"Thank you, Mr. Chairman, I join you in welcoming our witnesses and thank them for their many years of dedicated service to our nation.
"The purpose of our hearing today is to discuss the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request for the Department of the Navy. Like the Defense Department as a whole, the Navy's ability to meet our nation's security requirements will greatly depend upon the President's ability to demonstrate the leadership necessary to overcome sequestration. As I mentioned in our hearing with the Secretary of Defense last week, the FY14 budget is symbolic for its lack of Presidential leadership at a time when the range of national security challenges is unprecedented. It is time for the President to propose a plan for sensible fiscal responsibility that can actually pass Congress, as opposed to resorting to tired political gimmicks and revising defense strategies to justify declining defense budgets. Failing to do so will undermine our national security and will have irreversible impacts on the Navy's ability to guarantee its future global reach.
"Our ability to meet our 30 year shipbuilding goals and recapitalize our sea-based nuclear deterrent will greatly depend upon budget certainty. The Navy needs a sustained level of investment topping $20 billion by 2021 and maintaining that level for the following 10 years. More importantly this assumes that the Department can finally control the runaway cost overruns in ship construction. We are not on the right track to accomplish either.
"The Navy's largest research and development program in FY14 is the Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Replacement program. While I remain concerned about the unfortunate decision to delay the program in last year's budget, I am encouraged to see that the Navy appears ready to put this critical nuclear modernization program back on solid footing. A failure to recapitalize our at-sea deterrent on time would have devastating impacts and I encourage the Navy to aggressively continue to reduce risk and emphasize affordability.
"The Navy also needs a sustained level of funding for readiness, training, and shipyard maintenance to keep a majority of the fleet fully mission capable. The sequestration of defense funds in 2013 has resulted in a $4 billion operations and maintenance shortfall and a $6 billion investment shortfall. In addition, the Navy has not budgeted for over $700 million in unscheduled ship repairs resulting from a series of sea accidents, sabotage, and major equipment failures. There are no additional funds in the budget request for 2014 to recover from this bow wave of decreased readiness and increased risk. The Navy just released a report that its shipyards are in such poor shape that, at current funding rates, it will take 17 years just to clear the backlog of critical facility repairs that have been identified to date.
"The Department's budget reality continues to be plagued by a mismatch between strategy and resources that is forcing our Nation to accept reduced military capabilities and increased risk. In response to the latest iteration of a Defense strategy resigned to declining budgets, the Navy announced in January 2013, yet another reduction in the number of required Navy Combatant vessels from 313 to 306. The budget request for 2014 goes farther and accelerates the retirement of sixteen ships, reducing the combat force structure to an all-time low of 273 ships, down from 289 in Fiscal Year 2012. In addition, while the Department has identified a requirement for 33 Amphibious ships to support the Marine Corps, the Navy only had 22 of those ships actually available or fully mission capable and ready to go last year.
"Marine Corps readiness has been and continues to be a significant concern. Similar to the other services, the Marine Corps has rightfully prioritized deployed and next-to-deploy Marines in their operations and maintenance accounts. This is at the expense on non-deployed units and has resulted in the degradation of Marine Corps readiness. By the beginning of calendar year 2014, approximately 50 percent of Marine ground and aviation units will be below acceptable readiness levels. This places the Marines at serious risk in being able to respond to near-term contingency operations.
"What troubles me most is that as the Navy and Marine Corps readiness and modernization accounts are being starved of necessary funding, Secretary Mabus continues to commit precious and declining resources to his politically motivated green agenda. Grounding tactical aircraft and keeping ships tied to the pier at the expense of creating the "Great Green Fleet' will not deter potential adversaries nor will it make Americans safer. Defense spending must be focused on ensuring our military remains the best trained, best equipped, and most capable fighting force in the world, not a means to further a domestic agenda.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman."