July 31, 2019
U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, gave opening remarks this morning at a SASC nomination hearing for Vice Admiral Michael M. Gilday, for appointment to the grade of admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations:
As prepared for delivery:
Good morning. The Committee meets today to consider the nomination of Vice Admiral Michael M. Gilday for appointment to the grade of admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations.
Thank you for being here today. We also extend a welcome to your family and friends here today. At the beginning of your testimony we invite you to introduce those who are joining you.
The National Defense Strategy directs our nation’s military to prepare for the return of strategic competition. This means we must be prepared to deter and, if necessary, decisively defeat potential near-peer adversaries like China and Russia.
With their alarming speed of modernization of both conventional and nuclear forces, China and Russia now present formidable threats to America and our allies. One example of this is that, according to the Office of Naval Intelligence, the Chinese Navy is growing more than 20 times faster than our Navy, at a rate of about 11 ships annually, and the capability of those ships is increasing as well.
Our Navy has a key role to play in this competition, which requires it to be manned, maintained, and equipped appropriately.
However, I am concerned that the Navy may be out of balance in each of these areas. Our ships appear: under-manned, with destroyers manned to roughly 85 percent; under-maintained—more than 60 percent of ships are running long in maintenance and more than $1.8 billion in maintenance needs are unfunded; and under-equipped—key capabilities, like a fully functional Ford-class aircraft carrier and Littoral Combat Ship mission modules, are significantly delayed in getting to the fleet.
Overall, it seems to me that the Navy is having trouble maintaining today’s fleet of 291 ships, and the challenges will only grow as the fleet surpasses 300 ships in 2020 and 310 ships in 2022, on the way to 355 ships in the 2030s.
Admiral Gilday, this is not your fault and the Navy did not get into this situation overnight. There is no easy way out. I urge you to take the long view.
In my view, the Navy must first sustainably man and maintain the current fleet. In terms of modernization, technical risks must be better understood before procuring major new systems. Without better acquisition performance, the erosion of U.S. competitive advantages will accelerate.
This is a critical time for our Navy, and your leadership will be crucial.
Thank you again for your willingness to continue serving this great nation.