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Wittman Opening Statement at Hearing on Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities for FY23

WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Representative Rob Wittman (VA-01), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities for FY23.
Rep. Wittman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank Chairman Courtney for yielding and thank our witnesses for testifying today.  I want to especially welcome the return to our committee of the recently confirmed Assistant Secretary Andrew Hunter.  As an alumnus of our staff, I am particularly glad that he has elected to return to public service and help with the myriad of challenges facing the Air Force today.
The National Defense Strategy is clear in its focus on China as our nation’s pacing threat.  Capabilities such as long range strike and long range logistics are critical accomplishing the strategy and transcending the INDOPACOM tyranny of distance.  What is less clear is whether the budget request in front of us today reflects a fiscal strategy to accomplish our national security goals.  Long range strike continues to be hampered by the lack of assured sensors, lack of bomber platforms, and the lack of tankers capable of delivering fuel in a contested environment. 
Additionally, despite the clear emphasis on disaggregated operations, our INDOPACOM force posture remains stuck in the same position as when we concluded World War II, despite a long-held aim to refocus the Department of Defense on confronting the challenges of the Indo-Pacific. 
And finally, as is acutely obvious from our response to the Ukrainian conflict, the industrial base lacks the elasticity to expand to even the slightest changes in weapons employment.
We are optimized for peacetime operations in an era that increasingly calls for disaggregation and resiliency.  We need to rapidly change our approach to conflict to provide for our national security.
As to specifics in the Air Force portfolio, I continue to be pleased as to the investments and progress in the B-21 bomber program.  The alignment of government and industry in accomplishing this program are particularly laudable. 
I am also impressed by recent Air Force tests to expand the reach of advanced munitions to strike maritime targets.  I am convinced that the Air Force’s bomber force structure will be increasingly called to support future maritime targeting.
But there are a myriad of other programs before this subcommittee that continue to lag.  The KC-46A program and the increasing zeal of the Air Force to intercede in this fixed price contract are increasingly perplexing.  The inability to deliver fully mission capable tankers on this non developmental production effort until 2026 is disappointing. 
I would also note that our nation’s Air Force One replacement program continues to lag by almost two years. 
And finally, I am particularly perplexed as to the Air Force’s acquisition approach to the next generation of tankers.  We must prioritize unlocking our industrial ingenuity by unleashing the American ideals of competition as we build the future force--investing in the assets we will require to deter China and serving as responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. To that end, I would remind the Air Force of the inherent taxpayer risk assumed in sole source awards.
Secretary Austin is right to ascribe to a policy of “countering aggression and bullying from China” and to place China as our “pacing challenge”.  But what he is missing is that our fiscal policy needs to be aligned with this our strategy.  It is time to translate our rhetoric into action. 
Again, I appreciate the Chairman for having this important hearing and I yield back the balance of my time.