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A service for military industry professionals · Saturday, May 18, 2024 · 712,645,992 Articles · 3+ Million Readers

Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense Holds Hearing on the Fiscal Year 2025 Navy and Marine Corps Budget Request

JON TESTER:

I want to call this hearing to order. Good morning, everybody. Today, uh, we welcome Secretary Del Toro, uh, Admiral Franchetti and General Smith. Uh, thank you for serving our nation and for leading our Navy and Marine Corps. I look forward to discussing the 2025 budget priorities today. Uh, Admiral Franchetti, this is your first appearance, uh, before this subcommittee.

Uh, I have enjoyed getting to know you over the recent months, and we look forward to working with you throughout this process and moving forward. General Smith, this is also your first appearance in front of this, uh, committee. It is great to see you and I want to thank you for your service, and I want to thank you for being here, today.

The fiscal year 2025 budget request the Navy and Marine Corps is at 520, uh, 252.3 billion, uh, excluding funds for military construction. This represents a 1.4 percent increase above FY24

enacted levels. You received your FY24 funding, uh, only a couple of weeks ago, six months late, uh, because, uh, Congress didn't do his job and get its work done on time.

Uh, in my opinion, this is a disgrace. Our nation continues to face real threats from China and Russia and Iran and terrorist groups. As we saw just this past weekend, when Iran brazenly attacked Israel with hundreds of missiles. The world doesn't follow any congressional calendar. The Senate passed national security supplemental includes 2.4 billion for the operations in the US Central Command area of operations.

That includes funds to replace interceptors fired in defense of our ships and of our allies in the region. It is long past time to get these funds signed into law. Um, I believe the supplemental was sent out in August of last year. Um, we have, uh, allies and their friends of ours. We've got countries that are fighting for democracy, yet we -- our soldiers lives are at risk in the region, yet we continue to fiddle and do Putin's bidding.

Uh, it is long past time to get these funds signed into law. And like I said, I would like the witnesses today to explain the impact of having, uh, to cash flow these operations from existing budgets. But as challenging as the Middle East situation is, uh, the number one threat to our freedom, the pacing threat remains to be China.

And as I've said before, China doesn't operate on continuing -- resolution solutions. So notwithstanding political headwinds and budget constraints, we will continue to work with my good friend, Susan Collins and Chairman Murray to end this disastrous trend of CRs and insert some certainty back into our budget cycle.

To be clear, we have our work cut out for us. The bipartisan Fiscal Responsibility Act is the law of the land. It caps spending for both defense and non-defense programs. Last year, despite our efforts, we were not able to convince our colleagues to change those budget caps. Given the pressures on the budget such as the impact of inflation, we need to modernize the nuclear triad, rising personnel costs and near unprecedented global threats.

And I might say, and I've said it before, so this is not breaking news, I think we're in a more perilous time than has ever been in my lifetime, maybe with the exception of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is imperative -- it is imperative that we invest these dollars that we do have in a way that gets the results that we want.

Um, I want to highlight a few areas that we need further discussion. The first is our people, our sailors, Marines and civilians. Subcommittee has worked with the department to provide additional funds to recruitment and increased suicide prevention efforts. I would love to hear an update on that. Second is shipbuilding.

Secretary Del Toro, you recently concluded a 45 day shipbuilding review and -- and documented serious scheduling delays. Uh, the results are damning, and I understand additional studies are now ongoing. I would love to hear about that. Third, the volatile global security environment that has driven a great sense of urgency and DOD attempt to field innovative technologies and solutions at scale, as quickly as possible.

Um, we're always, uh, open to working with the Department of Defense to ensure the warfighters has the tools it needs to be effective. Um, however, it cannot be ignored that programs initiated with expedited expedition authorities apparently suffer from the same cost schedule and technical issues as traditional programs do. Uh, the Navy is no exception.

For example, the extra-large unmanned undersea vehicle was intended to fill an urgent requirement, despite fabrication starting in 2019. Here we are in 2024 with no operational assets but icing on the cake. And I heard the Navy is planning to sole source, uh, the follow on effort. Uh, and that -- and that begs the question, what message does that send?

So, before we entertain enacting new budget acquisition authorities, I want to know how the Navy is going to improve its performance to ensure the capabilities we invest in actually reaches the hands of the warfighter, without wasting taxpayer dollars. It is the role of Congress to ensure that taxpayer dollars are used in the most effective way possible to maintain American superiority.

And I look forward to continuing with you, work with you to make that possible. Once again, I want to thank you, all of you, for your service to this country. Uh, but before your opening statements, I want to turn it over to Senate -- Senator Collins, uh, for any remark she would like to make. Senator Collins.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin my remarks by saying that I can't imagine a more timely hearing than this one, uh, given Iran's deliberate attack against the sovereign nation of Israel, with more than 300 drones and ballistic missiles, over the weekend, and the Navy's truly heroic, uh, response in assisting Israel and our other allies.

Impressively, with the assistance of the United States, England, France and certain Arab states, Israel intercepted 99 percent of these missiles. That includes more than 80 incoming drones and at least six ballistic missiles that were taken down by American forces, including the crews of two Bath-built destroyers, the USS Carney and the USS Arleigh Burke.

Keep in mind that this is the same USS Carney that has been protecting US and allied shipping in the Red Sea and has an amazing record of shooting down incoming missiles and drones fired by the Houthis. In fact, the US Navy has thwarted numerous attacks from Iran's terrorist proxies. And I do think we should remember the role of Iran in all of this, whether it is arming and equipping the Houthis, Hamas, Hezbollah.

If you trace it back, it always comes back to Iran. We place, and appropriately so, a lot of emphasis on China in our hearings as being the pacing threat. But we cannot forget, as the chairman has indicated, how dangerous the world is today and how many adversaries we have, um, and Iran is certainly among them.

And I think we need to remember that the fact that less than 1 percent of the weapons reached their targets this weekend in Israel does not in any way reflect a lack of effort or malign intent by Iran. Rather, it is a testament to the service members who, successfully, deployed modern missile defense capabilities, capabilities that were developed over decades at the cost of billions of dollars, but we should never take for granted what it took to make this defense of Israel possible.

If the -- if ever the naysayers had any doubt about the value of today's surface navy, those doubts should be eliminated by the events of the last six months. Shifting to the budget focus of today's hearings, I will start by echoing the chairman's comments by saying how great it is to see General Smith back and healthy and with us, today.

I look forward to continuing to work together, although it appears that amphibious ships may not require quite as much work this year as they did last year, and I imagine that you're quite OK with that. To Secretary Del Toro and to Admiral Franchetti, thank you, also, for your extraordinary leadership and service.

I also want to recognize the service and sacrifice of our Marines, our sailors and their families. I'm proud, also, that so many Mainers have chosen to support the Navy through their critical work at Bath Iron Works, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, the plant run by Pratt Whitney, the Naval Computers and Telecommunications Center in Cutler and other locations and facilities around our state.

There are many challenges confronting the Navy today, but three are at the forefront of my mind. First, there are not enough sailors reporting for duty at sea. Second, shipbuilding is nowhere close to keeping pace with China's growing navy. And third, the funding for the Navy's next generation fighter aircraft that is central to the air wing of the future has been delayed, considerably, in this budget request.

Let me comment briefly on each of those comments. Last month, the Navy reported a sea duty shortfall of nearly 22,000 personnel. On average, 13 out of every hundred jobs on a ship or unfilled. These gaps at sea are growing worse. So I look forward to your assessment of the impact of the MTC duty billets on operational readiness and on retention and recruitment.

China's Navy continues its explosive growth from more than 370 ships, today, to 435, by the year 2030. While this budget request results in only 294 US Navy ships in the same time frame, merely a single ship more than today's current fleet. In total, the request includes only six new ships for fiscal year 2025, The last time the Navy requested so few ships was more than 15 years ago.

It's worth pointing out, as the chairman has, that the bipartisan Navy national security supplemental that the Senate passed more than two months ago includes more than $3 billion to bolster the submarine industrial base to help address the lengthy delays in both submarine programs. I would also add that the supplemental includes 2.4 billion to reimburse for the direct costs being incurred by US military units in harm's way in Central Command for six months.

