OPENING REMARKS OF RANKING MEMBER JOE COURTNEY AT THE SEAPOWER AND PROJECTION FORCES SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING: AIRCRAFT CARRIER – PRESENCE AND SURGE LIMITATIONS AND EXPANDING POWER PROJECTION OPTIONS

*As prepared for delivery*

WASHINGTON, D.C. – November 4, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — “Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling today’s joint hearing on aircraft carriers, presence and surge limitations, and expanding power projection options.

“In terms of power projection, technology, flexibility, and global presence, it is hard to argue that there is any stronger component of American might than the aircraft carrier. Today, aircraft carriers are deployed throughout the world, on station when and where our country needs them most. They occupy a key role in our national strategy, providing a permanent and mobile presence in some of the globe’s most contentious hot spots.

“Just last month, for example, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) arrived in Japan to be our nation’s only permanently forward-deployed carrier in the Asia-Pacific. While we have grown accustomed to having aircraft carriers permanently on station in the Central Command and Pacific Command Areas of Responsibility, budget decisions of the past are forcing us to accept shortfalls and gaps in the present.

“For example, today there is no carrier on station in the Arabian Gulf. A decade of increased operational tempo for our carrier force coupled with Congressional budget battles have led to shortfalls in fleet maintenance and training. These decisions forced our Navy to execute a carrier reset that is currently underway. This reset will periodically take the aircraft carrier capability off the table in certain regions of the world, and, as we learned a few weeks ago, it will take our carrier force five years to get back to normal.

“As everyone here knows, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) just departed the Middle East last month, and is making its way to its new homeport of San Diego after six months supporting strikes against ISIL under Operation Inherent Resolve. While I know our military leaders have made every effort to mitigate the capability gap created by Roosevelt’s absence, those mitigation efforts only take into account expected events. It is the unexpected that worries me. Unanticipated hostilities or the next humanitarian crisis could erupt at any time, requiring a mobile platform or deep strike capabilities, and we would be challenged to respond with the strength and agility that our carrier force provides.

“Simply put, we may be able to mitigate the absence of a carrier and its strike group, but we cannot replace it.

“For this reason, it is important we make every effort to avoid prolonged operational presence gaps. This includes a stable budget that our Navy and our military leaders can plan to, and I am pleased that we took a step towards providing some measure of this in last week’s bipartisan budget agreement. It also requires a renewed focus not just on maintaining our carrier fleet, but also protecting maintenance availabilities to ensure that near term decisions to truncate repair and training to meet operational needs do not further preclude presence and surge requirements in the future. And, finally, the Navy and Congress must continue to work together productively to ensure that we deliver our new carriers in a timely, cost-effective way to get back to the 11 carrier force as soon as possible.

“Given the tremendous stakes involved, I am honored to have our four witnesses here with us today. Their expertise in acquisition, strategy, air warfare, and program management is vital to helping us understand the importance of our aircraft carriers, power projection, readiness, global presence, and cutting edge technology. As Seapower Ranking Member, this topic is vitally important to me because it underpins our naval strategy and guides our decision-making in the global domain. I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today. With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield back.”

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