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Hearing of the Seapower Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee - The Posture of the U.S. Transportation Command

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service









SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY (D-MA): Thank you. Thank you, Chairman. I want to welcome all of our witnesses and thank you for calling the hearing. The subject of this strategic lift is not a new one for our subcommittee. We've taken significant actions over the years in dealing with the strategic lift issues on a bipartisan basis. The subcommittee played a significant role in establishing the U.S. Transportation Command. We encourage the Department of Defense to focus on strategic sealift issues and urge the department to call the Mobility Capability Study.

It seems unlikely, however, that this-to undertake the original Mobility Requirements Study, we authorized the needed resources for strategic sealift shipping. We not only helped restructure the C-17 at the point when many were ready to cancel the program, but we helped resolve the controversy surrounding it and we supported the Maritime Prepositioning Force Enhance program to provide an additional ship for each MPF squadron.

So today's hearing continues the subcommittee's strong bipartisan interest in the broader strategic lift policy issues facing the nation today, and we understand the department has launched a new review of strategic lift needs, a study called the Mobility Capability Study. Seems unlikely, however, that this review will lead to major reductions in strategic lift requirements, since our recent experience would indicate the current strategic lift capability needs to be enhanced.

In fact, in response to our committee's report on the National Defense Authorization Act, Fiscal 2004, General Handy had submitted a report indicating the conclusions of the Mobility Requirements Studies for 2005, MRS-05, regarding strategic airlift needs understate the real requirements. So I look forward to hearing from General Handy about the quick look report. And I also look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how our strategic mobility force performed in Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

Now, General Handy, the Armed Services Committee report last year required you to submit a report, your assessment of whether the requirements-and I know our chairman got into some of this, but we might go over some of the ground. But I've got some particular areas that I'm interested and want elaborated. Whether the requirements for strategic lift included the MRS-05 remain valid to whether they were too low or too high. And you submitted their requested report.

If I may paraphrase, that report includes that MRS-05 requirements for airlift understate the real need. C-17 production needs to continue beyond the plan of 180 aircraft. And we need to upgrade an appropriate number of C-5s.

While the MRS-05 analysis indicated a requirement of having 54.5 million miles per day in airlift, your report indicates that the new requirements are likely to be 57.4 to 60 million ton miles per day. Now, we've increased the planned buy of C-17 aircraft from 120 to 180 aircraft, and your report indicates that we need to buy at least 42 C- 17s beyond that. So if we kept all our current C-5 fleet and buy the full 22 C-17s, your reports cite what would be our capability in terms of ton miles per day?

GEN. HANDY: Senator, I would respond by saying that that's a number that I believe is greater than the 60 million ton miles per day if you add all that up, but I'm still more concerned about the requirement that we have to move. You know, what's the real requirement? What would the mobility capability study that the department is about to launch-what is that real number? So our position until that number's determined is to ramp up as many C-17s as we can and AMP and RERP as many C-5s as we possibly can, not knowing what the target is.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, I'm going to come back to that, because if you're going to have to have advanced lead funds for the C-17s prior, I would imagine-before that report is completed. So if we're talking about your report, it talks about an appropriate number of C- 5s. Why do you say-I know it's part of the classified, but the declassified, to meet the current C-17 production rates must continue interrupted at an appropriate number. What are we talking should be modernized that will meet the merge? Why is-what are you hedging on on that?

GEN. HANDY: From my perspective, it is how many can we get modified? How many C-5s can we ultimately run through the-we currently have funded all of the AMP and we are putting as many dollars as we can against the RERP program. If you look at the time it takes to run both those programs, the C-5 A model portion of the fleet may, in fact, age out from under me and so I am-I remain concerned about how many can we ultimately get modified? And that's the basis for that, some appropriate number. We have to certainly take into account the time it is taking to get to that endgame.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, in the previous years, the Air Force had intended to modernize the avionics in all C-5As and Bs. This year the budget documentation indicates the Air Force had to stop the avionics modernization after modernizing 55, and the picture is even less clear with the REFP program.

