Yesterday, in a hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, there was a dramatic reversal of those statements that were made by three of the four Service Chiefs. Yesterday, the Service Chiefs acknowledged that there is a long-term degradation in our ability to fight and win a war and that immediate action, indeed, emergency supplemental funds are called for.
I am sure that there were a number of factors that contributed to this incredibly candid display yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee. I have the utmost respect and regard for every one of the military leaders of our services. But the reality is that this problem has been building for years, not just 7 months. I believe that some of the problems that we are going to have to address in emergency fashion now could have been addressed in a much more measured way if the Joint Chiefs had been more candid in their testimony before the Armed Services Committee and the Congress in the past years, not to mention 7 months ago.
The preparedness problem within the military is compounded by both the `can do' attitude of the military, which I admire, and the pressure that senior leadership puts on its ranks to not report bad news. Our men and women in uniform have a history of making do, of adjusting to civilian decisions, and working out potential solutions even at the cost of assuming higher risks. But we commit a grave disservice to those very men and women when we fail to provide the resources they need to do their job, and when political considerations prohibit our military leaders from telling Congress and the American people the truth about their ability to execute our National Military Strategy. At yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Joint Chiefs of Staff told us the truth about our declining military readiness--something that has long been apparent to those of us who hear regularly from lower-level officers and enlisted personnel in the field, who risk their careers by making Congress aware of the readiness gaps not acknowledged by their superiors.
In mid-July, I sent letters to each of the Service Chiefs expressing my concern about the military's overall state of readiness. In order that I might gain a better understanding of current readiness and readiness trends in the military, I asked each Chief to address key readiness issues in his Service, and to provide me with written answers to a series of questions that addressed these problems. I requested that the responses to the questions also include an assessment of National Guard and Reserve readiness. I have now received answers from each of the Chiefs. Their responses are thoughtful and thorough, and I was grateful that they and their staffs took the time to describe in detail our current state of military readiness.
I have now received answers from each of the Chiefs. Their responses are thoughtful and thorough, and I was grateful they and their staffs took the time to describe in detail our current state of military readiness.
These responses do not reveal a single reason for the continued degradation of the Services, or a single set of answers as to how these problems can be solved. Each service has a unique mix of readiness problems and has made different trade-offs in efforts to compensate. The data provided by the Service Chiefs clearly demonstrate that both the Executive Branch and the Congress are to blame. They show that the Administration is to blame for underfunding some aspects of readiness at the expense of others, and that Congress is to blame for using readiness for parochial and other special interest projects. Moreover, for two years now, we have turned down pleas by the Secretary of Defense and the President for additional base closure rounds, causing money earmarked for readiness and modernization accounts to be used instead to maintain bases built to sustain a Cold War force structure. The central issue is not, however, who is to blame, but how to reverse these alarming trends.
The world is a very tough neighborhood and requires a tough cop. As the world's sole superpower, we have no choice but to patrol this beat in order to defend our interests. Safeguarding our security and advancing the cause of freedom may well require us to send young Americans into battle against the enemies of peace. The very least we can do is to make sure that the men and women we send into harm's way are equipped and trained to fight and win. What I greatly fear, though, is that they will be sent less than optimally combat-ready, which leads to the inevitable consequence of casualties that are unnecessary and tragic.
TODAY'S READINESS CHALLENGESIn their replies to my letters, the Service Chiefs identified a series of general risks that affect each service, and which both the Administration and the Congress must consider in funding an adequate defense program.
The Illusion of OPTEMPO. One example is the current effort to maintain high levels of operational activity or OPTEMPO. Our military forces cannot be ready if they do not constantly maintain high levels of training, and there is merit in ensuring that we do not reduce their operational tempo as we cut total force strength and defense spending. However, if such levels are funded at the expense of major overhauls and depot maintenance, of keeping personnel deployed for excessive periods such as our military deployments to Bosnia, Somalia, SOUTHERN WATCH and PROVIDE COMFORT in Southwest Asia, and at the general cost of straining our military forces and our major combat equipment, they trade this year's readiness for going hollow in the future.
