SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'll come back to the F-22 in a minute. I've got a couple of questions there, but I want to start out with you, Admiral, with respect to the F/A-18 and particularly the squadrons that the Carrier Air Reserve Wing 20, which is headquartered at NAS Atlanta. Only two of those squadrons are funded in the Navy's '04 budget, and I note that VFA-203 from Naval Air Station Atlanta has been deployed several times just in the last year alone in support of military operations around the globe, and I've got two questions relative to that.
First, can you talk about the Navy's tactical air integration effort and why the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve are paying the price for efficiency and modernization, since it appears that it's the Reserve squadrons that are being targeted for closure? Secondly, can you give me some feedback on the logic of closing a squadron that is constantly deployed or constantly preparing to be deployed in support of operations around the world?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: And when is that study going to be coming out?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: What about when you start bringing assets back from the Middle East, assuming this conflict is over with in the next several weeks, months, whatever. What effect is that going to have on these Reserve squadrons?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. We're in a multi-year procurement program for the C-130J for the Air Force based on our C-17 model, which General Myers, Secretary Sambur, I think you all agree is one of the best business decisions the Air Force has made. And I do have a question about C-130 multi-year procurement for the Navy and the Marine Corps. And I think we've finally jumped through the last hoop is my understanding in the last couple weeks. And that is now signed, sealed and on track and I want to just make sure I confirm that. Gentlemen, am I right?
MR. NATHMAN(?): I understand there's a contract signed. It was signed a couple of weeks ago. Airplanes are on contractsAir Force and Marine Corps KCs.
SEN. CHAMBLISS: Okay.
General Hough, my Marine Corps installation is logistics based. It's not a parochial issue when I say to you that I think the Marine have been shortchanged from a TACAIR standpoint and I know you all made some sacrifices early on when the Joint Strike Fighter comes on, this committee needs to look after the Marine Corps. Make sure that your guys get the equipment they need to do their job. And I did think you did make a sacrifice and we all need to remember that when we start procuring the JSF for you.
Mr. Secretary and general I want to ask you all about the F-22. This avionics software has been problem time and time again. Are we getting to the end of the road on this now with respect to the F-22?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: We've got a $43 billion cap on this program and we keep coming down and down and currently we're still looking at 339 airplanes technically, but obviously we can't buy that --
SEN. CHAMBLISS: -- many with $43 billion. Now, how are you going to going tohow are we going to approach the long term expeditionary force issue with respect to the actual number of planes, number of F-22's that we're going to be able to buy. What's that going to do to us?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: The testing that we're doing now at Edwards is everything going well? Have we had any recent problems? I haven't read about any, and I've been scared to get a phone call from Lockheed but is everything going well?
SEN. CHAMBLISS: And I go back to the fact that on every new weapons system we've had, as many problems as we've had with the F-22, it still is comparable from a problem standpoint with every single other weapons system that we have procured.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.