1998 Congressional Hearings



STATEMENT OF

ADMIRAL JAY L. JOHNSON, U.S. NAVY

CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS

BEFORE THE

SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE

ON THE

NAVY POSTURE

29 SEPTEMBER 1998

 

Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for this opportunity to be here today to discuss the posture of our Navy. This Committee has always been particularly helpful in addressing Navy concerns, and we are grateful for your continued support. 

NAVY TODAY

Let me start by emphasizing that the U.S. Navy is the best in the world: it supports a continuous and substantial forward-deployed global presence. On any given day, one-third of the Navy’s forces are forward-deployed and ready to influence, directly and decisively, events ashore from the sea. This forward presence is the cornerstone of our nation's strategic shaping effort. Forward-deployed naval forces are tailor-made for promoting regional stability and deterring aggression by being on station with credible combat power and the means to deliver it. Our ability to defend the nation’s interests has been powerfully demonstrated this past year and I assure you that the Navy's readiness for this mission continues to be my number one priority.

A review of world events during 1998 will dispel any misconception that the world is now a less violent place. Two American embassies were destroyed by terrorists’ bombs, factional and small-scale conflicts were abundant, economic crises plagued much of the world, and social inequities fueled animosities in numerous hotspots. Against this backdrop, your Navy participated in a wide variety of operations in almost every corner of the world. For a substantial part of 1998, OPERATION DESERT THUNDER required us to maintain a 2.0 Carrier Battle Group presence in the Arabian Gulf. During this time we also engaged in maritime interdiction operations and enforced no-fly zones in support of United Nations sanctions against Iraq.

As part of OPERATION RESOLUTE RESPONSE, the Navy assisted in recovery operations following terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Navy ships also participated in operations against terrorist-related targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. Following continued strife in Eritrea, naval forces participated in OPERATION SAFE DEPARTURE, a non-combatant evacuation that resulted in the removal of 105 Americans and 67 third country nationals.

In Europe, our forces participated in OPERATION DETERMINED FALCON in response to unrest in Kosovo. We also continued OPERATIONS DELIBERATE GUARD and JOINT GUARD, enforcing the no-fly zone over former Yugoslavia. In August, the Mediterranean Amphibious Readiness Group began providing security for the U.S. Embassy in Tirana, Albania in response to civil discord. In Italy, Navy units assisted in humanitarian operations following devastating mudslides. Off Africa, in view of growing threats to the Kabila government, elements of an Amphibious Ready Group were ordered to the coast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

In the Western Pacific, naval forces participated in OPERATION BEVEL INCLINE following rioting throughout Indonesia. An Amphibious Ready Group assumed a 12-hour alert posture in anticipation of a possible evacuation of American citizens from Jakarta.

In the Caribbean, naval forces continue to support joint operations to disrupt the production and movement of illegal drugs. Finally, in the North Atlantic, Navy salvage professionals are working to recover remains and debris following the loss of Swissair flight 111.  

READINESS TODAY

Balancing today's operational requirements while ensuring that we are properly poised and ready to meet the threats of the future is becoming increasingly difficult. While deployed readiness remains adequate, I am very concerned with some key readiness indicators and the degree to which we have been unable to take necessary corrective actions.

Following a deployment, units enter the Inter Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC). During early stages of the IDTC, readiness degradation is expected as ships and aircraft undergo maintenance availabilities and crews turn over. As units progress through the IDTC, readiness should steadily improve as maintenance is completed and training opportunities increase. In the latter stages of the IDTC, units hone their warfighting skills by participating in exercises designed to ensure full combat readiness prior to deployment.

