September 07, 2017
WASHINGTON – Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke on the Senate floor yesterday in support of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Senator Inhofe highlighted the importance of passing this year’s NDAA in light of growing threats from North Korea and the widespread impact of the readiness crisis.
As prepared for delivery:
Mr. President, we will soon begin floor consideration of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. This is something we will pass, and we’ve passed it now for 55 years. It’s important, because one of the primary Constitutional responsibilities we have is to provide for the common defense of our great nation and recent worldwide events highlight the urgency of this need.
I have spoken numerous times about the grave threat posed by North Korea, and warned that it would not be long before North Korea could demonstrate the capability to fire intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States.
In April, Admiral Harry Harris, the Pacific Command Commander testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “it is clearly a matter of when” North Korea will develop the capability to strike the United States of America.
In May, Lt Gen Vincent Stewart, the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified by saying “let me be clear on this point, if left on its current trajectory, the regime will ultimately succeed in fielding a nuclear armed missile capable of threatening the United States homeland.”
Since then, I have unfortunately been proven correct. The North Korean regime continues to demonstrate its dire threat facing us.
On July 4th North Korea successfully launched their first ICBM. If fired on a standard trajectory, that missile could have ranged Alaska. Some experts believe it could have ranged even further—into the continental United States. In light of that test, the Defense Intelligence Agency updated their assessment of the timeline by which North Korea will be able to reliably range U.S. cities with nuclear missiles to as early as the end of next year.
And now, this past Sunday, September 3rd, North Korea tested what is believed to be a hydrogen bomb, its most powerful nuclear weapon to date – almost 7 times as powerful as the bomb detonated over Hiroshima. North Korean media immediately stated the nuclear test was to determine the “accuracy and credibility” of its “Hydrogen-bomb to be placed at the payload of an ICBM.” It doesn’t get any more direct than that. Even if delivered by a relatively inaccurate ICBM, a nuclear device as powerful as the one tested Sunday could devastate its target.
It is important to remember that all this power is being wielded by the erratic despot, Kim Jong Un. North Korea’s official newspaper relayed the threat of a preemptive strike in April that would, “completely and immediately wipe out not only U.S. imperialists' invasion forces in South Korea and its surrounding areas but the U.S. mainland and reduce them to ashes.”
So as we consider the NDAA this year, we have to keep this grave threat foremost in our minds.
We have serious readiness deficits that must be addressed right away. Over the last 90 days, a spike in accidents across the military services have occurred. While these accidents are still under investigations to determine the cause – it is not hard to correlate these accidents with a readiness decline as a result of numerous continuing resolutions and sequestration.
Our forces are smaller than the days of the “hollow force” in the 1970s, our equipment is aging, and our base infrastructure requires critical maintenance and upgrades. Our Air Force is short 1,500 pilots, including nearly 1,300 fighter pilots. Only 50 percent of our Air Force squadrons are trained and ready to conduct all of their assigned missions. The Navy is the smallest and least ready it’s been in years, and currently can only meet about 40 percent of demand from regional combatant commanders.
More than half of Navy aircraft are grounded because they’re awaiting maintenance or lack necessary spare parts. The Marine Corps is struggling to keep their aging F/A-18 Hornets airworthy, and have generally had to prioritize modernization in an attempt to sustain readiness. The Army has said only about one-third of their Brigade Combat Teams, one-fourth of their Combat Aviation Brigades and one-half of their division headquarters are currently ready. That is a sobering assessment.
The bill we presented out of the Armed Services Committee goes a long way toward closing our readiness gap. Our bill increases end strength and boosts funding for equipment, operations, maintenance, military construction and includes a 2.1 percent pay increase for our troops. It also addresses many requirements for the Services and Combatant Commander’s unfunded priority lists.
I am also pleased that the SASC NDAA prohibits a Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) round this year. We are facing greater threats from across the globe than I have seen in my life time. The NDAA’s first priority must be to rebuild our force and improve its readiness. A BRAC round would divert vast resources away from this end for savings that we would not see for several decades. We are growing, not shrinking. Now is not the time for BRAC.
Our NDAA also fully funds Missile Defense Agency unfunded priorities, which is important considering that since 2006, the Missile Defense Agency budget has fallen more than 23-percent when adjusted for inflation. Every amendment we consider in our NDAA this year should be equally focused on increasing readiness across the services.
I will wrap up my remarks with a quote from General Mark Milley, the Chief of Staff of the Army. This quote is one we should keep in mind throughout the NDAA process. General Milley, said it best when it comes to funding our military, “the only thing more expensive than deterrence, is actually fighting a war. And the only thing more expensive than fighting a war, is fighting one and losing one…We're expensive. We recognize that. But the bottom line is, it's an investment that is worth every nickel.”
We have an administration that will support funding necessary to rebuild our military so the FY18 NDAA must ensure that our men and women in uniform have the resources required to answer the call quickly and effectively.