Those were costs that could not have been anticipated, and that is yet another reason we need to get this supplemental to the president and signed into law. Navy sailors and service members of the other branches of the military have answered the call doing everything asked to them, and more. We need to pass the supplemental so that these missions can continue and the necessary investments in the shipbuilding industrial base can be made.

Therefore, we also need to mark up and pass a fiscal year 2025 defense appropriations bill, as soon as possible, that defers conflict by providing the Navy and the Marine Corps with the ships, aircraft, munitions and other capabilities necessary to keep our country and our allies safe, during this extraordinarily difficult and dangerous time.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JON TESTER:

Thank you, Senator Collins. Now opening statements, and please know that your full opening statement will be a part of the record. We’ll start with you, uh, Senator, uh, Secretary Del Toro.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Chairman Tester, Vice Chair Collins, distinguished members of the committee. It's an honor to appear before you this morning to discuss the posture of the Department of the Navy. First and

fore most, I do also want to thank General Smith and Admiral Franchetti for answering the call of our nation, time and time again.

They, like all who devote their careers and, in some cases, even sacrificed their lives in defense of their fellow Americans, represent everything that makes the United States a beacon of hope and freedom around the world. Together, our combined years of service to our country totals over a century, a century marked by multiple deployments, time away from home and sacrifices made by our families.

And as we gather here this morning, thousands of our sailors, Marines, civilians and their families are either stationed or deployed all over the world, making the same sacrifices and enduring the same trials that myself, General Smith and Admiral Franchetti have faced, throughout our careers. In the Indo-Pacific, our Navy and Marine Corps are sailing and operating alongside our international allies and partners in support of a free and open maritime commons, one where nations are secure in their access to the seas and where their rights within their exclusive economic zones are respected and upheld by all.

Across Europe, We, in cooperation with our NATO allies, are supporting our Ukrainian partners as they continue their fight to restore their territorial and national sovereignty, as Russia's illegal full scale invasion enters now its third year. And I also urge Congress to pass the national security supplemental without further delay in support of our Ukrainian partners, as they fight to restore peace in their homeland and defense, the democracy for all free nations, not just Ukraine.

And in the Red Sea, our sailors and Marines have encountered hundreds of missiles and drones launched by the Houthis these past six months, targeting merchant shipping and the warships of both the United States and international allies and partners, as you have stated. We are confronting an adversary supported by Iran.

All roads lead to Iran that has no respect for the innocent lives of civilian merchant mariners and one that is actively targeting our ships attempting to harm our sailors and Marines because we dare to defend the defenseless. And just this past weekend, as you have stated, USS Carney and USS Arleigh Burke, both operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, intercepted several Iranian ballistic missiles heading towards Israel.

For those who question why the American taxpayer should provide for and maintain a Navy and Marine Corps, look at what is happening today in the Middle East, where we are defending the free flow of international commerce and, actively, defending our international allies and partners. Members of the committee, we appear before you today to ask for your continued support for your partnership and your commitment and ensuring that the nearly 1 million sailors, Marines and civilians of the Department of the Navy that we lead are ready on all fronts at all times.

While the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 forced us to make very hard choices, the $257.6 billion in the president's budget request for fiscal year 25 for our department adeptly balances maintaining and modernizing the fleet enforcement today against planning for the future force, while also taking care of our people.

This budget directly supports our department's three enduring priorities of strengthening our maritime dominance, building a culture of warfighting excellence and enhancing our strategic partnerships. We are acquiring the most lethal, agile and capable warships, submarines, aircraft weapons systems and other systems our world has ever seen.

We're also funding the research and development of transformational technologies and fielding them more quickly to make our fleet more lethal and persistent, within the current FYDP. We are investing billions of dollars in the industrial base that supports us, while encouraging them to invest more in themselves, at the same time.

And as responsible stewards of taxpayer funds, we will enforce accountability to ensure that our sailors and Marines have the platforms and capabilities they need delivered on time and on budget. Above all else, we are taking care of our personnel and their families by focusing on improving housing, expanding childcare capacity and increasing access to mental health resources, amongst other critical areas.

We are clear eyed about the challenges our nation faces today in the maritime domain, both commercial and naval. And as a maritime nation, we must confront the challenges of today and prepare for the potential conflicts of tomorrow by investing in a strong Navy and Marine Corps.

Again, it is an honor to appear before you, this morning, and to lead the most powerful, lethal and flexible Navy Marine Corps team in the world.

And we look forward to discussing with you how best to Deliver the Navy and Marine Corps that our nation requires. Thank you.

JON TESTER:

Secretary Del Toro, thank you. Thank you for the statement. Uh, next we'll have Admiral Franchetti. Admiral.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Chairman -- Chair Tester, Vice Chair Collins, distinguished members of the committee, good morning, and thank you for the opportunity to testify on the posture of the United States Navy. On behalf of all our sailors, Navy civilians and their families deployed and stationed all around the world, thank you for your leadership and your continued support in providing and maintaining the Navy the nation needs.

I'd also like to thank my teammate, General Smith, for his exceptional partnership and collaboration, as we guide our services under the leadership of Secretary Del Toro. Flanked by two oceans, the United States is and always has been a maritime nation, whose security and prosperity rely on access to the sea.

And for over 248 years, the US Navy has guaranteed that access, operating forward, defending our homeland and keeping open the sea lines of communication that fuel our economy and underwrite our nation's security. The events of this past year and the actions taken by your Navy Marine Corps team in the Indo-Pacific, in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea and beyond underscore the enduring importance of American naval power.

With an average of 110 ships and 70,000 sailors and marines deployed on any given day, the Navy Marine Corps team is delivering power for peace, deterring potential adversaries and standing ready to fight and win our nation's wars, if deterrence fails. I could not be more proud of this team. No other Navy in the world can train, deploy and sustain such a lethal combat credible force that operates from the seabed to space at the scope, scale and tempo that we do. This year's budget request supports the National Defense Strategy and my priorities of warfighting, warfighters and the foundation that supports them.

It enables the Navy to continue to meet our congressionally mandated mission in both peace and war. It is strategy driven, maintaining our focus on the People's Republic of China as a pacing challenge, the acute threat of Russia and other persistent threats like the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran and violent extremist organizations.

Given the discretionary spending caps prescribed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act and a top line increase of 0.7 percent, the Navy had to make tough choices, favoring near-term readiness, investing in our industrial base and prioritizing our people, while assuming risk in future capabilities. Within this fiscally constrained environment, the budget request fully funds the Navy's top acquisition priority and the most survivable leg of our strategic deterrence, the Columbia-class submarine.

It provides funds for six battle force ships and incremental funding for two forward class carriers in FY25 and continues our support for Marine Corps force design, by maintaining 31 amphibious ships, procuring three LPDs, one LHA and eight medium landing ships. In total, the budget request procures 57 ships, across the FYDP. This budget request prioritizes warfighting by funding our operations, training and readiness accounts.

It continues our strong commitment to our warfighters and our families through pay raises for our sailors and Navy civilians and investments in quality of service initiatives such as unaccompanied, housing, education, child care and sailor resiliency. And it invests in our foundation with funding for our installations, for our shipyard infrastructure optimization program and for the broader defense industrial base, sending a strong signal to our industry partners on the need to increase our capacity to meet the growing demands of the present and the future?

As Chief of Naval Operations, I am committed to pulling every lever available to me to put more ready players on the field, platforms that are ready with the right capabilities, weapons and sustainment and people who are ready with the right skills, tools, training and mindset to defend our nation's security and prosperity, wherever and whenever it is threatened.

I thank the committee for your leadership and your partnership in ensuring the world's premier warfighting force remains ready to preserve the peace, respond in crisis and win decisively in war, if called. I look forward to your questions.

JON TESTER:

Thank you, Admiral. We appreciate your testimony. You're up, General Smith.

ERIC SMITH:

Good morning. Chairman Tester, Vice Chair Collins, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to represent your Marines, today. I'd like to start by sincerely thanking this committee for its enduring support and your advocacy for a timely, predictable and sufficient budget that enables the Marine Corps to remain first to fight.

