Hearing Of The House Armed Services Committee
Subject: Fiscal Year 2010 National Defense Authorization Budget Request From The Department Of The Navy
Chaired By: Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo)
Witnesses: B.J. Penn, Acting Secretary Of The Navy; Admiral Gary Roughead, Chief Of Naval Operations; General James T. Conway, Commandant Of The Marine Corps
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REP. SKELTON: (Off mike) -- to receive the testimony on the fiscal year 2010 budget request for the United States Navy and the Marine Corps.
Appearing before the committee are the Honorable B.J. Penn, acting secretary of the Navy; Admiral Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations; General James D. Conway, commandant of the United States Marine Corps.
We welcome you and thank you for being with us today.
I should note that Secretary Penn is the permanent assistant secretary for installations and environment. We've asked him to walk into the proverbial briar patch this morning.
And we hope you don't mind doing that, sir. But we welcome you.
Our sea services are this nation's fast-response force. They continue to perform magnificently. Our Marines have brought a level of security to the Anbar province of Iraq with a balance of might and diplomacy.
Our sailors have gone ashore in both Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing needed skills to the joint force. And now we're increasing our force in Afghanistan, a long overdue effort.
Our nation is again asking our Marines to respond, and again they're answering the call. And in the midst of the Iraq and Afghanistan, our Navy continues a worldwide, global presence as they've always done, ready, of course, to respond to any contingency, be it combat operations on the one hand, counterpiracy efforts or disaster relief on the other.
We remain committed to provide our Marines and sailors with the equipment they need. The wear and tear of years of combat operations will require a significant investment in reset forces.
However, the Navy must -- I repeat must -- come to terms with the number of ships they need to construct, develop a reasonable plan to construct them, and then execute the plan. Whatever happened to the 313 Navy goal that we had?
You must build your ships more efficiently. We will not be able to increase the size of our fleet until you and your contractors agree on the capital investments necessary. I know that you are moving in the right direction, so we urge you to continue.
Some shipbuilding programs are making progress -- notably the Virginia class submarine program. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that the new USS Missouri is several weeks ahead of schedule and several millions of dollars in saving. This committee will closely watch the progress with the littoral combat ships. These vessels are too expensive. You must get this program on track.
And the progress of the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, which will be installed in the Ford class carriers, is also of great concern. It joins just another list of vital programs behind schedule and over budget.
Then there's the strike fighter shortfall. And yet, the budget request reduces the procurement of F-18 aircraft from the projected number submitted last year.
On the movement of Marines to Guam: The heavily encroached Marine Corps basing structure in Okinawa represents continued risk for a stable Marine Corps presence in the Pacific. Moving some forces to Guam is a smart move, but it's expensive -- costing at least $10 billion -- and must be done right. We'll be looking carefully at this year's request for $673 million. Further costs associated with expanding training opportunities in Guam are still being evaluated.
On Navy readiness issues: The Navy today has more officers and sailors on the ground as individual augmentees than it has at sea in the Central Command area of responsibility. We are pleased the Navy has halted its drawdown to maintain the end strength that allows for this mission, as well as improving the manning of the fleet.
However, the Navy intends to extend the operational life of its ships five years or more beyond their designated service life at a time when the Navy is experiencing a series of incidents, which raises concerns regarding possible systemic problems with the Navy's manning, training and maintenance.
Moreover, even though U.S. forces are withdrawing from Iraq, Navy operational tempo is expected to remain high, because demand for the ship services is up, including anti-piracy and ballistic missile defense operations, as well as operations in support of Africa Command and Pacific Command and in Afghanistan as well as in the Arctic.
Despite the efforts of U.S. and coalition forces in the surrounding waters, the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden remains. The Navy and the Marine Corps can date their involvement with these types of conflicts through the history of the services. As history has shown, these types of attacks will continue until we commit a clear short- and long-term policy that deals with the pirates on the water as well as on the shore.
While the policy decisions on this issue will reside with the president and the broader Department of Defense, there is no doubt that naval and Marine forces are critical tools in any strategy to counter piracy.
These are just a few of the challenges facing the Navy and Marine Corps. I'm sure we will explore others here today.
I thank you for being with us. And I might note that this is a birthday for a special lady who represents Marine Corps; Molly Schwab is with us today.
So we wish you a happy birthday, Molly, and thank you for being with us.
I yield to my friend, my colleague, the ranking member from New York, John McHugh.
REP. JOHN MCHUGH (R-NY): Thank you very much.
Mr. Chairman, I'm going to try to be as quick as I can. I know we have a series of votes coming up here in a few moments.
But I certainly, gentlemen, want to add my words of welcome to you.
Mr. Secretary, as the distinguished chairman said, thanks for stepping into the breach. And we hope you don't regret that decision too greatly. But we are very honored and pleased that you're here.
Admiral, good to see you again. The last time we saw each other we were under the polar ice cap with some of your finest on that great submarine, the Annapolis.
And Commandant, welcome to you as well. Like so many on this committee, I've had a chance to travel with your good folks to Iraq and Afghanistan.
And I know collectively all of you are rightfully proud, as we are, of the amazing job the men and women in your charge do day in and day out to keep us safe. And as the chairman said, please carry our deepest appreciation and thanks to them on behalf of not just this committee but all Americans in this nation.
Yesterday we had a -- what would diplomatically be described as a spirited discussion with Secretary Gates on balance and requirements and the way forward. And I noted in an article that Secretary Gates had written some time ago, he made the observation that as much as the U.S. Navy has shrunk since the end of the Cold War, for example, in terms of tonnage, its battle fleet is still larger than the next 13 navies combined. And 11 of those 13 navies are U.S. allies or partners. And that, at a very minimum, mathematically is a correct statement.
But I think it's mindful -- we would be mindful to recall as well, though, that this current Navy is as small as it's been since the 19th century. And certainly the Joint Maritime Strategy released just a year ago emphasizes the importance of forward presence. In fact, it talks about that particular phrase no fewer than four times.
Maritime forces have the unique ability to maintain persistent presence with minimal footprint, which we have discovered has benefits for both humanitarian as well as combat operations. And forward presence can only be translated, as you have said, repeatedly, Admiral, into both quantity and capability.
Just this past January you told the Naval War Association that, quote: "Last year I came here and told you that 313 ships were the floor that I believe that we needed when it comes to the capacity of the fleet. Well, that statement holds true today. Three hundred and thirteen is still the floor when it comes to the size of the fleet we need to carry out our maritime strategy."
It would appear, though, that something may have changed, at least in the past few months, because early this week, when asked if 313 ships was still the minimum threshold for the fleet, Rear Admiral Blake told reporters, quote: "As it stands right now, what you're going to have is the QDR, and one of the significant pieces in the QDR is force structure. So that was the last number that was put out. But those discussions will take place with this leadership later this summer as to what the right number is."
And Admiral and Commandant, what new analysis or new strategy may have been completed that may suggest 313 may not now be needed, if that is the case?
Likewise, there's been a lot of discussion about acquisition reform. This committee under the leadership of our very able chairman passed unanimously on the House bill yesterday an acquisition reform bill that we're all very proud of and indebted to Messrs. Andrews and Conaway.
And clearly we need to save costs in shipbuilding, yet this budget requests three additional littoral combat ships despite the lack of an acquisition strategy and a complete lack of, really, transparency regarding the costs of the last two ships awarded.
As well, this budget extends aircraft carrier construction, even though this will lead to inefficiencies that will increase the total cost of these expensive platforms. And we've also made some pretty darn expensive decisions with respect to destroyer construction. Apparently from a capability perspective, the Navy could make do with one DDG-1000 but will support the construction of three in consideration of industrial base issues.
I understand that reasoning. I truly do. But given that the Navy intends to return DDG-51 construction to -- at both Northrop Grumman and Bath Iron Works, how much more will taxpayers eventually spend to resume construction of DDG-51s at BIW after a several-year hiatus?
At the same time, there's balance to be struck between new construction and funding maintenance. I won't go into the details of the millions -- hundreds of millions of dollars of shortfall that the Navy has been experiencing amongst its fleet. But obviously that's an area of some concern.
But those balance issues are not just limited to shipbuilding. The chairman mentioned strike fighter aircraft. And for years you -- your Navy and Marine Corps have been briefing this committee about shortfalls there. And Department of the Navy currently has a fiscal year '09 strike fighter inventory shortfall of about 110 aircraft against a resource requirement of 390 aircraft and predicts a peak strike fighter shortfall of 312 aircraft in fiscal year 2018. That's eight carrier air wings worth of aircraft. And it rests on the dubious assumption that the Joint Strike Fighter delivers on time. So we've got some serious concerns and questions as well in that area.
With respect to the Marine Corps, finally: Secretary Gates has put off making a decision on the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program until the completion of the QDR. And, frankly, I commend the secretary for not rushing to judgment in regards to the Marine Corps forcible entry requirement.
I would add that as part of this discussion it's important to keep in mind that amphibious assault doesn't necessarily mean another Normandy-like invasion. Amphibious assault can be a smaller action, say, off the coast of Somalia to provide humanitarian assistance or evacuation procedures off the coast of West Africa.
General Conway, the Marine Corps has looked at the requirements for joint forcible entry for some time and the QDR -- or I should say the Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review did not dispute the corps' responsibility for this capability, yet these requirements will be reviewed as a part of the QDR. Now, I realize you can't talk about the QDR since it's just getting started, but if you could share any perspective you might have on the need for amphibious assault and the direction you believe the Marine Corps is headed, we'd be most grateful.
Finally, I'd like to hear -- I personally would like to hear your assessment on how the V-22 performed. This committee stepped forward and made some decisions that weren't always popular. I've been on that aircraft in several visits to Iraq. It impressed the heck out of me, but I'd like to hear from an operational perspective how you felt it performed for your men and women in theater.
But again, thank you all, gentlemen, for your service. We look forward to your testimony and a greater understanding of the difficult decisions facing you in your leadership roles. And we thank you for taking on that challenge.
With that, Mr. Chairman, I'll yield back the balance.
REP. SKELTON: I thank the gentleman from New York.
SEC. PENN: Chairman Skelton, Congressman McHugh, distinguished members of the committee, it is truly an honor to appear before you on behalf of the more than 800,000 men and women of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. I have submitted written testimony and I ask that it be included in the record.
REP. SKELTON: Without objection.
SEC. PENN: Two months ago I assumed the responsibilities as acting secretary of the Navy. Since that time I have had the unique pleasure of meeting more of our troops and focusing the Department of the Navy as a whole, rather than simply upon the world of installations and the environment. This experience has left me with two lasting expressions.
First, we have phenomenal people. Our active-duty reserve and civilian personnel are dedicated and impressive. Today our sailors, Marines and civilians deployed provide an entire spectrum of action, from combat operations in the mountains of Afghanistan to humanitarian assistance in Africa. The Navy has nearly 10,000 individual augmentees and over 6,000 mobilized reservists deployed around the world in support of overseas contingency operations.
Seventy-six percent of our ships and over 50 percent of our attack submarines are under way. At the same time, more than 25,000 Marines are deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Nearly 5,700 Marines are deployed to various regions throughout Afghanistan where they face an enemy and operating environment that is different than that in Iraq. Our Marines are adapting superbly. In short, for our combatant commanders and our nation, no force is as capable, flexible and ready to deploy than your sailors and Marines.
The second impression I have been left with is how instrumental your help is in providing our Navy and Marine Corps the capabilities our people need to perform their demanding duties. On behalf of all the men and women, I thank you for continued support.
Today I am here to discuss the budget for the Department of the Navy. This budget reflects our view of the best balance between our most important resources: our people and our need to maintain the current force while preparing for the future through careful investment in science and technology and a military construction. We have invested prudently in the most important programs while deferring investments in others. Our reviews, in conjunction with the Department of Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review, will inform our investment decisions in future years.
Our budget request demonstrates our sustained commitment to our Navy and Marine Corps family by investing in the infrastructure, housing and family programs that make our department an employer of choice. Our budget also provides continual support for both medical and non-medical care for our seriously wounded, ill and injured service members. Our gratitude to the dedication of our service members can best be determined -- or demonstrated in the compassion and care we provide to them and their families for their service and sacrifice.
A single event this week demonstrated tragically the devastating effect of the combat stress on the force. Navy Commander Charles Springle of Wilmington, North Carolina died this Monday at the Combat Stress Clinic where he served with the Army in Camp Liberty, Iraq. The thoughts and prayers of our Navy and Marine Corps family and our entire nation go out to his wife and family in this time of great loss.
