MIL-OSI Security: Defense News: House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Holds Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2023 Navy and Marine Corps Budget Request

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Source: United States Navy

Below is a transcript of the hearing:

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

The subcommittee will come to order. This morning’s committee will receive testimony on the financial year 2023 budget request for the United States of the Navy and the Marine Corps. This is a hybrid hearing. So we need to go over a few housekeeping matters for members joining us virtually. Once you start speaking, there is a slight delay before you are displayed on the main screen.

Speaking into the microphone activates the camera and displaying the speaker on the main screen. Now don’t stop your remarks if you do not immediately see the screen switch. If the screen does not switch after several seconds, please make sure you’re unmuted. To minimize background noise, ensure that the correct speaker is being displayed.

We ask all of you remain on mute unless you have sought recognition. Myself or the staff may unmute participants — I actually don’t, the staff unmutes them through microphones when they’re not under recognition to eliminate any invert [ph] background noise. So members you are virtual — you are responsible for muting and unmute yourself.

Now if I notice when you are recognized that you have not unmuted yourself, I might say something, but the staff will be sending you a request to unmute yourself. Please accept that request so you are no longer muted. And finally, House rules require me to remind you that we have set up an email address to which members can send anything they wish to submit in writing at any of our hearings.

And that email address has been provided to your staff. Good morning. So let me begin. We will start our subcommittee hearing and we will receive testimony for fiscal year 2023 budget requests from the Department of Navy and Marine Corps. Our witnesses today are the Honorable Carlos Del Toro, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations; and General David Berger, Commander — Commandant of the Marine Corps.

The three witnesses, you all have a long and distinguished career of serving your country. We thank you for that. Secretary Del Toro, this is your first time testifying before us. So welcome to the subcommittee. We thank you for your service. And Admiral and General, welcome back. Thank you for being here.

Now while the hearing will cover a wide range of topics, if you — you just want to take a moment to cover a few. And somebody has to mute their phone behind me. The Navy has no greater investment than the life, health, and well-being of our sailors, marines, and their loved ones. We’ve all been following the tragic suicides that took place on the USS George Washington.

Subcommittee wants to emphasize the urgent need to prioritize the mental health care throughout the Navy. Mr. Secretary, I thank you for going out there. We must work together to better understand what the Navy’s doing to ensure the sailors, marines, and their families have the support that they need to do the extraordinary job that we asked them to do. Operational demand remains high for our service members and that burden is magnified for their loved ones.

The subcommittee wants to hear how the Navy is investing in programs that prioritize the well-being of our sailors and our Marines and their families; the men and women who serve our most precious resources that we have. And it’s incumbent that we make sure that they have access to prompt medical care, childcare, and family programs no matter where they are.

This is important for recruitment and it’s essential for retainment. I’m going to turn to shipbuilding for a few — a few seconds here. For the last several years, the Department of Defense has maintained a requirement of a 355 ship force. This year, the Navy’s 30 year shipbuilding plan breaks tradition in presenting a single plan instead of provide it — and instead provides three, not one, but three different scenarios.

One of which the two options is that the Navy’s goal of 330 — 355 ships. Further, the three alternatives present in the Navy shipbuilding plan leave open the question of which are the three different mixes — which of the different mixes of ships the Navy thinks are necessary for the future fight. So we need to better understand the thought process of the Navy regarding the shipbuilding plan and understand what you — you think needs to be the right size Navy with the right size ships.

I also want to hear an update on ship and submarine maintenance issues. Shipyard backlogs remain high. The shipbuilding industrial base continues to face product delays, production delays, capacity challenges, and yes, COVID was part of the mix, but it doesn’t explain all of the issues facing shipbuilding.

We need to know what steps are being taken to improve this situation and what we can do as a committee to assist you. And finally, as the Marine Corps continues down the road with this modernization effort designed for 2030, we hope to learn more about the implementation of this new concept and how it’s going.

We want to know what challenges you’re facing and what has sunk — what assumptions you’re working and reworking on to face real world events. This continues to be a challenge for the Navy, Marine Corps, and we want to work together with you to ensure that you’re receiving the required resources to maintain readiness, support personnel, and modernization for the future.

The same time I must emphasize that we expect every tax dollar to be spent wisely. With that, I thank you again for appearing before the subcommittee today to discuss these important issues. And I will be asking you to present your summarized statement in a moment. But first, I’d like to recognize our Ranking Member, Mr. Calvert, for any opening statement he would like to make.

KEN CALVERT:

Thank you. And thank you, Chair McCollum, Secretary del Toro, Admiral Gilday, General Berger. We’re pleased to have you here with us today. Following World War II, the United States and our allies established a rules based order that has led to global prosperity. This order is being increasingly threatened by the adversaries like China and Russia.

To ensure that the US remains the security partner of choice, we must have a strong, capable, and present Navy and Marine Corps team. Unfortunately, the President’s budget request for fiscal year 2023 fails to provide the resources needed to carry out the Navy’s important mission. As I have — as I have noted in other hearings, inflation is rapidly eating into the department’s buying power.

Additionally, the small increases for the Navy and Marine Corps in this budget are in effect cuts when adjusted for inflation. At a time when we need a bigger, more lethal fleet, the Biden administration is yet again shortchanging defense. Though there are many areas of the budget request that concern me, I’m most troubled by the Navy’s request to decommission 24 ships and build only eight.

The Navy is also requesting fewer aircraft than previously planned. This sends a signal to our adversaries that we are not prioritizing sea power, and weakness invites aggression. Admiral Gilday, you’ve often spoken about the capabilities — our — our capabilities matter more than the number of ships, but this assessment mischaracterizes the full picture.

In times of war, numbers matter a great deal, especially if we’re fighting on an enemy turf. This subcommittee needs to have a better understanding of how you envision the needs of the current and future fleet, how you plan to utilize a mix of manned and unmanned systems, what the true priorities of the Navy are in the future warfare.

Today, I’m looking forward to hearing from you all about the range of issues facing the Navy and the Marine Corps. These include preventing suicide, taking care of our sailors and Marines, creating shipbuilding plans that are reliable and affordable, improving our defense industrial base, and supporting rapid innovation.

Secretary Del Toro, you and I have discussed at length how the Navy needs to welcome the innovation that exists in the private sector and integrate that into our systems. I’m interested in hearing what progress we are making and what can be improved. Finally, General Berger, I’m aware of the criticism you are taking for force design 2030. Change is hard.

Disruptions are hard. Often attacked for upsetting the status quo. I want to tell you that I fully support your plan. I want to work with you to ensure that it is fully implemented. On the modern battlefield — modern battlefield today, combined arms is more than tanks and artillery as we’re finding out.

It includes information, cyber, space. It’s about being inside the adversary’s threat ring with autonomous systems and long range precision fire. The Marine Corps must transform to impose costs on the adversary, and if required win battles decisively. I believe that Force Design 2023 is fully in line with the National Defense Strategy and will provide the nation a Marine Corps that can seize and defend the advanced naval bases and conduct land operations against modern threats.

In closing, I would like to thank all the sailors and marines that serve under your command. I’m intimately aware of the risks and sacrifices they make for our country. Over the last few years, my constituents Corporal Cesar Villanueva, Private First Class Bryan Baltierra were killed in a tragic amphibious assault vehicle mishap.

And of course, Lance Corporal Kareem Nikoui, along with 11 other Marines and a US Army soldier were killed in a terrorist attack during the evacuation in Afghanistan. The nation is forever grateful to these brave Marines and their families. Thank you again for your service. I look forward to your testimony.

And with that, I yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you so much. Ms. Granger, would you like to make an opening statement? You are most welcome to do so.

KAY GRANGER:

Thank you, Chair McCollum for yielding. I’d like to thank the witnesses for appearing before us today. America’s sailors and Marines play a leading role in projecting power around the world. Not only do they ensure freedom of navigation, our Navy and Marine Corps will provide a forward enduring presence that sends a clear signal to the world.

As Russia and China continue their aggression, it is important that we have a modern, capable, and lethal ship and fleet. The administration’s budget request fails to meet that need. As Mr. McCollum said, instead of keeping pace with the threats, the Navy is proposing to decommission 24 ships while only building eight.

Let me be clear about my view on this proposal. I do not support it. Some of these ships, especially littoral combat ships are among the newest in the fleet. The Navy claims they don’t have enough –sufficient funding to maintain and operate these ships, but that’s not the case. Instead they’ve mismanaged billions of dollars in maintenance funding.

One glaring example of this is the USS Vicksburg, a cruiser up for decommissioning this year. Since 2020, the Navy has awarded nearly $500 million in contracts to upgrade the cruiser. At a time when the ship is still in its maintenance period, the Navy is proposing to scrap it. If the Navy experts expect Congress to support its vision for this fleet, it must do a much better job of managing the inventory it has.

We will not stand idly by as valuable taxpayer funded — funds are wasted. In addition to the hearing — in addition to hearing about our Navy Force, I hope you will discuss future investments and quality of life issues impacting our servicemen and their families. I’m very concerned about the health of those who keep us safe in your care.

To close, I thank each of you for your service and I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you, Madam Chair. And I yield back for now.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

So gentlemen, your statements have been fully entered into the record. Members have copies of them. So I would ask you to please keep your opening statement to five minutes so that we can have a robust discussion. Mr. Secretary, we’ll start with you.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Chair McCollum, Ranking Member Calvert, distinguished members of this committee, it is an honor to be here alongside General Berger and Admiral Gilday to discuss the posture the Department of the Navy. I look forward to working with you to ensure that our sailors and Marines are indeed equipped, trained, and prepared to the best of our ability so that they can fulfill our vital role to provide combat ready forces in support of the joint force.

The United States requires a strong Navy and a strong Marine Corps. Our global economy, the self-determination of free nations everywhere depends on sea power. Our national security depends on sea power. That’s particularly true in the Indo-Pacific where Beijing’s aggression threatens the rules based international order that protects us all, as was previously stated.

To answer that challenge, your Navy and Marine Corps must have the power to maintain credible integrated deterrence by campaigning forward. Forward from the sea, on the shore, and in the air. Thanks to the leadership of President Biden and Secretary Austin, this budget does provide the right balance of capacity, lethality, modernization, and readiness that we need to execute the national defense strategy.

We will invest these resources through the execution of a concise, clear, and transparent strategy rooted in three guiding principles. First, maintain and strengthen our maritime dominance so that we can deter potential adversaries and fight and win decisively. Second, empower our sailors and our Marines by fostering a culture of warfighting excellence founded on strong leadership, dignity, and respect for each other.

And third, strengthen our strategic partnerships across the joint force, industry, and our international partners around the globe. We are executing this strategy through the integrated visions of the Marine Corps Force Design 2030 and the Navy Navigation Plan. I strongly support these visions and I’m committed to fielding the ready, capable, and modernized force required to ensure their success.

To maintain and strengthen maritime dominance, we have to be serious about fielding and maintaining the right capabilities to win future wars. That’s why our budget strongly invests in a nimble networked and survivable navy with platforms like Columbia, DGG Flight 3 [ph], enhanced cyber, and autonomous capabilities that enable our fleet to campaign forward in a distributed manner.

This budget invests in a truly expeditionary and persistent Marine Corps with the mobility and the readiness to respond in force wherever and whenever needed. We’re advancing cybersecurity and resilience efforts across the Department with investments to expand cyber mission force teams, harden networks, and leverage artificial intelligence and machine learning to defense information infrastructure.

