Opening Statement (As Prepared)

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I want to start by saying thank you to both of you for being here today and for your leadership. I am proud to represent a district with some of our nation’s most vital assets as a gateway to the Pacific from the aircraft at Travis Air Force base, to the potential for Mare Island to serve in a surge capacity role for ship repair and maintenance, and the critical importance of Military Ocean Terminal Concord (MOTCO) as a strategic seaport serving the Indo-Pacific. My district is hard at work ensuring that we can sustain and maintain our forces critical to the global mobility posture. Too often we neglect these vital assets which are the backbone of our nation's ability to project power and support our forces across the globe. Thank you Gen Van Ovost for recognizing in your provided testimony the critical importance of MOTCO.

Let’s first talk about air mobility. I remain concerned with the low readiness levels on our air refueling fleets. This combined with sunsetting the KC-10 and unresolved issues with the KC 46 only enhance that concern. Additionally, we continue to accept risk and operate the KC-46 with notable deficiencies that threaten the already low readiness levels of other airframes. TRANSCOM must ensure that given the unresolved issues on the KC-46 we are not divesting at a rate which exposes the US to unacceptable risk.

Speaking of unacceptable risk, our mobility fleets have been operating without connectivity for decades. This is unacceptable, these crews must have battlespace awareness necessary to survive in the increasingly complex and contested operational environments. TRANSCOM must continue to press Air Mobility Command in efforts to modernize the situation awareness of these aircraft.

Shifting to maritime recapitalization efforts. Between the age of ships in MARAD’s National Defense Reserve Fleet and the availability of US-flagged vessels that can participate in the MARAD managed Maritime Security Program Fleet, we do not have the maritime logistics force needed to fight a peer adversary. And when you look at this sealift gap in combination with the Navy’s Military Sealift Command, these gaps become more apparent. We must continue to take positive steps forward to close these gaps.

I have worked to recapitalize the aging US flag fleet, to include the Ready Reserve Fleet. I thank you both for working together towards a whole of government approach to the congressionally directed study to support the National Maritime Strategy. I want to again express the importance of recapitalizing these programs with vessels built in the US. By doing so we will send a demand signal to industry and increase investments in organic shipbuilding capability. TRANSCOM and MARAD cannot continue to buy used ships without a solid path towards building here in America.

In last years NDAA I enacted legislation to provide MARAD the ability to provide Title XI financing to support reconfiguring commercial vessels to be more militarily useful and vice versa in US shipyards. Furthermore, we also enacted legislation to re-affirm MARADs authority to determine cargo preference across all federal agencies including the DOD. I am very interested in hearing if you feel these authorities are sufficient. Additionally, I continue pushing to get increased funding for the comically underfunded Title XI program.  While these are all useful steps, we must collectively do more.

Lastly, as you all well know, it’s not just about ships or planes, it’s also about people. I want to emphasize the important role of ensuring we have a robust maritime labor force available as well. Our State Maritime Academies play an important role in this and we must look at how we, and MARAD, are supporting and empowering them.

Thank you again to the witnesses for appearing today. I yield back.