His tragic death serves as a reminder of our unending commitment to promote psychological resilience and health among Marines, sailors and their families. A resilient warrior knows there is no shame in seeking help. We are committed to removing the social stigma of seeking help as we remember the sacrifice of Commander Springle.
Finally, the Department of the Navy budget reflects our commitment to pursuing acquisition reform and cost control measures as responsible stewards of the taxpayers' resources and to relieve the stress on our procurement accounts. We support your efforts to promote acquisition reform and look forward to implementing these measures to produce the best results for our country.
Once again, on behalf of our sailors, Marines, civilian employees and their families, I thank you for all you have done. I ask for your continued support as we try to balance the resources necessary to defend our great nation.
I look forward to addressing your questions, sir.
REP. SKELTON: Mr. Secretary, thank you.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Chairman Skelton, Congressman McHugh, distinguished members of the committee, it is indeed an honor to appear before you today representing the more than 600,000 sailors and civilians and their families of the United States Navy.
I ask that my prepared remarks be submitted for the record.
REP. SKELTON: Without objection.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Our sailors and Navy civilians are making a difference at sea, in the air and on the ground in support of operations in the Central Command and around the globe. We have 40,000 sailors on station around the world as part of our ever deployed Navy, the value of which was once again demonstrated by the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips of Maersk Alabama a few weeks ago.
Our Navy is more versatile and agile than it has ever been. We have more than 13,000 sailors on the ground in Central Command supporting Navy, combatant commander and Army and Marine Corps requirements. That contribution is unique and making a difference, as reflected in the service of Commander Springle, who lost his life just this past week.
I appreciate greatly your continued support to our Navy as we sail in defense of our nation's global interests and responsibilities. As CNO, I focus on current operations, the future fleet and our people to ensure that we are a properly balanced Navy ready to answer the call now and in the decades to come.
Our fiscal year 2010 budget aligns our plans with the course our maritime strategy set a year ago. However, we are progressing at an adjusted pace. Our risk is moderate today, trending toward significant in the future because of the challenges associated with fleet capacity, increasing operational requirements and growing manpower, maintenance and infrastructure costs.
As I articulated last year, our Navy must have a stable shipbuilding program that provides the right capability and capacity while preserving our nation's industrial base. The balance among capability, capacity, affordability and "executability," and our procurement plans, however, is not optimal. We require additional capacity to meet combatant commander demands.
Our Navy's operational tempo over the past year reaffirms our need for necessary capacity and a minimum of 313 ships with a mix of capabilities that includes more ballistic missile defense, irregular warfare and open ocean anti-submarine warfare capabilities. Accordingly, this year's restart of the DDG-51, the truncation of the DDG-1000 and three littoral combat ships put us on the right path.
The Navy remains committed to a force of 11 carriers for the next three decades. However, to avoid a bill of $2.8 billion and significant technical risk, we seek legislative relief to decommission and take USS Enterprise out of service -- service that has spanned 47 years and everything from the Cuban missile crisis to Vietnam, the Balkans, Afghanistan and two conflicts in Iraq.
Along with our ships, we are addressing our aviation by investing in new and proven technologies. Timely delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter is needed as we approach a directed decrease in the number of carrier-capable strike fighters, which is due to the continued high pace of operating our older F and A-18 A through Ds.
I've focused on our need to control procurement and total ownership costs. We're addressing these costs by maturing new ship designs before commencing production, controlling requirements throughout the process, pursuing common hull forms, common components and proven designs and, finally, repeating builds of ships and aircraft to permit longer production runs and lower construction costs.
Our Navy is operating at its highest levels in recent years, and while we remain ready and capable, we are stretched in our ability to meet additional operational demands while balancing our obligation to our people and to building the future fleet. The Fleet Response Plan has provided a strong mechanism to keep our force ready. And our base budget augmented with contingency funding provides the means to meet the increased operational requirements of the combatant commanders while remaining the nation's strategic reserve.
Our talented and dedicated sailors and Navy civilians are what makes possible all that we do. I am committed to providing the necessary resources and shaping our personnel policies to ensure our people and their families are personally and professionally supported and fulfilled. While reducing end strength, we have increased operational availability, supported new missions for the joint force and introduced the maritime strategy.
To minimize stress on the force and meet increased demands with minimal risk, we are stabilizing the force this year. The Navy continues to provide support to all sailors and their families through a continuum of care that covers all aspects of individual medical, physical, psychological and family readiness. We have provided additional care managers and ambulatory care clinics for our 1,800 wounded warriors and their families. Our goal is reintegrating the individual sailor with his or her command, family and community.
Achieving the right balance within and across my priorities is critical as we meet the challenges of today and prepare for those of tomorrow. We have seen more challenging times, and we as a Navy and as a nation have emerged prosperous, secure and free. I ask Congress to fully support our 2010 budget and identified priorities.
Thank you for your continued support and commitment to our Navy and for all you do to make the United States a Navy a force for good today and in the future, and I look forward to your questions.
REP. SKELTON: Admiral, we thank you. We just learned that there are five votes that have just begun -- one 15-minute vote, two five- minute votes, 10 minutes of debate on a motion to recommit, then a 10- minute vote and then a five-minute vote, but we will continue as far as we can.
General Conway, we'll go to you, sir. And maybe we can also get a question or two in, but let's go ahead, sir.
GEN. CONWAY: Distinguished members of House Armed Services Committee, thank you for the opportunity --
REP. SKELTON: Get a little closer, please, to the microphone. Way closer. That's right.
GEN. CONWAY: (Off mike.)
REP. SKELTON: No, we're still not doing too well.
GEN. CONWAY: Thank you for the opportunity to report to you on the posture of your Marine Corps. My pledge, as always, is to provide you with a candid and honest assessment, and it's in that spirit that I appear before you today.
Since testimony before your committee last year, progress in the Al Anbar province of Iraq continues to be significant. Indeed, our Marines are in the early stages of the most long-awaited phase of operations: the reset of our equipment and the redeployment of the force.
In February we had a change of command of the Multi-National Forces - West in Anbar province. The commander of the multinational corps, who was present for the event, commented that he believed this will be the last rotation of Marines in Iraq. We tend to agree.
Having recently returned from a trip in theater, I am pleased to report to you that the magnificent performance of our Marines and sailors in Anbar continues across a whole spectrum of tasks and responsibilities.
In Afghanistan, however, we have a substantially 'nother story, as in 2009 the Taliban have again increased their activity. The 2nd Marine Brigade Expeditionary Force (sic/2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade), a force that will number more than 10,000 Marines and sailors, is en route and will be there for tasking by the end of this month.
The 2nd MEB is deploying as a Marine air-ground task force. They will operate under regional command south, primarily in Helmand province, where 93 percent of the country's opium is harvested and where the Taliban have been most active. This part of the country also includes a wide-open stretch of border with Pakistan, where drugs and fighters flow without interdiction.
That said, we consider the operating environment in Afghanistan as well-suited to our expeditionary ethos of being fast, austere and lethal, with emphasis on the austere. As our numbers grow in Afghanistan, Marines and their families have refocused their resolve to yet another crisis area. There are many challenges ahead, but your Marines understand the effects of their operations will make this country safer.
We are maintaining an effort to get every Marine to the fight and today 73 percent of your Marine Corps has done so. Yet our force remains resilient, in spite of an average deployment to dwell tempo that is somewhat better than one to one in most occupational specialties.
For instance, we believe retention is a great indicator of the morale of our force and the support of our families. Although we're only halfway through the fiscal year, we have already met our annual re-enlistment goals for our first-term Marines and for our career force.
Our growth in the active component by 27,000 Marines has proceeded two and a half years ahead of schedule. We have reached a level of 202,000 Marines and have found it necessary to throttle back our recruiting efforts. We have not changed our standards. Indeed, more than 96 percent of the young men and women who enlisted in the Marine Corps during FY 2008 had earned their high school diploma, a rate that exceeded the standard for the Department of Defense at 90 percent and our own self-imposed higher standard of 95 percent.
We attribute our accelerated growth to four factors: quality recruiting, exceptional retention levels, reduced attrition and, not least, a great young generation of Americans who wish to serve their country in wartime.
We are deeply committed to the care and welfare of our wounded and their families. Our Wounded Warrior Regiment reflects this commitment through all phases of recovery. To assist in the rehabilitation and transition of our wounded, injured or ill and their families, we have a Wounded Warrior Battalion on both coasts, at Camp Lejeune and at Camp Pendleton. The headquarters of our Wounded Warrior Regiment is in Quantico. I would like to thank those of you on the committee who have set aside your personal time to visit our wounded warriors across the globe.
The Marine Corps we're shaping for the future is a balanced force, equally adept at irregular warfare and contingency operations on the low end, yet ready to operate as a key element of the joint force in a major contingency. We believe we need to be able to go both ways, to be a, quote, "two-fisted fighter." Our equipment and major programs reflect that commitment to be flexible in the face of uncertainty. That is to say, 100 percent of Marine Corps procurement can be employed in both hybrid conflict or major combat operations.
Moreover, we seek to remain good stewards of the resources provided by Congress through innovative adaptation of our equipment to both defeat the enemy and counter the environment.
On behalf of your Marine Corps, I extend my gratitude for your enduring support and that of the American people. Our great young patriots have performed magnificently and have written their own page in history. They know, as they go into harm's way, that our country is behind them.
We pledge to spend wisely every dollar you generously provide in ways that contribute to the defense of this great land.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to report to you today, and sir, I look forward to your questions.
REP. SKELTON: General, thank you.
We'll see if we can get in a few questions in before we break for these votes.
Admiral, early this morning Congressman Solomon Ortiz and I were musing over the Ronald Reagan aim of having a 600-ship Navy. You were probably just an innocent at the time, but that was a day or two ago -- but that was the goal and the serious attempt to do so.
You have a goal, as you stated a few moments ago, of 313 ships. How many do we have right now?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Two hundred and eighty-three, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: Two eighty-three?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: What's the lowest we've had in the last 10 years?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: I would say 279, but I'll take that for the record, but 279 is where I would say we are. This is the smallest fleet that we've had since 1916.
REP. SKELTON: Two eighty-three right now?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: And your goal is still 213?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Three hundred and thirteen.
REP. SKELTON: Excuse me, 313.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. As a floor, I might add.
REP. SKELTON: Sir?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: As a floor -- the minimum -- is what I believe we need.
REP. SKELTON: You'll take more than 313?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: The floor, I would say right now is 313. Yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: And how many are you retiring?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: I'll get back on the exact number for this year, but it will be important for us to minimize our retirements by fully funding our maintenance and putting those places --
REP. SKELTON: I want to get a number if I can. Does anyone on your staff know how many you're retiring?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: This year? I don't have that number, sir, but I'll get that for you.
REP. SKELTON: My staff says -- how many? My staff says five. Does that sound correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That would -- that sounds like a good number, yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: And how many are you requesting?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: In this year's budget, we have eight in 2010 and we have an advance procurement for seven in this budget.
REP. SKELTON: That's a pretty slow climb to 313. Am I correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: The eight ships is not the largest number I would like to see, yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: You have a USS Enterprise challenge coming up. The law says we should maintain 11 operational aircraft carriers and with his -- with that retirement and before the Ford comes on, there will be a gap of 10 aircraft carriers. Am I correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That's correct, yes, sir.
REP. SKELTON: Then there is also the challenge of enough strike fighters to man all of the aircraft carriers. And I know those number are somewhere out there, but I heard some of their -- somewhat disturbing -- we can get into that a little bit later, but am I correct on that?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. As our older Hornets age out, how we address that issue of the adequate number of strike fighters writ large for the Department of Defense -- but for me, my interest is in those that are capable of operating on and off of our aircraft carriers and amphibious ships -- is key. And how we move forward with that, whether it's through extension or other options, is yet to be addressed.
And I would say that key to all of this is the timely delivery of the Joint Strike Fighter to the Navy in 2015. That is an absolute critical addition to our fleet for more than just number purposes. It's capability as well.
REP. SKELTON: As I understand, we're supposed to have some 13 Joint Strike Fighters today in the research and development phase and we only have three. Is that correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: The exact number of what is in there -- I'll get back to you, Mr. Chairman, because there are some Air Force variants, Marine Corps variants. We have not yet begun to get into our variant, which was the last to be delivered.
