And do those commissioned pilots start right away, or is there a lag time before they actually start flight training?
RANDY GEORGE: No, they -- they go down to -- like for us, they go down to Fort Rucker and go to the -- their basic course for aviation and then get started, you know, soon thereafter.
JEN KIGGANS: How about the Navy?
LISA FRANCHETTI: I'll get back to you with the exact number. It's roughly two years. And of course, we have a pilot delay right now in training --
JEN KIGGANS: Yeah.
LISA FRANCHETTI: Backlog, which we are working through as rapidly as possible.
JEN KIGGANS: So, actually closer to four. We were in Kingsville about two weeks ago, and they'll tell me four years from the time that they get commissioned from the Naval Academy or ROTC til the time that they are actually flying a fleet ready F-18. That is four years to -- that is too long. We're not going to be able to -- God forbid replace or have the pilots that we need if we continue to have a four year lag time.
I think the Army is a little bit better. How about the Marine Corps? Well, you guys are in with the Navy, so --
ERIC SMITH: What's different for us is every Marine lieutenant goes to the basic school for six months --
JEN KIGGANS: Right.
ERIC SMITH: To learn to be an infantry platoon commander. Then we begin flight school or any other MOS. So, it is in excess of two years, depending on the airframe.
ERIC SMITH: And those delays from -- everything from weather to aircraft availability all contribute to that, which is why those six and eight year commitments post wings are so vital to us. And we're not having any problems with those who wish. We just need the additional bonuses and help because the airline industries can --
ERIC SMITH: Hire them faster than I can.
JEN KIGGANS: Yes. Yes. Air Force?
DAVID ALLVIN: Ma'am, to your point, from when they enter pilot training to when they're flying a gray tail, if it's mobility, it's about 18 months. If it's a fighter bomber, it's closer to beyond 24 months. But to your point about from the time they are commissioned, because of the challenges we're having with the T-6 and T-38, we have a little bit of a -- a backup.
And it's -- it can be as many as four years. So, almost an 18 month to 24 month wait just to get into pilot training. So, that's why we're trying to accelerate, and our budget asks for more help with the T-38 engines and the T-6s, to move those through.
JEN KIGGANS: Yes. You guys have had kind of comparable challenges with the Navy, and I'm a little bit more familiar with the Navy side. But with the T-45 and some of those OBOGS issues, the blade issues, I mean, we're -- and COVID issues, but we're seeing those challenges now become where instructor pilot shortage -- you know, it's -- we're short instructor pilots.
So -- so, now we can't train the naval aviators and all the other aviators that we do need because we don't have the -- the teachers. So, now we're -- we're robbing the fleet to get those teachers. And you talk about retention and competing with airlines and whatnot, we've got to do a better job at this.
And I think part of it is the onus is on us, and -- and I echo and agree everything you said about continuing resolutions and how -- how detrimental that would be. But -- but having the right training equipment in place, and -- and you guys tweaking the syllabuses too, but -- but -- so that we can tighten it up. I just -- I want to do it faster.
We need more and we need faster. So, I think every service branch has its challenges. I'm mindful of it, but it's something that I just want to prioritize. So, thank you very much.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you. Mr. Gimenez?
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to everybody here. If you really want to scratch your head, I -- I -- it's come under -- somebody gave me information that -- that the VA just bought $430 million worth of computers from Lenovo. Lenovo is a Chinese computer company. So, I'll ask an over -- overhead question.
Are -- are any other services looking at buying large purchases of computers in the near future? And if you are or if you have bought some, have anybody -- has anybody bought -- bought Lenovo's Chinese computers?
RANDY GEORGE: I'm going to have to take that one. I don't know right off -- I mean, we do buy tech and computers, but I can't answer that one, sir. I'll take that for the record.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: I would certainly hope that, whatever technology you buy, any computers you buy, any printers you buy, etc, are American made and not made in China. Every taxpayer dollar that goes to China is just funding more equipment, more military capability against ourselves, which is ludicrous. So, I'll be looking into this VA thing.
