Richard C. Shelby

07/21/2021 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/21/2021 17:18

Shelby Highlights Importance of Military Readiness Amid Administration’s Effort to Cut Defense Spending

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), vice chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittee on defense, today questioned Pentagon officials during a defense subcommittee hearing on the Navy and Air Force Weapons Systems Divestments. The witnesses who testified before the subcommittee were Vice Admiral Randy Crites, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources, Vice Admiral James Kilby, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, and Lieutenant General David S. Nahom, Deputy Chief of Staff for Plans and Programs for the Air Force.

Senator Shelby's remarks, as prepared, are as follows:

'Thank you Mr. Chairman. Vice Admiral Crites, Vice Admiral Kilby, Lieutenant General Nahom, welcome and thank you for being here.

'I look forward to hearing about the Navy and Air Force plans for divestment of weapon systems in fiscal year 2022 and how those plans better position our forces to deter and, if necessary, win in a near peer fight.

'The proposal for divestments this year totals $1.37 billion for the Air Force and $1.26 billion for the Navy.

'The Department's stated purpose for the divestments is to retire vulnerable systems and programs that no longer meet security needs, freeing resources to invest in higher priority items.

'While this seems like a straight forward framework for divestment decision making, I would like to better understand how the budget topline impacted these decisions.

'Of the Navy's $1.26 billion fiscal year 2022 divestment recommendation, $930 million is from divestment of ships. These include cruisers, littoral combat ships, riverine craft, and dock landing ships.

'Given the Navy's stated priority of increasing fleet size to compete in the Indo- Pacific, I would expect to see those savings used to increase shipbuilding and ship operations.

'However, the fiscal year 2022 budget request only includes a $300 million increase in ship operations that is accompanied by a $700 million decrease in shipbuilding.

'The Air Force is divesting fighters, tankers, logistics aircraft, command and control, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platforms. I think we can all agree that some of these aircraft have been in service longer than originally envisioned and many would be at significant risk operating in an anti-access and area denial environment.

'That said, I want to understand how the loss of these aircraft will be fully mitigated by the introduction of new aircraft or by increasing the pace of procurement of aircraft currently in production.

'I appreciate the complexity of the decisions the Department has to make to balance near term capabilities with future technologies and maintaining readiness across the force structure.

'And, I believe it is important that we have a better understanding how that is being accomplished with this proposal.

'Additionally, I would like to know what the plan is for the items that are divested.

'A very conservative estimate of the initial investment in the procurement of the items the Air Force and Navy would like to divest is $14 billion.

'This is a significant investment that we must be thoughtful about at the end of life.

'I raise this issue because this proposal includes divestments of naval vessels that entered service less than five years ago with a price tag around $520 million each.

'It also includes unmanned ISR platforms that we just finished procuring.

'It is important that we understand what consideration the Services have made for other uses of the equipment or other ways to gain back some of the investment that has been made in the equipment.

'Finally, understanding how the Services are filling the operational gaps that will be left upon divestment of this equipment is key to this conversation today.

'For example, the cruisers that the Navy wants to divest have a Vertical Launch System that can carry up to 122 missiles each.

'I recognize that the cost to maintain and operate the aging fleet of Arleigh Burke-class cruisers is driving some of the divestment decisions, but I would like to understand how the Navy plans to fill the missile gap and what consideration has been given to the cost of any new platforms that will fill that gap.

'This is an important conversation, and I look forward to getting the answers to these questions today. Thank you.'