REP. SKELTON: Thank you.
REP. MCHUGH: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Let's just probe that a little bit further, Admiral.
Now, I'll certainly state for the record I fully recognize that you come here in support of this budget and that's --
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Absolutely. Yes, sir.
REP. MCHUGH: That's natural and I don't for a moment suggest you shouldn't. But I mentioned yesterday to the secretary of Defense I am concerned about the scope of some of these individual decisions absent what we would call regular order -- QDR particularly. And let me just give you a couple of examples there.
The decision has been made that the Air Force and the Navy are going to require fewer strike fighter aircraft to accomplish their missions. That's certainly an effective outcome of some of the choices that have been made on the strike fighter aircraft.
At the same time, on the other hand, we've got a proposal in here that will call for the replacement of the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine and the Ticonderoga class cruiser. Those aren't yet validated requirements. They may be absolutely appropriate decisions, but they're not validated requirements.
So, forgetting about the budget for a moment, I'd like your personal opinion. Is funding over a half a billion dollars in R&D for the DDG-1000 program -- which is an ongoing program in production that's going to be truncated at three ships -- is that more important than, say, making a different choice of procuring nine additional F/A- 18 Super Hornets, which is consistent with last year's budget?
That's a tough choice. I'm not saying which is right and which is wrong. I'm curious.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. I think the choice is not as tough as it may appear on the surface because even though that money for the DDG-1000 is research and development and that may conjure up a particular forward look that we are aspiring to, that money completes the computer software for the computing environment of the DDG-1000.
So even though it's R&D money, if that computing software is not developed, that is the combat capability of that ship and also is money that is in support of the advance combat capability in the new aircraft carrier that's coming along.
So even though it's R&D, it really is going to building the capability of the DDG-1000 and that must be resident in the first DDG- 1000.
REP. MCHUGH: Okay.
REP. SKELTON: If you'll let me interrupt --
REP. MCHUGH: Yes, sir, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: We'll come back to you, Mr. McHugh, to continue the -- your questioning after we continue voting.
Thank you. We'll be in recess.
REP. SKELTON: The votes took a bit longer than we had anticipated.
Mr. McHugh was in the middle of his inquiries and he will be delayed, but we will proceed from this.
REP. JEFF MILLER (R-FL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate it. If it's okay if I can sit way down here and --
REP. SKELTON: (Off mike.)
REP. MILLER: Thank you, sir.
Admiral Roughead, all right, sir, DOD announced the final decision on whether to permanently home-port an aircraft carrier at Mayport will be made during the 2010 QDR, and will the QDR in fact be able to make this type of explicit decision in time for the required funding the FY '11 submission?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Sir, I believe both the secretary and the deputy secretary of Defense have committed to do a review of the disposition of our aircraft carriers on the East Coast and I'm confident that those decisions will be made in the Quadrennial Defense Review.
REP. MILLER: In time for the FY '11 budget cycle?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: I believe that the decision will not impact any plan should the outcome be to put a carrier there because the period of time that would be required to prepare Mayport spans a couple of years. So I believe that the decision that would be made in the QDR will be adequate for anything that would have to be done in Mayport.
REP. MILLER: Thank you, sir.
And also a question to anybody that would choose to answer in regards to a Navy and Marine Corps shortage of doctors and nurses. Because of our OPSTEMPO, the shortage impacts both forward-deployed sailors and Marines as well as their families back home. What's our plan to increase the numbers of Navy doctors and nurses and other medical personnel?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: I'll comment on the plan. I'll let General Conway comment on -- as the Marine Corps is growing its force, we have increased the number of medical personnel commensurate with that growth and we are on the path to provide the required numbers for the Marine Corps, which are in the hundreds of additional medical personnel.
And I'll let General Conway talk about the adequacy of medical support to his troops.
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, it's marvelous forward, both in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we understand that's the Navy emphasis, as well it should be.
What's happened as a result of that, of course, is somewhat what you cite and that is that there is then a shortfall at some of the hospitals and clinics in some of our bases and stations. I do believe the Navy is attempting to contract to satisfy some of those shortfalls. It's easier to contract someone to live in San Diego than it is in Havelock, North Carolina.
And so I think that's where we see our biggest concerns right now as we go about our town hall discussions with families and so forth, just trying to make sure they've got sufficient care and, more importantly, specialized care that prevents them from having to drive great distances that TRICARE would otherwise provide for.
REP. MILLER: Sticking with the medical issue, we've all talked a lot about electronic medical records in recent hearings. Navy medical personnel has testified to the challenges (that ?) the Armed Forces Health Longitudinal Technology Application or AHLTA. What's our plan with the Navy in regards to improving the effectiveness of the electronic medical records in the future?
SEC. PENN: We're still doing a complete analysis of the records. There's a lot that has to be done, the Privacy Act and other things, that just requires that we go into it with our eyes wide open. That would be some secondary effects and we want to make sure they're addressed up front.
REP. MILLER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I yield back.
REP. SKELTON: Let me ask, before I call on Mr. Ortiz, General, as you know, several of us visited Okinawa and Guam recently regarding the proposal of moving some 8,000 Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and shortly before we made our visit the secretary of State visited Japan and my understanding is she signed the agreement again. And could you in 25 words or less bring us to date on where the proposal is and what needs to be done in the immediate future?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, if I can -- and I'm afraid I might have to take a few more than 25 words -- but I want to say in general terms, because there've been articles that may have presented otherwise, the Marine Corps is in favor of the move to Guam. There are issues associated with that move, but I have the personal assurance of the undersecretary of Defense for policy that she is going to work with us directly to solve those concerns.
Currently, sir, the Japanese government will be voting soon on a portion of their allocation for the funding that's required. In the meantime, we're going forward with an EIS, an environmental impact study, on Guam to determine what training can take place there. We think we have a pretty good feel for that at this point just because of the availability of training areas, and Guam is not going to satisfy the entirety of the training concerns that we have there. So at the same time that the EIS is under way for Guam, we're looking for an EIS on other portions of the islands in the area so as to be able to train.
REP. SKELTON: That's my next question. You're looking for an -- is there a formal request or a requirement for looking at the other nearby islands, particularly the Marianas?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, we have made known our requirement to be able to train the types of troops that we think we're going to put on Guam, and we believe that if we can gain proper access to those other islands, although they're some miles distant from Guam, that we can satisfy the training requirements to keep those troops viable.
SEC. PENN: Sir, there's an issue, as you know, with the EIS. If we start one and try to add to it, that's called segmenting.
REP. SKELTON: It's called what?
SEC. PENN: Segmenting.
REP. SKELTON: All right.
SEC. PENN: And then we have to start the entire process over again.
REP. SKELTON: Oh, you're kidding.
SEC. PENN: No, sir.
So we want to complete the AIP EIS and we've been working with the Marine Corps to come up with an entire WestPac training area and that will be the EIS for all the training on the outer islands.
REP. SKELTON: Thank you.
John McHugh, the bills cut you off and we'll return to you.
REP. MCHUGH: I've been cut off by worse, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, though.
And gentlemen I appreciate, as we all do, your patience.
Admiral, you and I were speaking before we left and I posed the one philosophical or theoretical change to you with respect to DDG- 1000, the ($)500 million on R&D, which you answered. There are some other components to that. I'm not sure I'll get a chance to pursue those, but let me pose another question for you on a similar trade.
On R&D we've got about $800 million for the replacement of the Ohio class submarine and the Ticonderoga cruiser shortfall as I -- development, rather, as I spoke earlier, and that is not yet a validated requirement. Again, it may be the right thing to do, but the question I would ask again in terms of the fact that any budget is a chain of choices, would we not spend that $800 million of R&D on those two unvalidated as yet requirement platforms for, say, addressing the strike fighter shortfall and the 11th amphibious transport ship?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, Mr. McHugh, on the sea-based strategic deterrent and the research and development money that we're putting into that, as we look back on the Ohio class SSBN that have -- that we are about at the same time where we had to begin development of that ship.
And the investments that we're making in research and development for a sea-based strategic deterrent are the initial work on a propulsion plant and a missile compartment -- it's not the entire ship, but just on those two things -- because I believe that, as we have seen since the inception of the sea-based strategic deterrent, it remains a key part of our national deterrent. And therefore, we believe, given the length of time that it requires to develop this type of a submarine, we are in that window and we believe that the investment is prudent at this point.
REP. MCHUGH: How do you respond to the issue these aren't validated requirements? I mean, they may well be in the near future based on future QDR, et cetera, but, I mean, it is a valid point of discussion.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. The way I would respond is even though the requirements may not have been validated by the -- by a posture review, the centrality of the sea-based strategic deterrent and the fact that submarines cannot be extended as easily as some of our surface ships may be, we believe it's prudent to begin to make the investments so that as we move through the NPR we will not risk the continuation of that important deterrent.
REP. MCHUGH: Have there been -- and this was a point of discussion yesterday with the secretary, and I think he failed to totally grasp the central point that I was trying to make, not taking issue necessarily with some of the major decisions he made but the lack of availability to some of the analyses that I would imagine -- I hope, certainly -- went into these decisions. And this is one as well. Can you help us understand what the analysis might have been or is there an available document that we can look at that makes that kind of choice?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. In the -- for example, in the case of the DDG-1000, that ship has its genesis in 1992. There is more analysis on DDG-1000 than I think we could sift through for the rest of this fiscal year. So when I came in and made the recommendation with regard to the DDG-1000, I had the benefit of being able to look at campaign analysis and other attributes of the ship, and I felt very comfortable with that, with the demands from combatant commanders in being able to put forward a recommendation to the secretary of the Navy and then to the secretary of Defense that resulted in the truncation and then the restart of the DDG-51.
With regard to the sea-based strategic deterrent, based on what we know about our submarine development programs, we are in the window where we need to begin that process of developing that replacement capability. So with regard to the refinement that will come in the review that will get at the question of force structure and the particulars that may apply to the numbers of those submarines and missile inventories, I think we can get to that. But the work of designing this replacement submarine we know we have to get on with it.
REP. MCHUGH: So with respect to the latter two, the Ohio class particularly but also the Ticonderoga class cruiser, those were you recommendations? You support them?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That we -- yes, sir, that we get going with that program because of the importance that this nation places on its nuclear deterrent.
REP. MCHUGH: Thank you, Admiral.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir.
REP. MCHUGH: Commandant, tell me a little bit about V-22.
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, V-22s had a checkered past, but I have to say that we accepted some risk putting it into combat as soon as it was ready. And we've been very well pleased with the performance of the aircraft ever since. We've finished now three rotations in Iraq. We've seen that aircraft demonstrate what we knew to be its capability in terms of flying farther, faster, higher and being able to carry a lot more than the aircraft it's replacing, principally the CH-46. In the words of one of my commanders, it turned the Anbar province from a state the size of Texas into a state the size of Rhode Island with the speed and capacity of the aircraft.
We have had -- speaking frankly -- some reliability issues in terms of the availability of the aircraft, but I would suggest not greater than other new aircraft, especially new aircraft that were tossed into such an austere environment. So we're working those issues and we are very optimistic about the future aircraft of this -- future of this aircraft for us for decades to come.
REP. MCHUGH: Great. Thank you very much.
Gentlemen, again, thank you for your leadership. And thank you most of all of bringing together under your commands some amazing men and women of the United States Marine Corps, United States Navy. We are all in there in your debt.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I would yield back.
REP. SKELTON: Thank you.
REP. SOLOMON ORTIZ (D-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, thank you for your service. We really appreciate your service and your commitment to our country and to keep it safe.
Admiral, you recently determined that in-service inspections should be classified rather than available to the public. Having thoroughly reviewed one of these inspection reports, I was alarmed at the detail available in the public realm that could potentially be utilized by our enemy, by our adversaries and thus support your decision.
However, I want to ensure that the committee staff and its members, of course, would receive access to this information in order to effectively do our job. Please elaborate on your decision to classify these inspection reports and how you will ensure the committee would be able to have -- not only the members but the committee as well -- all this information. Can you elaborate a little bit on that?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. And thank you for that question.
The reports of the inspection and survey team is something that we do to ourselves to assess ourselves. This is not an outside look that's reporting on the health of the Navy. This is something that we do to determine our programs, our maintenance, the adequacy of designs, the sufficiency of the systems that we put on our ships. It's a very frank, it's a very detailed process.
