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Wittman Opening Statement at Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee FY24 NDAA Markup

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), chairman of the Subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces, delivered the following opening statement at the subcommittee markup for H.R. 2670 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024. The subcommittee's mark is available here.

Rep. Wittman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

There are two immutable facts with the President Biden budget request for Fiscal Year 2024. 

First, Army does not have sufficient monies to support their Army Modernization Strategy. Extensive gaps in fielding the future Army are resident across the entire budget request, including procurement shortfalls in Abrams Tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Paladin Howitzers. But this should not be surprising, considering Army budget was reduced from last year and resulted in a 5% reduction in real procurement, after being adjusted for inflation. My fear is that Army’s future needs to be significantly scaled to meet future requirements and deliver the right capabilities. 

And the second immutable fact is the Air Force is getting smaller because the budget does not support Air Force’s requirements. We are in a force structure decline that we will not be able to reverse and this decline hits us at the exact time pontificated by the Davidson window in the late 2020s. The Air Force plans on divesting 801 fighter aircraft and only procuring 345 new F-35A and F-15EX aircraft over the next five years. But even worse, I am concerned that this declination may accelerate as future tactical aircraft are expected to cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” and inflation continues to bite real defense growth.

It is obvious that we need a change in strategy and direction. Our zeal for real capability needs to be adequately balanced with our fiscal realities. Unfortunately, this budget request fails to both provide for our armed forces and worse, accelerates the likelihood of future conflict by failing to narrow the impending window of opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party.

The Army needs a new strategy that looks beyond a potential European conflict and focuses instead on fully providing the capabilities required to meet the Indo-Pacific’s challenges of distance and depth. One that provides for the long-range fires, missile defense, logistics and communications necessary to fully enable the joint force. 

And the Air Force needs a dose of budget reality in developing the required force structure needed to be successful in future conflict. The Air Force must provide long range sensing, autonomous tanking, and collaborative combat aircraft (CCA) in the near-term. We need to take steps today to reduce risk and increase capacity. 

Additionally, I am particularly concerned about the lack of innovation in our energetics portfolio. We are being lapped by China with our own innovations. We need to rapidly change our energetics strategy from one focused on the precision strike to one of expanded lethality. 

Improving on the president’s budget request, this mark does a good job of balancing risk with regards to expanded Army modernization and our aviation force structure. It supports efforts to retire legacy aircraft and accelerates alternative capabilities to exploit seams of battle. It seeks to expand the promise of the fourth offset offered by Collaborative Combat Aircraft and emphasize the delivery of capability concurrent with the Davidson window. I think that we have a long way to go to shape the future and vision of the military services, and I look forward to rapidly incorporating evolving innovation and emerging technologies at the speed of relevance, while divesting failing capability.

In conclusion, I think this mark has been difficult but provides the right capabilities, with the right balance to support our warfighters. This mark is not the result of a single person, but the result of a team working toward a common goal. I want to especially highlight the support of my teammate, Congressman Don Norcross. I continue to be amazed as to what a bipartisan group can do when we are aligned toward a common goal. Our mark is better because of his direct interest and support. 

With that, I yield to our Ranking Member Norcross for any remarks he may have.

Specifically, this year’s proposal:

A-10 Force Structure

  • Reduces A-10 total aircraft inventory to 218 aircraft.
  • Requires a plan from the Secretary of the Air Force as to how the Secretary will maintain proficient aircrews in close air support, combat search and rescue, and forward air controller-airborne missions.

F-15 C/D Force Structure

  • Reduces the F-15C/D total aircraft inventory by 57 aircraft.

Future Armed Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) requirement

  • Limits the Office of the Secretary of the Army funds until the Secretary of the Army submits to the congressional defense committees the analysis of alternatives for the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program.

Next Generation Air Dominance

  • Requires the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy to annually submit development and technology maturation progress reports regarding each Department's Next Generation Air Dominance and Collaborative Combat Aircraft acquisition programs.
  • Requires each Secretary to establish, for each piloted fighter aircraft program of the Next Generation Air Dominance program, threshold and objective key performance parameters regarding flyaway unit cost, gross/weapon system unit cost, aircraft cost-per-tail-per-year, and aircraft cost-per-flight-hour.
  • Sets maximum cost limitations for each category of Collaborative Combat Aircraft each Secretary would plan to procure.

F-35 Lightning II

  • Requires the Secretary of Defense to designate the F-35 continuous capability and development and delivery program as a major subprogram of the F-35 acquisition program.
  • Requires the F-35 Program Executive Officer to designate and manufacture six developmental testing and evaluation aircraft to adequately support future activities of the F-35 testing and evaluation program.


  • A pilot program on incorporation of the energetic compound CL20 into at least three developing munitions.
  • An assessment of the energetics industrial base.


  • Requires GAO’s assessment of the Army’s Air and Missile Defense program and Army’s Long Range Precision Fires program.