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Hearing of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee - Current Readiness of US Forces


Location: Washington, DC

Senator AYOTTE. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. It was really, truly an honor to be in the leadership of this committee with you and to serve with you on behalf of the people of New Hampshire. And I very much look forward to working with you to make sure that we work together to do the very best for our men and women in uniform to ensure their readiness in very challenging times.

And this is always been the--one of the things I truly enjoy about the Armed Services Committee is the strong bipartisan support and work that we do together. And I look forward to doing that, certainly, with you, Senator Shaheen. So, thank you so much.

I also want to thank very much our witnesses for your dedication and your distinguished service to our Nation. And, despite these difficult times and all that we have asked of our servicemembers, recruiting and retention remain strong, and our units continue to accomplish their missions. This is a testament to the quality of our men and women in uniform, but it is also a testament to your leadership. So, thank you very, very much.

The tragic events in Boston this week remind us that, despite the heroic efforts of our military forces and also efforts on our homeland security over the past 12 years, our country still remains vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We heard, this morning, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, that, quote, ""National security threats are more diverse, interconnected, and viral than at any time in history.'' When faced with this ever-increasing range of threats, our Nation expects that our men and women in uniform have the very best equipment and training that they need to protect our Nation. And when our loved ones and fellow citizens step forward to serve, raise their right hand, and agree to deploy and face danger to protect the rest of us, we owe it to them to give them the very best support they can to accomplish their mission and to come home safely. When we fail to provide our servicemembers the very best training and equipment, we neglect our most fundamental constitutional duties as a Congress: to provide for the defense of this Nation.

Allies, rivals, and potential enemies around the world are watching. When we allow our military readiness to deteriorate, friends and potential foes, alike, begin to question our resolve and capability, reducing the credibility of our deterrent. Potential enemies need to know that we have the capability to decisively respond to any attack on our Nation and on our citizens.

To solidify this deterrence, we need our military forces to be constantly ready to defend and protect our interests and those of our allies. Our military remains the very best in the world, and we are so proud of our military. But, as General Dempsey testified yesterday, quote, ""When budget uncertainty is combined with the mechanism and magnitude of sequestration, the consequences could lead to a security gap, vulnerability against future threats to our National security interests.''

That is exactly what my concerns are, and I echo the concerns that were discussed by the Chair about the impact of sequestration.

In January 2013, the Marine Corps reported that over 50 percent of its nondeployed combat units were rated with degraded readiness, while the Army is reporting that over 70 percent of those same forces have significantly degraded readiness. The Air Force has reported that less than half of its combat forces are ready, and there is a significant risk in its ability to meet contingency requirements. And, General Spencer, when we met, the other day, when you talked about the impact of sequestration in 2013 as being an 18-percent reduction in sorties, that's really jaw-dropping.

By the end of October, a majority of the Navy's nondeployed ships and aviation squadrons, nearly two-thirds of the fleet, will be less than fully mission-capable and not certified for major combat operations.

These are alarming trends for our force readiness, given the threats we confront around the world and given the challenges that we have asked our men and women to do in conflicts we've been involved in, both in Iraq and Afghanistan and other conflicts we've supported around the world. They've done their very best. But, of course, that has taken a toll on our readiness, and we need to reset.

Yet, here we are, faced with sequestration, which is devastating cuts to--we just talked about flying hours, quote, ""steaming days,'' and other core training requirements, as well as reduced maintenance for military systems and equipments that will result in declining readiness.

As the prepared statements of our witnesses today describe, the military is increasingly consuming readiness faster than it is being produced, resulting in a declining margin of safety for the American people and also, of course, our men and women in uniform. We are standing down flying units, canceling major unit rotations and carrier group deployments, deferring depot and shipyard work, curtailing facility repairs, and extracting limited savings from the paychecks of dedicated Defense civilians through furloughs. We all know that it's not just our men and women in uniform, but those who work in the civilian sector have a critical role in supporting our men and women in uniform.

We are creating a bow wave of reduced readiness and increased risk that will take years to recover. We cannot continue to accept this. The ultimate price for reduced readiness will be paid by the men and women serving on the front lines for our country around the world.

I want to close by quoting General Dempsey from a hearing the full committee recently held in an attempt to shed light on the devastating impacts of sequestration to our National security and the real prospect of a hollow force. He said, quote, ""Sequestration will redefine our military security role in the world. It will reduce our influence and our ability to secure our National interests. The erosion in military capacity will be manifested in our ability to deter adversaries, assure allies and partners, sustain global presence, and surge for contingencies,'' end quote.

Madam Chair, I share the concerns you have echoed about our military's readiness trends, particularly in light of sequestration. I look forward to our witnesses this afternoon providing a candid and specific assessment as to the damage to their services' readiness being caused by budget uncertainty and sequestration. I hope this hearing will demonstrate to Congress and the American people the urgent need to craft a bipartisan compromise this year, to identify alternative spending reductions that will allow us to eliminate Defense sequestration and provide our men and women in uniform the certainty and support that they deserve.

I thank you so much for holding this important hearing, Madam

Senator SHAHEEN. Thank you very much, Senator Ayotte.

We're going to begin with you, General Campbell, and go to your
left. And I misspoke earlier when I said you had 7 minutes. I think
you only have 6 minutes. The 7-minute round is for our questions.

As it should be. So, thank you, General--

General CAMPBELL. I can beat that standard, ma'am.

Senator SHAHEEN.--Campbell.

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