GEN. HANDY: From a TRANSCOM perspective, I have got to get all 112 remaining C-5s AMP'ed. And so our pressure-and I appreciate what the Air Force is doing, but it will always be to get the Avionics Modernization Program on every single existing C-5.

SEN. KENNEDY: And what about the re-engining program?

GEN. HANDY: And as many re-engined as we possibly can, depending upon, you know, when the engineers come back with the test of the tear-down bird at Robin right now, how well the test goes on the two Bs and the A and the RERP, and whether or not that mod is really going to do the things that the operational requirements document says it must do. And that will determine how quickly we can get and how many we can get, the C-5 fleet under the RERP.

SEN. KENNEDY: Okay. And where are we in that timeframe? We gave you dates and times but I can't recall. What is the-when do you-give us sort of a progress line on that, can you?

GEN. HANDY: It looks right now by engineering data-the tear- down at Warner Robins is going to take about 24 months. Now, we have some preliminary data already but it's way, way too early for us to draw a conclusion. And we continue to press the Air Force as best we can --

SEN. KENNEDY: Twenty-four months?

GEN. HANDY: -- for that analysis. Yes, sir.

SEN. KENNEDY: It takes 24 months?

GEN. HANDY: It's a very, very detailed analysis of the tear-down of the aircraft. They literally are taking it apart and examining features of the aircraft that will give us that insight into how well they will last into the future. And I'm very hopeful that will be positive. That's one challenge to us. Then the RERP mod starts at the end of the AMP mod. There's some overlap, but as soon as the avionics modernization program is complete, then we will start that test of the two Bs and the A to determine, are they, in fact, capable of being modified?

Now, the contractor is convinced that they are, I am certainly hopeful. We need them to be. But to get the MC rate up to 75 percent across the fleet will be a significant challenge. And that endeavor will start to play somewhere in the 2010-2012 timeframe. So there's a lot of time that's going on between now and then.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, it's a lot of time. That's true. Because it's going to take a lot of time to get to the delivery of these additional C-17s as well.

GEN. HANDY: Yes, sir.

SEN. KENNEDY: You know, I raised this because, as you know, at the hearing in 2001 before the department released the MRS-05, General Robertson was asked about more C-17s or re-engining the C-5 aircraft as a way of meeting the lift. The said the re-engining of the C-5 is the most cost-effective solution to closing the gap on a million ton miles per daily basis. Basically we project it will cost about $48 million a copy to re-engine the C-5. A new 17 costs you somewhere in the vicinity of 150 to 175, depending on the terms of the new multi- year contract, which is why we recommend both solutions. We have to re-engine the C-5 and we have to continue to buy C-17s.

So that was pretty specific, pretty definite. And it also demonstrated a hard view in terms of the economics. We are looking at scarce resources, we want to do what needs to be done, but we're also looking at the scarce resources. We're looking at a budget that's hurting and we want to-and we've got some time lapse here before we're going to get the delivery of these additional kinds of planes. And that is a-and we've got a very, very important need. And I'm mindful of what you said about the new mobility study.

We discussed the quick-look report regarding likely changes in the airlift needs, based on a latter information that was available at the department in developing the Mobility Requirements Study. I understand the Joint Chiefs plan to conduct, as you mentioned, a comprehensive review of lift requirements. It was being called, as you mentioned, the Mobility Capability Studies. This review will be based-the basis of assessing future strategic lift modernizations, including how many C-17s. The department will need to make a decision whether to buy more than the current plan 180 in the Fiscal 2006 budget. The department intends to begin the study this summer and complete the work sometime next spring. That's March of 2005.

So first of all, should we believe the department will be able to complete the comprehensive mobility study within eight to 10 months when the original MRS bottom-up review and MRS-05 all took substantially longer?

GEN. HANDY: Senator, I would say I share the concerns and tone of that question. I have said for some time now, as a combatant commander, we really and truly need to nail down the rule mobility capabilities requirement as soon as possible. I'd love to have had it before the 2006 budget discussions, because I have to have long lead time in there. I'm concerned-I don't want to rush a study, but we absolutely need to have it done and I am hopeful that they can, with our help, get the study done in that year that they've allocated.