The report that is produced from that can shed significant light on readiness, design. It can also provide insight into vulnerabilities of systems and of ships and airplanes themselves. And in my mind, having that information available to someone who wants to see where we may have vulnerabilities is not a prudent thing to do, and for that reason I directed that we again classify them. They had been classified up until I believe it was about 2001.
With that said, it is in no way an attempt to not make information available to this committee and other committees and members who may be interested in that. And I commit to you that at any time when we have the report compiled -- because it's something we do every year -- that we will bring it to you. I will do that proactively. And we will make that information available to the members and to the staff. And moreover, what I will also like to be able to do is to show where we believe the root causes of some of the deficiencies that we discover may be. And I welcome that opportunity, and I make that committee to you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. ORTIZ: Thank you. Another question that I have is that the use of sailors to augment certain CENTCOM requirements is not expected to decrease even as our forces withdraw from Iraq because now we see some of the Navy personnel doing a lot of groundwork. What impact does the augmentation mission have on the Navy's ability to perform its core mission? Because you're taking Navy people that maybe had other missions, they were on a ship, now they are in Iraq or Afghanistan, boots on the ground. What -- is this causing a problem? Because we've had some complaints about the maintenance of the vessels and this is why they deteriorate. And I just want to be sure.
And then there was a report that came out the other day about health services provided to our troops where a lot of the contractors are utilizing the health services that I guess we should give our troops first choice to; they're in harm's way.
But these two questions maybe you can elaborate a little bit.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. I could not be more proud of the role and the contribution that our sailors are making to the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. That contribution is going to continue, and in fact, I believe our numbers will increase as we increase our forces in Afghanistan.
What our sailors bring are some unique skills and talents and capabilities that are a great addition to the joint force. And when I visit our sailors, whether they're performing duties on staffs, whether it's our construction battalions, intelligence officers, those who are leading and being part of the provincial reconstruction teams, they are making a difference. And I'm very, very proud of that.
We have put in place a different way of assigning sailors. We have increased our oversight of their training. We have increased our ability to provide counseling to the increased number of sailors that we have deployed and their families -- in particular their families. We have increased our ability to maintain track of where the families may be. When a sailor deploys individually, their family may go back to their hometown. We've put in place all of those.
The other thing that has become clear as we have continued our support to the ground forces is those sailors who go and do this have a higher probability of promotion than those who do not. And accordingly, that makes it a very attractive assignment. We monitor the readiness of the rest of the force very carefully. We have not had to adjust our deployment schedules. In fact, we've increased the level of activity -- for example, the Africa Partnership Station in Africa, the hospital ship to South America that's down there now, a ship that's about ready to leave to go into the South Pacific to do humanitarian work, and we're able to do all of that. And we have not missed a commitment in the United States Navy. And I cannot be more proud of the contribution our sailors are making.
REP. ORTIZ: I know my time is up. Maybe my next question will be for the next panel of the Army about health care for our troops who are on the ground, especially the Army and the Marine troops. I saw where the contractors were using the facilities and the doctors and the nurses to take of the contractors. And I don't know what kind of impact this is having on our troops. But I know my time is up, but maybe --
REP. SKELTON: We can save it for General Casey who will be here at 2:30.
We're going to go until 2:00. Is that correct, gentleman? You'll be here until then. And I'm sorry the vote interrupted.
REP. J. RANDY FORBES (R-VA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General, Mr. Secretary and Admiral, thank you so much for being here.
And Admiral, in the few minutes that I have I'd like to ask you just a couple of questions. If you can't answer them, please feel free to just say you need to get back to us or get in the record, whatever.
Yesterday, the secretary was here and basically indicated that any individual that came over to testify was free to give us their personal opinions as well as anything else now to do it. One of the things that concerns me is I heard the chairman ask you earlier today about our shipbuilding goals. And you talked about the 313-ship minimum that we would need. But that is a goal; it's not a plan.
And one of the things Congress recognized long ago is that for us to reach where we need from a national security point of view, we needed to have a shipbuilding plan, and we literally put in law that each year when the budget came over the secretary would need to give us that shipbuilding plan so it wasn't just theory floating around. We could get our hands around it and see the plan.
Secondly, that the secretary was to certify that the budget that was sent over was sufficient to reach that plan and if it wasn't that we were to be told what the risks were of that disconnect.
The question I would ask you this afternoon is if members of this committee wanted to go find that plan, since the secretary did not send it and indicates he's not going to send one, where would we go to find what the existing shipbuilding plan is for this nation, and if so if you could tell us where we would go or get us a copy of that so we have that for the record.
But secondly, if we ask you today are you comfortable certifying that this budget will get us to that shipbuilding plan could you do it? And if not, what are the risks that we are exposed to by not being able to meet it?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Sir, and thank you. With regard to the shipbuilding plan, as you mentioned, in previous years we had submitted the shipbuilding plan, which we did for 2009. The budget that we have put forth today, and I'm very pleased with the eight ships that we have and the seven ships that we have advanced procurement for, that defines the path for our future -- the restart of the DD-51, truncation of the 1000, a commitment to the Littoral Combat Ship. But we are going to in the Quadrennial Defense Review get into the issue of amphibious lift, the pre-position force, and those are questions that have to be answered in the Quadrennial Defense Review, which will have an effect on what the plan will be.
So what this budget does is it defines what we are asking to have authorized and appropriated this year, lays in advanced procurement, and if I may say it -- and to get back to an earlier question on the decommissionings -- we're going to decommission seven ships this year, five in '10, but at the end of fiscal year '10 our fleet size will go up by four ships. So I do believe that what we have done with this budget and the progress of growth, that this puts us in a good position to realize the growth of the fleet that's necessary for our missions.
REP. FORBES: And Admiral, again, with all the respect, please don't think I'm trying to ask a question that's embarrassing or difficult. If we say the QDR is going to outline our plan, do we not basically have to say then as of today when the budget came over we don't have a shipbuilding plan? I mean, is that what we're saying, until the QDR comes out?
Because the goal of this statute, as I understand it, was to be able to look to our budget and say this budget will reach this plan. And if it won't, here's the risk that we have. And I realize that we have to constantly modify that plan, and the QDR may modify.
But as of today do we have a shipbuilding plan anywhere in the nation today, and if we do does this budget reach that plan?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: What I would say, Mr. Forbes, is that what we have done with this budget is we have made some fundamental decisions in the direction where we're going with the plan. And part of a plan is not just how much you're buying but what you are going to buy. And I believe that '10 -- more than any other recent budget -- really did some affirmation and reaffirmation of what we are doing and that the Quadrennial Defense Review will further define and refine. And after the QDR coupled with this '10 budget, I believe we will have a plan that sees our future more clearly than we have had in the past.
REP. SKELTON: Mr. Taylor.
REP. GENE TAYLOR (D-MS): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank our guests for being with us. And I want to thank my colleagues for pressing the CNO and others on the importance of shipbuilding. I welcome your help on that.
Chief, last month we had an American-flagged vessel hijacked by some thugs with AK-47s. It is my understanding that when we send an American-flag vessel that has military cargo to that part of the world they pick up either a Navy team to protect it or a Blackwater-type team to protect it. We make a distinction, though, when we send an American-flag vessel that's carrying American-purchased foodstuffs or humanitarian goods to that part of the world; we don't protect it.
I'm going to ask you to rethink that strategy based on what has happened. It's still got an American flag on it. We know that our enemies like to attack symbols of America. That's why they went after the Pentagon. That's why they went after the twin towers. That's why we presumed the flight that crashed in Pennsylvania was going after the Capitol.
And I've got to believe -- and I know you've got two simultaneous wars going on -- but I've got to believe that between the special boat units, the Navy Reserve, the United States Marine Corps Reserve, the special operation troops that are within the National Guard, the 20th Special Ops group and others, that either as units or individual augmentees that you could with one call for volunteers put together enough teams to protect every American-flag vessel that's transiting that area whether it's carrying foodstuffs or weapons. It's our stuff.
It's fair to say the only thing that travels on American-flag vessels anymore is something that the taxpayers have paid for. So it's our stuff. It's not like we're protecting a cargo for an individual company; it's something that our nation has purchased. It's a symbol of America. And quite frankly, when ship owners from around the world who I know to be Americans re-flag their vessels foreign and they say why should I stay, you charge me more for taxes, you make me buy an American-flag vessel; I've got to pay an American more than I would pay a Panamanian. And my answer to them all along has been but guess what, when that vessel gets attacked we're not going to send the Panamanian SEALs to rescue it. And as we just saw off of Somalia, we did send the American SEALs to rescue them.
Now, we tried to do waterside security on the Cole on the cheap and we lost 20 sailors and we almost lost a billion-dollar warship. We tried to airport security on the cheap, and we lost people in the twin towers, we lost people at the Pentagon, we lost people in Pennsylvania. I think we're trying to transit that area on the cheap. And I think we ought to have learned -- I think your team did a magnificent job, but I think we should have learned a lesson that if it's got an American flag on it, if it's got a cargo that our taxpayers have paid for that we are sending somewhere in the world that it's our stuff and that it would be cheaper to put a team of trigger pullers on there than to have to go through what we went through last time.
And I would welcome your thoughts on that.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. As you said, we're dealing with some thugs. They're criminals; they're pirates. I do not believe --
REP. TAYLOR: Who, by the way, are represented in London by guys with three-piece suits.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. And I do not believe that they are ideologically driven. They're going to jump on a ship that looks to be a lucrative target regardless of what the flag may be. The fact that they elected to jump on an American-flagged ship ended in the demise of three of them and extraordinary performance on the part of our Navy.
I also believe that those shipping companies that make the investments in protecting their ships is an important aspect of the entire counterpiracy process. We and our friends and partners are patrolling an area four times the size of Texas. And just last night an example of a shipping company that had security guards on board, in my opinion, contract security guards, made a difference. They held the ship off. They held the pirates off the ship until a Korean destroyer and a Korean helicopter disrupted it until the USS Gettysburg closed and captured 17 pirates. And right now the USS Gettysburg has 17 pirates aboard.
And that was stymied by contract guards that the shipping company elected to make the investment in, and yet we as navies responded. And I believe that that scheme is something that needs to be pursued as opposed to putting sailors, Marines, soldiers onboard ships. I believe that the shipping companies have to address the security issues in that area as well.
REP. TAYLOR: Well, Admiral, you and I both know we deal with, I don't know, a handful of shipping lines to deliver our stuff. So one of them is doing is right. To what extent are you or someone from your organization going to sit down with MARAD, with the Coast Guard, with all the players and come up with a set of rules? Or, again, we can do it legislatively. I would rather have the professionals do it in-house so that it's done right. But it does have to be addressed.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, Mr. Chairman, just this past Monday that's exactly what happened. Shipping companies to include the union, to include my commander from the Middle East, to include the commandant of the Coast Guard, to include officers from my staff, came together to address exactly what has to be done. Last Friday the commandant of the Coast Guard issued a bulletin specifying the steps that the shippers needed to take.
REP. TAYLOR: Actually, in fairness, I read it yesterday. It basically said you must prepare a plan. It didn't outline any steps.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. And that's exactly what some of the shipping companies are doing, and they're finding that it's working to their benefit.
REP. TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We'll have further discussions on this.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir, I'm sure.
REP. SKELTON: I thank the gentleman.
REP. JOHN KLINE (R-MN): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here.
Admiral, it's been a pleasure working with you for these last few years.
And General, a pleasure working with you for these last few decades.
Clearly, the Marine Corps is pouring lots of troops into Afghanistan. They've got -- they're there. They're in Iraq. They're fighting. And we could talk all day about those tactics and procedures and problems that those Marines might be facing. And I'd like to do that, but my time seems to already to have run out so it's a little -- going to be a little bit tough.
I want to talk about vehicles for a change. General, the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle is -- there's no procurement for that in the budget. There seems to be some R&D, some ($)293 million.
And it looks like, as near as I can tell, that we're moving forward for procurement in four years or something like that.
Can you just kind of give us an update on that vehicle? I know the Marine Corps, it's been important to them since I was a junior officer. Tell us what's going on.
GEN. CONWAY: Sure. Sir, you're right in your analysis of the budget. It is R&D at this point. Procurement dollars follow. We look at initial operating capacity of the vehicle out about 2014 but really sometime after that before we're at full operational capacity.