I would also like to express my deep gratitude for the partnership between my shipmate, Admiral Franchetti and me, as we lead our respective sea services, under the leadership of Secretary-­Secretary Del Toro. Whether deterring, responding to crisis or in conflict, it will be the Navy and Marine Corps expeditionary forces who make first contact with partners seeking help or adversaries seeking a fight.

Our partnership, collaboration and integration is a decisive advantage. Last week, I published updated guidance to the force entitled, "Maintain Momentum." I chose this title as I firmly believe the Corps is on the right path, under force design. A few points from that document. First, I believe the Marine Corps must continue to strike a balance between high end modernization and our commitment to persistent forward deployed naval expeditionary forces that campaign and respond to crises globally.

This effort is represented by our Marine Expeditionary Units. Second, we must prioritize our operations with the Navy and its amphibious ships, and we must provide Marines with the organic mobility to rapidly maneuver from shore to shore, ship to shore and back again. Third, on recruiting, our performance speaks for itself.

We will continue to make our mission, without ever diminishing our standards. Additionally, our top performing Marines are enlisting at record rates, and we must sustain this trend. Fourth, we must maximize the capabilities of our reserves to ensure that our nation has the ready bench of warriors they have relied on since the founding of Marine Corps Forces Reserve in 1916. And fifth, I'm dedicated to ensuring a quality of life for our Marines that matches the high demands we place on them every day.

That means nutritious food, high quality and accessible gyms and a safe quiet place to recover from a hard day's work. Our Barracks 2030 initiative is our most consequential barracks investment ever, and it is sorely needed. While aggressively pursuing these priorities, I commit to you that our core will always be frugal and accountable with the resources you and the American people provide.

I'm proud of my Marines and civilian Marines who enabled the Marine Corps to receive an unmodified audit opinion earlier this year, the first of any service to do so. They told us what we have long known that, when you entrust us with the taxpayers money, it is money well spent and fully accounted for. All these things are critical to maintaining the strength and dominance of your Marine Corps.

This year marks 249 years since the founding of our Corps. That is 249 years of battles won and peace upheld in the name of democracy and prosperity for our nation and for all nations who abide by the international rules based order. But increasingly, world events demonstrate this order is being challenged.

Free trade, unrestricted access to the seas, peaceful cooperation between nations, big and small, are under assault. Our nation's prosperity is underwritten by a strong Navy and Marine Corps, who maintains a global presence and keeps malign actors at bay. Thank you, again, for the opportunity to represent your Marines today.

I pledge to continue to work closely with each of you to ensure your Marine Corps remains the most lethal fighting force on the planet. I look forward to your questions.

JON TESTER:

Thank you for your statement, General. Um, we appreciate you being here as well, as the entire panel. I'm going to start with you with rounds of questions here. Secretary Del Toro, um, this past weekend, US forces stationed in the Middle East defended Israel from Iran's barrage of missiles. Uh, this is just the latest in a series of US forces have taken in the area to defend assets and assets of our allies.

Secretary Del Toro, so far, you're paying for these operations out of your existing budget, even though the Senate passed national security supplemental contains 2.4 billion to cover these costs, including replacing the missiles. Can you please explain the impact of having to cover these costs without the supplemental funds that the Senate has already passed, by the way?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, both, for actually recognizing the bravery and the courage of our sailors and Marines who've been now operating in both the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, over the course of the last six months. First, the Ford Carrier Strike group then followed the baton, uh, amphibious, uh, readiness group as well, too.

And of course, now the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group with additional ships that are being provided for in the Mediterranean. Over the course of the last six months, we've fired, uh, we have actually counted over 130 direct attacks on US Navy ships and merchant ships. Uh, the munitions that are critical to these, uh, to these counter strikes are extremely important to the Department of the Navy.

We currently have approaching $1 billion in munitions that we have, uh, need to replenish, at some point in time. So therefore, the over $2 billion that's, uh, provided for in the supplemental is entirely critical to our Navy and Marine Corps to be able to replenish those munitions and continue to provide the types of defensive measures that we have this past six and a half months now.

JON TESTER:

Uh, thank you. Uh, Admiral Franchetti, I know that ship maintenance is a priority for you and addressing that. Uh, what is the impact of extended operations and deployment on the force.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

This is one of my biggest priorities as I talk —

JON TESTER:

I don't know that your mic is on. Go ahead. Sorry.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

On.

JON TESTER:

It's on now, yeah. There we go.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Ship maintenance is one of my very biggest priorities. When I talk about getting more players on the field, you know, one way to do that, of course, is to procure new ships. But the other one is to get them in and out of maintenance on time. So, we're very focused as we are looking at the ships that are already underway, several of which have been extended, making sure that we work with our shipyards and our planning to be able to get them in and out of maintenance, as quickly as they come back.

I think more broadly, we're very focused on improving our processes that are related to shipyard maintenance, in general. Some of that is making sure that we get our packages locked in about six months ahead of time before the ships come back, so we can plan the work ahead of time, so we don't have as much growth work or new work, once the ship is in the actual availability.

The other one is developing, putting in place, basically, a surface readiness group. It's going to be led by a second tour, a sequential command captain at the 06 level who will have a team of folks that are very experienced in shipyard maintenance to bring the ships through, help provide that expertise and oversight, along with our NAVSEA counterparts that will be doing that.

So again, I think we're starting to see some big improvements in shipyard maintenance for our surface ships and look forward to continuing that progress. We can't take our foot off the gas, and I'm very focused on this.

JON TESTER:

Thank you. Uh, Secretary Del Toro, uh, you had a 45 day review of navy shipbuilding documented a three year delay in the new frigate program, a two year delay in the latest aircraft carrier, two years -­two to three year delay in the Virginia class attack submarines, 12 to 16 month delay in the Columbia class submarine.

Uh, this is despite unprecedented support by Congress. Headlines and delays like this should constituent -- should constitute a full blown emergency for the Navy and the shipbuilding industry. I know there's no fix, no quick fixes, but I have yet to see what either party is prepared to do about it and to be specific who's being held accountable.

Now, look, we do studies and we do surveys, we're -- I'm talking about we be in the Senate, um, and that's exactly what they end up being. Um, I think your review has shown that we've got a problem, a major problem and a problem that puts our national security at risk. So the question is, is how do we hold these folks accountable?

How do we -- what do we need to do to make sure these folks understand that, uh, profitability in the shipbuilding industry isn't your number one responsibility. It's to get these ships out and submarines and equipment out on time, on budget, the way we need them to keep this country safe.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, that's exactly right, Mr. Chairman. And when I was confirmed, I committed to you that I'd be honest, transparent and committed to making a difference, and that's my intent. That was my intent in asking for the 45 day review, which reviewed over 10 shipbuilding programs for the purpose of providing the assessment of national and local causes of shipbuilding challenges.

In that regard, the contributing factors that were discovered in that review are lead ship issues, design maturity, first or class challenges faced by the shipyards, as well, transition to production, design workforce and a shortage of blue collar labor across the country, as well. It was also determined that shipyards simply aren't making enough of a contribution on their own to increasing their own production rates at their own shipyards, which is also critical.

I mean it's just one example, Mr. Chairman. We're making a $15 billion investment over the course of the next five years that money, that's the taxpayers money. And at the same time, many of these shipyards actually making stock buyback programs where they're buying back stocks to the tune of $4 billion and upwards of that.

That's unforgivable, and we need them to invest in their own shipyards just as much as the American taxpayer is investing in the budget to get these production lines back up.

JON TESTER:

Well, I would just say that, you know, Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex. Um, the fact of the matter is, is that they're an important partner for us. They're an important part of the equation, and I get it excuses are many, uh, whether it's workforce or whatever it is. But the fact that some of these corporations are using the money to buy stocks back without building capacity first is incredibly irresponsible.

And I hope they're listening because, quite frankly, we will do whatever we can do to make sure they have a workforce, but damn it, they've got to step up to the plate. And in many cases, I have not seen that happen. Senator Collins.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Admiral. I want to follow up on the chairman's question to you about maintenance and delays. You addressed it from surface ships. I want to talk to you about submarines. The Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, SIOP, and the ship depot maintenance line item are both well-resourced in the budget request.