To ensure the combat readiness of our platforms, we are more than doubling PSYOP investments over the previous budget. This budget invests in the climate resiliency of our force and our facilities, while continuing efforts to substantially reduce our impact on climate change. We’re investing in facilities that promote the quality of life of our personnel and our families.

As I discussed on my visit to the USS George Washington yesterday, we are prioritizing access to mental health care and limiting barriers to seeking help. We owe it to our military families to ensure their safety and their well-being. And when we fall short, we look our problems square in the eye and we take action.

We are investing in our efforts to recruit, retain, and promote the best from all America. We are increasing funding for naval and cyber education and enhanced shipboard training, so our sailors and marines can build their careers wherever service takes them. We appreciate the committee’s interest in ensuring our forces have the right facilities to train, fight, and win, including the potential expansion of the Fallon Training Range Complex.

We also appreciate the committee’s efforts to include new tools within the NDAA to deter destructive behavior and prosecute sexual assault, domestic violence, and other offenses as well. At every level of leadership, we are determined to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment, hold defenders accountable, and create a safer, stronger, more inclusive Navy Marine Corps team.

I want to close by noting the importance of strategic partnerships from the joint force in our industrial base to our allies and partners around the world. I have personally seen our partnerships and alliances in action from F-35b operations in the Indo-Pacific to NATO exercises in Norway and the Mediterranean.

Our most important partnership is indeed with you all, the American people. That’s why I’m grateful for the oversight and interest of this committee. I look forward to continuing to work with you in the years ahead. Thank you.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Admiral Gilday, please.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Chair McCollum, Ranking Member Calvert, distinguished members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to appear today with Secretary del Toro and General Berger. As it’s been mentioned in your opening statements, for nearly eight decades America’s maritime superiority has guaranteed security and prosperity across the world’s oceans and it has played a unique and a prominent role in protecting our nation’s most vital national interests.

Maintaining maritime superiority is fundamental to implementing the national defense strategy. Global competition is heating up. The pace of innovation is accelerating. And the environment are naval forces are operating in every day, is growing more transparent, more lethal, and more contested. Everyone in this room is familiar with these trends, particularly China’s massive investment in highly capable forces designed to deny our access to the world’s oceans.

Our Navy’s role has never been more consequential or more expansive. America needs a combat credible naval force that can protect our interests and peace and can prevail in combat. Not just today, but tomorrow, and for the long term competition that lies ahead. Our budget submission reflects that imperative.

It fully funds a Columbia class submarine to ensure continuity for our nation’s most survivable strategic deterrent. It keeps our fleet ready to fight tonight. It funds maintenance accounts, filling magazines with weapons, putting spare parts in storerooms, and giving our sailors the steaming days and the flying hours that they need to hone their skills.

It modernizes our fleet by investing in weapons with increased range and speed, integrated systems to improve fleet survivability, and a resilient cyber secure network infrastructure. And invest — and it invests in affordable, capable capacity, building towards the goal of a larger distributed hybrid fleet and taking into account the insights we are gaining from fleet battle problems on a monthly basis and in exercises like our large scale exercise 2021 and the International Maritime Exercise, the largest in the world with unmanned platforms, we just finished in the Middle East.

These exercises and many others are helping us refine our warfighting concepts, experimenting with unmanned systems at the speed of innovation, and grow the fighting power of our Navy Marine Corps team across all domains. We need to field a ready fleet today as we simultaneously modernize the fleet for the future.

And this has forced us to make some difficult decisions, including the decommissioning of platforms that do not bring the needed lethality to a high end fight in contested seas. While building capacity at the expense of readiness or modernization can sound like an attractive option, it is not one that I endorse.

We have been there before and have seen tragic results. I refuse to repeat it again. We cannot field a fleet larger than one that we can sustain; and at today’s fiscal levels, quantity simply cannot substitute for quality, especially as our adversaries are building advanced war fighting systems. Failing to modernize to meet those threats would erode America’s naval superiority, at a time when command of the seas will decide the strategic balance of power for the rest of this century.

The stakes in this competition are extremely high, which is why your sailors and Marines, active, reserve, uniformed and civilian are committed to strengthening our naval power every single day. Thank you again for inviting me to testify. I’m grateful for the committee’s support for our Navy and Marine Corps team.

I look forward to answering your questions.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Please continue, General Berger.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Chair McCollum, Ranking Member Calvert, and distinguished members of this subcommittee, as we sit here this morning with a backdrop of a war raging in Ukraine and malign activities in the Indo-Pacific, I think it’s a good reminder that we don’t have the luxury of building a joint force for just one region, just one threat, or just one form of warfare.

That’s why your Marine Corps’ ability to respond to crisis in any time and place is essential to our national security. Three years ago, as the Ranking and Chair mentioned, we embarked on an ambitious program of modernization to ensure that your Marine Corps could continue to meet its statutory role as America’s force and readiness.

With the bipartisan support of this committee, our modernization, I could tell you, is on track, building momentum. And while some outside of Congress were skeptical of our proposed divest to reinvest approach, over the past three years with this committee’s support, we have reinvested $17 billion worth of modernization, all self-funded.

And I’ll tell you that this approach has not been easy. We have made a hard, enterprise sweeping decisions to get rid of things that we won’t need in the future and to reduce the number of things that we’ll need less of. And we have refined — we’ve economized, we’ve optimized across the Marine Corps. And today, I’d like to offer you an update on three areas where we’ve seen significant progress over the past year.

First, over the past 18 months, out at our live fire, combined arms training center in Twentynine Palms, California, we’ve run nine force on force exercises. And what we’ve learned during those exercises has validated our initial assumptions, basically that smaller more mobile distributed units, employing 21st century combined arms, not yesterday’s, but the future, with organic ISR and with loitering munitions, are more lethal than the larger formations traditional force structures, old concepts.

And those findings are entirely consistent with what you and I are seeing in Ukraine. In less than two years, we have formalized the concept for stand in operations, stand in enforces, and we’ve built a capability that has dramatically expanded what we can achieve in support of both land and maritime operations.

Our forces that are forward deployed to Europe right now, as we sit here, are exercising those concepts. They are sensing networking and distributed ops in support of EUCOM as I speak. And as the EUCOM commander testified just a couple of weeks ago. Those marine forces are precious for effective deterrence.

Second, we’ve achieved some important milestones operationally this past year. We have retired the aging AAV, our amphibious assault vehicle, ahead of schedule, and we will deploy its replacement, the amphibious combat vehicle ahead of schedule for the first time this year. This year also marked the first deployment of an F-35 sea squadron aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier.

And working hand in hand with our British allies at their request, we marked the first deployment of an entire F-35b squadron on the Royal Navy carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth. The Marine Expeditionary Unit, the MEU, enabled by amphibious ships, remains the crown jewel of our naval expeditionary forces. No naval vessel in our inventory is capable of supporting a more diverse set of missions than the amphibious warship.

The CNO and I agree the minimum number of L class amphibious ships that the nation needs is 31, and your support for sustaining that minimum capacity is essential to national security. Finally, this past year we published our plan to create a modern personnel system that will allow us to better recruit, develop, retain, and align the talents of individual Marines with what the Marine Corps needs.

All said, what the Marine Corps does for this nation will not change. We are America’s force and readiness capable of diverse missions across the operational spectrum, but how we accomplish those missions is changing. With this committee’s support, we have programed our divested dollars that you allow — –keep into new capabilities for the future.

And we’re putting them in the hands of combatant commanders this year and next, not 2030. Despite self-resourcing our modernization, the majority of our programs with your oversight, remain on track, on time, on budget. And in those handful of cases where they’re not, we’ll continue to work with this subcommittee to make adjustments swiftly.

There’s been mention earlier, the consequences of inflationary environment. I would tell you that’s limiting what we can accomplish on our own. So therefore, I think your support remains critical to our collective success. And to that end, I welcome the opportunity to continue working closely with this subcommittee.

Look forward to your questions. Thank you, ma’am.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you all for your testimony. We will start with questions. For those on WebEx, it will be in the chat, the order of where you’ll be in the questions as well as I will do as I have before, kind of let the next one or two people know that they’re up. I’m going to set the table here a little bit and start.

I’m going to start with the industrial base workforce and our shipyards. Both private and public shipyards have experienced significant decline due to both gaps in experienced personnel, training, rising cost of materials and the inconsistent acquisition policy of the Navy? Mr. Secretary, with considerable delays in both, the Navy’s repairs and shipbuilding programs, in large part due to workforce issues, but we also have to recognize it has to do with the available open space at the shipyards plus workforce issues.

We’re running behind in what we need to be doing. So the Navy, I would be interested in knowing what you’re doing to provide both short-terms and long-terms solutions for hiring and retention issues for workforce. But also what the long-term plan is to be able to get our ships in for maintenance and build them at the same time to reach our shared objective goals.

So I do have a second question and normally I do them one at a time, but I think these are pretty interconnected. Your budget request includes $27.9 billion for buying eight new ships. Your planning, as had been pointed out by my colleagues up here to decommission 24 ships in 2023, including 16 that have not reached their end-of-life service.

And so how’s Congress supposed to evaluate the Navy’s proposed funding requests for things like next generation ships and platforms, future warfighting requirements when the Navy’s proposing to divest relatively young ships like the littoral combat ship, some of which are only two years old? It was a 30-year plan to get us here with the littorals.

Now they’re being retired, now we’re asking to look at another 30-year plan. So we want to find your requests credible, but there’s a lot of questions about it. So one of the questions I have and what I’ve discussed with you gentlemen previously and with the Secretary of Defense, as well as the Joint Chief, is the Navy, I have asked, this committee has asked to conduct studies and options for modifying some of these ships, the littoral ships so that they could perform missions of interest in the Navy or for combat commands.

Because after all, yes, we do need to project power in the Indo-Pacific. We heard that clearly yesterday from the Indo-Pacific commander. But we also need to have a presence and project power in the Atlantic and around Africa, where other missions maybe could be–these ships could be refitted for. So could you explain how–I really think these two questions, interconnect for us getting to where we want to be with having your budget requests honored, but at the same time, the taxpayer is protected and for us to be able to do our oversight?

Admiral or Mr. Secretary, who’d ever like to go first. I’m sorry. Maybe you’d like to go first, Mr. Secretary.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, Madam Chair. Without questions, the challenges that we face both in public and private shipyards are considerable. In the time that I became Secretary, I have visited all the public shipyards and I have visited most of the private shipyards as well, too. Particularly challenging is the challenge brought on by the workforce and hiring of the proper workforce.

With regards to the hiring in the public shipyards, we have added significant amounts of individuals to that workforce, channeling it to the needs as we see them today. Without question, the age of the shipyards themselves are over 100 years old and they’ve been neglected for a long, long time. It just strengthens the importance of the SIOP Program, the $2.8 billion that are in the President’s budget ’23 recommendations for SIOP, for example.