The vehicle within the last 18 months or so had its Nunn-McCurdy breach. There was a forced function in inside the building for both Department of Navy and the OSD to examine the vehicle. But in fact it was determined to be suitable for continuation. And we have since had some reliability estimates done, and we're encouraged by all of that.
The vehicle got into trouble with the reliability test that showed that it was not very reliable at all, not the vehicle that we thought we were about to procure. So improvements in the vehicle in a number of ways and greater reliability lead us to be cautiously optimistic that it's going to be precisely what we need to be able to close that 25 miles from where the amphibs will lay off on any foreign shore.
Now, all that said, the EFV is a tool in the kitbag for the discussion I believe that will occur in the QDR on amphibious capability. And so I think the numbers of ships and that capability writ large is going to at least in part determine the future of the EFV.
REP. KLINE: Okay. Thank you. I'm really looking forward to that. We need -- we've been missing a whole lot of analysis here, and the QDR is certainly going to be an important part of our looking at these programs. I am getting concerned that we're not moving out as quickly as I had hoped on that EFV.
But something we are moving out on and I know something you put a lot of attention into, General, is the MRAP. As I'm looking at the dollars in the budget for that and a combination according to the paper I have here from the '09 base request and the supplemental is $6.5 billion. And I'm sure that you agree that it's proven to have been extraordinarily effective and helpful vehicle, no doubt saved the lives of many Marines. I don't yet understand how it fits into the Marine Corps. We've sort of always known where the humvees were going to go and we had truck companies and we have AAVs and we have LAVs, and they fit into battalions and things. What's the MRAP? What's its role in this thing?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, at present -- and we're talking now about what I will call the unimproved MRAP, the MRAP that we essentially sent into Iraq. We have about 2,200 of those vehicles. The immediate utility that we see in our exercising is with our road clearance detachments. We think that it will be our future engineer vehicle. In the past they've sort of ridden into conflict in the back of a dump truck, and we think we owe them something better than that, and should we get into any future IED environment, and I think there is a high probability of that based upon the cheap, inexpensive weapon that it is, then we have those MRAPs available.
Our experience to date in Afghanistan has been that it's not a good transfer. That MRAP that works well for our functions in Iraq is not serving as well off-road in Afghanistan. So we've embarked on a program -- there's two programs, really, one that would developed what's called an MATV, an MRAP/all-terrain vehicle.
We have a separate program where we have through innovation and adaptability put the suspension of an MTVR seven-ton truck onto our CAT-1 MRAPs. And we're pretty encouraged by that. The off-road capability is apparently equal to that of the MTVR, which, by the way, is the favorite vehicle of our troops in Afghanistan at present. We think we can -- if the continuation of these tests, and we'll know by about this time next month, but if it proves out as successfully as we hope, we'll have those vehicles to Afghanistan sooner. They will have more protection --
REP. KLINE: My time really is about to expire here. But it's that point I guess I'm trying to get here is you've got the MRAP. It's worked in Iraq. It's an on-road vehicle largely. You're talking about using it for engineers. And now we're talking about Marines getting around -- moving around in Afghanistan, and clearly the IED threat could go up there as it went in Iraq. And so -- I see my time is expired -- but the question is, will we have the vehicles that our Marines need to ride in in Afghanistan?
GEN. CONWAY: The answer, sir, is absolutely, through one program or the other.
REP. KLINE: All right. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: Dr. Snyder.
REP. VIC SNYDER (D-AR): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen, for being here today.
We lost two fine young marines in a helicopter crash outside of San Diego a week or so ago: Captain Jessica Conkling, and 1st Lieutenant Aaron Cox. Lieutenant Cox was from my district. And In fact, I had nominated him for the Naval Academy, and he chose the Marine Corps.
I talked to his parents a couple days after he died, and they are very, very proud of what he had done, very, very proud of his performance not only at the naval Academy but as a Marine. And we certainly regret their loss but celebrate their service.
I wanted to direct my questions to the Marine Corps here.
I don't know how long it's been now, General. Two or three years ago, I think, you first began talking about the fact that we did not have adequate troop strength in Afghanistan. I think you describe it as, if you're going to do a program of clear, hold and build, you've got to be able to do more than just be able to clear. You've got to have the troops to hold and allow the people to build the country. We're clearly moving in that direction. And I think your marines are very excited at the prospects of increased numbers of troops.
My concern is -- and we will probably see this discussion today and in the next week or two on the supplemental and then as the year goes on -- my concern is that the American people may not be prepared for the length of time, that even with additional troops there's not something magical that's going to occur.
And I wanted to give you the opportunity to explain how you see things happening over the next one and two and three and four and five years. I asked that question yesterday to Secretary Gates, because a recent study came out that thought we need to prepare, at some level, of a five- to 10-year involvement.
But would you take my time to just talk about what you see as the -- where we may be in a year or two or three, and why we need to look over the longer time frame --
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, I think it's -- I will, indeed. I think it's fair to say that up until this time -- almost right now -- we have been in an economy of force operation in Afghanistan, with the emphasis being Iraq. We now see the opportunity to change that out. And the chairman has said recently that Afghanistan is now his new focus.
We believe that, at least for now, the influx of 10,000 Marines and two brigades of Army troops, in the south in particular, is going to give us the ability to start to achieve stability and security.
How well that will go will be determined by how emphatically the enemy responds. The enemy gets a vote in this whole arrangement. But lesser numbers of troops in the past -- witness -- inaudible) -- going in and 2nd battalion 7th Marines -- have had some pretty significant impact. And I've driven these people into other locations and to lesser numbers of engagements.
I think we need to examine what happens over this next year with regard to our kinetic activity and how successful we'll be.
But there are other issues. I mentioned we're going into the Helmand River Valley, where 93 percent of the rugs are produced in Afghanistan.
And when I was there about a month and a half ago now, the estimates of resources to the Taliban ranged somewhere between ($)80 million and $400 million a year that they can turn around and put against foreign fighters and explosives and those types of things.
So we've got to work the drug issue simultaneous to increasing the level of security for the Afghanis who live in the region.
At the same time, sir, we can be wildly successful in Afghanistan, I think, and not solve this nation's worst problem, which is the al Qaeda, if the forces in Pakistan aren't having parallel or similar success across the border.
Now, we're encouraged, of course by recent events happening in the Swat Valley. Nothing like that has extended yet down to Baluchistan, opposite RC South, where we're operating. But it seems to me that the Pakistani government realizes there is a greater threat here and is now taking steps to deal with that.
So I could not begin to put a timeline on how long all that's going to take. It's going to be evolutionary. It's going to be against some tried and true practices that come from our small wars manuals and some doctrine that the Army has developed. A large part of it will be something other than military force. We think that we need a larger civil involvement in that region to raise the quality of life of the people of Afghanistan to a degree where they see that we're not their enemy but the al Qaeda and the related Taliban are. That will take time.
REP. SNYDER: I think I'll stop there.
Thank you for your comments.
GEN. CONWAY: Sure.
REP. SNYDER: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.
REP. WALTER B. JONES (R-NC): Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
And I welcome the panelists, as everyone else has done.
And I really wasn't going to -- I'm not going to ask you a question; I'm going to make a statement and then I have a question about a totally different subject.
But Secretary Penn, you know, it's always bothered me that the secretaries before you -- you come before us with the fighting team. The fighting team is known as the Navy and the Marine Corps. And yet, it says, "Witnesses: The Honorable B.J. Penn, acting secretary of the Navy." What happened to the team? Now, I'm not asking you that question. Let me get to the point. And then I'm looking that in 2002 Marine Corps Commandant General James Jones, United States Naval Institute Annual Meeting, April 4th, 2002 -- question: "Legislation has been introduced to rename the Department of the Navy. What is your view?"
This is the answer from the commandant: "The secretary of the Navy, Gordon England, has no objection. The CNO -- chief of naval operations -- Admiral Vern Clark has no objection. I have no objection. It's what it is. So if it passes, we're happy with that. Maybe that's something that is an idea that lawmakers believe whose time has come."
Well, I'm not going to ask the CNO, I'm not going to ask the acting secretary, I'm not going to ask the commandant. I'm not going to put anyone on the spot. But I will tell you that one of the things that has bothered me greatly -- with all that's being done by the fighting team -- Navy and Marine Corps -- that when a Marine dies and the secretary of the Navy sends a condolence letter to the wife of a Marine who gave his life for this country, there is nothing in the heading but the Department of Navy, Washington, D.C. And then the first sentence is, "The Navy family extends its condolences."
It is time that the Department of Navy and Marine Corps become one fighting team. And I'm pleased to tell you today that many people here and that are not here -- we have 249 members of the House have signed legislation to rename the Department of Navy, Navy and Marine Corps.
And I want to thank Senator Pat Roberts on the Senate side -- has dropped the same type of bill.
I'm not going to ask you today how you feel. I've got another question.
But Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you, as I have thanked Duncan Hunter Sr., and now Mr. Skelton, our new chairman, for putting this language in the bill. And I believe sincerely that the American people want to see the stepchild become part of the family. And that would be the Department of Navy and Marine Corps.
This is my question --
REP. SKELTON: If the gentleman would yield.
REP. JONES: Yes, sir. I'll yield to the chairman.
REP. SKELTON: I want to assure you that the chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee as well as the chairman of the full committee will include that in the base bill this year.
REP. JONES: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: You're welcome.
REP. JONES: And I thank the subcommittee chairman as well.
Yesterday I praised Secretary Gates, I praised Admiral Mullen for their concern for the injured.
And I want to praise you both, as well as the secretary of Navy and Marine Corps sitting here today. And I want to say to you, Commandant Conway, you and your wife have earned the love and respect of the Marine team. I heard this as frequently as yesterday. I spoke to a couple of ladies down at -- Marine wives down at Camp Lejeune.
What I want to bring to you very quickly is that there is a process and a treatment to help our soldiers and our Marines and our Navy when they have PTSD, when they have TBI. And it's called hyperbaric oxygen treatment.
I would like to ask you both, and maybe the secretary of Navy and Marine Crops sitting there today -- I would like to ask you both your opinion, because I will tell you I was pleased with Admiral Mullen. He is going to have someone to come meet with me. He wants to see what we can do to move this study quicker than what it's taken now.
Admiral, are you familiar with this process?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir, I am. And the commandant and I have talked about this in the past. And the comment that I made to him -- and even though there may be some who can question the efficacy of it -- my comment, if I recall -- and Jim, if you want to add to it -- was, if it can help, if it may help, I'm in.
REP. JONES: Good.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: So that's where I am. I believe that we should, for our people, explore every avenue that we can to help them recover from what are really becoming some signature wounds of this war that we're in.
REP. JONES: Thank you, sir. Thank you.
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, as I travel about, you can imagine, a lot of people approach me with this idea or that, in terms of how to treat TBI or PTSD. But I will tell you, I have seen none out there that I'm more encouraged by than what I would call at this point the ad hoc results of hyperbaric treatment, to the point where we have put the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps in charge of trying to speed the process of the protocol that that Navy medicine must necessarily accomplish in order to rapidly bring this to treatment level for our Marines that we think are affected.
In the meantime, there is a doctor down in New Orleans who treats people. And through some of our charitable organizations and so forth, we have sent forward those Marines suffering that we though might be suicidal, to get them into a treatment regimen, because it can't hurt. It can only help. And so even in those cases, we're encouraged by some of the things that we're seeing.
So we think that we're on to something here.
REP. JONES: Well, I want to thank, Mr. Commandant, you and the admiral for your statements. I wanted to get that on the record, because I intend to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to push this treatment for those in the Army and the Marine Corps.
And I really appreciate your commitments to our men and women in uniform. And thank you for those statements.
And with that, Mr. Chairman, I will yield back. And thank you, again, for your statement earlier.
REP. SKELTON: Thank you.
REP. SUSAN A. DAVIS (D-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you so much for being here and for your extraordinary leadership to all of you. Thank you.
As you know, the vice president and Mrs. Biden are in San Diego today, on the Ronald Reagan talking to military families. And it's one of those days when you really want to be in two places at once, of course. And my schedule didn't permit me to go. But I'm delighted that they're focusing and highlighting our military families.
We had a chance to meet with a group as well, recently -- a group of spouses, particularly, who represent a large number of military families. And one of the concerns that they expressed, and it was reflected in a poll that basically says about 94 percent of military families believe that the country does not understand or appreciate their sacrifices. That's a pretty high number. We know how resilient they are, but we also know that they're really burned out.