I support these needed investments in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, and in our other shipyards because during the past decade, fewer than one third of the Navy's attack submarines have completed maintenance on time. Last year, Navy officials conceded that there were nearly twice as many non-deployable submarines as were anticipated because of maintenance or other issues.

This is a trend that we simply have to reverse. To what extent we make the investments in the budget, can we expect that the submarine maintenance backlog will decline?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Thank you, Senator, and as you know, our submarines are our true asymmetric advantage, and we really do need to improve on our overall submarine maintenance. I think two things that you mentioned there. So the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, you know, this is a once in a generation, really once in a hundred year overhaul of our four public shipyards.

We really appreciate the investments in those shipyards because they are so critical to that maintenance that you're talking about. And this is recapitalization of the dry docks. It is a reorganization of the shipyard to ensure that the flow of the work across the shipyard will be effective and more efficient, as we're doing that maintenance.

And then of course, upgrading the equipment that is part of that is all part of the shipyard optimization program that we're putting in place. And I think you will really see those investments pay off, over many years. These are long projects and again, we appreciate the investment in that. As far as the getting our ship submarine out of the shipyard on time, you know, we've made a lot of progress in putting in place processes that help us look at the data analytics so we can better understand where are the choke points, what are the barriers to getting our submarines out of maintenance on time and then working to implement the corrections.

We put the head of our submarine force in charge of that overall process, last year, to really drive the operational demand and understand the sense of urgency that we need in each one of our shipyards to be able to get them out on time. One of the other things we found was that a shortage of supply parts and a rotatable pool would be a way.

So we put that in our budget for last year. We're looking forward to getting those all on contract now, a little bit delayed, about six months delayed. But we will get that in there, and then expect to see positive results of having those spare parts and long lead time materials in place ahead of time to expedite that maintenance.

So again, we're starting to see some good progress out in Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. We have two submarines, the Minnesota and the Illinois, that are currently on track for their maintenance availabilities. And we look to take the learning that they're doing out in Pearl Harbor and bring that to our other shipyards, as well.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Well, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, is the gold standard, uh, just to get that on the record. Uh, but obviously, I've visited there many times, and the physical constraints are a real barrier. And that's why the SIOP program has been absolutely critical. General Smith, I want to talk to you about an unfunded priority that is -- that you've submitted.

And that's for the procurement of four F-35 engines and engine power modules to alleviate potential logistical problems associated with transporting engines to ships and the time that it takes to replace an engine at sea. Could you comment on how funding additional F-35C spare engines and power modules would improve F-35 readiness and better support our operational commanders?

ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I can, and thank you for the question. Those four engines enable us to do repairs at sea, um, which are incredibly difficult when we're deployed aboard, uh, our amphibious landing ships, our LHAs, LHDs. And when we have the appropriate number of spares, we can, in stride, swap an engine out. We have the maintainers and the tools to do that at sea, but we need the spare engines to do so. And that increases our readiness, dramatically.

So those four engines are vital, um, as we have encountered, um, I would say, higher than expected, uh, degradation in our engines.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you. I couldn't help but notice, this morning, that sitting next to our highly decorated marine are two farmer commanders of the -- are captains of the Arleigh Burke destroyers. And I appreciate the fact that you understand that they are truly the workhorse of the fleet and have been there for more than three decades.

Um, Mr. Secretary, could you describe for the members of the committee who may be less familiar with the important role played by our destroyers, how important they have been, both in protecting the shipping lanes in the Red Sea and in the defense of Israel, this past weekend?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, thank you, Madam Vice Chair. Uh, without question, uh, the Arleigh Burke destroyer is a multi­-mission platform that conducts numerous missions, especially including air defense and ballistic missile defense, uh, for US forces and our allies and partners has been critically important to the defense of the Red Sea, over the course of the last six months.

And they really have operated extraordinarily well. It's a testament to the investments that have been made by the Department of the Navy and the Congress, specifically, over the course of the last several decades, investments in the Aegis Combat system and the weapon systems and the munitions that actually go on those ships to be able to, effectively, defend our national security interests.


As you know, over 90 percent of the world's trade actually travels on the water, and we also have undersea cables that carry up to 10 trillion financial transactions, every single day. So the protections of those seas and those undersea cables is incredibly important, and it is actually the Arleigh Burke destroyer and, hopefully in the future, the Constellation-class frigate as well, too, that will provide that defense to our national security.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you. Madam Chair, welcome.

PATTY MURRAY:

Thank you. Thank you very much to my Vice Chair and to Chair Tester. And thank you all to our Tester -- to our witnesses for joining us. And thank you for your service to our country. At a time when we know some of our adversaries are making significant investment in their navies, we have to keep pace and maintain strong investments for our Navy and Marine Corps.


And that doesn't mean just equipment. We have to invest in our men and women in uniform, getting them adequate training and equipment and making sure their families have support, like childcare, mental health care, safe, quality, housing and a lot more. And while we discuss what's needed for the Navy and Marine Corps in FY25, I can't neglect to mention that we must also finish the job on FY24, by passing the national security supplemental ASAP. Iran's attacks over the weekend are a very stark reminder of the precarious moment that we 're in, the pressing challenges we and our allies face across the globe, including the risk of further escalation of hostilities in the Middle East and of the urgent need to pass the National Security Supplemental.

It is critical we act, that we stand with our allies, that we deter escalation and more conflict and, of course, we know that American support can turn the tide of the -- for the war in Ukraine. For month,. I've been insisting we pass a comprehensive and bipartisan national security supplemental I wrote with many of you who are here in this room.

So I'm glad the speaker now seems to be moving in that direction. I look forward to working with Chairman Cole, Vice Chair Collins, Ranking Member DeLauro to make this a reality. After so many months of needless delay from House Republicans, we've got to get this done. We need to get it right. As everyone in the room knows, the details matter and show the world that there is bipartisan support to stand with our allies.

Having said that, let me turn to questions for our witnesses. Mr. Secretary, last week, reporting from Military.com revealed deeply, disturbing accounts of child abuse by Child Development Center employees at Navy installations. The investigation found that Navy rules prioritize protecting the institution, keep parents in the dark and have minimal safeguards to guarantee accountability.

According to the reporting, base commanders and military police units often don't know who is responsible for reporting and investigating abuse at CDCs. And in one case, it took a full year, before workers responsible for abuse were charged in a civilian court. The reporters interviewed a dozen families with similar stories of not being told when their child was injured and, in many cases, parents shouldered hefty legal bills to force the military branches to tell them what happened.

I cannot emphasize enough how concerning and unacceptable that is. So Mr. Secretary, I want to know what is the Navy doing to investigate these reports and ensure that those responsible are held accountable?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, Senator, first and foremost, thank you for the concern that you display for our service members and their families as well, too. I had four children growing up; many of them actually were in child care development centers. There is no greater priority than the safety of our servicemen and women in uniform and the civilians that actually use those CDCs as well, too.

I'm quite familiar with the details actually from the '22 case of this child development center, but there are inaccuracies as well, too, in the reporting of those facts. In fact, law enforcement officials were informed on the very first day that they were discovered, and they were actually brought to bear.

Unfortunately, we sometimes can't control how long it takes for civilian investigations to be followed through and for the -- the burdens that are placed on families and having to demonstrate facts as well, too, throughout those investigations. But that's no excuse, obviously, for trying to move as quickly as possible.

The director of that child daycare center was actually fired. There were actually seven other employees that were fired, along with it. And I assure you that, moving forward, we have learned the lessons from that case, from both those cases and ensuring the highest levels of standards of security and care for our CDCs, throughout the entire Department of the Navy and Navy and Marine Corps.

PATTY MURRAY:

So what are you doing to make sure this never happens again?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, we've actually learned those lessons, and we've applied those lessons throughout all childcare, child development centers from two years ago. There were numerous policy violations that were not adhered to as well, too. So, we've conducted training across all those CDCs. And those, for the most part--

PATTY MURRAY:

And is that training happening?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Those trainings have been conducted and applied across all CDCs in the Navy and Marine Corps, today.

PATTY MURRAY:

OK, well, I'm going to be following this very closely and I expect this to be investigated and addressed swiftly and report back to us so our men and women --

CARLOS DEL TORO:

We already have, Senator. We'd be happy to make those facts available to your office.

