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June 22, 2021

Inhofe Questions Witnesses at FY22 Navy and Marine Corps Posture Hearing

U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today questioned witnesses at the committee’s annual posture hearing for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. 

Witnesses included: Thomas Harker, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations; and General David Berger, Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps. 

Inhofe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, before asking a question, I'm going to ask Admiral Gilday to share with the committee what happened last Friday, and the significance of that.

Gilday: So last Friday, we conducted our first shock trial on the USS Gerald R. Ford. The 2016 NDAA requires that those shock tests be conducted — it’s a series of three tests over the next couple of months — before we operationally deploy that vessel. Our intent, Senator, is to deploy that vessel in 2022, and right now, we remain on track to do so.

Inhofe: Are the catapults — and how many elevators are working?

Gilday: Sir, right now we've accepted seven of 11 elevators. I expect that we’ll accept two by early fall, and the remaining two by the end of the year. After the shock trials, the ship will go into a maintenance availability. We'll finish up those last two elevators, and then we'll get her out to deploy in ’22.

Inhofe: Yeah, we've heard a lot of things. As I recall, the deployment date would have been 2017 initially, and a lot of people have reasons to believe that there is justification for a lot of the stalls. I don't agree with that. But I certainly agree with you that you believe that’s going to happen. I hope you're right. You know, we've had a lot of problems with that particular piece of equipment, and it's been very, very expensive.

Anyway, Admiral Gilday, as I said in my opening statement, we have a 355-or-more ship goal yet this budget is only enough for a status-quo, 300-ship Navy. I hope we get the money needed to build the Navy. I know none of the three of you agree — you won’t say it but I’ll say it: You're not getting an adequate budget, and I can say that you can't. Anyway, we're going do everything that we can to try to make this happen. Cutting a new destroyer, retiring 10 ships early, fewer F-35Cs — these don't seem to be strategic choices but rather last-minute haphazard cuts. So that's what we're faced with right now. We have often said the world’s the most dangerous right now of any period of my lifetime, and since release of the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the threats have only gotten worse. In fact the NDS Commission said that we need 3-5 percent real growth. This is overall, not just the Navy, growth this particular year. Obviously that's not going to happen. It's going to be something less than a breakeven — 1.6 percent, I believe.

Admiral Gilday and General Berger, if I were to ask you who in the Department of Defense is in the best position to set forth structure requirements for the Navy and the Marine Corps, I think it is the CNO and the commandant, and I think you would agree with me — the difference is I can say it, and you can’t. But nonetheless, we do have serious problems that we're facing right now.

Your list of unfunded requirements amounts to $9.3 billion. This amount shows the difference between 3-5 percent increase instead of a 1.6 percent decrease makes in developing a defense budget. Some call this, the things that we're asking for right now, a “wish list;” I don't call them a “wish list,” I call them a “risk list.” We have to remind ourselves, and you folks, the three of you, know this better than anyone that it is the risk that takes lives, and we're in, I believe, in unacceptable areas, so we're going to do the best that we can to increase and develop a budget that going to be — that we can be proud of, and you'll be an important part of that.

Thank you. Mr. Chairman.

Click here to watch Sen. Inhofe’s opening remarks.

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