But that is, I have to confess to you, a concern I have.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, to the extent the MCS supports the quick- look report and confirms we need more airlift, will the study identify the best way to achieve the added capability?

GEN. HANDY: I don't know what the exact target of the study will be in terms of , you know, the questions and answers they give. What we have asked for is that the study not just look at air, but air land and sea, because in our view, it's quite possible that sealift in some cases might be able to offset some of the airlift requirements of the future. And so it's how many ships do we need, what's that capability, and then, of course, within the air side, how many of the types of aircraft do you need, C-17s, C-5s, or even improved C-130s. And so all of those questions are ones that we hope to drive into that study so that we have some good analysis to go forward on.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, I think that's-I think your answer's very responsive. I didn't know whether that was actually intended to be included in that study or not. I see heads nodding behind you. So I gather that's the case, that you'll get the balance in terms of air/sea study, but also you're going to identify the best way to achieve it, is that even within the airlift capability?

GEN. HANDY: Yes, sir.

SEN. KENNEDY: What's going to be the basis that the Air Force decides on whether to include the advance procurement funds in 2006, if you're not going to have the benefit of the study?

GEN. HANDY: From the combatant commander's perspective, it is-the line closes in 2008 if there is no long lead, then we run the potential of incredibly increased cost. The study comes out, you find you need more than 180. You didn't have the long lead in the 2006 budget. Now the line is closed or closing and you have to infuse that many more dollars to open it up or try to put it on life support. I think that will be the key linchpin for the Air Force and the decision of the C-17, at least to put the long lead in. From TRANSCOM's perspective, we're urging them to press with long lead and at least have those dollars in the budget.

SEN. KENNEDY: General Dunwoody, the Army has been planning to buy a theater support vessel, the TSV, to fill the mission of providing inter-theater logistics. And I understand the Army has been particularly participating in leasing a catamaran vessel that the Army has been using to test operational concepts including using the lease vessel in the Persian Gulf. Can you give us an update? Do you have any pictures on that-describe it perhaps. Oh, I got one right here.

GEN. DUNWOODY: Senator, that's probably been an inter sealift asset moving stuff around inside the theater. The Army currently does have two leased. They planned and are committed to funding the start of a new one RDT&E vessel in FY '05 and they are planning to POM five of them from FY '06 to '09. Their objective is to get 12 of these vessels on hand through FY '11.

SEN. KENNEDY: I guess it says it's currently on schedule, the six to 12 month deployment support of operation. You've been testing these different types of hull out there.

GEN. DUNWOODY: This is not a TRANSCOM asset, Senator. This is an Army asset.

SEN. KENNEDY: But it still has to-what's their range? What are you going to --

GEN. DUNWOODY: I would have to take that question for the record, sir. That's not one of our --

GEN. HANDY: Senator, it might be helpful. One of the main ships they've leased is the WestPac Express. It is a ferry, f-e-r-r-y, and is typically used in the Australian trade. They are aluminum hull. They can hold about a battalion's worth of equipment. They are intra- theater, as Ann said. Generally, small sea states. They're aluminum hulled. So their defensive capabilities are somewhat limited and they are an idea that the Army has to move intra-coastal and small sized movements of equipment and perhaps people.

ADM. BREWER: Let me jump in there, Senator. Our sealift side of it can-some of the other graceful things about it.

SEN. KENNEDY: I was wondering why, when I was preparing for this, it was the Army that was in charge of this. Then I was --

ADM. BREWER: That's taking jointness a little bit too far.


SEN. KENNEDY: It was explained to me and it sounded very good. But I --

ADM. BREWER: Better than was hinted in a lot of conversation. Needless to say between the Army and the Navy.