And so I'm just wondering your reaction to that. Yesterday in our discussion with Chairman Mullen and with Secretary Gates, they really alluded to the fact that there's some differences in commands and the way that families are treated and taken into account. And I asked about promotions, and, you know, where do we factor that into promotions? And getting back to the question of how they feel about the rest of the country, outside the military community and their understanding of their sacrifice, is how can we impact that when it comes to our commands?
GEN. CONWAY: Ma'am, I'll start and say that it doesn't totally surprise me, because, as you can image, over time and with the frequency of our deployments, that a number of our spouses have gone home to be with their natural families for the period of time of the deployment.
And what we hear, almost routinely, is that they're an anomaly back in their community. People do not understand their concerns with a child growing up without the other parent or the worry that goes every time the phone rings -- those kinds of things.
So it doesn't surprise me that that would be their reaction to, I say "the rest of America." It would be interesting to hear what they say about their service or the military or the DOD on a larger scale. I would hope that the response would be dramatically different and that they are seeing the things that we're trying to do as services.
They are bearing a tremendous load. And although we try to do as much as we can, I have to say, and it, I think, would be readily apparent, that the repetitiveness of it does get difficult. Our service culture will help some, in that we have seven-month deployments and that we rotate people out of the operating forces to what we call B billets -- three-year billets elsewhere in the headquarters or training command or, perhaps, recruiting to try to give them time to recover before they might come back and do it again.
But our families are the most brittle part of our equation. We accept that, and therefore, we're putting a lot of the generosity you all have given us against those family service programs at the bases to try to raise the quality of life, show them psychologically that we do care, and make it better when the military member is gone.
REP. DAVIS: If I could shift for a second. And I'm sure, Admiral, that you would be concerned about this as well -- and we talked about it yesterday also -- is that when we're looking to budgets -- and there're some concerns about fleet maintenance right now -- and trying to capture some dollars for that, that we may also be making it more difficult on families when it comes to their permanent duty stations and when they're actually transferred and how we deal with this.
And it's an ongoing tough question. I mean, do you take dollars out of personnel and/or out of fleet maintenance? And I know that when I first came to Congress, one of the things I heard from a lot of the sailors is that, you know, they ended up doing a lot of make work, because, you know, the maintenance was so poor. That changed over the last number of years, when there were a lot more dollars, but there's a concern that we're relying too much on supplementals to kind of cover some of those costs. So I'm asking about, you know, that tough question.
And Admiral, could you respond? How -- what goes into making those decisions? Because the families are saying, hey, you know, it's affecting us. And plus we have this whole issue about how we treat our families.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, that's my world, Ms. Davis. And how do we balance and get the right balance in the fleet of current readiness, the personnel programs and the future Navy that we know is important for our country.
And as I do that, I weigh all of those factors. But we have used the base budget and supplemental funding to provide the maintenance and operating funds that we need.
There's no question that this year, because of the higher retention rates that we're experiencing, lower attrition rates, which I think speaks volumes about the fulfillment that our sailors get about being in the Navy, is pressurizing our manpower account. And I have had to throttle way back on permanent change of station moves until the supplemental funding is provided to us, because I don't want to be in a position where I overspend the budget that you have -- that you hold me accountable for.
So we've had to do that. I await the supplemental coming. But those are just some of the decisions that we have to make. My commitment and what I told my leadership was that I won't break a promise to a sailor, and I won't take money out of their pockets. And I'm holding to that, but we've had to make some adjustments in other areas to manage to our budget.
REP. DAVIS: Thank you, sir --
REP. SKELTON: I thank the gentlelady.
REP. TRENT FRANKS (R-AZ): Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you, Secretary Penn, Admiral Roughead and General Conway.
You know, it's always hard to know what to say to people like you that do what you can to keep the homeland safe and to continue to protect freedom for all of us. I would never want to miss an opportunity to thank you for that.
Admiral Roughead, you know, because Aegis ships are multimission platforms, I know that you have a lot of operational trade-offs and mission optimization and opportunity cost decisions that you have to make when you're deciding how and when and where to deploy those ships. And I guess one example would be an Aegis ship deployed to focus on missile defense may be deployed in a location that's suboptimal for its support to anti-surface warfare.
And I guess I've got three questions here, if I can squeeze them all in -- if you can help me with that.
First, some have proposed using the Aegis BMD to provide missile defense protection of Europe. And where would be the optimal locations to deploy Aegis ships to meet that challenge if it were -- the decision were made?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. The versatility that you get with an Aegis ship and a ballistic missile defense mode is pretty unique. You can place them wherever you need them. You can move them around. It will also -- it will be a function --
REP. FRANKS: For Europe, in particular --
ADM. ROUGHEAD: For Europe, in particular, you would want to have them in the Mediterranean for the tracking and the potential targeting of countries in the southern tier or in the eastern Mediterranean, and then also the potential to deploy them up in the northern waters around Europe. Exactly where is a function of how many you have. And so that's a calculus that has to be made.
REP. FRANKS: Well, if the Aegis ships should be deployed, whether it's the, you know, the Black Sea or the North Baltic -- or North or the Baltic Sea or, as you say, and I think that's the right answer is the Mediterranean -- eastern Mediterranean -- what other missions can't it support? In other words, you know, what would be the planning and lead time? What would be the time required to deploy Aegis? And what amount of threat warning time would be required to allow Aegis to move into theater or in these right locations? And what other missions might have to suffer because of it?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, the beauty of being a forward-deployed Navy with that type of capability is you can move it around very quickly and respond literally within hours or days, depending on other things you have going on.
The ship from which Captain Phillips was rescued was an Aegis ship that could just as easily have been swung into the Arabian Gulf for missile defense, into the Arabian Gulf for surface warfare. The fact is that even though someone would look at that ship and see it as a high-end capability, it can do lower-end missions.
If you spend money on low-end ships, you can't go high.
REP. FRANKS: Right.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: And that's why I believe our Aegis ships are a great investment for the nation.
REP. FRANKS: Well, I couldn't agree with you more, Admiral. I really -- I guess the point I'm trying to get at here is that there're always operational trade-offs when you have to have, you know, lead time. These ships are, you know, not jets, and you have to have the time to move them around. And of course, there're operational trade- offs for other requirements they have. And I know that, you know, you're fully aware of all that.
But there have been those who have suggested, you know, that the European site could be easily replaced by Aegis and land-based SM3. And of course, one of my big concerns about that is that those -- that the Aegis doesn't protect the homeland of the United States. It would be potentially able to protect Europe. But it's the trade-off and the operational trade-offs that we would have to make to do that. And it could not only pull these ships away from other necessary functions but that the cost involved -- can you speak to the cost of, you know, the disadvantage of -- in terms of cost -- of the Aegis ship having to be deployed there in the region, as opposed to land-based interceptors?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, I would say one of the solutions, sir, is you buy more ships. That's always an option.
REP. FRANKS: A good option.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: But anyway, it is always a trade-off. But even the Aegis ships when they're forward provide for other defense. For example, it was a series of Aegis ships in the Western Pacific that when the North Koreans launched their missile it was those Aegis ships that were providing the information that our leadership needed to make decisions. So you get a lot of coverage from the ships and a lot of value.
REP. FRANKS: I'm a big believer in them, General (sic). I guess -- I'm sorry, Admiral. I guess the point that I'm hoping that we can all keep in mind here is that when we do suggest that Aegis be a central component of protecting Europe we've got to keep two things is mind: We've got operational trade-offs, and it costs a lot to keep them there, and they don't protect the homeland of the United States. And I hope that that can continue t be part of the debate.
And thank you all for the great work you do.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Thank you, sir.
REP. SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.
Mr. Courtney, the gentleman from Connecticut.
REP. JOE COURTNEY (D-CT): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And again, thank you to all the witnesses for your patience also this morning.
First of all, I just want to publicly state, Secretary Penn's son-in-law is leaving the Groton Sub Base after his excellent service for the Submarine Group 2. And I just want to, again, publicly acknowledge that, as well as his daughter, Emily, graced the state for the time that they were there. We'll miss them, but I know they're going to do great things when they return here to Washington.
So please, as -- Chairman Taylor has a hearing scheduled tomorrow morning, so I won't be able to attend the ceremony. So please blame him and thank them for their great time in Connecticut.
I also, again, want to salute Admiral Roughead for the great balancing act that I think you've done in this budget. I mean, when you think of the issues that you've defused with this plan, in terms of the destroyer, you know, sort of contest that was out there six months ago -- again, the work that you've done with the carrier plan, which just really seems to have satisfied all stakeholders and parties.
You know, again, it's not easy doing what you've done. And I think it's really -- should be noted.
Your testimony, written testimony, included a comment which I wanted to at least share publicly. The chairman referred to it in his opening remarks, but your statement, "I consider the Virginia class cost-reduction efforts a model for all our ships, submarines and aircraft," is something that certainly the folks back in Connecticut appreciate. And again, we're very excited about the fact that the Missouri is going to be ready earlier and cheaper than all the predecessors. And I think that's a trend line that's going to continue.
I wanted to just address a point though, which does still sort of fester out there. And despite the fact that the Virginia class program was designed and planned post-Cold War and is truly, in my opinion, a post-Cold War platform, there still seems to be a perception lingering out there that, you know, this is a program that doesn't fit within our national security plans. And I just wonder if you could comment on that?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. And my perspective is -- goes beyond just being the chief of naval operations. As a fleet commander, as a battle group commander, the utility that we get from our nuclear submarines, our attack submarines is extraordinary.
They are the most effective weapon that we have in sea control. They are versatile in being able to project power with the missiles that they can launch. And they give our commanders insight and information that cannot be gained with any other platform that we have in our military. Their ability to stay submerged, operate at great distances from the country is unmatched by any other country in the world.
And I refer oftentimes in naval warfare, if you're a chess player, submarines are the invisible queens. They do everything. You can put them anywhere and on one knows when they're going to appear. And that's why our submarines are so important to our security and our safety and our prosperity.
REP. COURTNEY: Thank you. That's very well put.
And I think also, again, it's important that people have to put it in context, in terms of what the building plan is, is that in many respects it's partially replacing a declining fleet. But I mean, again, what you've proposed I think will stabilize and balance it at an adequate number. And I guess that's the question I just want to confirm -- I think I know the answer -- is that, again, the budget that you've proposed really is going to stay on target for the Block 3 contract that was signed last December and that will get us to two a year in 2011. Is that correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That is correct, sir. And in fact, the '10 budget has a submarine in it in the advanced procurement for the '11 boats. And I'm very, very pleased that we were able to do that.
REP. COURTNEY: That's terrific. And on the Ohio, which I know you referred to when I was outside of the room -- again, the notion that somehow we're getting ahead of the quadrennial review and the Nuclear Posture Review -- I mean, the fact is is that this is an issue that's already been analyzed deeply both by the Navy and the Pentagon. And we really are not -- the proposal that you have before us is not really jumping ahead of what I think is adequate analysis to justify it. Is that your position?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That is my position, sir, that we are in the same time frame we were with the Ohios when we began the design of that boat. And now is the time to begin the design of the propulsion plant -- the common missile compartment -- so that we don't suffer a gap in that important part of our strategic deterrent force.
REP. COURTNEY: Thank you, Admiral.
I yield back.
REP. TAYLOR: Chair thanks the gentleman.
The chair now recognizes the gentleman from Missouri, Mr. Akin, for five minutes.
REP. TODD AKIN (R-MO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And Admiral, I'm going to ask a question I've asked to you before. I've been -- asked it yesterday. And I'm just one of these slow learners. I'm having a hard time putting this all together in my mind. But let me try and explain my problem.
I hear you talking about we're going to have 11 aircraft carriers. We may take -- go down to 10 temporarily when the Enterprise is moved out, but still, 10 or 11. And aircraft carriers seem to work better when there's airplanes on them. I'm not -- you know, but it seems like that works that way. And we're talking about 44 airplanes per aircraft carrier. Now, a year ago we were looking at taking the F-18s and running them to I believe it was 10,000 hours and to see if we could do that and stretch them a little longer before we retired them. And I think the information came back, no, you can't, you've got to stay at the 8,000 whatever, (8,)600 or something, which means, according to the numbers that I've seen, we've got a potential or a projected shortfall of about 240-some fighter aircraft on these aircraft carriers.
