WASHINGTON – Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces (SPF), made the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at the Joint Seapower and Projection Forces and Readiness Subcommittee hearing today titled: Update on Navy and Marine Corps Readiness in the Pacific in the Aftermath of Recent Mishaps:
“I want to thank Chairman Courtney for yielding and having an enduring interest in our naval force’s readiness.
“I am particularly heartbroken over the loss of life associated with the navy surface forces and the marine corps aviation forces. All were tragic, all were preventable, all have several common threads underlying the principal issues. In the end, the lack of senior leadership, inattention to the apparent problems facing the respective units and an inability of the operators to discern the dangers they were in all contributed to the same, tragic results.
“The Marine Corps is particularly troubling. The KC-130J collision with a Hornet aircraft at night over the Sea of Japan was an accident waiting to happen. Months earlier, the squadron commander wrote to his superiors and indicated ‘everyone believes us to be under-resourced, under-manned.’ III MEF Commanding General Lieutenant General Clardy responded to the accident and indicated the Marine Corps’ ‘chronic history of unconstrained tasking and under-resourcing created a culture of complacency.’ He went on further to indicate that his marine aircraft wing faced ‘significant challenges in manning, maintaining, and training its squadrons.’
“The conclusion of this accident rings particularly close to the heart as they are eerily similar to the same outcomes associated with the McCain and Fitzgerald collisions. In those two efforts, the Secretary of the Navy’s Readiness Review concluded ‘leaders and organizations began to lose sight of what ‘right’ looked like, and to accept these altered conditions and reduced readiness standards as the new normal.’ In this review, the report further concluded that ‘over time, the Navy’s ‘must-do’ wartime culture was adopted for peacetime as long-term readiness and capability were sacrificed for immediate mission accomplishment.’
“What I thought was a defining, seminal moment for the Secretary of the Navy, a moment that I understood included an assessment of the Marine Corps, was instead fleeting and the lessons learned not fully adopted. We can do better. We must do better.
“For the surface forces, we need to adopt a more rigorous accessions training evolution similar to that of the Merchant Marine. We need to ensure more junior officer seamanship training. Our enlisted training needs to be systematically reviewed to eliminate outdated training. Our afloat manning needs to be significantly improved. Our basing and maintenance processes need to be aligned. We need to step out of our comfort zones and ensure the manning, training, and equipping of our forces is maximized for efficiency and effect.
“As to the Marine Corps, I think that we need to do some deep soul searching and ensure we have the right readiness at the right time. This balance is difficult to achieve but we should never sacrifice the safety of our marines, upon whose backs our nation is carried.
“Again, I appreciate the Chairman for having this important hearing and I yield back the balance of my time.”