I'm hoping I'm wrong, but that's the information I'm getting. On the question of -- of pilots, is it fair to say we have more airframes that -- than pilots, or do we have more pilots than airframes?
DAVID ALLVIN: By raw numbers, we -- we have many more pilots than airplanes.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Okay. So, do you -- but you do have a pilot shortage. Is -- yes or no?
DAVID ALLVIN: Well, we have a pilot shortage in -- in the -- in the pilots that we want throughout our entire Air Force. We do not have empty cockpits. So, in order to have a healthy pilot -- a professional force, you need first and foremost the combat cockpits filled. Then you need the trainer cockpits filled. Then you need the test cockpits filled.
And after you fill out the cockpits, then you go to those that -- our next priority is the leadership. You want the leadership positions filled. And then after you have all those filled, then you go to the staff positions. That is where we are currently absorbing our shortage, is in the staffs. So, where you would traditionally want pilot experience, rated experience, we're managing those at somewhat less than 70 percent.
So, we are not sacrificing our frontline units. But if this sustains over time, then we will have a sort of a misshapen force, where you won't be able to have professionally developed enough of the rated membership to provide that expertise and the leadership at the higher level. But for right now, we have not had any of our combat training or test cockpits go empty.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: What about reserve units, or have you looked at expanding reserve units or adding reserve pilots to -- to the force?
DAVID ALLVIN: Frankly, the -- the reserves are having about the same issue that we are having with respect to shortage overall. Now, I believe as we are -- we are -- in the active duty, we are advantaged by retention. But in our total force, we're disadvantaged because, as the retention of the active duty goes, a large part of their sort of business model in the Guard and Reserves is those who want to continue to affiliate with the military will go from the active duty to the Guard and Reserves.
And so, oftentimes when the retention is -- becomes poor, people still want to stay affiliated with the Air Force, the Guard and Reserves will get a little bit healthier. But as of right now, they're -- they're feeling about the -- the same pain as we are.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Your reserve bases, are they -- are they based in -- in large urban areas where you would have a good -- I guess a pool of -- of -- of folks that maybe wanting to be -- are interested in -- in serving in the reserves? I mean, if you have a reserve base somewhere in the middle of nowhere, it's hard to find, I guess, reservists that actually live around the area.
So, how do you -- how do you -- how do you make your basis on reserve bases versus active bases?
DAVID ALLVIN: For the most part, we -- we take advantage of being able to leverage both historical old fields, which used to be active duty, so some of them are just -- they're sort of godfathered from -- or grandfathered from being existing old active duty air bases and take advantage of the infrastructure there. Those are the ones that have been around 30, 40 years.
Oftentimes what we have now is the associations that the -- we have reserve members flying on what are sort of owned and maintained, these classic associations, by the active duty. So, it really is a mix of those that are just on active duty bases. I'm trying to go through in my head and see if there are any remote -- very remote and isolated reserve-only bases, and -- and none come to mind, frankly.
CARLOS GIMENEZ: Fair enough. Okay, I guess most of my time is up. I -- I yield back.
MICHAEL WALTZ: Thank you, Mr. Jimenez. Thank you again to our witnesses. Obviously, the vote schedule is -- is getting in the way of a more fulsome conversation here. But I think if you hear a theme, obviously it's a real concern about the recruiting crisis that we're in. And I know you share those concerns and are -- are getting after it. And -- and secondly, though, I'm -- I'm just not sure the -- the department as an institution and all the way down through the services and through our contracting officers are really looking at the supply chain issue.
And I think you're hearing bipartisan concern across the board in having that supply chain surety, one, having visibility on it, but then, two, driving our practices along those lines in a systematic -- in a systematic way. I -- I know I think the committee, and I share Mr. -- I think I can speak for Mr. Garamendi here, looks forward to working with you on that.
I hope that's something that the services and the department can get ahead of rather than really it being driven by this side of the foxhole, because I -- I certainly look forward to hearing what you're doing in that regard as we move forward through the -- through the defense bill. With that, the hearing is adjourned.
And thank you. Genuinely, thank you again.
Admiral Lisa Franchetti
19 April 2023
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