And we need to continue that effort for a long time.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

I’m going to stop you for a minute because this is a public hearing. You want to explain what SIOP is, and I won’t count that against us.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Oh, forgive me. SIOP is the plan that the Navy has in place to refurbish and upgrade all of the public shipyards that are government owned that have been in the possession of the Navy for close to 100 years now.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, ma’am. So those investments are significant And of course, the program has slowed down a bit, obviously, because the budget hasn’t been able to be passed on time and some of those investments haven’t been made yet. But we’re picking up speed on that now, and hopefully the Congress will be able to pass a budget on time this year so that we can really take off with those investments that have become critical for the repair and maintenance issues.

With regards to the LCS, out of those 24, 11 would have been decommissioned on a regular basis, regardless. With regards to the LCS, the particular problem that we’re facing on the nine that we, particularly eight that we plan on commissioning is the problem with the ACW modules on those ships. Regretfully, these ships also were designed and planned over 15 years ago to meet a different threat.

And so when we look at the threat that we face today in the Indo-Pacific, it becomes particularly challenging for those ships to be able to contribute significantly to that high end fight. In the same breath though, I will say that there’s 21 other LCSs that we’re going to employ very aggressively moving forward in the Navy as well, too.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Admiral?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Ma’am, I’d like to pick it up with the maintenance for just a moment. So we’ve embarked on an effort now for the last two and a half years to drive down delay days out of shipyards. As we generate force power, as we generate forces for combatant commanders, the biggest challenge that we have is getting ships out of maintenance on time.

So since 2019, we’ve driven delay days out of shipyards, public and private, from over 7,700 down to about 3,000. We’re not satisfied with that. Our goal is to drive that number to zero. It’s not just a workforce issue, whether it’s out in the private sector or whether it’s in the public shipyards. But it also has to do with planning and forecasting.

As an example, based on a substantial amount of data that we took a look at, the Navy concluded that at least 30 percent of the delays of ships coming out of private and public yards was directly attributable to poor planning and forecasting upfront, which led to growth work and new work on ships once they’re in the shipyards.

So we’re trying to get after this in terms of driving those delay days down, which will also keep costs in check. With respect to private yards, we are leveraging our contracts to hold vendors accountable when they run late, whether it’s missing milestones or whether they’re missing delivery dates. This not only includes our ships, but also our aircraft and depot maintenance.

With respect to the decommissionings, we took a look at our top line, and we took a look at a Navy that we can sustain, Navy that we can afford, but to make it the most lethal capable ready Navy that we can. In other words, we’re trying to field the most lethal capable ready Navy we can based on the budget that we have, rather than a larger Navy that’s less capable, less lethal and less ready.

So we stratified our war fighting platforms and LCS fell at the bottom of that stratification, along with the older cruisers that have an older radar that have leaks below the waterline, radars that can’t detect these new Chinese threats, as an example. LCS, the Secretary spoke about the anti-submarine warfare modules, much of the testing on that module was done in LCS-3, the Fort Worth that helped us make the determination that we should not put another dollar against that system because it wouldn’t pan out against high end Chinese and Russian threats.

So regrettably, we made tough decisions in this budget proposal to decommission and propose to decommission ships that just wouldn’t have added value to the fight. At the same time, we’re taking that money and investing it in our priorities, which are readiness, modernization and then capacity at an affordable rate.

So my unfunded list as an example, tells a story as we’re asking for additional money, to maximize domestic production lines for weapons with range and speed. LRASM, JASSM-ER, would be examples, Maritime Strike Tomahawk, ship availabilities, maintenance availabilities for aircraft, spare parts, programs for people.

So we are trying to invest in readiness first and foremost and also modernizing a fleet, 70 percent of which we’re going to have in the early 2030.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. I think you’re hearing us and you’re trying to explain, but I think there’s more work to be done. Mr. Calvert?

KEN CALVERT:

Thank you, Madam Chair. Secretary Del Toro, the Navy has struggled to effectively incorporate and scale successful cyber initiatives. It’s not just the Navy, it’s the whole DOD complex. In some instances, they let a promising technology just fade away in the so-called valley of death that we all hear about.

In others, the Navy co-opts the innovation, effectively boxing out the original innovator. One example of this is the automated test and retest program. I know I sometimes sound like a broken record, but I’m using that as an example. Not only do these actions reinforce the existing bureaucracy, but it also stifles innovation from people we need it from the most.

Sends out a reputation that DOD is not a good partner, Can you share with the subcommittee how the Navy is looking to leverage small business innovators rather than keeping them out of the defense industrial base?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Congressman, I’m very passionate about this issue. I was a small business owner doing work in the government space for 17 years. I’d like to say, I like to think that our company was quite innovative, and I actually have a lot of experience with regards to the [Inaudible] Program as well, too. And you’re absolutely right.

The real challenge, it’s important to make R&D investments, no doubt, in 6-1 and 6-2 basic research. But it’s really important to be able to take that technology that’s being developed in these small companies, and small companies are the — the engine of our innovation in this country and transition them beyond phase three so that we put them in the hands of the warfighters.

And so in the short time I’ve been Secretary of the Navy, I’ve actually been having lots of roundtables with small business owners to get to the challenges that they’re having, particularly in the [Inaudible] Program as well, too. I’ve challenged our PEOs across the department in the Navy to meet with small business owners to understand their challenges and trying to get to–actually early adaptation and sponsorship of those companies and those technologies, early in the process, in phase one and phase two is critical to actually transitioning them into the hands of the warfighters.

So we’ve got to get our Navy acquisition departments engaged much earlier in the process as these things are coming together so that we can put them in the hands of warfighters. I think that’s part of the essential key to success there.

KEN CALVERT:

And also, I think it’s sometimes the culture in the department. The senior managers, whoever in the department, if someone comes along with an innovative idea, an invention, even those protected, sometimes that innovation is basically just taken. And then requirements are made that the innovator himself cannot market that program to anyone else because then all of a sudden it becomes a national security issue.

And so not only is he screwed by not being able to participate in the innovation that he created, but also can’t profit from that in the private sector. So the mindset, quite frankly, and the innovative community, which I’m familiar with and you’re familiar with, is don’t do work with the government. Don’t do work with the United States government.

And as you know, most innovations, quite frankly, come from small business enterprise, not from the–we all love the big contractors out there. They’re great, but we can’t forget that innovation typically comes from small startups, sometimes become larger companies, but I would hope that we can work to change that culture in the Pentagon to make sure that we change that.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I look forward to continuing to work with you on this incredibly important issue. You’re absolutely right, Congressman.

KEN CALVERT:

Thank you.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Mr. Kilmer and then Ms. Granger.

DEREK KILMER:

Thank you, Madam Chair. And thank you for being with us, appreciate your service, and thank you, Secretary, for coming out to our neck of the woods last month. I appreciate the Navy’s goal of increasing readiness to counter threats from our adversaries like Russia and China. I recognize that shifting medical billets has been part of that balancing act.

Unfortunately, those billet reductions have unintended consequences for our military families. In my neck of the woods, civilian shortages and billet reductions have led to the closure of the Labor and Delivery Department at Naval Hospital, Bremerton. The hospital now functions as an ambulatory care center with dramatically reduced hours.

It’s clear that billet reductions have already reduced access to care for the folks that I represent. Considering that, I’m concerned to hear that the Navy still plans to divest over 5,100 health care billets. Despite this committee’s concerns, members of the SASC and the HASC have also expressed their opposition to billet reductions, inserting a pause on reductions in the NDAA the past several years.

So with all this in mind, here’s my question. Does the Navy still have a plan to divest over 5,100 health care billets? If so, have the Navy’s underlying assumptions for these planned health care billet reductions accounted for the COVID-19 pandemic? And finally, how will these billet reductions impact the Navy’s ability to have medical personnel available and trained for future conflict?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, Congressman. It was a pleasure to visit your district where I actually did learn of the challenges that our service members have, particularly with the long distances that are involved in getting to the medical center at Bremerton. And then facing the shortages that they have with lack of medical billets as well, too.

Just two days ago, I met with my entire medical leadership in the Department of the Navy, and we discussed just this concern, and I share your concerns deeply. I think we probably need to slow down the transference of billets over to the Defense Health Agency to ensure that the Navy has the Navy Corps medical billets that are necessary to take care of our servicemembers, and particularly as it applies to combat readiness.

And perhaps I could ask the CNO to comment briefly on this as well.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Yes, sir. We are reversing many of the 5,100. I’ll confirm that number and get back to you. We are working very closely with DHA as we come to closure on that final proposal.

DEREK KILMER:

I would just add, I think there is an assumption that there is capacity somewhere else to provide these services. I met with the local hospital in my community, and they said, we don’t really have that capacity. So I don’t know what analysis is happening that’s driving some of these decisions, but I’m just concerned about the military families who actually need to make sure they’re getting the services that they require.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

You’re absolutely right, especially when it comes to mental health resources. They aren’t out there in the private sector. And so I think we need to do a better job of actually growing our own mental health professionals in the Navy and across the Department of Defense.

DEREK KILMER:

The other topic I wanted to raise has already come up, and that’s the shipyard infrastructure optimization program, the SIOP. Again, thanks for coming out to PSNS, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. It’s the home to the only drydock on the West Coast that’s capable of repairing an aircraft carrier, very important to the Navy’s mission.

You also saw firsthand the amazing work done by our uniformed personnel, by our civilian employees. They’re trying to turn around, do these repairs for our subs and our carriers, get them back to active mission. I was pleased to see the Navy’s commitment to the SIOP, doubling the investment from last year’s budget.

This year, its 20 year, $21 billion effort to upgrade our shipyards. I appreciated the Chair and Ranking Member Calvert coming out to our neck of the woods and just putting eyes on these more than 100-year-old facilities. So I guess my question is, beyond just supporting your budget, is there anything that this committee can do, that this Congress can do to just help keep this critical program on schedule?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Congressman, I would argue, this is the Navy’s largest capitalization program and we’ve assigned really significant program leadership to it as well. I would suggest that perhaps Congress in its legislative efforts would consider additional funding through our National Infrastructure Bill, for example, where we can include the upgrades of these four critical public shipyards because there’s a lot more that needs to be done.

And as you well know, for example, the one in your district, we need to ensure that’s ready by the time Ford has to go into that first availability downstream.

DEREK KILMER:

Thank you. Thanks. Thank you, Madam Chair. I’ll yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. We’re going to be having a hearing on health care with all the significant people at the Pentagon that deal with this. And Mr. Kilmer, thank you for bringing up the sutra on gynecology. We can’t forget the health care needs of the women who wear the uniform for us. Ms. Granger and then Ms. Kirkpatrick.

You need to turn your microphone on, Kay. Thank you.

KAY GRANGER:

Misunderstood. As I mentioned in my opening statement, I’m concerned about the Navy’s shipbuilding request. It’s inadequate and many of the programs are poorly managed. For example, $4.9 billion was spent on the littoral combat ships you are now asking to decommission. Each one of these ships has significant useful service life left.

One of them, as was mentioned before, was just commissioned in August of 2020. I don’t know how we can have confidence in your request when just a few years ago at this same hearing the Navy advocated for LCS funding with the same passion you’re now expressing to get rid of them. But I’ll move on to a question.

Secretary Del Toro, both the Navy and the Marine Corps have reduced their requests for F-35 aircraft in fiscal years 2023. In addition, the Navy is not requesting additional Super Hornets. Can you explain how the Navy intends to make up its strike fighter shortfall?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, Madam Chair. I’m particularly concerned with the pace at which industry has been able to deliver F-35s. And so for me, it’s a significant concern And I just don’t think that we should be making those investments if in fact we can’t keep pace with the delivery of those aircraft to the Navy itself.