Now, you do the math and that comes out to more than five aircraft carriers. We're looking at almost 50 percent down on the number of fighter aircraft on the aircraft carriers.
Now, I'm hearing this quadrennial review and everything, but I don't know if the quadrennial review is going to say we only need five aircraft carriers. You know, no one's suggested that particularly. It seems like we've got just a couple of choices: One, you have less aircraft carriers or, the other, you put a lot less airplanes on the aircraft carriers you have, to the point of almost two-to-one ratio.
So I guess the question I'm having is -- and Joint Strike Fighter may be a better aircraft. And if it is, I'll be the first one to say, let's get the right product or the best product we can for our money.
On the other hand, the F-18s are -- you know, you can get five and a half of them for one Joint Strike Fighter and you can get them in a time period that you know. And we have the shortfall, which you can't make up with JSF, from what I'm seeing.
So I guess my question is, please explain it to me, why aren't we looking at a, you know, at a multiyear and at least supplementing at least some of that downside on the F-18.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, thank you, sir. And what we have done in the '10 budget is we have put in above what we understand is the sustaining rate for the line of the 18. And in this budget we have the electric 18, E and F, the Growler. And then we also have a number of E's and F's in there -- nine E's and F's, which is above the sustaining line -- or sustaining rate for the line.
REP. AKIN: I think there were originally 18 and you cut them back to nine or something.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir.
And as the secretary mentioned yesterday, in the Quadrennial Defense Review we are going to have a very thorough and thoughtful discussion of tac air. And then as we do that we will look to what are the best options to continue to provide the type of naval tactical aviation that the nation elite needs.
And there are -- there is potential in buying some extra life on our A's through D's, as you well know, sir, for at least part of that fleet.
And then we're going to have to look at the entire tac air issue. I look forward to that. You're absolutely right: The 18 E and F is an extraordinary airplane. It is serving us well everywhere we operate it. And it is providing tremendous support to our troops on the ground in Afghanistan. Great airplane -- but we -- and I welcome the discussions that we're going to have in the Quadrennial Defense Review on tactical aviation.
REP. AKIN: So I think what I'm hearing you say is, yeah there not maybe that many alternatives, but we're going to basically be cracking that nut at that particular time in history. I mean, I don't understand there's much you can do other than either have less aircraft carriers or, you know, have less airplanes on the carriers or get the planes. I mean, it seems like there's not too many ways to wiggle.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. Those are the discussions that I'm sure the Quadrennial Defense Review will take us through.
REP. AKIN: Right. Okay. Well, I certainly appreciate your being patient with some of the slow learners here among us.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir.
REP. AKIN: But thank you very much. And appreciate your good work.
And General, I enjoyed our discussion the other day. Don't have any questions. I'm all ready to get another ride in one of your high speed-boats over there. So thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. TAYLOR: Chair thanks the gentleman and would note that staff is not allowed to ask questions.
But to the CNO, the gentleman to my immediate left is the former commanding officer of the SSBN 74, the USS Louisiana, who has asked that in the future if the CNO could refer to his former force as something other than the invisible queens -- if you could use another analogy for that force as something other than the invisible queens. I thought that Captain Evans made a good point, and I have relayed that message.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Obviously he's not a chess player, Mr. Chairman. (Laughter.)
REP. TAYLOR: Having said that, the chair now recognizes the gentleman from Virginia, Mr. Nye.
REP. GLENN NYE (D-VA): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And I want to thank all of you here today for your tremendous service to our country.
First of all, Admiral Roughead, you've said very well today that it behooves us to minimize our ship retirements by fully funding our maintenance account. And I'd just like to make sure I'm up to speed on where we are in terms of our backlog on maintenance and repair. And I'm trying to keep up with the math. I've got us somewhere between 425 and 450 million (dollars) on our backlog for maintenance and repair. Am I in the right vicinity there?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: What I would say, Mr. Nye, is that as we go through this year we have not cancelled any availabilities. There have been none that have been cancelled. We have held to that. And as you know, we make the most of our base budget and our supplemental money or contingency funding. But I've not cancelled any availabilities this year.
REP. NYE: So where are we in terms of our requirements and what we've got in terms of our maintenance funds? Are you saying we're up to date on those accounts?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Where we are with regard to -- at least for the fiscal year '10 budget -- we are funding that account to about 96 percent, which is consistent with where we have been in years past. And what it allows us to do is to accept some risk as we try to balance all of the competing demands that we have in the Navy. I'm comfortable with where we are. But it's important that the supplemental and also our base budget reflect the request.
I would also say that as we try to make that balance and optimize those funds, losing money because of a peacetime training offset, as we did last year, is not helpful in us being able to meet the requirements and meet the plans that we had in place. So your support in that would be greatly appreciated, sir.
REP. NYE: Thank you. I think you've made a great point about balancing a long list of demands and requirements that we have right now.
Secretary Penn, you sent me a letter on April 24th where you mentioned that the Navy had decided to postpone a final decision on home-porting a nuclear carrier at Mayport until we have a chance to go through the QDR process this year and take a look at balancing these priorities vis-a-vis our scarce defense dollars. And I appreciate your comments in that letter.
You mentioned also that DOD would be requesting, and indeed has requested, in the 2010 budget some ($)75 million for dredging and dock upgrades at Mayport in case of an emergency for a location of a nuclear carrier there at Mayport under emergency circumstances.
What I wanted to ask you is, have you considered, given the fact that besides Norfolk, for instance, commercial ports at Baltimore, Corpus Christi, Charleston and some others that have deep draft depths of between 47 and 50 feet might be appropriate for the use for home -- not for a home port, but for, in the case of an emergency, docking a nuclear carrier. Have you guys looked at the notion of using a commercial port for -- in just in case of an emergency.
SEC. PENN: I think that in case of an emergency we would use whatever port available, but our choice would be to go to a military -- a Navy port, just for the securities and so forth.
REP. NYE: Okay. So you have looked at the idea of having -- of potentially using a commercial port in case of an emergency.
SEC. PENN: In case of emergency.
REP. NYE: Okay.
Do you have a contingency plan in place for all of our ships for emergencies, for disasters, for where you would move them or put them? Is that something that you have developed already?
SEC. PENN: I think the operational side --
ADM. ROUGHEAD: What I believe we do not have -- what I know we don't have on the East Coast of the United States is a place where we can put a nuclear aircraft carrier and be able to conduct the type of support and maintenance that we would need on a -- in any other place other than Norfolk.
In the West Coast we have three ports -- gives us great strategic flexibility. And that's why I made the recommendation to upgrade the carrier port of Mayport, which has been a carrier port since 1952, to accommodate a nuclear aircraft carrier and be able to take care of it there, should Norfolk be lost for any reason.
I believe that that remains a good strategic option. And we'll get into that further during the Quadrennial Defense Review as to the pros and cons of that.
REP. NYE: Thank you. I would be interested in seeing what the -- a full plan looks like for all of our different types of ships and what we would do in case of emergencies and --
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Mr. Nye, we have options for our combatants and for our submarines on both coasts. And we can bring up to you what those options are. But on the East Coast there is no other place to put an aircraft carrier other than Norfolk, Virginia.
REP. NYE: Understood.
I see that my time has expired. Let me just close by saying that I look forward to continue to have this very important discussion about the use of our scarce defense dollars and priorities over the upcoming QDR. So thank you.
REP. SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.
REP. DUNCAN D. HUNTER (R-CA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen.
And I'd like to address my question here to the commandant of the stepchild of the Department of the Navy here.
Could you just fill me in -- and you can have all of my time here.
First question, do you know who's going to be in control of RC South for you, who's going to be the ground commander for the Marines in RC South?
GEN. CONWAY: Right now it's being wrapped up -- the tenure of command -- by a general from The Netherlands. The Brits have the next rotation. So for the vast majority of this next calendar year it's going to be the Brits.
REP. HUNTER: Who's going to be in charge of the Marines there in RC South?
GEN. CONWAY: Well, there's a brigadier general, Larry Nicholson, who has already arrived in theater, who is the expeditionary brigade commander.
REP. HUNTER: Gotcha.
Next question -- and this is what you can have the rest of the time for -- are you satisfied that you're able to meet the challenges of the IED surge that's going to happen as we go in, as we surge? I, probably better than anybody else up here, know that we're going to take casualties, because we're going to go out and we're going to fight.
But on the other hand, when it comes to IEDs, without the infrastructure we have in Iraq right now -- are you happy? Are you satisfied that the counter-IED infrastructure that we have there right now is where you want it to be for this Marine surge to take place?
GEN. CONWAY: Well, Mr. Hunter, it's never as good as we would like it to be. And you, again, of all people, realize that they can build an IED that will be big enough to take out anything that we've got.
Happily, right now we're not seeing that so much in Afghanistan. The level of sophistication, the size of the IEDs that we're seeing are not what we had witnessed in Iraq. But it's also on a progression, and it is getting more sophisticated. They're getting bigger. They're using the culverts and those types of things.
So the answer is no. We're never satisfied until we have found a way to detect and defeat the device at range. And of course, agencies work to be able to do that. We work to attack the entire chain, all the way from, you know, the person with the money to the bomb maker to the bomb layer to the person that detonates, with mixed success along that whole continuum.
But we're never satisfied.
REP. HUNTER: The Marine Corps doesn't have any organic counter- IED ISR? It doesn't have a predator that can actually strike -- you have pioneers and you have some other ISR, but you don't have a Task Force ODIN -- you don't have something like that. Are you satisfied that the other services are going to be able to cover for you --
GEN. CONWAY: I think so.
REP. HUNTER: -- as you go in?
GEN. CONWAY: You know, we have -- you're right. We have organic ISR, but nothing that's armed that can strike, say a half dozen guys that are obviously laying an IED.
That said, General McKiernan has said, I suspect General McChrystal will continue with the though process that the real fight is going to be in RC South. That's going to be his main effort. When that happens you are allocated these other national assets, if you will, in large measure. And we do think that we'll have plenty of those to be able to strike a target if we identify some nefarious activity.
REP. HUNTER: You can't foresee any Army, Marine Corps RC East to RC South -- not turf war, necessarily -- but kind of trying to gain assets back and forth between RC South and RC East, trying to determine who has the most need for them?
GEN. CONWAY: Well, we think that that's going to be in the south, just based upon the fact that, again, things are relatively more stable in the east and up north, that we do think, as you indicated by your question, is going to be a larger fight down south. So when that happens and you become the priority of effort, you get the priority of ISR support.
So we're guardedly optimistic that our commanders are going to have those downlinks and be able to vector those aircraft where they need to go.
REP. HUNTER: Are you going to be driving the upgrade at seven tons? Because the MRAPs aren't going to work on the roads -- that's what we went over earlier -- the MRAPs aren't going to work. And we're not going to have the next-generation armored vehicle by the tie you guys -- we're talking about it now, about how we're going to fund it and what we're going to do. So are you satisfied in your ability to be armored and drive on the roads?
I'm just getting Iraq flashbacks, pre-MRAP, on this stuff, where we were taking lots of casualties. We didn't have enough armor.
GEN. CONWAY: Frankly, two things: We want to get off the road, okay, because that makes us predictable and that's how you get in trouble with IEDs. Right now the most popular vehicle in Iraq is the LTVR -- the seven ton -- because it can get off road, it's got the mobility and so forth.
As I started to indicate to Mr. Kline, we're putting that suspension on our smaller MRAPs with pretty good success, we believe, to date.
So at some point, I think, in the very near future we may well have both: a heavy MRAP in the range of 35,000 pounds that can get off road in ways that it never did in Iraq.
REP. HUNTER: Thank you, General.
Thank you, gentlemen.
I yield back the balance of my time.
REP. SKELTON: Thank the gentleman.
And Ms. Bordallo, from Guam.
DEL. MADELEINE BORDALLO (D-GU): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Secretary Penn, Admiral Roughead and General Conway, I thank you all for your testimonies this morning.
And Secretary Penn, I believe this may be one of your last hearings before this committee, so I want to go on record to thank you for your steadfast leadership and unwavering support of the military buildup on Guam. And I appreciated the opportunity to work closely with you and your staff over the last few years. I certainly wish you good luck in the future.
SEC. PENN: Thank you so very much, ma'am.
DEL. BORDALLO: First, I'd like to direct my question to General Conway.
Yesterday we heard testimony from the secretary of Defense, and he reaffirmed the United States government's commitment to the military buildup on Guam. However, your recent comments to an Appropriations Committee hearing seemed to indicate otherwise.