Non-deployed readiness is currently funded at levels that leave little margin for flexibility. When funding shortfalls occur, the Navy focuses first on ensuring the full readiness of deployed forces. Consequently, non-deployed readiness suffers as units in earlier stages of the IDTC defer the ordering of parts, maintenance, and training so that additional funds can be made available for deployers. While this allows us to maintain a satisfactory deployed readiness posture, it has an undesirable effect on non-deployed forces. As a result, the readiness curve, or "bathtub", normally associated with units in the IDTC has become increasingly deep and recovery to full combat readiness has become much more taxing, occurring later in the IDTC. The following chart illustrates the increasing difficulty our non-deployed forces are experiencing as they pass through the IDTC:  

While this chart reflects carrier air wing readiness, we have observed similar trends among non-deployed surface ships and submarines. It is also important to remember that these non-deployed units constitute critical follow-on forces that are expected to rapidly deploy in the event of a Major Theater War (MTW).

The material condition of our ships and aircraft is fundamental to readiness, and is one of the indicators we carefully monitor. It is clear that in the case of non-deployed aircraft, material condition is on a downward trend. As we strive to maintain deployed readiness, we are forced to divert funding, material, and personnel to deploying units, which hampers the ability of ITDC units to maintain proper material condition. As a result, squadrons in the earlier stages of the IDTC train with fewer aircraft, deferring critical training until much closer to deployment. This creates a last minute scramble and in cases where funds, specific components, and parts are not available, Sailors are forced to cannibalize from non-mission capable aircraft. Since cannibalization requires additional maintenance actions to remove components, the workload of our Sailors is increased. This extra work, on the eve of six month deployments, has a detrimental impact on our Sailors' quality of life.

I am concerned that this rush to achieve readiness just prior to deployment is creating conditions that lead to mistakes. Prior to this year, we experienced a long-term downward trend in aviation mishaps, reaching a new low last year. This year, however, the aviation mishap rate increased 82%. I am deeply troubled by this dangerous and tragic change and have directed a thorough review of the factors contributing to the rate increase. I strongly believe the interwoven stresses of the IDTC are linked to our safety as well as our readiness, and that it is imperative we address these problems before conditions erode further. 

THE CHALLENGE OF TOMORROW’S READINESS

I am also disturbed about our long-term readiness as a Service. In order to maintain deployed readiness, not only have we impacted the IDTC, but we have also had to defer investment in modernization and recapitalization.

In the realm of acquisition, our proposed programs are based on the requirements of today's world and a comprehensive assessment of future threats. Although we are able to deal with current threats within an acceptable degree of risk, I am increasingly concerned about our mid-term and long-range unfunded requirements. Without sufficient resources to fund recapitalization and modernization, and to take care of our people and their families, we are buying today's readiness at the expense of tomorrow's. Specifically, we are unable to afford the reliability and capability upgrades required for our ships and aircraft; improvements that respond to evolving threats, enhance readiness, and reduce life cycle support costs, ultimately leading to improved quality of life for our people.

Further, we need to increase the shipbuilding rate from today’s 6-7 ships per year to 8-10 ships per year by the middle of the next decade in order to maintain the Quadrennial Defense Review force. If we do not increase our shipbuilding, the construction backlog will continue to grow, the resultant cost will be insurmountable, and the operational tempo (OPTEMPO) of remaining units will be unacceptable. Getting ship construction numbers up is our number one long-range procurement concern.

At our current funding level, we will not attain an acceptable aircraft procurement rate until late in the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP). We have, for example, delayed funding of the Common Support Aircraft for an additional two years. This delay, combined with our aging Anti-Submarine Warfare, Airborne Early Warning and Carrier Onboard Delivery aircraft, means air wing readiness will decline as we approach the end of the FYDP, if procurement rates are not increased sooner than currently planned. In short, we need to increase recapitalization and modernization now; we are at a critical juncture. It takes time for investments to reach the fleet. If we don’t start now, our equipment will continue to age, becoming increasingly prone to failure and more expensive to maintain.

I am also concerned about the inventory level of critical munitions, particularly the Tomahawk Block III missile, and the associated risk of fighting two nearly-simultaneous MTWs. We have maintained the current inventory level by limiting the fleet’s training allowances, with some units receiving only one training missile per year. Additional funds are required in the areas of weapons development, maintenance, and procurement to sustain acceptable weapon inventories and training levels.