There’s probably better uses for that in the near term until they can recover from their supply chain issues and start delivering them at a faster pace. And I know that the Chief of Naval Operations and myself have been discussing this issue very closely as far as the service life extensions on the [Inaudible] for example.

That’s also critical to maintain the right strike fighter mix. But perhaps I can have the CNO go further in depth.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Ma’am. We have a strike fighter shortfall that we’re trying to close, and our initial goal was to close in 2025. That’s now running behind, and the projection is, at least today, that we’ll close that shortfall in 2031. There’s two reasons for this. One lever to pull is new F-35s. And so while our aim was 100 in this particular fit up, we’re only funding 69. I’ve asked for an additional six in my unfunded list to bring us up to 75. The second piece of this, as the Secretary mentioned, is a service life extensions or modernization on existing Super Hornets.

It makes more sense to do that on existing airframes, to give them 10,000 hours with a more capable combat system, than it does investing in a brand new fourth generation aircraft. The challenge that we’re having with those service life extensions is that right now the turnaround time is about 18 months.

We want to drive that down to 12 months on each fuselage. And so we project that by next year, we’ll drive down from 8 to 15 and then into ’24, drive down to a 12-month turnaround times, which should bring that strike fighter shortfall inside of this decade. We’re working very hard with the industry to do that.

Much of this does fall on industry with respect to that effort, but they’ve been working very closely with us to try. And we do a lot of work now on those aircraft with the Navy channels so that by the time they get to the depot level facility that much of the corrosion that we initially saw in some of our first aircraft, we’re getting after that problem to try and reduce the turnaround time, and to have ready jets in an integrated fourth and fifth generation air wings out into the fleet by mid-decade.

KAY GRANGER:

And how many–do you speak and meet regularly on this particular issue, or have you made up your mind on this?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

I’ve visited the vendor personally. I get emails from the CEO himself on a monthly basis. I just traded emails with him this week, as an example, on that modernization effort. I have a direct line of communication to him. He is very responsive.

KAY GRANGER:

And when you say a direct line, you’re talking about the emails or meetings?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Emails. I’ve had face to face meetings with them, just the two of us in the room, phone calls. Every time I go visit the plant, he’s present for those tours.

KAY GRANGER:

Thank you.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Ms. Kirkpatrick and then Mr. Rogers.

ANN KIRKPATRICK:

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you so much. Thanks for having this hearing. I have two questions which I’m going to ask together. General Berger, as you know, Arizona is home to some of the best military, if not the best military aerospace and test ranges in the United States. As the Marine Corps onboard some advanced weapons systems created to operate from larger standoff distances, what issues are you facing with test range equip requirements in surrounding airspace?

Also what help do you need from this committee to ensure that you have the space you need to properly train?

DAVID H. BERGER:

Ma’am, as one who’s been stationed in Yuma, Arizona for three years at MAWTS-1, I understand exactly the topic you’re bringing up. I would agree 100 percent, the airspace and the training areas surrounding Yuma, up into the chocolates in the 2301 are the best we have access to. To your point, what are the issues?

A couple of them. One is certainly encroachment, which the state and the members of this subcommittee and yourself have helped work with the local communities to make sure that both in airspace and on earth, that doesn’t impinge on the training that’s required. I mean, you highlighted it. The aircraft that we fly, the weapons that we shoot have longer ranges than they did 20, 30 years ago.

So what was big enough training and test space is no longer. I think in terms of how can the subcommittee help? One, I think facilitate the discussion between states and the CNO knows better than I do, the issues with Fallon. But we need to be able to link airspaces between training ranges and test airspaces so that we can fly aircraft like the F-35 between.

Because one is not going to be large enough to accomplish what we need to. I think second is the coordination. The really great support and coaching frankly, in us working with the FAA, in terms of handing off airspace back and forth dynamically when we’re not using it and so that we can limit their restricted use airspace to just what we need.

But the coordination between us and the FAA, I think the gear in between, is the members of this subcommittee that help us deal with the FAA and reach good compromises. Lastly, I would just say advocacy. I mean, you opened up with it. We have to have this airspace to train realistically. It’s not a nice to have.

It’s a must have for our readiness, for combat readiness. And I’ll ask, CNO, if you have anything to add.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

So many of our ranges, we have not expanded them since the 1980s. And so obviously, we’re now two generations of aircraft down the line, weapons with longer range. And so the first time that we train with these full capabilities should not be in combat. And so that’s why we were trying to work closely with the FAA as the Commandant mentioned, but also with local jurisdictions to see if we can satisfy encroachment concerns, and at the same time, meet our national security commitments.

ANN KIRKPATRICK:

Thank you. Thank you. I have one more question. This is for the Admiral. In 2021, the Navy released the unmanned campaign framework, drones, and you discussed the need for a hybrid fleet above, on and below the surface. My district is home to many small innovative companies who develop unmanned underwater systems and their components.

Can you expand on the Navy’s unmanned campaign framework and describe the Navy’s requirements for your efforts in developing future unmanned systems?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Yes, ma’am. So besides the campaign plan, we’ve actually stood up a task force and we actually have a task force in the Middle East right now that’s based out of Bahrain that just conducted the largest unmanned exercise in the world, 100 platforms, dozens of small companies were involved, and ten different nations.

What we’re trying to do in a DevOps kind of environment is to deliver capability, put it in the hands of sailors and marines within this fight up, and at the same time get after bigger, more challenging problems with respect to command and control, with respect to engineering configurations in larger unmanned platforms that we hope to field in the fit up after next, so the 2027 to 2030 timeframe.

And so we’re working very closely with industry. This week, we have another big, unmanned exercise going on in Australia with the same task force. So we are bringing together acquisition specialists. We’re bringing together warfighters. We’re bringing together small companies. And we’re doing this in an international fashion in order to experiment into field capabilities much quickly than we ever have in the past and in a much different profile than we have with, let’s say, large surface ships.

It’s going very well, ma’am, and I– — look forward to the opportunity to come in and brief you in more detail.

ANN KIRKPATRICK:

Thank you very much. I have some more questions, but I’ll submit them for the record, and I’ll yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you, Ms. Kirkpatrick. Mr. Rogers, and then Mr. Ruppersberger, then Mr. Cole.

HAL ROGERS:

China has been rapidly advancing its ballistic missile technology. There have been reports of China having the capability to shoot a moving car with a hypersonic weapon, reports of them having a nuclear capable submarine, and developing cruise missiles which could take out an American aircraft carrier. And the range of Chinese missiles also projected to vastly increase, with their range projected to reach as far as Guam by 2025. This expanded range of area access, area denial, poses great challenges for our posture in the Indo-Pacific theater.

Should the Navy not be able to defend against such potential attacks, they would have to withdraw troops from the region, weakening our posture again. Admiral Gilday, what can you tell us about the Navy’s ability to defend itself against potential missile strikes from China?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Sir, firstly, with respect to an offensive capability, due to the great help of this committee where we doubled our investment over the past year with the ’22 budget, that together with the Army, the Army is fielding a hypersonic capability in 2023, and the Navy will follow on in 2025. With respect to a defensive capability, our R&D budget in the Navy is increased by 12 percent to $21 billion.

Our three biggest efforts — four biggest efforts, one of them is hypersonics, in terms of an offensive capability. The other is directed energy and high power microwave. And so that’s the future with respect to fleet survivability, not missile on missile, but a capability that can actually fry an incoming ballistic missile or a hypersonic missile to make them ineffective.

We are working very closely with industry, large and small, in order to bring these capabilities to the fleet. We deployed a ship this year to the Middle East and also to the Pacific that actually has a laser directed energy capability that we’ve used against ballistic missiles. We’ve had successful tests at China Lake from shore based prototypes that we’re also trying to use to field into the fleet quickly.

We’re not satisfied where we are right now, sir. I think we’re on the right track in terms of the focus and the investments that we’re making the systems to make our ships more survivable.

HAL ROGERS:

Thank you. Secretary del Toro, how does the Navy plan to bolster its missile defense capabilities in the coming years? Is there anything we as the committee can do to help in that regard?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir, I think you said bolster our missile defense capability, sir?

HAL ROGERS:

Yep.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir. So one of the great advantages that we bring actually in this modernization effort that we’re taking on in the Navy by divesting some of these older capabilities is to be able to invest those resources in these G Fly [ph] threes for example that have the ability to simultaneous — to simultaneously do ballistic missile defense while they’re also doing air defense for the carrier battle group.

And that’s the blockchain basically platform on those ships, which is why invest — continued investments in DGG Fly [ph] threes as we move later on to GDX is so critical to our nation’s defense.

HAL ROGERS:

How accurate is the situation? We’ve talked about missile defense, are we capable of surviving a confrontation like that?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I think we are. We’re also making major investments in space and cyber, which is critical to the defense of our battlegroups and our ships and our aircraft and our — and our submarines as well too. The collective efforts that’s being made in quantum computing and in hypersonics. As the admiral said, you know, placing hypersonics on the Zoom Wall [ph] class ship in ’25 provides significant defense measures for our — for our Navy and our joint force in general.

Those investments in space and cybersecurity are deeply critical to that national defense as well.

HAL ROGERS:

Thank you. And, General.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Sir, if I — in ten quick seconds, I would say the last — the one yard defense, you know, last — last element of self-defense is, is clearly there. But what you want is the Navy and Marine Corps from submarines to the Marine Corps forward, taking them out before they ever get to the ship. The words we need to hold their — their shooters — archers at risk all the time.

HAL ROGERS:

Amen, I yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. We’re trying to figure out there’s some background noise that’s — that’s — that’s drifting in. We’re trying to figure out what it is. It doesn’t appear to be anything with our audio or anything like that. So I apologize.

UNKNOWN:

It could be China.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

It could be China. [laughter] I don’t think so. Let’s not. that Mr. Ruppersberger, then Mr. Cole, then Mr. Aguilar.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

[off-mic]

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Wan to turn your mic on? So they hear you. [laughter]

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

I want — I want to acknowledge the fact that you have a good leadership team representing the Navy Marines. So we appreciate your service. General Berger, I know that you have been intently focused on your force design 2030 modernization effort. As you detailed in your annual update released, I believe just last week, this modernization effort seeks to ensure the Marine Corps can remain an expeditionary crisis response force well into the future.

Your benchmark is the pacing threat that both the current and previous administration have both told you that you should use, the armed forces of the People’s Republic of China. What guarantees can you provide this subcommittee that the modernization combat power you are investing in will not only tackle the tough requirements of any engagement in the Pacific, it will allow the Marine Corps to rapidly respond to any crisis around the globe at a moment’s notice.

Now you explicitly state that your intent with force design 2030 is to achieve most of your modernization goals without asking for a top line increase for the Marine Corps if you’re able to divest of the unneeded capability. Can you explain to the subcommittee your decision making process work on diversity — divestiture?

DAVID H. BERGER:

Senator, I can. You articulated the dual roles of the Marine Corps, be ready to respond to a crisis that perhaps we didn’t anticipate, didn’t see coming. You have to have that capability in the — in the Department of Defense. And that is our mandated job by Congress. And — and frankly by culture. And so that is on the one hand and the other one as you articulated is be ready to — be ready to fight a war if one comes our way.