PATTY MURRAY:

OK, I would appreciate that. Men and women in uniform can only do their jobs, if they know their kids are OK.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I couldn't agree with you more, ma'am.

PATTY MURRAY:

OK. In 2022, the Defense Health Agency removed labor and delivery services from Naval Hospital Bremerton in Kitsap County in my state, and it forced service members and their families to then seek care in the community or travel over two hours to Madigan Army Medical Center. Kitsap County has already been -- has already has a medical provider shortage, and the reduction of services at the Bremerton hospital has really increased the strain on the system.

Um, the Navy predicts that the USS Reagan is going to bring an additional 3,500 additional crew members and families to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Talk to me about how you are going to adjust health care capacity to address the needs, um, as that increase in population comes there.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, as much of a concern as this is to you, it's as much a concern to me as well, too, especially in the Pacific Northwest, where we are facing significant challenges in terms of medical care providers, not just in the military service but also in the civilian sector as well, too. We are working very closely with the DHA. I, myself, have discussed this situation with the undersecretary for health.

Um, trying to work with DHA and providing them as much of support as we can from the military side, from the operational medical side to provide additional staff to the MTS, themselves, so that we can beef them up. Um, I have actually visited numerous clinics in the Pacific Northwest, and I'm aware of some of the shortages and the great work that they're doing, despite those shortages, as well.

We will continue to work with the Office of Secretary of Defense and the DHA and the deputy secretary of defense to provide the necessary support from operational Navy medical resources, basically. But that also creates a challenge in terms of ensuring that the standards of proficiency that are required in operational medical readiness are also adhered to, should we ever have to go into a conflict.

PATTY MURRAY:

OK, well, let's stay in touch on that and keep us informed. And I out of time, but I did want to mention that Congress approved $195 million to address the electrical backbone of the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and provided $130 million over the President's budget request to address the seismic concerns at PSNS. Um, those projects are essential for the Navy's SIOP and its Ford class aircraft modernization projects.

So, if you could provide an update to us on my staff on the Navy's work to address the seismic issues, and I would really appreciate it.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I'd be happy to do so, and I cannot thank the support of the communities in the Pacific Northwest, um, state, government, local government, working with the Department of the Navy, as we actually work through those challenges, last year. Uh, it really was a case study in and how it can be effectively executed when everybody is working together, as one team.

PATTY MURRAY:

OK, great. Thank you.

SUSAN COLLINS:

Thank you. Chair Murray. Senator Hoeven.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Thank you, Ranking Member Collin. I guess acting chair now, huh?

SUSAN COLLINS:

Yeah, I like that.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Yeah, me too. Uh, thanks to all of you for being here and for your service. Um, Secretary Del Toro, uh, there's been a drawdown in airborne ISR, and I know that there's a sense that we're going to do a lot of it from space, which we are. But at the same time, you know, we're hearing from combatant commanders and everybody else that they need that airborne ISR. How important is it that we not only maintain our ISR capabilities, but that we continue to have the best ISR, uh, globally, for example, for things like survivability of the fleet.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I couldn't agree with you more. There simply aren't enough ISR assets throughout the entire department, and there will always be a need for more of them, especially as we get into the realm of countering unmanned aerial threats as well, too, not just to our forces at sea, but to our installations commands as well, too.

And although I can't get into the details of some of the major investments that we've made to counter those threats and be happy to do so in closed session, um, there is a high demand for those assets, and we need to continue and invest more in our budgets, moving forward.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Thank you, Secretary. Uh, Admiral Franchetti, um, do you have enough capacity against missile threats, not only in the Mideast, but start there, obviously, of what we saw recently with the attack from Iran on Israel, but also in Europe and East Asia?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Thank you. You know, this is one of the critical things that we provide every day, air defense, missile defense. And you know, we really need to continue to invest in our weapons industrial base as well as we're making investments in the broader defense industrial base. So, continuing to invest in our weapons industrial base is really important.

I think the Navy really -- about two years ago, we started investing in all of our critical munitions that we need, including those we need for air defense. And we want to continue those investments. We're looking at that as an enterprise investment, one that, in the past, were munitions were a little bit of a bill payer for some of our other capabilities.

And we have changed that, that we are working to invest in those munitions that we need. We're also partnering with Missile Defense Agency, of course, for ballistic missile defense and look forward to that continued partnership and getting exactly what we need to def end our nation.

JOHN HOEVEN:

So your capacity status right now is adequate, inadequate?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

So it's -- it's adequate for what we have now. As you'll see in our budget, we have requested additional funds for continued improvement in those investments for munitions, as well as in the supplemental to replenish what we've been using, already, in the Red Sea.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, if I could just quickly add, you know, I would argue that the president's budget, uh, numbers are adequate, but that's also prior to the attacks that we've just had this weekend, alone, for example. So, we are now closely approaching $1 billion in -- in expenditures for munitions that we need paid back by the supplemental, which is why it's critical for Congress to pass a supplemental, this -- this week, so that we could actually get the additional resources to be able to supplement those munitions that will be critical, moving forward.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Which is important to understand that a lot of the funding in the supplemental goes to restoring our, uh, weapons, as well as strengthening our military industrial base to produce more of those, uh, new sophisticated weapons, rapidly, whether it's airborne assets or whether it's missile defense, the things that we need now and going forward.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's exactly right, Senator. I mean, we've been firing SM-2s, we've been firing SM-6s and just over the weekend, SM-3, to actually counter the ballistic missile threat that's come from Iran. So, we need this supplemental to pass this week.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Yeah, so it really does go to our arsenal and our defenses.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes sir. These are investments in our industrial bases, no question about it, right?

JOHN HOEVEN:

Uh, then I, for either one of you or both of you on the nuclear deterrent commitment to the triad and whether, you know, we're tracking both in terms of the -- of the, uh, the Columbia program and -­and, you know, your commitment to that modernization of the nuclear triad, starting with you, Secretary.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Absolutely, Senator. I mean, the Navy's investment in the Columbia class submarine, uh, has been enormous. It is our number one acquisition priority, and it will continue to be our number one acquisition priority, moving forward. We've also, as I came into this role, made the decision in my first month as secretary to assess the possible extensions of Ohio class submarines, as well, recognizing that there could, potentially, be a gap in the Columbia program, as it's turning out to be accurate now.

And so, we have actually assessed five SSBNs, Ohio class SSBNs now, that can be extended for another deployment. Uh, and we will continue those efforts until we close any gap that might exist in the nuclear triad.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Very good. Admiral, anything to add there.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, Columbia is our number one investment priority.

JOHN HOEVEN:

OK, thanks to both of you. Uh, General Smith, uh, again, uh, same thing on ISR, unmanned aircraft. Uh, you're actually working very hard to, uh, upgrade, modify, strengthen, enhance, uh, you know, your --your ability to deploy and be that rapid reactionary force, globally. And I know you're looking at how do you do that in the modern age with new technologies address, uh, your need for, uh, airborne UAS in the battlefield?

ERIC SMITH:

Senator we're focused on the MQ-9. Um, the MQ-9 is a vital platform for us. Um, we're focused on the training and the procurement of that platform and what we call a T-SOAR [ph] pod, which at a different classification level I'd be happy to come brief you on. Um, but it can detect at great ranges, adversary movements, and it can seamlessly, uh, complete the kill chain for our long range fires, uh, missile systems.

So the MQ-9 is --is vital to our future.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Both in terms of getting it, but also the school hub, the development, the training and so forth, that capacity, as well?

ERIC SMITH:

Absolutely, we're -- we are currently working with the Air Force, um, to -- to train Dooley, but we need to stand up a schoolhouse, as well, to pull some of that pressure off the Air Force.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Where do you -- where do you see other modifications in how you think you make that expeditionary force more effective? What else can the committee do to help you in that

process?

ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I would say steady procurement for our amphibs is -- is actually the most vital thing for our, uh, for our expeditionary warfighting capability. Um, we need steady funding for our LHAs on four year centers and our LPDs on two year centers because we are an expeditionary warfighting organization. We -- we live to deploy, and that is the number one thing for us, Senator.