Senator, the high speed vessel is new technology, runs at about 35 to 40 knots. The WestPac Express, by the way, is leased by the Marine Corps for the Western Pacific 900 Marines and 350 short tons, routinely makes voyages of 1,000 miles or more. In fact, they just went from Okinawa down to the Philippines. Very good up to a certain point. They can be somewhat economical as compared to airlift up to a certain point. I think, from the standpoint of experimentation, the Army is looking at it from the standpoint of intra-theater.

The Navy has looked at it from the standpoint of certain warfighting capabilities as well, maybe as a bridge towards the Littoral Combat Ship. In terms of experimenting with that type of hull form, we just leased the Swift, which is a mine warfare countermeasure ship after the Inchon had her (fire ?). And that particular vessel right now is doing mine warfare things as well as experiments for the Marine Corps. So it's really kind of leading edge prototype technology.

SEN. KENNEDY: So, as I see it, it's been leasing an Australian. Also hull two, I see here.

ADM. BREWER: There are some shipbuilders in the United States that are basically partnering with the shipbuilders in Australia. So perhaps in the future, they will be U.S. built.

SEN. KENNEDY: Can you use it in the Atlantic as well?

ADM. BREWER: Yes, sir. The Swift went from Australia to the Indian Ocean in record time. She had to get-she had to carry a lot of gas and she went all the way from the Indian Ocean around the Horn of Africa, around the Cape into the Med and then from the Med over to the Atlantic. Stopped a lot for gas.

SEN. KENNEDY: Okay. Just a couple more, Mr. Chairman.

SEN. TALENT: Take your time.

SEN. KENNEDY: Admiral Brewer, can you tell us what are your current plans for recapitalizing on the Ready Reserve Force? That's been one of the great successes, the Ready Reserve. We followed that very closely in this committee. Their ships have done an extraordinary job. Sometime in the somewhat near future, we have to be thinking about those again. I'd be interested in what you might be able to tell us about it.

ADM. BREWER: Well, right now, the Ready Reserve Force, of course, is managed by the Maritime Administration. What we're looking at is capabilities within it. Clearly, we don't want any more break bulk ships because it takes so long to load those. We have some ships that are getting up in age, 50 years. Clearly, we will retire that.

But, as John Handy said, the shape of the RRF will be determined mainly by the MCS. MARAD clearly has some plans on the table but, clearly, we need to know what the new requirements will be for WD versus-swiftly defeat the effort. We need to know what the war plans will require.

But we clearly know what we don't need. We don't need any more break bulk ships. During the war, it would take up to two weeks to upload a break bulk ship and another two weeks in theater as compared to an LMSR which is almost three times the size of a lot of these ships.

We could actually upload an LMSR in three to four days and download an LMSR in two or less days. So there in-from a requirements perspective, shows you what we don't need. So we know those things that we don't need. Now, what we're going to need in the future, we're going to have to determine.

SEN. KENNEDY: Anything that you want to say with regards to the Gulf War that helped you figure that out or any conclusions you've reached?

ADM. BREWER: First of all, Desert Storm, I mean, we literally move the Desert Storm size force in almost half the time. That's the first thing. Speed is clearly going to be something that we would be looking at in terms of future capability. For example, during the Gulf War, the average speed of our vessels, because we had to charter so many off the market. It was 13 knots versus 17 knots during this particular war. That means we closed in five days or less with a heck of a lot more capacity.

The RRF ships were in much better condition because Congress gave us the money to help, basically, maintain them better. We had a 98 percent availability rate within the Ready Reserve Force. And, of course, the Ready Reserve Force was that big force that sat off the coast of Turkey and delivered the 4th Infantry Division in such an expeditious manner.

So, from that perspective, the LMSR was the Cadillac, if you will, of this particular war and so, from that perspective, we're very happy with what we had. But clearly, we don't know what the future will hold. As warfighters, we already know, you don't fight the last war. So the MCS is going to be crucial.

SEN. KENNEDY: Well, it's enormously important for many reasons, the last of which you certainly emphasized. We're going to be looking at the BRAC too. They're going to have criteria and they're going to look at what they need and looking about-trying to make judgments about many of these items too. So this is going to be important time in next couple of years, making decisions on these items.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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