How are we going to make sure that we’re prepared to do that with this modernization effort that we’re undergoing right now? I would — I would say the best answer for that is you probably get from somebody like Admiral Aquilino or General Ross — you know go to EUCOM, you could go to any of the combatant commanders.

Although force design for us has an end point, a decade out, the capabilities that we’re fielding on the 53-K to the F-35 to the gater [ph] radar, all those are being fielded now. The capabilities that they need to deter and be in a position to respond quickly, we’re not — is not a decade out. It’s — it is now.

So I’m confident if they are confident in the path we’re on, then we’re putting their capabilities in their hands that they need to accomplish the NDS. We are taking risk. We knew that three years ago, but you have to do that to get where you need to be in the future or else the bigger risk is you’re outpaced.

We were not going to do that.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

Can you walk the subcommittee through the level of analysis that we’ve done to support your modernization efforts, both with the combat and commands and the other services? And do you feel that you are progressing well and how important is predictable and on time funding to you, given that you are trying to modernize with that large increases in funding?

DAVID H. BERGER:

I’m very confident in where we are. We made initial assumptions three years ago based on the best forecasts that we had in the operating environment we were going to face in the future. And there’s some unknowns in there, of course, because we’re pacing means both of us are moving and technology is moving.

We had a good end point out ten years and the assumptions upfront where we were going to need to be more maritime if we’re going to do what the nation needs us to do in a pacing challenge, pacing threat as you highlighted is the PLAN [ph]. The past three years, 40 couple of war games, the experiments that all three of our three star level commands are doing to test the ideas, the warfighting concepts and the equipment together is what’s feeding back into our learning process.

And we’re making adjustments along the way where we see that based on what divisions or wings are telling us about either a concept or a capability, we’re making adjustments along the way. But that’s what — that’s what accelerated learning is — is all based on —

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

As far —

DAVID H. BERGER:

Go ahead, sir.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

No, you go ahead.

DAVID H. BERGER:

I think the funding which you asked about I am — the reason that we’re able to go as fast as we have been for three years is because both inside the Pentagon and here on the Hill, you’ve allowed us to keep the resources that we’ve divested up. That’s — that has enabled us to go at speed.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

You know, there’s been some complaints from your predecessors and I want to make sure you get the opportunity to put forward your plan and why you think it’s so important for the defense of our country that we move forward with it.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Sir, those are, you know, those were the people who — who trained me and taught me. I have incredible respect for their views.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

Yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Mr. Cole, then Mr. Aguilar, and then Mr. Diaz-Balart.

TOM COLE:

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Gentlemen, thank you for here of being here and thank you for your service. I want to begin with a couple of quick remarks. I want to associate myself and maybe echo the concerns of the Ranking Member of the full committee, the Ranking Member of the subcommittee simply over the balance inside the President’s budget.

I mean, as a guy that’s the Ranking Member of the largest domestic spending, and I can tell you, we’re getting proposed increases in double digits, and just as we did in last year’s budget. That isn’t happening in defense and in an inflationary environment. And — and I think much more dangerous world than we thought it was only two or three years ago.

That strikes me as the wrong overall balance. And I think it’s putting the leaders of our services in the position of having to make really difficult choices. And, you know, count me — I — this whole divest to invest strategy has certainly some appeal, and I think it’s uneven as to how successful it’s been across the services.

I’ll give you an example, in the Air Force, so as not to pick on anybody here, you know, when you’re proposing to get rid of 15 of your 32 AWACS and your replacement is four years out, that’s pretty dangerous. Doesn’t mean those planes are where you want them to be, they’re old airframes they need to be replaced.

That tells me we need to be investing more and faster, you know, and not force you into making those kinds of choices. I think, Admiral Gilday, that’s probably the concern at least some on the committee is the idea of retiring 25 ships, but bring on eight. We’re not saying you’re wrong necessarily to be retiring those ships, although we may need to stretch it out.

But maybe we need to, you know, give you more resources for those replacements come online faster. I just think we’re putting you in a very difficult position. And I think this is in part because the overall budget is out of balance. We’re in a dangerous world now. We need to be spending more on defense than the administration, I think, wants to. And I mean your job is to do the best with what you have.

And I appreciate what you guys do on all our services, but I think we have a bigger responsibility here than — than we’re assuming. Second point, let me, you know, General Berger, Marines seem to have done this honestly, and again, I’m not being critical but better in terms of invest to reinvest with. While there’s certainly some risks that we’ve picked up as you do that process, you seem to have been able to bring stuff online a lot faster there.

Is there any particular general operating principles that you have that have kept you maybe a little bit more capable in that strategy than — than maybe other services have been?

DAVID H. BERGER:

Before we started down this path, sir, great advice from probably three or four members who I knew a little bit, not very well, but good enough And I went and asked them for their advice on how to go down this path. They gave me advice that has paid off, which is you need to do a couple of things, first of all.

The eight, meaning the Chair and Ranking Members of the four committees, you need to explain to them what your logic is, what your plan is, you need to lay out for them, what your assumptions are, and then keep them informed along the way so that they can — and they can advise you, they can coach you, and they’re not surprised.

You have to do the same with the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of Defense and the combatant commanders. They need to understand the path that you’re on. They can’t be surprised either. All that was great advice, which does take extra time, a lot of extra time. But if the — if the Chair and Ranking and the committee members don’t understand where a service is going, it’s really hard to, to support it as you point out, because there is clearly risk while you’re moving that — at speed.

But it has — it has paid off. Other than that, I mean just keeping everybody informed and the feedback loop from the operating forces from the Marines back into the system. This works. This doesn’t work. That’s the iterative process that works for us.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Congressman, if you allow me just make one quick statement as well.

TOM COLE:

Certainly, Mr. Secretary.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

And I think the General is absolutely correct. Communication is key to success in everything we do here. But I think getting the concept of operations to address the threat of the future is extremely important. And too often we rush to decisions in terms of the acquisition decisions that we make. Regretfully on the Navy side, the investments are so capital intensive that they take so long.

A ship that, you know, we decide to commit to today won’t come online for another 15 years for example. So it does really take — it’s important to get the concept of operations in understanding the threat correctly so that you can design that ship to address the threat that you may face ten years from now.

TOM COLE:

I think that’s a very fair comment. And I think that’s — I suspect — Admiral, I don’t have any time left, but I’ll — maybe have a second round. That is the challenge you have with maybe decisions that were made 15 years ago in terms of capabilities or platforms and what we face today. That’s — that’s a different level of — of challenge.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

I’d say that sir, along with the fact that we have — we haven’t really invested in the recapitalization of the Navy in 20 years because we’ve been focused elsewhere. And so now putting that rudder over doesn’t happen very quickly as the Secretary said. And as you — as you confirmed. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to take a deliberate approach.

I think submarine programs right now, you can look out to 2040 with a high degree of confidence as we’re — as we’re looking at two attack boats and an SSB in a year. We’re getting that way with — with surface programs, destroyers that matter at two years through to fit up the 1, 2, 1, 2, 1 sawtooth pattern of frigates.

Well, my — in my opinion, my prediction would be that will feather our into at least two a year once we get that program right, but we want to get it right and then come back to you and say we’re ready to accelerate it.

TOM COLE:

Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair, yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Mr. Aguilar, and then Mr. Diaz-Balart, and then Ms. Kaptur, and Mr. Crist.

PETE AGUILAR:

Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you all for your — for your years of service as well. I wanted to shift briefly to the Arctic. As you know, Russia has been increasing its presence in the region and China has previously declared itself as a near Arctic state, despite not touching their Arctic Circle. Mr. Secretary, it’s been a year since the Navy released its Arctic strategy called a blue — blue Arctic.

What update can you provide to us on the implementation of the strategy?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you for the question, Congressman. You’re absolutely right. The Arctic is changing. It’s incredibly important to our national defense strategy. And we’ve actually convened several meetings since I’ve been secretary to discuss what future plans need to be to further update the Arctic strategy as well too.

But I’m pleased that in the interim, we’ve actually been very active in the Arctic, in the high north operating our forces, both Navy forces and Marine forces. I had the privilege of — of going up there and seeing about 500 logisticians that were in advance of Operation Cold Response. Over 30,000 troops, 27 nations.

And perhaps I could have the commandant discuss that further.

PETE AGUILAR:

Love the commandant to also talk to us about how the preparation is different, how you prepare for the region, cold weather training, and how that fits into the force design 2030.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Here you rely on allies and partners a lot, frankly. We — we went — we go to Norway at least every other year, typically or frequently every year because Norway, Finland, Sweden, a handful of other countries, they’re the best in the world at operating in that environment persistently. And as the Secretary noted, if you were to go to visit Marines there this a couple of months ago in Norway, you know, they have to learn how to keep an up — a helicopter flying when it’s outside, when it’s below zero, and do maintenance on there.

And this is a world they’ve never been in, So it’s not — it’s not learned by doing — it’s learned by listen to the Norwegians. They can tell you how to do that. And you have to go there and train alongside of them and learn those lessons. We can do preparation and we do in the United States. We go to Alaska frequently.

You go to other parts of the world, you pick up different techniques, different things that work. All that feeds back into, okay, if we’re going to operate, need to operate in there persistently, how do you — how do you go about doing that? And some of it is gear, but some of it as you — as you highlight is mental, is medical, is — is logistics, It’s — it’s the parts that aren’t as apparent perhaps that are — that are more consequential.

PETE AGUILAR:

Will that mean more frequent rotations in the future? I mean talk to me a little bit more about — about that training and how you keep that mental edge?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Just a quick comment on that, I look forward to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO for example, and I foresee a day where we’re actually increasing our maritime operations in the Baltic Sea.

DAVID H. BERGER:

I think your suggestion that we might do it more frequently, I think, yes, probably on a smaller scale more frequently. You do large exercises to learn big lessons and send big messages, but smaller units more frequently on a more enduring basis has a lot of return on investment too. I think, yes, in both Alaska and frankly in Europe, we’re going to more frequently deploy smaller units for two to four weeks at a time.

Absolutely.

PETE AGUILAR:

Admiral, I’d love your thoughts on this too, but if you could also talk a little bit about, you know, increasing accessibility in there — in the region and how are your resources and fleet prepared for those operations? And if you want to build on what the commandant was saying about partnerships as well?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

So since the fall of 2018 — in the fall of 2018 was really a watershed moment for us. We had our first carrier strike operations above the Arctic Circle in over 30 years. Since that time, we’ve routinely been in the high north. In fact, during this ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, to the commandant’s point, we’ve had small units, destroyers operating with allies and partners in the high north to put — to put pressure on Russia, to make sure that they know that we’re there with — with capable platforms.

We are operating in the high north or in the Arctic Circle almost every month routinely. Now we have a ship going up there, particularly in the — in the European theater. The money that was put in the infrastructure bill in the — in this — this past fall, one of the elements of that was to increase infrastructure in the port of Nome, Alaska, would allow — give us is a — is a lily pad or a foothold up there, not just the Navy, but also the commercial sector as well as a refueling and sustainment point.

So I think we’re in an upward trajectory with respect to the Arctic, sir, and I don’t think we’re going to turn back.

