February 15th, 2007 16:15 EST
Supplemental Budget Supports Navy GWOT efforts, CNO tells Congress
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen told lawmakers Feb. 13 that the Navy’s proposed $8.9 billion Emergency Wartime Supplemental request for fiscal year 2007 (FY07) will help the service reset and equip the force while staying ahead of the demands of current combat operations.
“The Navy is doing its part in this long war, Mr. Chairman,” said Mullen in testimony to members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. “I am proud of that. Our Sailors are proud of that. But the work is taking a toll on our equipment, our platforms, and yes, our people. And I remain concerned about our ability to keep pace.”
He told committee members the Navy’s emergency supplemental request will help keep readiness high, and that it reflects his top three priorities: sustaining combat readiness, building a future Navy, and developing 21st century leaders.
Mullen noted that the $5.5 billion the Navy is seeking in operation and maintenance funding will, for instance, cover “urgent requirements in medical support and reserve force activation,” as well as costs associated with increased flying and steaming hours, and theater air- and sea-lift.
He said a particular concern to Navy leaders is the wear and tear on older aircraft, which are being used extensively to support ground operations throughout the Central Command area of responsibility. He made special mention of the F/A-18 C/D model Hornets, the P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft and the EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft.
The older Hornets, Mullen testified, are consuming flight hours at a rate 30 percent greater per year than originally planned, while the P-3’s and Prowlers are at or well over their expected service life.
The Navy’s EA-6B fleet is operating -- on average -- at 120 percent of their expected service life of 24 years. The average age of the Navy’s P-3 fleet is 27.6 years, and the average age of the EP-3 signals intelligence reconnaissance variant is 33.6 years. Both aircraft were expected to serve 30 years.
“With your support, we can get them the critical maintenance they need to keep flying safely in the near term, while bringing into the fight six new EA-18G Growler Airborne Electronic Attack Aircraft,” he said.
The CNO also stressed urgent needs to replace worn out heavy construction equipment and to buy 176 mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) for the Naval Construction Force, the Seabees.
The Seabees are working very hard supporting the ground forces, noted Mullen. They are “driving convoys, building forward staging bases deep inside Iraq, and helping communities recover from natural disaster.”
Though they remain “by nature a rather indestructible lot,” he continued, “the same cannot be said for their equipment.”
Also requested for the Seabees are special purpose trucks to support containers, panel boards, reverse osmosis units, and other pieces of minor equipment.
Major equipment being requested for the Navy’s new Riverine squadrons includes tactical vehicles and small boats. Funds will also procure Up-Armored HMMWVs,
MRAPs, Multi-Mission Craft and Command and Control Craft.
Mullen appeared before the committee with Secretary of the Navy, Dr. Donald C. Winter and Commandant of Marine Corps, General James Conway. He echoed the Secretary’s praise for men and women in uniform, calling them focused and determined.
“They know the great task before them. They understand the importance of their work, and they are eager to contribute. While many keep faith with enduring maritime missions -- missions critical to our role as an element of this nation’s Strategic Reserve -- others are aggressively fighting the war on terror.”
Mullen told reporters after the hearing he expects the Navy to stay committed to supporting ground operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the demand for Sailors to serve as individual augmentees (IA) would probably not diminish.
“We have about 10,400 IAs. And as I look out over the next 12 to 18 months, the projections are pretty steady,” he said. “It’s a very uncertain environment. It’s a very uncertain world. I can’t project what that’s going to be. I do think the IA requirement is going to be out there for a while. It’s just hard to predict what the degree is.”
Taking up a concern heard frequently by Sailors in the fleet, he also asked lawmakers for support in closing the gap between Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) funding levels and local housing costs around the country.
The proposed Continuing Resolution before Congress will provide some relief against this gap, he reported, but the service still faces a “significant BAH shortfall” in excess of four hundred million dollars for this fiscal year.
“There is incredible talent in this Navy,” Mullen said. “Our Sailors have character and resolve and hold themselves and their shipmates to high standards. I am enormously proud of them and their families and grateful for their service at this critical and dangerous time in our history.”
For related news, visit the Chief of Naval Operations Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cno/.
From Chief of Naval Operations Public Affairs