Agenda: Senate Armed Service Committee: March 3, 2016
To receive testimony on the posture of the Department of the Air Force in review of the Defense Authorization Request for Fiscal Year 2017 and the Future Years Defense Program.
Click here for the hearing home page (with video) on the SASC website.
From the prepared statement by committee Chairman Sen. John McCain:
While we recognize the need for additional resources, this committee will continue to exercise rigorous oversight on Air Force acquisition programs, including the KC-46A tanker program, the Presidential Aircraft Replacement, and the GPS Operational Control System, recently labeled the Air Force’s ‘number one troubled program.’ If the Air Force, and the Department of Defense more broadly, wish to convince the American people that they need more taxpayer dollars, they must show that they are efficiently and wisely using the resources they already have.
“In particular, questions persist about the validity of the F-35 program of record quantity. Just consider that 815 F-35As have been deferred from delivery to the Air Force since 2002, and the service’s latest procurement profile now projects the last F-35A to be delivered in the year 2040. At a certain point, a 38-year acquisition program runs the risk of producing obsolescence, especially when our adversaries are accelerating technological developments to counter the F-35. I look forward to reviewing the Secretary of Defense’s decision on revalidation of the total F-35 program of record quantity, which is due to this Committee by May 25, 2016.
“The decision to further delay F-35 procurement also underscores the folly of the Air Force’s plan to retire the A-10 fleet before a proven close air support replacement is fielded. Much fanfare was made about the Air Force’s decision not to divest A-10 aircraft in fiscal year 2017. But beginning in fiscal year 2018, the Air Force again plans to retire the entire A-10 fleet by 2021.
“As the Air Force proceeds with needed modernization, I recognize the need for a new bomber to replace our aging fleet of B-52, B-1, and B-2 aircraft. A long range, penetrating strike capability is vital to deterring our enemies and reassuring our allies in increasingly contested environments in Europe and the Asia-Pacific.
“However, I remain seriously concerned about the acquisition strategy for the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, especially the use of a cost-plus contract for the development of this aircraft. I am still not convinced that this program will not repeat the failures of past acquisition programs such as the F-35. I will carefully examine every legislative option to ensure that the Congress can fulfill our dual obligations to the American people—providing our warfighters with the necessary capability to defend this country, and to do so at the lowest possible cost and shortest period of time.
“Similarly, ending the use of Russian rocket engines remains a top priority for this committee. Department leaders have correctly drawn attention to Russia’s growing development of military capabilities to threaten U.S. national security in space. And yet, the greatest risk in this regard is that Vladimir Putin continues to hold our national security space launch capability in the palm of his hand through the Department’s continued dependence on Russian rocket engines. This is a national security threat, in addition to a moral outrage, at a time when Russian forces continue to destabilize Ukraine – including nearly 500 attacks in the past week, as General Breedlove, the Commander of European Command, testified on Tuesday.
“And yet, the Treasury Department remains unwilling to sanction Roscosmos, the Russian parent company of the manufacturer of the RD-180, which is controlled by two sanctioned cronies of Vladimir Putin. This suggests a level of hypocrisy in U.S. sanctions policy that will only make it harder to convince our European allies to renew their own sanctions on Russia this summer.
“This Committee wants to find a constructive solution to eliminate our dependence on Russian rocket engines immediately without compromising future competition, a goal that Secretary James admitted was possible in testimony in January.
“Finally, I want to express my continuing concern with the Air Force’s mismanagement of its remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA, enterprise. The Air Force’s MQ-1 and MQ-9 community remains undermanned and overworked. Yet despite the Air Force’s stated need for an additional 3,000 RPA manpower authorizations, the Air Force’s end strength remains the same as last year.
“And while the Congress authorized greater retention bonuses for RPA pilots, the Air Force not to provide them out of a sense of ‘fairness.’ After years of warnings that RPA pilots and maintainers are leaving in droves, this was a missed opportunity and a damaging mistake. I look forward to your explanation for this action.”