PETE AGUILAR:

I appreciate you drawing that connection to the infrastructure bill that we passed as well and happy that that can play a role in giving you that additional capability. And for your comments, Mr. Secretary on — on potentially some new NATO allies could be helpful, especially when we talk about, you know, training in — in this region.

Thank you, Madam Chair, yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Gentleman from California is always welcome to the Bold North in Minnesota. And so is the gentleman from Florida, we’re going to hear from, Mr. Diaz-Balart.

MARIO DIAZ-BALART:

From the high north to the low south. Thank you. Madam Chairman. Gentlemen, thank you for — for not only for being, but more importantly for your service and your commitment to the safety of — of this amazing country. And let me first associate myself with Ms. Granger, Mr. Calvert, and Mr. Cole on their statement about just frankly the overall level of spending for defense, which I believe is the recommendation of the President is highly, highly, highly insufficient.

Already heard about the LCSs, and you’ve explained your reasoning behind it. I think the full committee Ranking Member very eloquently talked about obviously the frustration because it’s — that’s serious money — it’s taxpayer money — that hard to say that that’s not money that was totally misspent or blown.

Having said that, you know, I don’t have to tell you and I’m sure you’ve read the reports and you know about a hundred thousand Americans dying last year, right, because of overdoses. Lot of the — a lot of the fentanyl and drugs is coming through the open southern border. But a lot of it is also coming just by air, by sea from down south.

SOUTHCOM sees, as you all know, a lot of this stuff coming and if they only had a couple of vessels, a couple of additional vessels with helicopter capability, they could stop a large percentage of that. So let me tell you what a little bit of my frustration is. We already — again, I’m not going to beat a dead ship that — that horse — that should about the LCS. My God, if there’s a place where they frankly could really be useful, it’s by the way at — in the Western Hemisphere intercepting some of these drugs.

So what I would ask you, Mr. Secretary or Admiral is if you would please just sit down with the folks at SOUTHCOM. And look at every possible, logical alternative. Since we have these ships that the taxpayer has already paid for,

PETE AGUILAR:

let’s look at every possible way to have some flexibility, whether it’s SOUTHCOM using it directly or the Navy or transferring it over to the Coast Guard. I don’t care. But — but I would just ask of you if you could, you know, just seriously spend some time and look at what potential I know kind of thinking outside the box.

Potential options could exist to use those taxpayer funded vessels as opposed to, in essence, tossing them away. And again, I understand your justification, but as opposed to doing that, look — looking at ways to use them in the Southern Command area to — that literally would be the probably the most direct thing that we can do to save American lives immediately.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Congressman, I couldn’t agree with you more. And in fact when I leave this hearing today later on tonight, I’ll be flying down to Florida and meeting with the SOUTHCOM commander to discuss this very issue. I already discussed it once with her and we talked earlier about how we have 21 additional LCSs that we’re going to be employing around the world and some of those will be employed in SOUTHCOM. I think there’s also an opportunity for a future ESB to operate permanently around Central and South America as well to focus more and so on this mission in addition to other missions as well to it actually participate on the west coast of Africa as well too.

So I think there are tremendous opportunities to make this situation better in the future.

MARIO DIAZ-BALART:

Well, Mr. Secretary, a couple of things. First of all that — that I thank you for and I have total confidence by the way in not only your — your — your ability, but your willingness to — to kind of rock the boat a little bit. And so I’m glad that you’re looking at that because again, I think that would — that would go a long way.

And by the way, using again, these vessels that we already paid for in a way that does make sense and that — that when you’re looking at the issue of SOUTHCOM, that literally would save lives. Literally save lives. So let’s hope so. I’m glad to hear that. And I’m grateful for that, Mr. Secretary, let me kind of — I don’t have a lot of time.

So just very quickly, Mr. Secretary, there have been three suicides recently in recent weeks on the — on the George Washington aircraft carrier. And your thoughts about what the Navy is doing a — can be doing to address you know suicides or mental health issues of our sailors. And I don’t have a lot of time.

And I apologize.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

And thanks for the incredibly important question. As you mentioned earlier this, you know, and I actually visited George Washington yesterday. There have been four suicides over the past year. Three occurred in the same week in April. And there’s actually a lot that the Department of Navy — and I’d be happy to submit a response for the record in greater detail.

But there’s actually a tremendous amount that the Department of Navy has been doing over the course of not just this past year, but the past four years actually to try to address this very tragic situation with regard to suicide in the Navy and across our Department of Defense and across the nation as well too.

It’s complicated. You’ve got to get it after the root causes of why people commit suicide, which is a combination of depression, problems with relationships, financial problems. And you’ve got to look at all those individually. And we have to do a better job institutionally to make sure that our sailors and marines have the mental health resources available to them when they need it most.

Which goes to the earlier conversation I had about how I believe we’ve got to start growing these mental health counselors inside the Department of Defense because it’s going to be hard to recruit them from the private sector. So we’d be happy to submit a more detailed response with regard to all the steps that we’re actually taking.

MARIO DIAZ-BALART:

I appreciate that Mr. Secretary. Ma’am — Madam, Chairman, thank you.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Mr. Crist.

CHARLIE CRIST:

Thank you, Madam Chair. I’d like to associate myself with the comments of Congressman Diaz-Balart as well. Appreciate you bringing that up. I’m curious, rising home costs and housing shortages are affecting many Americans across the country. It’s a serious concern in my home state of Florida as well. I’ve heard that our military personnel are being forced to live further and further away from their duty stations and having a difficult time commuting.

As the Navy and Marine Corps Prepare for this upcoming transfer season, what resources will the budget proposal provide to assist our service members in fighting adequate and affordable housing?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, Congressman. And it’s an issue that deeply concerns me as well too. The rising cost of home prices, whether it’s buying a home or renting a home is extraordinary. And our soldiers and Marines are feeling the impact. I visited the Northwest, it’s a particular problem up there. But it’s a problem — In many other places, so from the administration’s perspective in this year’s President’s budget, we actually are proposing a 4.6 percent pay increase, which is far more substantial than it has been in years past.

We’re also looking at increasing BAH for a lot of our — which is the housing allowance that’s given to individuals that’s predicated on where they live. And looking at increases in that as well. We’re also looking at future investments in housing for single sailors and barracks, trying to build more barracks, more apartment like barracks, for example, that fit the need as well too.

So there’s a whole issue. We’re very concerned across the entire Department of Defense on this very issue. And we’re trying to come up with solutions that make sense over the next years.

CHARLIE CRIST:

Great. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, I appreciate that very much. Well, it’s absolutely vital to our national security that our fleet be large enough to counter global threats. I’m concerned by increasing reports that the Navy cannot recruit and retain the workforce necessary to staff these ships and aircraft.

I’m pleased by the pay increase that you mentioned. That’s important. Increased pay however is only one way to attract new recruits and improve quality of life for our sailors and marines. I think it’s also important that military families are taken care of as you do, I’m sure, and that our service members can have some of the much-needed rest and recovery within their families.

What are we doing to incentivize sailors and Marines to stay in the service?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you. Congressman. Without question, when the economy is strong, despite the challenges that we face with inflation and unemployment is low, it becomes difficult to recruit members into the military services. And we are struggling. We are struggling this year to actually — I predict that we’ll perhaps meet our quotas here this year in ’23, but it will be tough.

It will really be tough to get there, and it will be at the expense of ’24. In many ways, taking some resources from the delayed entry programs and perhaps I could allow the commandant and the CNO to further discuss that matter.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Thank you. Picking up where the secretary left off —

CHARLIE CRIST:

I’m kind of short on time, General. With all due respect, I wanted to ask you another question if it’s all right.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Sure.

CHARLIE CRIST:

I understand that the Marine Corps is changing from tanks to more agile fighting groups using modern technology. Can you elaborate on that?

DAVID H. BERGER:

Yes, sir. When we began the process of modernization that we’re on, that’s three years into now. One of the — one of the assessments early on was looking at what capabilities would the Marine Corps need to bring to the Joint Force in the future. And which capabilities did we currently have that we either wouldn’t need or would it meet as much of. Heavy armor tanks.

CHARLIE CRIST:

Yes, sir.

DAVID H. BERGER:

Isn’t — is in that category of — we had it in the past. It was useful in the past. But going forward for what the Marine Corps is going to need in support of the Joint Force and the National Defense Strategy, tanks is not on that list. It’s heavy armor, hard to move, hard to sustain. For a sustained land campaign, the Army is very good at that.

You don’t need two Army’s or two Marine Corps. So armor divest of, reinvest in the things that you need for that forward force. They need to be smaller, more agile. They need to have precision weapons. They need to have loitering munitions. They need to have long range precision fires that can hold either land targets or technical ships at risk.

That’s how — that’s how that forward force can deter and respond. So it was not a difficult decision at all.

CHARLIE CRIST:

Thank you, General. I appreciate it very much. I yield back. Thank you, Madam Chair.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. We’ll go to Ms. Kaptur.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Thank you. I apologize for having to step out and vote on another committee. Thank you, gentlemen, for serving our country so nobly. It is deeply appreciated by myself and the people that I represent. I heard many of your pleas relating to workforce. And I just want you to remember there’s a fourth seacoast in the country and we have some remarkable people.

I think Commandant Berger, you know something about that part of the country. And what do we offer? We offer the Fourth Coast, but we offer people who enlist in our military as well as phenomenal building trades academies producing some of the skills that are so vitally needed across this country. I would encourage you to come and see if you haven’t and to work with some of our community colleges to produce the talent that is needed.

Frankly, I’m confused by your submission with three alternatives for the Navy. I don’t really understand. There are lot of geniuses on this committee — on this subcommittee. I’m sure they understand, but I don’t. And so any clarification you could provide either now or later would be most appreciated. I hope you don’t intend for Congress to make the decisions about one, two or three.

And — but I really wanted to focus on the George Washington for a moment as illustrative of what I see as problematic for my view of the Navy. I don’t understand why it was in drydock for four years and then it was extended for another year. And we had some terrible situations happen with some of those sailors.

And I’m asking myself, are we trying to do too much? Are we kidding ourselves? And for some reason, this all got backed up, but it’s not the only place. How do we get out of this continuing extension of contracts that were mis-negotiated in the first place and all costing us more money than they should have?

So help me understand the George Washington situation and maybe I can understand the rest, but it’s very confusing to this member and very concerning. So why was that contract extended another year? Why wasn’t it finished? Why wasn’t it finished in 2022? Why did it have to be extended to 2023? And how many other ships did that happen to? And are we trying to do too much?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Let me start off, Congresswoman and then I’ll ask the CNO to comment. So in the case of George Washington, she’s an old ship. She’s got, I believe, 35 years old now. And when they go in for these very complex overhauls, there are many things that we can properly estimate with regard to what we think needs to be done.

But too often you get into the repairs themselves and you make new discoveries of things that need to be fixed that you just were unaware of because it takes getting into the ship itself to figure it out, fuel tanks, things of that nature as well. So it is complicated. And then, of course, it was made even more complicated by two years of COVID with shortages in the workforce with reduced work times in the aircraft carrier itself where both the workforce of the shipyard and also the workforce of the ship itself.

We couldn’t be on the ship because we were trying to protect each other from people catching COVID. So I think that there are some legitimate reasons why there has been delays, but we also need to hold our — our shipyards more accountable in the future. And I think you’re absolutely right in that regard.