JOHN HOEVEN:

Thank you again, thanks to all three of you. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

JON TESTER:

Senator Boozman.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

Uh, thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you all for being here. We appreciate the great work that you do, ensuring the services not only have the resources to accomplish the mission, but also taking care of the men and women that serve and sacrifice and their families. And it certainly is a family affair.

General Smith, the Marines Force Design 2030 requires forward deployed marine sailors as a stand in force. I understand the medium-range intercept capability system will be critical to support this stand in force. Is this program funded at the level it needs to be in fiscal year 25? And if not, where do you need the funding to go? How will this help our allies in the Middle East?

ERIC SMITH:

Senator the -- the -- the system you're describing, the medium-range intercept capability is an Israeli built Tamir missile combined with the TPS-80 Gator radar. And that gives us an incredible advantage in detection and action against inbound enemy air threats. Um, we are -- we are on path to procure that, um, the current budget supports it. And it is really just a matter of, uh, of time to build the arsenal of TPS-80s and the Tamir missiles that are required to -- to be able to fully engage this system.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

So we're funded up and you've got the resources you need?

ERIC SMITH:

We do, Senator.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

Very good. Um, tell me, uh, Admiral Franchetti, uh, again, the idea that we're in a situation where we, uh, have the issue of expenditure, you know, the idea of shooting a $2 million missile at a $200,000 or less drone. Uh, what are we doing to -- to solve that problem?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, first, I couldn't be more proud of our Navy team, our investments really made over the last 10 years to make sure that our surface ships would have the weapons systems they need, the training and the confidence in those systems to be able to operate them the way that they are doing that in the Red Sea. And you know, you cannot put a price tag on the 300 sailors that are on each one of those ships.

And you know, we are defending, in depth, and using all of those capabilities that we've put in place over the -- really the last 10 years of investment. You know, I think we are working hard across the entire joint force to look as we see this changing character of war and the use of unmanned aerial systems.

You saw it in Armenia and Azerbaijan; you're seeing it in Ukraine and Russia. You're seeing it here in the Red Sea, that we know we need to develop additional capabilities to counter those UASs, whether they're kinetic or non-kinetic as quickly as possible, working with industry and the innovation base to bring to bear some technologies that are out there.

And we're hoping to get those onto our platforms, as quickly as possible.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

So you feel like we're doing a good job of balancing near-term with the, again, uh, the investments that we need to go forward to actually counter. Does that make sense?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

I do. We're testing out a laser called the Helios system, right now, but all of the services, right now, are testing out different types of capabilities to get there. And I'd like to be able to work together with them to marinize some of those. And again, share lessons learned so we can get after this challenge because we know that it will be with us for the foreseeable future.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

Right, thank you. Mr. Secretary, the Navy's $1 billion investment to unaccompanied housing is much needed to improve quality of life. We also know that there is more work to be done. Mr. Secretary, can you speak to how quality of life investments add to the value proposition of service, especially as the Navy continues, as well as all the services do with recruiting?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, Senator, thanks for your commitment and quality of service for our Marines and our

sailors. I've been committed to it in the entire time that I've been secretary, as secretary of defense as well, too. And I think those commitments are really paying out. We're seeing the highest retention rates in the Navy and Marine Corps, today, that we've seen in a very long time.

And I do believe it's, fundamentally, because of those quality of service investments starting with increase in pay, 5.2 percent last year, 4.5 percent in this presidential budget. The combined, it's the highest pay increase that we've seen in a long, long time. That's been compounded by a long term commitment to improving family housing on the part of the Congress and part of the Department, for over the last 20 years.

However, I think we've fallen short when it comes to our commitment to unaccompanied housing, and we're now correcting the record on that, for example. In the Marine Corps, and a comment I can talk to, we've just surveyed all our Marine Corps housing. We essentially have 40,000 units, basically, that that have been surveyed.

We have 60,000 Marines living in those; 17,000 are fallen short. We need to continue to make the infrastructure investments in our unaccompanied housing both in the Marine Corps and the Navy, moving forward. Part of the solution, in my humble opinion, is actually moving some of those barracks to privatized housing.

When you take a look at the gold standard of housing for our -- in the Navy, for example, out in San Diego, that should be the -- the gold standard, basically, for housing. And so, just this past year alone, I made the decision to move six, and I'm glad the White House agreed with me to move six of those additional housing units to that gold standard.

More has to be done and, certainly, I will welcome my other -- one of my service chiefs to comment on that, as well.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

I think it's also. in addition to the housing, it's -- it's also opportunities that folks have, for example, to cook their own food in the housing, to have access to fitness centers that are nearby. And of course, making sure that the unaccompanied housing is not only new or modernized, it's also maintained, properly.

So we've put in place QR codes that people can report their maintenance and, you know, really making strong investments in the accounts and appreciate all the appropriations from the committee to be able to improve that.

ERIC SMITH:

No, I would echo, uh, the secretary and my shipmate that the FSRM accounts are vital, the facility sustainment, restoration and modernization funds to modernize the barracks that we do intend to keep. And then the construction to build the new barracks that we -- we intend to tear down and build new. Um, because the Marines deserve a quiet, healthy place, climate controlled to live and-- and to recuperate after a hard day's work.

JOHN BOOZMAN:

Very good, well, thank you all. We really do appreciate your service in so many different ways. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JON TESTER:

Senator Graham.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Appreciate each of you for your service to our country. I'm going to try to keep this as simple as possible, so simple an Air Force person could understand what we're talking about, when it comes to the Navy. Uh, there was a report done in June of last year called the "Battle Force BFSAR." Are you familiar with that, Admiral?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, Battle Force Structure Assessment Report.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, there you go, we got one acronym down and many to go, I'm sure. Uh, it said we needed 381 manned ships and 150 unmanned platforms for a total of 515. Is that accurate?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yeah, that's accurate and, really, every study since 2016 has said that we need a larger Navy.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, we need 515, How many do we have now in terms of ships?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Uh, we have 293 ships today, and we are continuing to --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

How many will we have under this budget in 2030?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

In 2030, uh, we will—

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Have 294 ships.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, we're going to have one more ship than we have today in 2030. We got a long way to go to get to 373. Uh, what does it take to build out this 515 platform Navy, in terms of spending?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

So first of all on the numbers, it's not only about the numbers, Senator Graham, it's also about the capabilities.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

No wait a minute. No, no, no, no, no, you said numbers. You didn't-- the report said 515. It said 381 manned ships and 150 unmanned. Are those numbers right?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, those are numbers are correct.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Apart from capability. Don't put out a report that's false. If these numbers are not accurate because we have capability to do it with half of that, I need to know, right now.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, the ship --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I'm not talking to you.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, that is our analysis that was done last year that reported that out in the battle for --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, so you stick by these numbers, right?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

We will continue to do that --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, all right, you're telling us what you think you need. So we got a budget that gets us to 294 in 2030. Now, Mr. Secretary, you support this budget.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I do support this budget —

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Do you support -- do you support the plan to get the 515 ships?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

By 2043, sir?

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

You support that plan?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I do support the profile, the number one profile that we submitted in the shipbuilding plan.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, so how in the hell do we get there? If you support, I'll get right to you.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I'm happy to explain how we get there, sir.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Huh?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

I'd be happy to explain how we get there.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, how do we get there, real quick?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

We get there by having continued support from the Congress, basically without —

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

How much money do you need?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

The fiscal -- the Fiscal Responsibility Act actually has made it difficult, this year, to be able to invest —

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Admiral Gilday said —

CARLOS DEL TORO:

However--

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I am talking. Admiral Gilday said, last year, you need 5 percent above inflation to get there, according to this plan.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

And the Congress passed the fiscal responsibility --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah, well, I'm not saying we're not at fault. So we're 1 percent above last year's numbers, right?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Correct.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK. Last year's numbers were 1 percent above. We're still below inflation.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Now last year's number actually were quite significantly higher than the --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

We're one percent over last year's number because of the Fiscal Accountability Act, you don't agree with that?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's correct.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, well, what's inflation?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Inflation runs at about 3.4 percent, right now.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

So we're spending below inflation. Can we agree on that?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's correct.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK. So if it takes five percent over inflation to get to this magic number, this year, we're spending below inflation. And when you project it out, the number of ships we'll have an inventory, it's--we're all-- we're not the enemy here -- goes to 294. Where does China go by, uh, 2030, Admiral? How many ships will China have?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

It's projected to have about 430 ships.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Yeah, how many do they have now? Three hundred ninety-five.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

370.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

But OK, they have 395 now, that's what this chart says, maybe it's 370. Let's say it's 370. They have 435, we think, by 2030. We're going up one ship; they're going up like a bunch. There is no plan, to the public out there. I trust you about the 515. I'm not arguing with you. I think you know what the hell you're talking about.