On a given day, one-third of our Navy ships, submarines and squadrons are deployed overseas. In his testimony yesterday morning, Admiral Johnson stated that well over 50 percent of the Navy's surface fleet is deployed around the globe. In 1992, that figure was 37 percent. Of particular concern is the Chief of Naval Operations' comments on the continuing erosion of non-deployed readiness in the sea service. Admiral Johnson writes,
A decade ago, non-deployed naval units were at the highest states of readiness (C1/C2) nearly 70 percent of the time. Today, that figure is barely 50 percent. Non-deployed readiness has fallen to the point that an intense effort is required by our Sailors to regain a deployable level of readiness, and that peak is being reached closer and closer to deployment. This compression of training and maintenance puts tremendous strain on our people as they struggle to meet commitments, pressure that negatively impacts the personal and professional quality of life of our Sailors.
The high levels of OPTEMPO reported by each service are no longer a guarantee against going hollow. In fact, to a large degree, the nature of contingencies driving OPTEMPO is the surest guarantee that readiness will degrade.
Furthermore, time and again, we have learned that our system for measuring readiness is unrealistic and fails to anticipate real-world demands on operating funds. In the past, data that indicated a decline in readiness was considered `merely' anecdotal.
Increasing Depot Level Backlogs. A tangible indicator of decreasing readiness is the fact that the price of correcting our depot level maintenance backlogs has been rising for the last six years, despite sizable reductions in force structure. That backlog now totals $1.6 billion compared to $420 million in 1991. Similarly, the cost of our backlogs in real property maintenance (RPM) have risen from $3 billion in the mid-1980s to over $10 billion today.
Underfunding Quality-of-Life. More than anything else, our victory in Desert Storm was a tribute to the men and women in our military--a clear victory for the all-volunteer force. Displaying the `can do' attitude not found anywhere else in the world, our military personnel exhibited an overall level of individual combat performance that had previously been limited to a small portion of our total force.
At the same time, our economy has prospered, producing historically high levels of employment, resulting in the emergence of a very difficult recruiting and retention environment. Maintaining this top-quality force requires a military personnel system that has the flexibility to react quickly to the dynamics of the civilian market and the leadership and confidence to follow through with critical personnel decisions rather than neglecting them out of fiscal opportunism. However, first, second, and third term enlisted retention, pilot and mid-grade officer retention, and recruiting are all short of goal for each of the Services.
Recruiting and retaining quality individuals requires pay scales that adjust to meet prevailing rates rather than fall 14 percent behind comparable civilian pay. It requires adequate funding for recruiting. It requires proper promotion rates--not promotion boards that take five months to process reports of promotion boards, as is the case with the Navy. It requires proper living conditions and morale, welfare and recreation services. It requires reasonable tours of duty and a higher quality of civilian leadership and `role models' to deal with matters fairly. It requires a reinstatement of the 50 percent retirement plan and a close examination as to whether the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) or a 401K-type plan has utility in the military pay system. General Reimer writes that
. . . the retirement package we have offered our soldiers entering the Army since 1986 is inadequate. Having lost 25 percent of its lifetime value as a result of the 1980's reforms, military retirement is no longer our number one retention tool. Our soldiers and families deserve better. We need to send them a strong signal that we haven't forgotten them.
The military medical health care system, particularly the TRICARE program, has been described by Service Chiefs as falling far short of what is warranted and needed. We cannot ignore the erosion of retirement and health care benefits, and the resultant impact on retention and readiness. General Reimer writes, `The loss in medical benefits when a retiree turns 65 is particularly bothersome to our soldiers who are making career decisions.' From the Service Chiefs' answers, it is highly questionable whether we are meeting any of these requirements. On the contrary, it is clear that there is much work to be done.
Finally, it is demoralizing to the men and women we send into harm's way, and is incomprehensible to the American people, who expect a well trained and well equipped force, to witness military personnel, up to 25,000, on food stamps. One tax provision that I have tried to reverse this year excludes uniformed men and women in the military from beneficial tax treatment on the profits resulting from the sale of their homes. We order servicemembers to move from place to place, but we do not afford them the same tax treatment as other U.S. citizens. Should this issue have been permitted to exist for so many years?
