U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, held a subcommittee hearing today entitled “Current Readiness of U.S. Forces.”
Witnesses included General James C. McConville, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army; Admiral William F. Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations; General Glenn M. Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps; and General Stephen W. Wilson, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force.
Inhofe: “From your perspective, what is the cost of not addressing these readiness issues? This is the readiness committee. Readiness is what’s important. That relates to risk and lives. Starting with you.”
McConville: “Readiness is something—I equate it to pushing a boulder up a hill. And when you stop pushing, the boulder rolls down and for a while there we weren’t getting the appropriate funding to properly maintain our units at the proper level. We are getting that funding right now, but it needs to sustain because we need to kind of fill in the holes from readiness that we let develop over the last couple of years. We were not getting the timely, predictable and sustained funding that we needed.”
Moran: “Yes, sir. There are so many components to readiness. You could pick any one of them and find areas where we need to work harder on and where the lack of resources—especially the last several years—has really been a difficult challenge for all of us, but I think about it as a capital intensive service. And the amount of maintenance and upgrades and modernization to pace the threat or get out in front of the threat is an enormous cost and that’s part of our readiness component. If you can’t the ships underway, the submarines underway or the airplanes flying, then you’re going to have readiness problems across the board—I think that’s obvious. What always pays for those big capital investments in our business are people and munitions. We’ve taken risk in those areas over the last ten years because the resources haven’t been there and now we’re starting to buy that back. But, when I think about the people, it’s also the readiness component which talks to experience and building intuition on the battle field, at sea, in the air. And those things you can’t buy back. Once you’ve passed by a year or two of that kind of proficiency and that kind of training, it’s very difficult to buy it back, unless you get it in Situ- at the time, when the person going through that training needs it the most.
Inhofe: “Thank you. You know, General Walters, we hear more, at least I hear more, about the readiness and what its taking in both the Marines and the Army than I do some of the other services. How do you come out on this?”
Walters: Sir, readiness, if you view it as a commodity, you build it as a shelf life because it’s all about the people. So, combined unstable funding and a draw down, then you lose people and you really lose opportunity, so the opportunity costs of not training over time to build back up—it might be that sergeant that you let out whose had eight years of experience. Now, I gotta start over with a private and make him a sergeant. So, that’s the condition we find ourselves in right now with squad leaders and that’s where our attention is. But, truly, lost opportunity and lost time are something that’s not a one-for-one recovery … stable funding over time at the right amount with paying attention to our people will get us out of the hole and we have a plan for that sir.
Inhofe concluded the meeting by stating: “We are on the mend. That’s the message for today.”