WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Investments in manpower and current readiness have and will continue to pay big dividends, the leaders of the Navy and Marine Corps team told the House Armed Service Committee Feb. 13, during the Fiscal Year 2003 Defense Authorization Budget Request Hearing.
"The Chief of Naval Operations, the Commandant and I all agree that we must continue to keep faith with our people by providing them the pay and benefits they so richly deserve, and must also ensure that our forces remain trained and ready to carry out missions in the war on terrorism," said Secretary of the Navy Gordon England.
"To this end, we have prioritized spending on critical readiness elements such as adequate flying hours and steaming days, spare parts, preventive maintenance and replenishing our inadequate stockpiles of precision munitions," England said. "We've added more than $3 billion to our operations and maintenance account and an additional $1 billion to buy munitions. On the personnel side of the equation, we increased the military personnel account by about $4 billion."
England told the committee he believes that the Navy and Marine Corps have made the "right choices" on the 2003 budget.
"We can never afford to break faith with our people on adequate pay and benefits, and it makes no sense to shortchange current readiness and munitions at a time when the nation is at war," the SECNAV said.
The new budget funds five new ships and two Trident submarine conversions. While many of the committee members offered support for more ships to be funded in the budget, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark stressed the need to spend the dollars available this year on current readiness during the war on terrorism.
"Our decision to make current readiness a top priority is paying off at sea and over Afghanistan," the CNO said. "With your support, we have made significant progress in increasing the readiness of the fleet. Increased funding for spare parts and maintenance and training has, in fact, resulted in better readiness and improved performance and absolutely higher morale."
"While continuing the positive trends in priorities one and two -- that's manpower and current readiness -- our Navy must now sharpen its focus on force structure in the years ahead. This is part of what I call future readiness," Clark said. "This budget supports investment to recapitalize part of our fleet, but there is more that we need to do to ensure tomorrow's Navy remains the finest in world."
The CNO told the committee about the Navy's successful manpower efforts over the last year.
"I have talked to this committee about our battle for people, and this year I am happy to report that we are winning that battle," Clark said. "Not only has our Navy met its recruiting goals for the past three years, but you will be happy to know that retention is reaching record levels, the best I have seen in my 32 years of service to date, and attrition is decreasing."
The leaders emphasized the critical role the Navy-Marine Corps team is playing in the war on terrorism. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Jones said the strength and reach of the Navy-Marine Corps team has been the solution to the "access challenge" in Afghanistan.
"We draw our strength from our partnership with the United States Navy," Jones said. "Operation Enduring Freedom dramatically highlighted the fact that we're no longer just an amphibious force in the classic World War II sense, but we're truly an expeditionary force that can project combined arms up to and beyond 600 miles inland in a landlocked country and sustain it."
England stressed that the Navy and Marine Corps were ready on Sept. 11 and remain ready to support the war on terrorism around the world.
"I don't believe in my adult life I have seen a time in which the combat capabilities and mobility of the Navy-Marine Corps team have been more important to our joint warfighting effort," said England. "In my view, not since World War II has the inherent mobility of combat power at sea been so critical to our ability to take the fight to the enemy and sustain that effort over time."
The CNO praised the American people and Congress for their support and applauded Sailors for their service.
"Your Navy's performance in the present war -- in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks and in the ongoing campaign -- is simply outstanding, and it is no accident," Clark said. "It is the result of strong support and sustained investment from the American people and from the Congress. It is the result of great equipment. It is the result of technology. But more than anything else, it is the result of the hard work and the dedication of the highly trained Sailors of the United States Navy. I'll tell you, I'm mighty proud to be their CNO."
"I do believe that this war is demonstrating very clearly, in a most powerful manner, why we have a Navy: to carry the sovereignty of the United States of America to the far corners of the earth, with credible combat power ... ready to respond, ready to fight, ready to win. I believe that our Navy is as an integral part of the joint team, but first and foremost, the Navy-Marine Corps team," the CNO said. "It is truly inspiring to know that our nation is united in fighting freedom's fight. We are going to win this war."
For information on the Secretary of the Navy and CNO, go to http://www.navy.mil and select "L" for leadership on the site index. For information about the Commandant of the Marine Corps, go to http://www.usmc.mil/cmc/32cmc.nsf/cmcmain.