Underfunding Manpower Strength. President Clinton's defense budget and National Military Strategy calls for force levels of 1.37 million servicemembers. This is nearly 250,000 less than the Base Force advocated by President Bush. What must be determined by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, however, is whether we really have the resources to maintain a force of much over 1 million servicemembers by the year 2000. The end result may be manning levels that are too low to meet our readiness needs and too low to provide effective combat capability. This fact is compounded by the ever increasing number of contingency operations that increase OPTEMPO and PERSTEMPO and put additional stress on our men and women in uniform and the equipment they use. We have to be certain that our force levels are adequate to meet deployments, and that rotations conform properly to overseas commitments. Admiral Johnson stated in his responses to me that `. . . deployed readiness is trending downward, owing mostly to personnel shortages.' The Chief of Staff of the Army had similar concerns. General Reimer has written that:
The readiness of our Armed Forces is more difficult to understand and more complex to manage today than at any other time in our Nation's history. We have reduced the Total Army by 34 percent--nearly 650,000 Active, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve soldiers and Department of Army civilians--and have closed over 700 bases worldwide. Meanwhile, the requirements for land forces are greater than ever. In the 40 years prior to 1989, the Army participated in 10 major deployments. Since then, the Army has participated in 29 major deployments--a dramatic increase in operational tempo.
Manpower Turbulence and Insecurity. According to the Joint Chiefs' responses, each service is experiencing near-record levels of turbulence and insecurity. This is reflected in extended tours of duty, sudden changes of assignment, high rates of relocation, and a series of changes in personnel policies that essentially eliminate the ability of personnel, thereby complicating decisions on whether to stay in the service.
These problems are compounded in the case of military families. Across each service, extended family separations are the number one reason why enlisted personnel and junior officers are leaving the military. Spouses often lose their jobs with relocations, moves mean significant unexpected expenses, and dependents often have adjustment problems. At the same time, unit and crew continuity is lost, as moves break up well trained, cohesive units, depriving them of much of their readiness.
Underfunding Base Maintenance and Repair. Ships, aircraft, and weapons systems are kept ready through planned maintenance and modernization programs. Buildings, runways, truck bays, piers, barracks and utilities are equally important assets that must be kept ready through a similar level of commitment and fiscal support. Historically, each of the Services have used infrastructure to pay the bill for other accounts. General Krulak has said, `Our Backlog of Maintenance and Repair will reach $1 billion by FY03 and our plant replacement cycle will grow to nearly two hundred years.' Admiral Johnson writes, `We have mined as much as we can from the infrastructure accounts; we are not at an unacceptable level and QOL in the workplace environment is negatively affecting morale and readiness.' General Reimer's response: `We have been forced to underfund our Base Operations (BASOPS) and Real Property Maintenance (RPM) accounts--84 percent and 58 percent of requirements respectively in Fiscal Year 1999. This level of resourcing has proven insufficient to run our bases in a way that provides our soldiers and families with an adequate quality of life. As a result, our commanders have been forced to divert funds from training accounts in order to maintain their installations.'
Underfunding Equipment Modernization. Prior to the 1990s, our National Military Strategy and corresponding force structure were oriented overwhelmingly toward the Soviet threat. That emphasis, obviously, is less relevant today. The December 1997 National Defense Panel Report put it this way:
Furthermore, comprehensive developmental test and evaluation is expensive and it is tempting to cut corners by reducing resources. Any reduction, however, means a loss of readiness.
Current critical needs for modernization include funding improved medium troop lift, amphibious lift, amphibious vehicles and fire support for the Marine Corps. They include increasing shipbuilding rates, funding mine warfare, naval fire support, improved interoperability and battle management, and improved fighter/strike aircraft for the Navy.
They include funding for digitizing the force (Force XXI), information dominance and interoperability, maintaining combat overmatch through increased lethality of ground weapon systems, improved attack and other combat helicopters for the Army.
Finally, they include funding improved strategic lift, precision guided munitions, bomber force upgrades, air dominance fighter aircraft and space initiatives for the Air Force.
Underfunding Training and Excessive Reliance on Simulation. We must continue to fund training in order to maintain mission and unit readiness. Critical training includes unit-level operations, the flying hour program, the number of steaming days, combined arms exercises, temporary duty in conjunction with operations, student skills training, and professional development. Better business practices, through the military's Revolution in Business Affairs, and increased usage of simulators are being incorporated as quickly as possible to ensure efficient use of existing training resources. Any reductions to the Services' training accounts cannot be tolerated because they will directly reduce readiness.
