The two-year defense budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 allowed for vast improvements in military readiness, and the proposed fiscal 2020 budget should continue that progress, the services' second-ranking officers said on Capitol Hill.
Vice chiefs of staff Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson and Marine Corps Assistant Commandant Gen. Gary L. Thomas testified before the House Armed Services Committee.
The four-star officers talked about the state of military readiness and how the $718.3 billion fiscal 2020 budget request would support training, weapon systems, maintenance and full-spectrum readiness and requirements to align their services with the National Defense Strategy.
"Timely, adequate, predictable, and sustained funding over the last two years from all of you has significantly increased the number of our brigade combat teams at the highest levels," McConville said adding that nondeployables have dropped from 15% in 2015 to 6% today.
To maintain overmatch capability, the general said, the Army must be modernized. "Our modernization efforts include developing the multidomains operations concept echelon, executing our six modernization priorities, and implementing a 21st-century talent management system," he noted.
Soldiers are the Army's greatest strength and most important weapon system, the general said. "We'll continue the modest growth of the Army and our focus will be on recruiting and retaining high-quality soldiers," he added.
While the Navy is meeting its challenges while preparing for those of tomorrow, the armed forces have maintained a high operational tempo over the last 18 years, Moran reminded the members. "And while the demand for combat-ready Naval forces has remained high," he said, "a substantial backlog in maintenance and modernization has accrued."
Thanks to congressional support through stable and predictable funding for the past two years, "we've arrested that decline in readiness," the admiral said. "But we've also found ourselves on a steady path to recovery in the last year," he added. "But this recovery is fragile, and it's perishable, and your continued support is vital to our success."
The Marine Corps requires sustained, adequate and predictable funding to achieve required readiness levels and make prudent investments in preparation for the future operating environment, and continued congressional support remains critical," Thomas told the committee.
"Over the last year, [Hurricanes] Florence and Michael caused massive damage to our facility at Camp Lejeune and other places. The effects of these storms will impact Marine Corps readiness for years to come, due to the financial burden of $3.7 billion in damages," he noted.
Air Force-wide readiness is up 17%, Wilson said. "Our pacing unit readiness is up 33%. Ninety percent of our [pacing squadron] lead force packages are ready to fight tonight. All that was made possible by your support," he told the House panel. Unfortunately, Wilson noted, the weather was not supportive.
Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska suffered billions of dollars in weather-related damage, Wilson said, and he noted that the Air Force has covered those costs within its accounts to date. The proposed budget seeks the help of Congress in this regard, he told the House committee.
"You're our insurance policy for natural disasters. We need additional disaster relief support, and we also need to continue with fiscal order," he said. "Without it, two years of steady progress will erode. We can prevent that and protect America's vital national interests, but again, we need, stable, adequate, and predictable funding."