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Hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee - Mark Up the Readiness and Management Support Programs Contained in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014


Location: Washington, DC

Senator AYOTTE. I want to thank the chairman for the honor of working with you on this important mark, and this committee, the fact that this is an open, transparent subcommittee hearing I think is very, very important. I was pleased to work with Senator McCaskill when she chaired the committee on it.

And thank you for continuing the legacy of openness and transparency. I think that is very important.

And I think that this is really, with Senator Shaheen and I at the chair and ranking member position here, this is the ""live free or die'' Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee. We appreciate it, with the Granite Staters. But it really is an honor to be able to work with Senator Shaheen on important issues for our military and on behalf of the State of New Hampshire.

Our Nation confronts unprecedented challenges abroad, and certainly a difficult fiscal situation at home. And we must ensure our men and women in uniform have the resources that they need to protect themselves and our country. And despite the serious challenges that sequestration presents, which the chairman outlined in very good detail, to our Nation's military readiness, I believe we have crafted a good piece of bipartisan mark for this committee that prioritizes the critical readiness needs of the department, our servicemembers, and their families.

Madam Chairman, I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish together. This mark addresses the reset of our combat units, the health of our war Reserves, the quality of our readiness reports, and the identification of making sure that we do not
have a hollow force.

As the chair had outlined in her opening statement, we have identified $1.7 billion in savings from the President's budget that we have applied directly to training and equipment and repair accounts that will allow the services to mitigate some of the damage to our readiness caused by sequestration. And I fully support that reallocation of the funding within this mark.

Our mark authorizes numerous military construction projects, including an important military construction project at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the P--266 consolidation of structural workshops. This new facility will save time and money, and allow the
skilled workers at Portsmouth to continue to provide the highest quality of maintenance that is so critical to the readiness of our attack submarine fleet.

And I strongly encourage the Navy to keep those projects moving forward, because we are able to save money through the projects we are doing in consolidation of workforce, and also work done to save energy savings, as the chair outlined in her statement.

I am also pleased that the mark does not authorize another round of base realignment and closures, BRAC. I join the chairman in opposing the department's request for the authorization to conduct a round of base closures and realignments in 2015. Again, now is not the time to spend billions of dollars on another BRAC round when the last BRAC round in 2005 cost $13 billion more than estimated. And to put that in perspective, that is three fewer nuclear submarines or seven fewer destroyers for our undersized Navy fleet.

I am also very proud that the Readiness Subcommittee mark includes key components of legislation that I introduced earlier this year with Senator Blumenthal, entitled, ""Never Contract with the Enemy.''

In prior defense authorization in 2012, we passed ""No Contracting with the Enemy'' that allowed acquisition officials in Central Command the ability to more expeditiously sever ties with contractors who funnel taxpayer resources to those who oppose the United States. And I am happy to report that just from the original legislation that was passed, we have been able to save $31 million to make sure that that money does not go in the wrong hands.

But more needs to needs to be done. After having visited Afghanistan in January, having heard from the generals on the ground that this is an important tool, Senator Blumenthal and I realized that we needed to expand the authority of ""No Contracting with the Enemy,'' and that is why we introduced the legislation that will extend the critical authorities to deny contracts to those who are collaborating with our enemies to all combatant commanders, not just CENTCOM. And when we discover that our money is ending up in the wrong hands, DOD officials must have the authority to cut it off as soon as possible.

Madam Chair, in addition to what we have accomplished in this committee, certainly our collaboration is helpful outside of this subcommittee, and you and I have been working together with members of the committee to ensure that the Navy can build a second Virginia class submarine in fiscal year 2014, and I am very glad that the Seapower Subcommittee will take up that issue.

It was also a pleasure to advocate alongside you for the Pease Air National Guard Base and the 157th Air Refueling Wing, which was recently selected as the first Air National Guard base to receive the new KC--46A tanker. And I want to thank you for everything that you have done on that.

I am also thankful that the vast majority--unfortunately, sadly not all--of the workers at our public shipyards have not been subject to furlough, because we all understand that that would have been a pennywise, pound- foolish decision for the money that we would have lost by furloughing those key workers who are maintaining our submarine fleet.

Finally, I want to say that despite the many accomplishments in this mark, I too also remain seriously concerned about the impact that sequestration will have on our military readiness moving forward. I was someone who voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011, but I firmly believe that if we continue on the path that we
were on with sequestration, while friends and potential enemies are watching, that we will deteriorate the readiness of the greatest military force on Earth. And this is something that needs to be addressed on a bipartisan basis.

So I will continue to want to work across the aisle, as I have for the last year and a half. And I stand ready to work with members of both parties to identify alternative spending reductions and ways to end defense sequestration once and for all, because I know, as we sit in this subcommittee today, the chair and I have worked together, along with other members of the committee, to do our best to allocate the resources we have to make sure that we can maintain the best force in the world. However, if this continues, and we are here again next year, it will become more challenging to be able to do that.

And so I appreciate what the chair said about the impact of sequestration, and I fully agree with her on that in the long term for the readiness of our military.

Finally, I really would very much like to thank the members of our committee, the staff who have worked very hard on this. Certainly, I would very much like to thank your staff, Madam Chair, Jay Maroney, Gary Leeling, Chad Kreikemeier, Patrick Day; and on our staff, Lucian Niemeyer and Brad Bowman. Thank you all for your hard work. We could not do this without your help. Thank you.

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