Simulation can be an extremely useful supplement to training, but it cannot replace it. It is tempting, however, to save money on exercises and other high cost training scenarios and increase reliance on simulations even when this produces a significant cut in real world readiness. For example, the Air Force over the past three years has cut pilot flying hours and increased pilot simulation hours by equal amounts. I do not believe the two are interchangeable. Excessive reliance on simulation may produce lower training costs, but it is no substitute for the real thing.
Underfunding Major Equipment Life Cycles. History has proven that periods of diminishing defense resources inevitably mean that equipment and munitions must be kept in service much longer than the military services originally planned. In General Krulak's letter, he wrote:
We have reached a critical point in the life cycle of our ground and aviation equipment. We are facing virtual block obsolescence of crucial items. Time needed by our units for training in the field is being spent in the motor pools, hangars, and armories. Our commanders are finding it more and more difficult to train their units because their equipment is `deadlined' or evacuated for repair. Our amphibious assault vehicles (AAVs) are, on average, seven years older than their already extended programmed service life.
The general goes on to say that two aviation workhorses, the CH-46E and the CH-53D helicopters, are 27 and 30 years old on average, exceeding their projected service lives by many years. Another example of this is the continued practice of the Marine Corps' retreading tires on the humvees (HMMVV's) and five-ton trucks of the First and Second Marine Expeditionary Forces.
The age of our military equipment, along with high operational tempo, has dramatically increased the cost of equipment maintenance in man-hours and money while dramatically reducing the availability of that equipment for training. Our equipment readiness rates remain high only because of the dedication of our men and women in uniform, who routinely work twelve to sixteen hours per day, six to seven days a week, on overlapping and rotating shifts to maintain this equipment. Unless a concerted effort is made to adjust maintenance and overhaul cycles to provide for service lives, existing readiness standards will continue to drift further towards a hollow force.
Underfunding Munition Stocks. Each of the Services now tends to meet its munitions goals by redefining the stocks on hand as adequate to meet a shrinking force posture. As Air Force Chief of Staff General Ryan wrote me, `While we lived off the surplus from the 40 percent drawdown of our forces in the early 90s, funding has not matched our need for the last several years.' The net result is smaller stocks of munitions per weapon system, and a failure to purchase the most advanced forms of smart weapons, fuzes, and conventional weapons in the amount required by our National Military Strategy. Admiral Johnson writes,
I am concerned about the inventory levels of modern weaponry, particularly the Tomahawk Block III missile, and the resultant increased risk in fighting two nearly simultaneous Major Theater Wars (MTW). We have maintained the current level by limiting the fleet's training allowances, with some units only receiving one training missile per year of our costly leading edge weapons, and by significantly reducing funding for development of future weapons.
In the process, we are risking our industrial base for smart and conventional munitions by reducing orders below a critical threshold or to achieve the production economies which would result from a higher procurement rate.
Balancing Act of Emerging Technologies. There is a growing tendency to reduce force posture and readiness in anticipation of the introduction of technological innovations like network-centric warfare and interoperability and weapon systems that are not yet in the force structure. This `betting on things to come' trades readiness we have on hand for technology that is still in the bush. Historically, we have never deployed such systems on time, at the estimated cost, or, often, with the anticipated effectiveness.
However, the risks of such efforts to trade readiness in the near-term for future technologies must be balanced with the statement of General Krulak:
For the military, this is a time when emerging technologies, if exploited, will fundamentally alter and substantially increase our warfighting capability. To the maximum extent possible, consistent with the imperative for maintaining current readiness, we should leverage these `leap ahead technologies' which promise a warfighting edge well into the next century. We should minimize expenditures on procuring evolutionary technologies and maintaining old systems that do not promise a significant edge on tomorrow's battlefield.
Funding Operations at the Expense of Readiness. We are already deep in the process of using readiness funds to pay for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations. In theory, much of this expenditure will be repaid through supplemental appropriations or out of Department of Defense contingency funds. In practice, it is very unlikely that the services will ever be fully repaid for the cost of their operations, and they will be forced to pay for peacekeeping and humanitarian actions in a way that will affect their readiness. In Bosnia, the Army's actual reimbursement is about 90 cents on the dollar.
