Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee - Opening Remarks of Chairman Forbes


Date: May 26, 2016
Location: Washington, DC

Today, Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following remarks on the subcommittee's joint hearing titled "Navy Force Structure and Readiness: Perspectives from the Fleet."

I want to welcome members of the Seapower and Projection Forces and Readiness subcommittees to our hearing today

This hearing follows a congressional delegation and listening session that members of our committee conducted on Monday aboard Naval Station Norfolk, the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower, and destroyer USS McFaul.

While in Norfolk, we had a chance to meet with a number of Navy sailors including the witnesses that are testifying before us today:

o Captain Scott F. Robertson, Commanding Officer, USS Normandy

o Captain Randy Stearns, Commodore, Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic

o Captain Gregory McRae, Deputy Commander, Submarine Squadron Six

o Captain Paul Odenthal, Commander, Naval Construction Group Two

I am particularly delighted to have Admiral Davidson, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, who will be making an opening statement.

We also have a special guest with us here in the audience: Captain Robertston's wife, Kellie. Last year, Captain Robertson and his crew were underway for a whopping 313 days, including their wedding anniversary and likely many other important family events. Today, his duties once again called him away from home on his anniversary. At least on this anniversary, I want to thank her for her service, her support to her husband, and recognize all the sacrifices she and other Navy spouses and families make for our country.

I am grateful to everyone for being here, but I want to thank the captains in particular for first giving us their perspectives in Norfolk, and then coming up to Washington to share them with additional members. I think it is very important that we hear not just from senior Navy leaders, but from the operators and warfighters like yourselves who are dealing with readiness challenges first hand.

When we met with our witnesses down in Norfolk, one of them characterized his current role and responsibility as the commander of a Navy unit as 'managing scarcity.'

I think that term is a very good description of the challenges that our men and women in uniform and the civilians that support them are dealing with across the fleet, and in the Navy's sister services.

While I firmly believe that the United States Navy is still the world's best, I am concerned about shortfalls in force structure and readiness, and the trend lines that we see.

Over the past year we have heard from the Chief of Naval Operations that we are returning to an era of 'great power competition' in which our maritime superiority will be contested by other countries.

We have heard about ship deployments growing from 5-and-a-half to as many as 10 months in length.

We have heard about carrier gaps in Asia and the Middle East.

We have heard that shortfalls in the number of amphibious ships are driving the Marines to consider deploying aboard foreign ships.

We have heard that only 1 in 4 of our strike fighters is 'fully mission capable' and ready for combat.

And, finally, we have received data showing that, next year, around the world, we will only be able to fulfill:
* 56% of our commanders' requests for carriers,
* 54% of the requests for amphibious groups,
* 42% of the requests for submarines, and
* 39% of the requests for cruisers and destroyers.

The conclusion that I think we should all be drawing from what we hear is that we are not currently providing our Navy with the resources it needs to do what we ask--at least not without burning out our ships and our planes and our sailors and undermining our long-term readiness.

As members of these subcommittees know, the Navy will always answer the nation's call.

If we require it, the Navy can and will run its ships and sailors ragged, and send them into battle without all the weapons and training and maintenance they should have.

But we don't want to do that. We want to take care of our men and women in uniform, and maintain peace through strength with a Navy that is robust and ready to deter potential aggressors.

In our witnesses' prepared statement, it says that we are recovering from 'our lowest readiness point in many years.' As a Congress, we have the responsibility to 'provide and maintain a Navy,' but I believe that the resources we have been allocating to that critical function of government have been woefully inadequate.

Today, I hope to hear from both senior Navy leaders and our operators and warfighters what that means for our Navy and for our national security, so that their perspectives and insights can guide our decisions in the days and years ahead."