I'm not arguing with you that we should have more money. I'm just saying, we're saying one thing and doing another. The responsibility falls on elected officials. But I would like you all to echo what I'm saying. I'd like y'all to legitimize that my concerns are real. I'm just not making this shit up that we talk about at Navy to confront threats that are growing, and our budgets do not meet the needs of this country, by a factor of a bunch.

And it's going to take bipartisan effort to get with the program. What I want the country to know is that we're on course to shrink the Navy, as China is increasing the Navy. The budgets we have do not get us anywhere near where the experts say we need. So what you can do for this country, I think all of you, is just tell us the truth, that we're on track not to meet our goals.

Is that true, Admiral?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

So, we have about 86 ships on contract right now, 55 under construction. There's 57 in this budget. One of the things that we need to do as a nation is invest in our shipbuilding --

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

How many are we going to retire?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

We're retiring 19 [ph], if they're —

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Well, so in 2030, if we're at 294 and today we're 293, we just gain one ship, is that right?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yeah, that is correct.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

OK, well, that's my point. By 2030, we have like one more ship than we have today, and we need 380 something of these things, and we're going backward not forward. So I just -- I'm going to -- will you work with me, Admiral, Mr. Secretary, and he talked about the Marines you got off because I didn't even get to you.

Uh, will you work with me to come up with a realistic plan that would allow us, as elected officials, to get to where we need to go? It's up to us to get us there. But I would like a plan, if you would help me submit that would get us on track to getting to the ships we need, unmanned and manned, 515 by 2043. Will you work with me to do that?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

We're continuing to work to invest in the industrial base.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

That's not my question, I asked, will you work with me?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, we will continue —

LISA FRANCHETTI:

We will continue.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

We will continue to work with you to get —

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

Good, good because we got a long way to go. Thank you.

JON TESTER:

Uh, thank you, Senator. You're exactly right, but-- but we got as much problem on this side of the dais, uh, than we do on the other side, truthfully.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

I am -- we've got problems, and I want to work with you to fix them, and I think you want to fix them.

JON TESTER:

I do want to fix them, and we need to make sure we 're increasing the industrial base so that they can meet these goals because right now, they can't even meet the goals that we're funding. That's right. And so, I don't think there's a lot of argument that this is a very dangerous time and you know that serving on the armed services, uh, but we need to beat the hell out of one another, first.

Senator Murkowski.

LINDSEY GRAHAM:

[Off mic]

LISA MURKOWSKI:

Count me amongst those that are worried about our shipbuilding capacity and our infrastructure. And it's not -- it's not just how many ships we're funding, but we know we've got a serious problem when it comes to the workforce that's out there. And Admiral, we've had an opportunity to talk about this, and I don't know if there's a grand plan there to -- to -- to work more on that.

But, um, as I've been focusing on what we're trying to do to build out these polar security cutters and -- and help Coast Guard with their shipbuilding, we're told it all comes down to work force. Um, it comes down to workforce, but it also comes to -- to the funding of the -- of the vessels, themselves. I want to thank both of you for -- for making the trip to the Arctic.

Uh, Secretary, it was good to travel with you and, Admiral, I know you went the week following with Senator Coons. I hope that you had an opportunity to meet with the female submariner who wanted to talk about integration of -- of women submariners into -- into that. I thought she had a very compelling message there.

The, um, uh, the -- the point that I would like to reinforce, we -- we have challenges, again, on the submarine side. We've got challenges with all of our -- with all of our, uh, shipbuilding. Um, but I've been trying to get Coast Guard moving with the polar security cutters and have been frustrated on, on, on many, many, uh, turns here.

We -- we try to underscore how far behind we are, and people say we get the fact that Russia has 55; we don't even have two. I don't even think we have barely one, anymore. But the Navy is the contract agent for the ongoing effort to -- to build out the additional icebreakers. The Coast Guard, of course, owns and operates and maintains.

But I -- I need to know, and I would like your commitment, Admiral, that the Navy is the contract agent for this effort is, proactively, supporting the Coast Guard and their acquisition of additional icebreakers. We have it -- working through this past appropriations process was a -- was a huge struggle to keep in place any kind of funding going forward for the -- the acquisition line.

We took a rescission. It didn't kill it, but it doesn't help that in the president's budget, there's nothing for -- for the PCS, polar security cutters for -- for FY25. So I'm -- I'm just nervous on all levels about the commitment that we have to ensuring that we have the -- the assets in the Arctic and those assets are the things that can break the ice.

And we can't -- uh, we can't hope that our submarines are going to be able to pop a hole through and maybe that allows for -- for ships to move through. That's not how it works. We've got to do more.

And I'd like --I'd like your --your commitment here as --as we're working with the folks at Coast Guard to ensure that Navy's role in all of this as the --as the contract agent is really robust and --and engaged.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yeah, thank you, Senator Murkowski, and thank you for your time, uh, the other day. Um, after our meeting, I did go and talk with our folks. I made sure that they are fully committed, excuse me, and they are providing that robust support that you asked for to support the Coast Guard and the design and the procurement of that polar security cutter.

So we are very focused on it, and you have my commitment I will continue to continue to watch that. And yes, I did meet with the submariner when I was on board of the Indiana, as well.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

Good. Thank you for that.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, equally, so you have my commitment as well, too, as you --as we've discussed. I'm one of the few Secretary of the Navy has actually, um, uh, argued for more, uh, Coast Guard funding, um, you know, because I think it's important, and the relationship between the Coast Guard and the Navy just continues to get stronger and stronger, as evidenced by our contracting actions on this program.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

We need to keep --keep leaning in and it's going to take --take all of us. Um, still sticking with, uh, with the Arctic. Um, as you know, we're moving forward with the first deep water Arctic port there at Port of Nome. Um, it's --it's going to be incredibly important to our national defense interests. Uh, we're, as you know, not fully funded with that project, yet.

Likely not going to receive MILCON funding, despite the --the clear national security nexus here. So I --I would ask Admiral that you articulate support for this project to the White House, to 0MB, as we're moving forward. Um, the Navy will benefit greatly. I think you know that and you recognize that. So we just need a little bit of support here on --on the infrastructure shore side, as well as --head nod means, yes, correct?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, ma'am.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

Thank you. General Smith, the --sticking again with the Arctic because I like this theme here, this morning. Um, we have not only expanded the training opportunities in the Arctic with the Joint JPARC training facility. You've got a training center. We've got the Northern Warfare Training Center. Uh, Marines have been participating in --in exercises like Arctic Edge, as well as Nordic response in Europe.

But I --I look at the Marines' role in Arctic ops as --as absolutely necessary. There's a --there's a great read in the Washington Post from just a few days, about a week ago, about, um, about the, uh, the Navy Seals, as well as the Green Berets that were -- were training. The Seals were down in Kodiak; the Green Berets were up in Fairbanks.

It's 40 below, uh, but the -- the commander from the Seal unit said that the Arctic is the most rugged and extreme place for any military to operate. Um, even the most routine functions can be an existential threat. Seems to me that if you're a real marine, by God, that's where you want to go train. It's the toughest of the tough and, uh, uh, the hope is, is that in this kind of extreme environment, um, you can get training that will, if you can -- if you can live through that by, gosh, you can do just about anything else.

So, I'm asking you to speak to, uh, whether or not you see an increased role for -- for the Marine Corps there in the Arctic in terms of training and other -- other exercises.

ERIC SMITH:

Well, Senator, thanks for that question. And I wholeheartedly agree that the cold makes cowards of us all. Um, it's, uh--

LISA MURKOWSKI:

Well, we cowardly out there. We embraced it.