And I have taken time and I’m taking even more time to meet with the shipyards to make sure that they understand that they are accountable for delivering their contracts on time and on schedule. I think we need to get more creative about how we structure these contracts, make them more sort of cost-plus incentive fees where if the shipyard does not deliver a ship on time and they don’t get that much more percentage of the profit associated with it.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Mr. Secretary, have we cut our public shipyards too deeply, if you look at the last 25 years? What’s the reduction in public shipyards?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

So the challenge of the public shipyards is more on the infrastructure side. Actually over the course of the last ten years, we’ve actually added a considerable amount of personnel to the workforce itself.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Yes, Admiral, thank you.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

More than 10,000 in the public yards. With respect to George Washington and up front, I’d like to express my condolences to the families who and to the shipmates who lost those — those sailors. Three in one week was just terrible. And we did not see it coming, obviously. One of the things we’re doing right now, ma’am, besides surging help to George Washington in terms of — in terms of psychiatrists, in terms of behavioral health specialists in terms of to the — to the secretary’s point about teaching frontline supervisors how to recognize problems in their people, so that we can address them quickly.

This doesn’t necessarily mean mental health disease, but somebody’s having a bad day, somebody’s having problems with relationships, with finances so that we can get them help quickly. We have opened up tele — telehealth lines to increase the availability of — of help to ourselves. We have provided additional courses in things like stress management, financial management, marriage counseling.

We have surged almost 40 percent of our mental health providers from our hospitals to the tactical edge, so that they’re available for our families, for our sailors at our — at our bases. We have set up courses to teach people about — to recognize mental health signs. We’re not satisfied, ma’am, with where we are.

We continue to invest in these programs, in George Washington and other facilities as well. If I — on George Washington, one of the things that we’re doing is conducting a deeper look at these extended availabilities, these maintenance availabilities to see if there are any causal issues that are causing a spike in a mental health — mental health problems.

So we don’t have an answer yet. We brought in behavioral health, mental health specialists to help us with that ongoing assessment. I’d be happy to come and talk to you and share what we learn.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Thank you. We’re going to go to a second round of questioning. The order in which I have it is Mr. Calvert, then Mr. Ruppersberger — Ruppersberger. Sometimes getting my tongue around your name is always a challenge.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

You can do the easy thing and just call me Dutch.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

I’m going to be respectful. And I’m going to be respectful and get your last name wrong I guess sometimes. Mr. Cole, and then Ms. Kaptur. And then I’ll close. So right now, I’d like to recognize Mr. Calvert.

KEN CALVERT:

Thank you, Madam Chair. You know, I — I understand the complexity of the Washington with the aid to the ship and so forth, and the number of years it’s been in the yard, but when is the Ford going to actually deploy? You know, I was at the — you know, when she was brought into San Diego, and then she was sent out on a shakedown tour.

And I think we — we fought and won World War II in four years. How many years has the Ford been out there until you are going to be able to deploy it?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Ford will go out this year, sir. I’m not going to say exactly where she’s going to deploy to, but she’ll be out for an extended –.

KEN CALVERT:

How many years did that take from the time that she —

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Too long. Too long, sir. She was supposed to be deployed probably before 2020. And we’ve actually accelerated it two years. So two years, the estimate was 2025. We’ve pulled it back to 2022. And so, sir, we’re sending it out this year and then again next year. All I can tell you, I can’t apologize for the past, but to tell you that that ship had the highest op tempo of any ship in the United States Navy last year.

It was our carrier — ship off the East Coast. We were trying to get our best use of her based on — based on the challenges we’ve had.

KEN CALVERT:

So the elevators are all working, the electromagnetic launch is working?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

All 11, all 11 elevators are working. We’ve had over 8000 cats and traps on that ship, sir.

KEN CALVERT:

Let’s go to amphibious ships. General, I’m generally supportive of what you’re trying to do with modernizing the Corps for future conflict, but I’m concerned that both the Department of Navy and Department of Defense are not supporting certain components of your vision. One example of that is the size of the amphibious ship fleet, which DOD is proposing to cut.

You said that 31 amphibious ships should be the bare minimum, yet you’re having to put advanced procurement to LPD 33 on your unfunded priority list. I understand that the light amphibious warship a cornerstone of your force design is coming along slower than we may have hoped. And obviously, if we’re going to do this, speed is of the essence.

So to win a war against any peer adversary, and obviously, China is building how many ships a month? Two or three ships a month and we’re only planning on building eight. So how do you respond to that, General?

DAVID H. BERGER:

And the funding for both the LHA and the LPD that’s in the budget, absolutely critical. 31 is the minimum, not a ceiling as you point out. That’s — that comes with risk at 31. And the risk is of course, maintenance. That maintenance is done on time, and we have the availability of the ships that we need.

The amphibious ships plus the Marines that are embarked on them, that is your insurance policy. That’s your wedge. That’s your 911 force. You have to have it or else the time that it takes to respond to a crisis extends. Then it’s a worst crisis than it was a week and a half earlier when you could have got — should have gotten there.

This is the best chance you have the deterrence because they’re forward all the time. They’re working with our allies and partners. Those ships are so critical. I think the — in the future, although in the past everything was manned as many of the members have mentioned today that ship in the future, you’re going to — you’re going to see unmanned — unmanned vessels come out of the back of an amphibious ship.

And the great part about that is if you’re the adversary, you don’t know what’s in the back of the ship because it’s buttoned up. So it could be LCAT, [ph] the — the air cushion vehicles. It could be our amphibious combat vehicles. There could be a whole bunch of unmanned vessels with sensors or weapons.

This is the Swiss Army knife of the future. The light amphibious worship, the second part of your — your topic is essential also. If you’re going to be forward in the face of the threat, you have to be able to move around. What we’ll do in the interim is lease. We use other vessels. We’ll use planes, trains and automobiles.

And to make sure that we learn what it takes for those forward distributed forces to operate persistently inside the threat.

KEN CALVERT:

Thank you, Madam Chair.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Mr. Ruppersberger?

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

Thank you. Mr. Secretary, when you and I met a few months ago, we talked about our shared love of the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. As we discussed, the Academy grants frequently flood and the infrastructures aging and consistently producing new requirements for upgrades and new facilities that are guarded against sea level rise or storm surges.

As I’ve said before, we don’t want our midshipmen to be good swimmers and we do want them to be good swimmers, but we don’t want them to have to swim to class. That was a joke. [Laughter]

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

I got it. I got it.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

But we don’t — this last year we were able to get from Congressional an extra $40 million and we can’t guarantee that every year. And especially where — where we are now and possibly more war and that type of thing. The Farragut seawall was needed, and it should last for about 75 years. We hope. And you — I’d like you to really kind of instruct someone on your staff or to just try to make sure we make this a priority.

Because once we — I’ve been on the Naval Academy Board eight, nine years and we have not gotten any money from Congress. Now we do. And I want to try to keep some of that momentum because if you don’t spend $1,000 all of a sudden it becomes $100,000. And the Naval Academy, there’s too much there. And the Naval Academy is as far as high schools are concerned, it’s the number of public high school in the country And you know I do a lot of work with the — with the Army also.

But I’m really proud of being part of that board and to see how great the instructors are, the students are and the whole system. And you all need to be proud of that and we want to keep that going, so. Also the graduation is next week. I understand the President’s coming. That’s kind of a big deal. And there will be a lot of us I think from the — the board of the Naval Academy.

And we’re all looking forward to it. And I think we can all be proud of it. So just a commitment to you to work with us to try to maintain what we need to do from an infrastructure point of view. I yield back. And you’ll respond?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I thank you for your support of the Naval Academy. I thank you for your support of — of the efforts to ensure that the Farragut Wall stays sound. I would argue that the Navy is truly in the crosshairs of a climate crisis, and it does impact our combat readiness at the Naval Academy and out in the Fleet and the Marine Corps as well too.

We’re making great strides, I think, to try to come to terms with this. Just this morning I signed out the Department of the Navy’s Climate Action Plan for 2030. The Marine Corps and Marine Corps logistics based in Albany, for example, just became dudes first net zero and energy installation. There’s an urgent charge to build a climate ready force.

And your efforts are greatly appreciated, Congressman.

C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER:

All this body helps. Thank you. I yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Because the gentleman had a minute left, I’m going to just interject in here that the committee in the past has directed funds through report language and other ways to the academies, not just Annapolis, but to West Point. We don’t have the Merchant Marine Academy, but it’s important. The Air Force Academy is important.

We weren’t seeing those funds being spent and so we spelled it out. We shouldn’t have to spell it out, but we spelled it out. So hopefully the Pentagon and at the secretary level going — going down, we’ll watch that report language very, very carefully. And we — we would prefer not to have to spell it out, but — but thank you for the transition into how it’s being used this time.

And we look forward to having a much more integrated, you know, discussion of how funds are being spent in the academies in the future. So with that I thank you –.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Madam Chair, if I could just say I am deeply committed to this issue. The health and welfare of our professional military education institutions is critical. Not just at the Academy, but the War College, and the post graduate school, the Marine Corps War College. And I will be paying close attention to this issue moving forward.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Mr. Cole?

TOM COLE:

Thank you, Madam Chair. I’ve got two questions. One shamelessly parochial and one specific. Admiral, they’ll probably both be addressed by you. First, the specific one. It’s my understanding that the — the E2D Hawkeye’s radar system is like 25 years old. And obviously, we’re facing new kinds of threats in Chinese hypersonics, so I’m curious as to what the plans are to adapt that going forward, finding an adequate long-term replacement?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Sir, we have. And so the — the new E2D aircraft, we are procuring 77 of them total actually has a phased array and not a mechanical radar. So it is the best in the world in terms of advanced capabilities with the air wing.

TOM COLE:

That’s great. That’s good to hear. Did you have something?

UNKNOWN:

No, sir.

TOM COLE:

Okay. Second question, and you know just a point of parochial pride, we’re privileged to have all four services in my district. Because we have Marine Artillery at Fort Sill and then we have your E7 units at — or E6, excuse me, at Tinker Air Force Base. So I’m curious what the long-term plans are for that, particularly looking at some of the things we see the Air Force proposing in terms of AWACS? I’m curious what the Navy’s thinking as long term for the need for that particular unit.

How are you going to modernize it going forward?

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Sir, it’s a critical component of STRATCOMs Nuclear Command Control and Communications Network. And so our proposal is to invest in the C-130. It’s a platform. It’s well — it’s well known. It’s — it’s sustainable. It’s proven. And that would be that that is the future for that particular mission, which is a communication link to our SSBNs, our nuclear — our nuclear — our seaborne nuclear — nuclear deterrent.

And so that — we have money in the budget this year to begin the transition to C-130s in — in ’23. And the plan would be to — to fully execute that. We just delivered a report to Congress last month answering some questions with respect to the viability of the C-130 for that mission. We’re very bullish on that program as a replacement for the long-term.

TOM COLE:

Terrific. And then just last comment, General Berger to you. I was really pleased to hear you talk about long range precision capability. Because that’s exactly, as you know, what the Army is working on and the Marines at Fort Sill in terms of trying to make sure that you have that kind of option going forward.

It’s one of the very top modernization efforts for the Army. So we look forward to hosting you for a long time to come. And with that, Madam Chair, I’ll yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you. Mr. Kilmer. And then Ms. Kaptur.