Since the end of the Cold War, we have reduced the number of ships, aircraft, and personnel by twice as much as infrastructure. The costs associated with excess infrastructure are significant. In addition to spending precious funds to maintain unnecessary property, our inability to further consolidate supply, maintenance, and training sites results in additional transportation costs, storage fees, and personnel expenditures.

The Department of Defense estimates that two additional rounds of BRAC would save $3 billion per year in the long term. We would apply such savings to increase readiness by augmenting operations and maintenance accounts and accelerating modernization and recapitalization.  

RECRUITING AND RETENTION

The quality of life of our Sailors is the issue that concerns me above all others. Our ability to attract and retain an all-volunteer force is increasingly being tested in the face of the strong national economy. We must offer adequate compensation and incentives if we are to attract the quality people we need.

For Navy Aviation, Surface, Subsurface, and Special Warfare officer communities, we project significant shortages of mid-grade officers unless retention improves. Consequently, the Surface Warfare community is about to extend the amount of time its department heads spend on sea duty by 5-8 months. The Aviation and Submarine communities expect to start extending their officers in department head tours beginning in FY00. While extending tour lengths is the only option immediately availability to ensure near-term readiness is preserved, it will likely result in still lower retention rates and force many of our leaders from the Navy earlier than expected.

Enlisted retention and recruiting are also short of goal in FY 1998. We anticipate recruiting will be approximately 7000 Sailors short this year. Additionally, we are experiencing shortfalls among technical skill ratings and junior enlisted (E-1 to E-3) general detail (GENDET) personnel. At present, we have a shortage of about 5200 GENDETs. GENDET manning at sea is 78%; a shortage felt on flight decks, in engine rooms, and in maintenance hangars throughout the fleet. Technically trained Sailors are filling the gap created by the GENDET shortfall, which has negative morale implications and adversely effects overall readiness.

While we have increased funding for additional recruiters, advertising, and enlistment bonuses, these initiatives will take time to produce results. In the meantime, we must address fundamental concerns contributing to our personnel shortages. Pay and retirement are major fleet issues. If we do not reduce the workload and provide Sailors with pay and benefits competitive with their civilian counterparts, they will leave the Service.  

OPERATIONAL IMPACT

The very nature of our operations--forward deployed with a high OPTEMPO--is also taking a toll on our people. The frustrations our Sailors are experiencing is related to the increasing amount of time they are spending at sea while deployed and at work while non-deployed.

Although we have strictly enforced our personnel tempo (PERSTEMPO) guidelines and have not increased deployment lengths, we are spending more time at sea during deployment. While maintaining a 2.0 Carrier Battle Group presence in the Arabian Gulf contributed to extended underway time this year, the long-term upward trend is unmistakable and cannot continue without adversely impacting our Sailors. Due to today’s smaller force structure and endless contingency operations, our ability to remain within PERSTEMPO and OPTEMPO guidelines has been increasingly stressed. Additional time at sea also means reduced port visits. Among the top dissatisfiers Sailors cite when leaving the Navy are family separation and the amount of sea duty they must serve.

We must continue to look for ways to reduce the workload of our Sailors. As part of that effort, I have issued a directive that reduces the burden of inspections and assist visits imposed on our fleet during the IDTC by 25%. This initiative will result in the consolidation of training evolutions, induce greater efficiency into our training cycle, improve the quality of life of Sailors, and allow our commanding officers to focus their energies on honing the warfighting skills of their ships and squadrons.

CONCLUSION

Readiness is the foundation of our credibility as an instrument of foreign policy and national resolve. Today, our Navy remains forward-deployed and ready to protect America’s interests. Yet tomorrow’s readiness is less certain. Working together, we must move aggressively to address the challenges detailed in this statement. Our Sailors -- and our nation -- are counting on us.

Mr. Chairman, I would be happy to answer any questions the committee might have.