ERIC SMITH:

It is -- it is a vital piece of our training as Marines who fight in any time and place. And so, we are committed to training in Alaska. Uh, we 're committed to, uh, Northern Edge. Uh, we 're committed to operating our F-35s from Alaska through the Aleutians, and we're committed to our ground forces operating in Alaska.

Um, we also have Bridgeport in California, that's our Northern Warfare Training center, um, but we are fully committed.

LISA MURKOWSKI:

Do you realize how odd that sounds, that our northern warfare training center is in California?

ERIC SMITH:

Yes, ma'am, it's up in the Sierra Nevada. It's, uh, it's cold, it's colder as Alaska is. But yes, ma'am, we're fully committed to being able to operate in any climate and place, and that includes Alaska. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

JON TESTER:

Senator Moran.

JERRY MORAN:

Chairman, thank you. Uh, Commandant, let me begin with you. Would you describe for me and this subcommittee, the importance of the 53-K, um, in its support for mobility for the Marine Corps and how its increased capabilities will provide, uh, meet the needs of the -- of our national defense.

ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I can, thank you for the question. The CH-53K is unique in the DOD inventory in that it can lift itself. It can lift 36,000 pounds external, um, plus its internal load. It has in-flight refueling, and it can conduct operations at great ranges. So, being able to sling load 36,000 pounds means it can, it literally can lift itself, and it is vital to our work in the Pacific and our inter island campaign.

JERRY MORAN:

Uh, Admiral, let me ask you a similar question. Uh, The multi-domain environment in which we now live, as the National Defense Strategy laid out, integration of platforms to support the warfighters ability to make rapid and informed decisions in fleet architecture. The Navy is enabling our autonomous fleet with artificial intelligence from Kansas.

How does the integration of commercially available platform support ongoing Navy efforts like Project Unicorn to Deliver Multi-source intelligence battle space preparedness?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Thank you, Senator Moran.

JERRY MORAN:

Complicated, my -- my -- the way I described it sounded pretty complicated, but maybe you can highlight for me the importance.

LISA FRANCHETTI:

Certainly. You know, as we look to the future and the --the evolution of both unmanned and autonomous platforms, it's really important to have that backbone, the architecture through which we can communicate with them. So, we're continuing to work through our Project Overmatch to develop those opportunities, as well as with our disruptive capabilities office.

I think, if you look to the commercial space and in the innovation base, a lot --a lot of that technology and the work being done is out in the commercial sector in the innovation space. So we stood up, under the secretary's leadership, a disruptive capabilities office, which really helps connect us to all the people that are developing those technologies in the innovation area, so we can more rapidly get those into the hands of the warfighter.

So that office's job is, essentially, to go out and work with commercial industry to see what is already out there that can solve challenges that we have and, again, bring those rapidly to bear.

JERRY MORAN:

And is it working?

LISA FRANCHETTI:

It is working, it's a great pipeline. I'm really excited about it.

JERRY MORAN:

Great. Mr. Secretary, last year, I asked you about the status of the Navy's efforts in regard to Camp Lejeune. Um, your staff and others have provided us with information in preparation for expecting my -- my question, today. I think they've answered much of what I want to know. I would tell you that I've been -- my staff has been told there's 190,000,195, 190,500, 1,950 claims that have been received; 551 have evidence to support a settlement.

Um, I don't know what about the other. Have all-- have all 190,000 been, uh, evaluated or there's still-- those are still in the works?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, sir, actually, 190,000 have 190,500--

JERRY MORAN:

Thank you for saying that, correctly.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

On the online portal. Of those 190,500, only 551 claims have actually submitted all the information that's necessary to be able to determine, uh, evaluation on those claims. Sixty- three currently qualify for a settlement offer. Um, of those 63, offers have been made to all 63 of those claimants. Of those 63 claimants who've completed their files, they've been made an offer.

Basically, they qualify for an offer -- offer. Uh, 29 of the 63 were actually accepted; two were declined. The remaining offers still await a decision. Uh, the total value of the 29 settlement offers that were already made is $7,500,000, and we remain deeply committed to working with all of these claimants for the expeditious resolution of their claims, once all the information is submitted on the portal.

JERRY MORAN:

So Mr. Secretary, the question I'm looking for an answer for is what is --what of the other 190,500, what's happened to those other claims, other than the 551?

CARLOS DEL TORO:

They're essentially gathering their paperwork and all the necessary medical evidence that's necessary to be able to submit it on to the --

JERRY MORAN:

So, a significant number of claims still are pending.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's correct, sir.

JERRY MORAN:

Uh and my final question, Mr. Chairman, is, um, the supplemental that I hope that we receive in the Senate, uh, this week. Um, can you explain to the committee why this supplemental package is critical to preserving peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific and assuring our allies and partners? This is not a throwaway question.

It's -- it seems somewhat self-evident to me, but there is, um, there's been some talk about separating the variety of -- of the package, uh, into separate segments. Uh, I think it's a package that's important, all together. And I would love to know from, uh, your department, if that's true and why.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, you could be -- you couldn't be more accurate with your assessment of how important I think it is to keep these packages together, As we continue to now look at three years of warfare on the Ukrainian battlefield, we have an obligation to support our sisters and brothers and Ukrainian who are fighting not just for their own democracy, but the democracy of all nations.

And if we fail to support them as we have committed to doing so, then without question, I think that there will be a future where we have to make even greater investments into the defense of Europe in the future. So that's point number one. Uh, there's no question in my mind that, as the situation continues to evolve on the battlefields of Ukraine, that President Xi is also looking, intently, at our commitment and our reactions.

And if we don't meet our requirements and our commitments in Ukraine and Ukraine falls, there's no question in my mind that he will be emboldened, actually, in his intent towards Taiwan in the future as well, too. And equally important, obviously, the defense of Israel, the defense of free trade in the Red Sea and throughout the Middle East is incredibly important.

And so, all of the investments that the American taxpayers are making and, hopefully, we'll be making in defense of Israel and defense of our Ukrainian brothers and sisters on deterring China are critically important and they're all interrelated, as well. And as I said earlier today, many roads lead to Iran as well, too.

So we need the investments and munitions and operations and O and M money to continue to support operations in the Red Sea, collectively. And that's why I think all these packages are together in addition to the other parts of the supplemental that are also being considered.

JERRY MORAN:

Fair to say that fair to invest, uh, broadly around the -- with the challenges we face around the world, invest in all of them, results in greater challenges to come in each component.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

Without question, Senator.

JERRY MORAN:

And you cannot single out one, uh, for without causing consequences elsewhere, including to the security of the United States of America.

CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's correct, Senator, I agree.

JERRY MORAN:

Thank you.

JON TESTER:

Thank you for that question, Senator Moran, because the truth is, is that those additional investments also include people's lives, if we don't do what we have to do, today. So, um, thank you, guys. We appreciate your testimony, all of you across the board. We appreciate the people you represent in the Navy and the Marine Corps.

Uh, we appreciate what you do. Uh, Senators may submit additional written questions. We ask that you respond to them in a reasonable amount of time. Uh, this defense subcommittee will reconvene on Tuesday, April 30th at 10 a.m., maybe earlier, if we can move it, for a hearing with the Department of Army. Army's up next.

We stand in recess. Thanks, folks.

 

List of Panel Members and Witnesses

PANEL MEMBERS:

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MONT.), CHAIRMAN

SEN. RICHARD J. DURBIN (D-ILL.)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WASH.)

SEN. JACK REED (D-R.I.)

SEN. BRIAN SCHATZ (D-HAWAII)

SEN. TAMMY BALDWIN (D-WIS.)

SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-N.H.)

SEN. CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY (D-CONN .)

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D-DEL.)

SEN. PATTY MURRAY (D-WASH.), EX-OFFICIO

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MAINE), RANKING MEMBER

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY.)

SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-ALASKA)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.)

SEN. JERRY MORAN (R-KAN.)

SEN. JOHN HOEVEN (R-N.D.)

SEN. JOHN BOOZMAN (R-ARK.)

SEN. SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO (R-W.VA.)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-MAINE), EX-OFFICIO

 

WITNESSES:

NAVY SECRETARY CARLOS DELTORO

CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS LISA FRANCHETTI

MARINE CORPS COMMANDANT ERIC M. SMITH

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