So can you please clarify your position on the military buildup on Guam? Are you supportive of moving Marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam?
Now, I understand, General, that there are concerns, and we will get to those in my second question.
But my first question: Are you supportive of executing the secretary of Defense's directive to make the buildup a success?
GEN. CONWAY: Yes, ma'am. You we're in the chamber earlier, but the chairman asked essentially that same question. And my preamble was that the United States Marine Corps does support the move to Guam.
DEL. BORDALLO: Thank you.
Now, I know there is a concern about training requirements in the Pacific region overall, but let me ask you this question: What comes first, the realignment or the training?
And if you feel it's both, then why haven't you done -- or not formally developed your training requirements requested in EIS or an amended MIRC?
GEN. CONWAY: Ma'am, we have long since before developed our EIS requirements. We have grave considerations for our ability to train on Guam and in the adjacent islands and the ability to keep those Marines ready to go in response to a national contingency.
So the requirements, as Mr. Penn can validate, are well known.
DEL. BORDALLO: Very good.
SEC. PENN: Yes, ma'am.
And as you know, if we start another EIS -- that's called segmenting, which means we would have to go -- start over again, and we would lose the three years we've been working on this and probably push it out to five years.
We want to go ahead, do the AIP EIS and then we'll go back and pick up the training EIS --
DEL. BORDALLO: Very good.
SEC. PENN: -- for the outer islands.
DEL. BORDALLO: All right.
I further understand that there are concerns about the -- this is for you, again, General -- I understand there are concerns about the local infrastructure on Guam. Can you comment on one actionable and concrete steps that you have taken to address the local infrastructure concerns?
I have in my hand a letter from Secretary Penn expressing support for a USDA loan for the closure on the Ordot landfill. Now, can I expect a letter from you, as well, attesting to the need for these improvements on Guam in order to better fulfill the Marine Corps mission?
GEN. CONWAY: Ma'am we identify the requirements that our force will have on Guam. It's more a naval facilities concern to ensure that those requirements are met in some form or fashion.
And once again, we've identified those requirements for what we think is going to be the mix of both our bachelor Marines and our families on the island. There are issues with land purchase, land lease, those types of thing -- training ranges and those types of things. But it's all rolled up in the requirements documents.
DEL. BORDALLO: All right. And on the landfill --
GEN. CONWAY: I'm not familiar with that one, to be honest with you.
DEL. BORDALLO: Secretary, do want to comment on that?
SEC. PENN: Yes, ma'am.
As you know, we have gone so far as to meet with EPA Region 9 almost two years ago, talking about the landfill. And you have my letter.
We are working with all the interagency trying to get their support on the infrastructure requirements of Guam.
DEL. BORDALLO: I'm just expecting something, General, because, it will be a joint use, the Ordot landfill. And so, if at all possible, we would like to have some kind of assurance or --
GEN. CONWAY: I'll certainly check into it, ma'am, and see how it affects our presence on Guam, and if there is a requirement there it will be forwarded. But again, to date, we've not identified that as an issue.
DEL. BORDALLO: All right. Thank you.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: Mr. Coffman, please.
REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R-CO): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Conway, I think we're in -- the focus of main effort, where you're putting Marines in southern Afghanistan -- if I think back to Iraq, in 2005 they launched -- in al Anbar province they launched Operation River Gate, which was to establish, I think, a battalion-size blocking position just beneath the Haditha Dam. And then Operation Still Gate, I think, was in the al Qaim area towards the Syrian border.
Prior to having that larger troop presence, Marines, I think, were just dong operations, along what they call the rat line, every now and then and then pushing. And then the insurgents kind of knew to just, you know, leave the area. And then when the Marines were done with the operation they'd come back and kill anybody who they suspected cooperated with the Marines while they were present there.
And so with that larger presence, instead of having just a company reinforced, having a battalion reinforced in both positions, made a world of difference.
Are you concerned that -- I mean, do you have the kind of concentration that's needed in this area in Kandahar province to make the difference, or are you going to be spread too thin?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, we -- I'll go back to the requirements that General McKiernan has established for forces in the south.
And frankly, one of them goes back to the two-star headquarters that would relieve the Brits. That's scheduled at this point to be a U.S. headquarters and he has a request for force out there that would accomplish that. Those, at least at this point, portend to be Marines.
The other thing that is not yet satisfied is another regiment of BCTs worth of troops that he would request at some point later on in '10. And at this point, the determination by the secretary of Defense is to await and see progress in the country before there is, say, the meeting of that RFF and the assignment of troops.
At this point I believe that there's enough to make a difference. Whether there's enough to do what our campaign strategy would call for remains to be seen, and that will be based upon enemy action. I can tell you, based upon a recent visit there, there's about three places in our sector now that I think are going to constitute some fairly significant fighting. For whatever combination of reasons, the enemy had dug in in these three locations -- at least the one instance we know, to protect his drug money.
But we're going to have to root them out of there if we're truly going to be the strongest tribe yet again and be able to say that we are creating stability and security for the population in the whole of the province.
REP. COFFMAN: A central objective is certainly to destroy those poppy fields. Is there a robust enough plan enough to do that without unnecessarily alienating the farmers, although I know some of them are cooperating with the Taliban? But how do you bridge that?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, right now there is not enough. They have the right design, the right concepts at work to be able to provide alternative crops, education to the farmers on how to grow those crops, infrastructure plans to get the product to market after harvest and so forth.
The problem that we see is the drug problem is that large, the solution set being put against it is like "that" on a comparative basis. So it needs much more scope to be able to overcome the size of the drug problem in Helmand.
REP. COFFMAN: Are we creating a new class of enemy by virtue of having the objective -- and I think the objective is a good one because those are resources that are going to the Taliban in some form. But, I mean, without a robust plan to help those farmers, are we unnecessarily creating a new class of enemy?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, there's every possibility for that. If we go in and destroy a man's ability to feed his family based on what he's been doing now for probably a decade, we may turn him against us. That's the value of having this alternative means readily available to assist him in doing something now that is legal.
So we are concerned about that and the commanders are fully attuned to let's not create more enemy in the process here of poppy destruction.
REP. COFFMAN: I wonder if the secretary could comment on that.
SEC. PENN: Going on with what the general said, is this strictly about the hearts and minds of our enemy and we're doing everything in our power to destroy the fields.
We have to deprive AQ/Taliban of their resources and this is how we do it.
REP. COFFMAN: Right, but I don't see a robust enough plan. I understand that objective and I think that's a good objective and that needs to be done. But I don't see where there's a robust enough plan to do that where we're not creating a new class of enemy and we're not taking unnecessarily casualties as a result of that.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
REP. SKELTON: We have three votes: one 15-minute vote and two five-minute votes. We have two members who have not asked questions and we're going to try to squeeze them both in.
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): Thanks, Mr. Chairman.
Admiral, I wanted to ask you -- if there's time -- two questions. Both of them have to do about the naval -- Navy's contribution to an asymmetric threat. The first is what, I guess, what we used to call a rogue nation, Iran, and the ballistic missile threat it portends. In Secretary Gates's speech about how we were going to reform the military, imbedded in it was a line that said we're going to have an Aegis upgrade by software for about -- well, that many ships.
The president allegedly wrote a letter to the president of Russia -- second data point -- that said we kind of would consider giving up our missile site in Poland if you help us with the Iranians not to get a nuclear weapon. When he spoke on proliferation in Prague -- third data point -- he talked about a missile defense system of Europe -- not in Europe but of Europe in a cost-effective way.
So my fourth point is, Institute of Defense Analysis has said that a sunk -- and I ask this from the sense of as we allocate national treasure we don't want to have a redundant capability out there if we don't have to -- that three or four Aegis ships give an equivalent, and even a broader but an equivalent de minimis capability, the same as the missile sites in Europe. It's a sunk cost. It needs some software upgrade, but it's there.
How do you look at that trade-off that you can assume that responsibility not just for the defense of Europe but an equivalent capability -- de minimis -- that a land site in Poland would give? Is that the correct way to look at the shift that you desire between the DDG-1000 and the DDG-51?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. And I would say that our ability to use our Aegis fleet -- our existing Aegis fleet and at minimal cost upgrade them into very capable missile defense assets not just for search and track but also to equip them with the interceptors that are required is a good investment. And in fact, this year's budget, the '10 budget, has six more upgrades included in there.
REP. SESTAK: How many Aegis ships do you have now that could be upgraded?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Right now we have 18.
REP. SESTAK: And how many total Aegis ships that could be upgraded?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: We can upgrade all but our -- the first few cruisers that we have. And I --
REP. SESTAK: So what's -- I'm sorry, Admiral. What's that number roughly?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: That number would -- if we wanted to do the whole fleet would be around 70 ships if we wanted to do the entire fleet.
REP. SESTAK: So if this political military trade-off were to be done, in a sense, these are 70 or 80 ships already purchased, some de minimis upgrade, that you could move around off North Korea, Iran, and give -- according IDA, the same capability as more sunk cost of missiles ashore. Is that correct?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Yes, sir. I believe the investments that we can make in the Aegis ships give the nation a very versatile and capable ballistic missile defense system, obviously optimized regionally but also that can contribute to the broader intercontinental equation as well.
REP. SESTAK: And potentially even help us move with a nation like Iran if you can get a Russia that doesn't like the missile sites in Europe.
The second question has to with another asymmetric threat at the other end of the spectrum -- piracy.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Right.
REP. SESTAK: Admiral, this isn't your responsibility. This Central Command's responsibility or Africa Command's responsibility of how many ships and all, but last week you had, I think, according to the website, 105 ships forward deployed, four or so off the coast of Africa. We've convoyed ships north and south in the Persian Gulf; 50 at a time go north of -- pass north Somalia on their way north, 50 coming the way south.
The arguments that seem to come out is, boy, it's the size of Texas.
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Four times.
REP. SESTAK: But the Atlantic Ocean was -- we convoyed and protected -- it was a mission. What are the other 101 ships doing that they can't be assisting us off that coast?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: Well, as you know we maintain a healthy presence in the Arabian Gulf itself. Our ability to operate in the western Pacific Indian Ocean to assure and deter --
REP. SESTAK: But what threat are they facing that they couldn't be moved over?
ADM. ROUGHEAD: I would say that it is not always the issue of countering a threat but the ability for the United States to be present, to be able to influence. And the impact and the assurance and deterrence that our fleet provides globally is significant. And to walk away from other places of the world will -- I believe, has the potential to create problems. Our presence in the Southern Hemisphere, in the Western Pacific, in the South Pacific, indeed even in the areas around Africa, I believe is a powerful symbol of American interest and American capability and power that assures friends and deters those who wish us ill.
I would say that in the area off Somalia we have been very successful in bringing together a coalition, an international force that adds to our capability there. Just last night the Koreans and us stopped a hijacking and seized pirates. That in and of it self is also very valuable.
REP. SKELTON: Mr. Wittman, there's about two and a half minutes left on the vote; do you think you can squeeze a quick question?
REP. ROB WITTMAN (R-VA): Yes, sir. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'll cut right to the chase.
Admiral Roughead, Secretary Penn, General Conway, thank you so much and thanks for your service to this nation. I'll cut right to the chase.
General Conway, I understand that there are a number of challenges that the Marine Corps faces, one of them, obviously being in the area of training. I understand that there's a requirement for a venue to create the capacity for a Marine expeditionary brigade level of training. Can you tell me a little bit about the Marine Corps plan to meet that challenge to provide that capability and what that means as far as your operational capacity and readiness?
GEN. CONWAY: Sir, we do see a need to be able to train a brigade-size unit at one time in one location with live fire. And we're examining, therefore, tracks of land at our largest military base in the states at 29 Palms to see just what that entails.
There's a couple different ways to skin that cat. One is with a land purchase that's 450,000 acres-plus. Another one might work if we go something closer to about 195,000 acres. There is an issue of some civilian use of some of that land. There are environmental issues. All of this -- there's expense associated with it.
All these things are being look at in studies right now to see if we can't both train and at the same time provide some level of joint use for our fellow Americans.
REP. WITTMAN: Very good.
REP. SKELTON: Mr. Wittman, we thank you. We better go vote.
REP. WITTMAN: Okay.
REP. SKELTON: And gentlemen, thank you for your presence and your excellent testimony. (Sounds gavel.)