DEREK KILMER:

Thank you, Madam. Chair. Admiral, the GAO recently issued a report on the Navy’s unmanned vehicle efforts. And that report focused on several areas for improvement in The Navy’s unmanned plans. One specific concern they raised was that the digital infrastructure, the computing systems needed to develop autonomous ships was lagging behind current vessel prototyping.

They also raised concerns about the lack of funding for these IT systems in the Navy’s budget request, so I was hoping you could just speak to what the Navy’s — what steps the Navy is taking to address these issues around research and investments in digital infrastructure for unmanned systems.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

Sir, I mentioned a little bit earlier, we just had our largest unmanned exercise in the world a couple of months ago. We have another one based out of Australia this week. We’re bringing together dozens of vendors. And so what we’re trying to do is to tie platforms, and there are hundreds of them available, with the secret sauce is the AI software integration that plugs into those platforms.

So the parallel I would draw, I would use Tesla as the digital native in the car industry. Other companies are trying to catch Tesla. They all have platforms. What they’re really looking for is that AI software integration piece that actually makes it autonomous. So we have a DevOps kind of framework in place right now, learning from the GAO report.

That’s allowing us to do this real time experimentation so that we can put unmanned capabilities in the hands of Marines and sailors within this fight up. And then inform longer term solution sets to power generation engineering configurations on — on larger unmanned vessels as well as command and control challenges that we’re trying to get after as well.

So I’d be happy to come up and brief, sir, on where — where we are and where we’re going with this. But we have learned from the GAO report.

DEREK KILMER:

Appreciate that. Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield back.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

So we’ll go to Ms. Kaptur.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Thank you, Madam Chair. Admiral, I’d like to go back and perhaps Mr. Secretary go back to my initial question about the issue of moving repair work through the yards. How many ships are in yards now? Can you provide us with that? And what is your estimated time of completion? Obviously, George Washington fell far behind the target date.

And what would it take to hasten completion? Is it working with the private contractor, and they don’t have the personnel? I’m not really hearing from you clarity on this issue. Also in terms of the sailors on the George Washington, over 400 of them had no housing allowance. They had no ability to have a car.

They were stuck on that ship. Morale deteriorates when you’re in drydock that long. That’s a lot of people. And there’s just something wrong with the model. You’ve got sailors trained to do another job and they’re picking paint. They’re scraping paint off walls and all. How — how many ships do you think we have in drydock for maintenance right now?

What would you guess? I mean, they were in there for a long time like George Washington.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

So in terms of carriers, we have two. We usually have two carriers at a time. I will say if I looked at our last 13 major availabilities for aircraft carriers, probably 11 of 13 completed on time. So the track record with aircraft carriers is getting better. George Washington was for deploying — out of Japan for a number of years, so she was operating at an extremely high op tempo.

That’s not — that’s not an excuse, and I’m not trying to be evasive. With an older ship that’s 35 years old, there has been additional work that we found as — as — as we’ve torn into it that we’ve had to address. With respect to the conditions in the ship. As I mentioned earlier, ma’am, we’re doing a deeper investigation to see if we can — to see where we are right now with respect to living conditions on ships that are in extended availabilities and what we can address in terms of improving.

The secretary and I got some good ideas yesterday firsthand from sailors as we walked around the ship and — and we met with them.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Thank you, sir.

MICHAEL M. GILDAY:

We have moved hundreds of sailors off — off of George Washington. Not all of them that we’ve offered the chance to move off the ship have taken us up on that. Many have stayed. Over 100 have stayed aboard. And so — so again, we are taking a closer look at the conditions here to make sure that we are addressing them properly for the long term and this isn’t just a Band-Aid in this case.

MARCY KAPTUR:

Well, I would really appreciate. Mr. Secretary, you know, when you go back to the department, if we have a defense and there’s a human issue and then there is a part issue and a workforce issue. So there’s the sailors, crew people on the ships, but then you have private companies that you work with. Maybe they can’t get parts.

Are all those parts US made that go back into whatever’s happening with repair on the ship? How do we — how do we hasten the repair? Are we short on personnel? Are we short on welders? We know we’re short on nuclear welders. We know that. What can we do to hasten this so you can get the kind of Navy you want, and America needs?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, Congresswoman. So it does take a team to build a ship and that includes the sailors, that includes the Department of the Navy as an institution and it includes the — the shipyard all doing their part collectively to get a ship either built new or — or repaired out of the shipyard on time. And over the past three years, COVID has had a very negative impact on the supply chain, for example.

So there have been delays associated with — with that as well too. I would also argue that you know, shipyards probably need to add additional workforce on their own to make sure that — to make up for some of the delays that they’ve had in the shipyards while repairing these ships as well. In the case of submarine repairs, for example, there is a period of time where, you know, the private shipyards weren’t necessarily doing that.

So the learning curve and for them to actually build the necessary workforce to build on a nuclear-powered submarine had to be recruited had to be sought. And that took longer than I think then all of us expected as well. So it’s complicated. It has a lot of moving parts. But it’s our responsibility to the American taxpayer to make sure that, you know, we do our best job to make sure that these things are coming together the way they should, so that we can accelerate these ships coming out of the shipyards on time, on schedule.

MARCY KAPTUR:

I know my time is expiring, but I’m concerned also about those that carry nuclear weapons with what we’re doing with modernization on that side, whether that’s going to click or that’s going to cause more delay. So I guess I’m leaving this hearing more uncomfortable than comfortable in terms of our ability to know –. To ratchet up that repair work and to have the skills in place so that we meet those deadlines.

Finally, on the behavioral issues, I think, and I said this to General Milley the uniformed military health services, we need to have a new program where we produce the — help to produce for the civilian and military sides, the behavioral specialist — specialist and neuro psychiatrist that we need. We don’t have them as a country.

They’re not there, and neither are the behavioral nurses. I think you need to really look at that hard and come back to us with ideas on how to plus up those accounts. Thank you.

UNKNOWN:

Yes, ma’am.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

Thank you, Ms. Kaptur. We will be having a workforce hearing after we finish our budget and the subcommittee will submit the budget after the full committee markup as we did last year. I also think we need to look at and I hope you are — I’ve mentioned this before, in some conversations. You know, when the private shipyards were built, they weren’t built with sea level rise with some of the flooding, some of the things that they’re taking into account.

If we might need to look at some public private partnerships and ways we can partner with them, too. Because we’re reaching capacity for what we have available on the coast for — for shipyard building. And I know Admiral, I was at a — at a — at a breakfast that you had where you know some of those things were being discussed.

And I want you to note that I’m welcome to listening to that. And part of that will be up to the MILCOM committee as well. So we can talk about that — that more later. The Arctic, I’m — this is something that this committee knows I’ve been very focused on since — since joining. I’m glad to hear about all the — the training that’s going on. But we also have an arctic neighbor up to the north, our cousins in Canada as we call them from Minnesota.

We — we would be, you know, remiss. And I’m sure you’re working with — with the Canadians too, but they’re — they’re an instrumental part when I’ve been in — in — in Alaska and — and touring around being there as well as the other high north nations. So we’ve got some real opportunities to do. And I would also think that we need to — and this is more for the Pentagon in general, look at some of our northern National Guard.

And — and rethink about how the National Guard and some of the training can take place up there, not only for maintenance but for — for being out in the elements. It’s — it’s something that I’m glad you’re training your Marines on because it — it’s very dangerous. And I’m not taking away from that at all.

But you can find ways to kind of cool yourself off. Other people recognize what’s going wrong when somebody becomes overheated much more quickly than they do with what’s happening when you get cold. By the time you realize how cold you are, you can be in trouble really fast depending upon the situation. So I’m glad we’re looking at that because Russia and as Mr. Aguilar pointed out, China’s looking to make inroads in there to the Navy in particular.

I am laser focused on the fact that we need to be working with — with the Coast Guard, but we also need to be looking at the Department of Defense, the United States Navy projecting power with — with what we do with an ice breaker or ice cutters in the future or working with our — our allies in that area so that they know we’re — we’re heavily invested in supporting our allies up there.

The question that I do have to close up with and I know will be in conversation and it’s not necessarily an answer but — but a direction we have to be working hand in hand on Red Hill. Red Hill was a World War II fuel depot built in Hawaii built over an aquifer. No one was paying attention to aquifers at the time.

We know how important they are now. You’re well aware of — of — of the leak and the issue we have up there. We need to get that fuel depot repositioned, removed. In the meantime, we have to make sure that no further damage is done. So, we need to know, Mr. Secretary, that — and I know that you are, but I just want it for the record that you’re committed to get us the report as soon as you can about how the $1 billion request will be used in FY ’23 so we can include it in here.

Your team has been working with staff, but we’re preparing our budget right now. And so anything that you can get to us, even if it’s in bits and pieces and you have to go back and adjust something will be tremendously helpful for the committee staff as we move forward. We’re — we’re hoping to be on the floor in July.

So we look forward to working with you. And I just wanted to put that out there on the record.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

You have my commitment, Madam Chair, that we will continue to work very closely to take all the necessary steps to close Red Hill and to distribute that fuel where it needs to be distributed. And then to continue efforts with regards to the environmental steps that will be taken afterwards.

BETTY MCCOLLUM:

And then also as a person who both as a state Representative and as a member of Congress has been working with the Pentagon, and I’ll leave it at the — at the high level up here, the Pentagon on remedial things that needed to happen after pollution occurred. We look forward to making sure that the citizens of Hawaii know that — what’s happened in and the soils around there that we stand ready to assist them and not put a burden on the citizens.

And also the long term health consequences that may or may not be out there not only for the citizens of Hawaii but especially for the civilians and the folks who wear uniforms in and around in that area that we will be taking care of them and monitoring any potential health consequences. And I know I have your — your guarantee to do our due diligence on that.

So with that, I want to thank you for your time and attention to the subcommittee’s concerns. I want you to express our full gratitude from the committee to the men and women who both wear the uniform and serve in a civilian capacity that make the Navy and the Marine Corps as part of our national defense strategy team the best that they can be. We appreciate their sacrifice.

We appreciate their diligence. And with that, I will conclude today’s hearing. The subcommittee stands adjourned.

List of Panel Members
PANEL MEMBERS:

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D-MINN), CHAIRWOMAN

REP. TIM RYAN (D-OHIO)

REP. C.A. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER (D-MD.)

REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OHIO)

REP. HENRY CUELLAR (D-TEXAS)

REP. DEREK KILMER (D-WASH.)

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CALIF.)

REP. CHERI BUSTOS (D-ILL.)

REP. CHARLIE CRIST (D-FLA.)

REP. ANN KIRKPATRICK (D-ARIZ.)

REP. ROSA DELAURO (D-CONN.), EX-OFFICIO

REP. KEN CALVERT (R-CALIF.), RANKING MEMBER

REP. HAL ROGERS (R-KY.)

REP. TOM COLE (R-OKLA.)

REP. STEVE WOMACK (R-ARK.)

REP. ROBERT ADERHOLT (R-ALA.)

REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TEXAS)

REP. MARIO DIAZ-BALART (R-FLA.)

REP. KAY GRANGER (R-TEXAS), EX-OFFICIO

SECRETARY OF THE NAVY CARLOS DEL TORO

NAVY CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS MICHAEL M. GILDAY

MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT DAVID H. BERGER

MIL Security OSI