Inhofe Statement for SASC Subcommittee Hearing on Current Readiness of U.S. Forces

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support, submitted the following opening statement for the record today at the SASC Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support hearing entitled,  Current Readiness of U.S. Forces.

 The witnesses were Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army; Adm. William F. Moran, vice chief of naval operations of the U.S. Navy; Gen. Glenn M. Walters, assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps; and Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force.

As submitted for the record:

 

This hearing of the Subcommittee on Readiness an Management Support will come to order.

The subcommittee meets today for the first time in this new session of Congress to receive testimony on the current readiness of our military forces. 

Before introducing our witnesses, I would like to thank the ranking member, Sen. Kaine, for his continuing role on this subcommittee. I look forward to working with him and the other members of the readiness subcommittee on the many important issues we will and must tackle today and in future hearings.

We are joined this afternoon by Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, vice chief of staff of the Army; Adm. William F. Moran, vice chief of naval operations; Gen. Glenn M. Walters, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps; and Gen. Stephen W. Wilson, vice chief of staff of the Air Force.

I thank the witness for their continued service to this nation. 

I understand that you have had a busy 24 hours, also appearing before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday, so we appreciate your candor once again today.

Last week, Secretary Mattis issued guidance on the administration’s plan to rebuild and strengthen our armed forces through three specific phases—improve warfighter readiness, achieve balance by addressing shortfalls and build a larger, more capable and more lethal joint force.

I agree with and support Secretary Mattis—it is time to rebuild our military and this starts with readiness.

Readiness measures the risks our military takes while maintaining our nation’s security.

A lack of readiness puts lives at risk. 

In August of last year, while pointing out that there are new emerging threats across the globe, Gen. David Petraeus and Michael O’Hanlon released an Oped stating, “there is no crisis in military readiness.” 

I disagree with that assessment.

Combatant command demands for our Army forces has increased 23 percent while our Army’s end strength decreased 19 percent....and only one-third of the Army’s brigade combat teams report a ready status.

Our Air Force is the smaller and oldest in its history, with only half of its fighter squadrons ready to fight in high-intensity combat.

Only 43 percent of our Marine Corps aircraft are ready for combat, and our Marine aviators are at historical lows for monthly flight times.

The Navy currently has 274 ships but the chief of naval operations recently announced the need to grow to 355 ships.

During Secretary Mattis’ nomination hearing, he stated that we are going to have to increase operation and maintenance funds while adapting and strengthening our military as the situation dictates. 

This means additional resources are needed for maintenance, end strength, training and modernization. 

What I would like from our witnesses today is an outline of how you plan to restore readiness to our armed forces— how do we regrow our force, how do we maintain the equipment that has been through two decades of war while modernizing and how do we train that force to meet our national security requirements.

The recent executive order instituting a hiring freeze on the federal workforce has the potential of impacting the ability of our depots, ammunition plants, arsenals and shipyards to maintain the much needed equipment for our men and women in uniform. 

I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about any impacts this freeze may have on our readiness.

As we wait for the president’s budget to see how he will address these issues, it is also important to mention that I do not support another BRAC round at this time. 

Our first priority must be rebuilding the force and its readiness.

This will require additional funding that we cannot afford to spend on another BRAC.

We must also understand what our future force structure will look like—its size and composition, how it will train, and the infrastructure required to sustain it—before we consider another BRAC round.

During President Reagan’s 1986 State of the Union address, he said, “spending for defense is investing in things that are priceless—peace and freedom.” 

If we do not invest in our military, we risk losing that peace and freedom that so many have fought and died for. 

In closing, defending America should be a bipartisan effort and I look forward to working with my colleagues to rebuilding the capability and capacity of our military.