Spending Savings Before We Achieve Them. It is very easy to achieve management efficiencies on paper, and to cut infrastructure or reduce support funding to achieve budget savings. In practice, however, there is an increasing tendency to cut first and determine the practicality of such savings later. On February 10, 1998, General Reimer testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that
REPEATING THE 1970S, THE ROAD TO GOING HOLLOW AGAINWhatever we do, let us not repeat the mistakes of the 1970s. In the Post-Vietnam era, much of the decline in active duty force levels through the 1970s was the result of decisions made by the individual services to funnel resources into badly needed modernization programs. To at least some extent, however, the numbers also reflected the difficulty the services were having attracting and retaining quality recruits. A number of factors combined to complicate the challenge of manning the all-volunteer force. First, military pay generally lagged well behind pay in the private sector. Second, the end of the Vietnam War saw cuts in many personnel benefits, including the education benefits of the Montgomery GI Bill.
In the post-Vietnam era, I remember all too well, from first-hand experience, U.S. Navy ships that could not get underway for lack of manning and from serious maintenance shortfalls. I remember too many aircraft--we called them hangar queens--parked in the hangar bay, never to fly during a deployment for lack of spare parts, sacrificed so that other jets could launch from the decks of the carrier.
As a matter of national security, we must solemnly commit that the dangerous decline in military readiness that followed the conclusion of the Vietnam War will not be repeated as we continue to draw down our Cold War-era forces. Credible warnings that we are approaching the `hollow force' levels of the 1970s can no longer be ignored. Let us act now to avoid this calamity.
Acting responsibly requires an awareness of the ways in which forces can go hollow. Simply attempting to avoid the mistakes of the 1970s will not necessarily protect us as the United States prepares to enter the new millennium as the preeminent political, economic, and military power in the world.
My Naval Academy classmate and former roommate in flight school, Admiral Chuck Larson, had this to say about readiness when he was the Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific (USCINCPAC) in 1993:
When the system of readiness begins to crumble, the decay will normally start from the inside out to the cutting edge. We should be on guard when it becomes necessary to increase operational tempo requirements to meet routine commitments; funds must be transferred among accounts to support increased OPTEMPO, unforseen operations, or contingencies; and, we are compelled to decrease, cancel or defer planned maintenance, training or logistics support activities and functions.
Mr. President, in 1777, Thomas Paine said, `Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.' Yesterday, the Joint Chiefs made clear that this Administration has not adequately supported our armed forces. We must labor to provide this support or face the dire consequences of inaction. The blessings of freedom may ultimately hang in the balance.
Mr. President, in conclusion, I thought it was important--and maybe even a similar event yesterday--the testimony of the Service Chiefs before the Senate Armed Services Committee; their candor and frank assessment of the challenges that we face were more than welcome. I and others expressed our disappointment that this candor was so long in coming. But we should applaud the fact that it was there.
Mr. President, I picked up the Washington Post this morning and saw that there is evidence that Iraq is now developing a nuclear weapon.
In Kosovo, there are horrible pictures on the front page of the New York Times of the ethnic cleansing and barbaric, terrible, murderous behavior of the Serbs that is going on there. Two weeks ago, we learned that the North Koreans had launched a three-stage nuclear capable missile, and this administration seems to believe that bribing them to somehow modify their behavior is the way to go when clearly there are indications that their acts have become more bellicose. Their efforts to acquire nuclear capable weapons and the testing of missiles indicate that that policy has failed.
I could go to other places in the world of potential flashpoints which may entail the expenditure of American blood and treasure. I am very concerned, Mr. President, about our ability to meet those potential challenges. I am more concerned after the testimony of the Joint Chiefs yesterday. I strongly argue for a change, I mean a very significant change--that the administration sit down with the Congress of the United States, the people's representatives, and try together to chart out a way we can rectify these wrongs that have taken place over the last 6 years. We must act together in a bipartisan fashion. If the administration continues to ignore the Congress, we will have to act ourselves, which is not always in the benefit of the Nation. However, we as Members of Congress have to readjust our priorities concerning base closings and most efficient use of depots, including unneeded and unwanted military construction projects and many other parochial projects, so that we can divert all of these scarce resources to protecting our national security.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. Under the previous order, there will now be 30 minutes under the control of the distinguished Senator from Nebraska, Mr. Hagel. The Senator is recognized.
Mr. HAGEL. I thank the Chair.
Mr. President, I wish to commend my friend and distinguished colleague from Arizona for his comments. He is on target. I wish to associate myself with those comments and pick up where Senator McCain left off, addressing some of the same issues but from a different perspective, although it is part of the total perspective, and that is foreign policy.
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