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Stable Funding Key to Recovering From Readiness Decline, DoD Officials Say

March 30, 2017 | BY Jim Garamone

The services need money, manpower, time and consistency to recover military readiness, Defense Department officials told a Senate panel here yesterday.

Sarah Holshouser, 553rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron composite fabricator, drills out rivets on a KC-135 aileron she is overhauling at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, July 25, 2016, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The 553rd CMMXS manufactures and maintains components for KC-135, B-1B, B-52H, E-3 and E-6 aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)
Sarah Holshouser, a 553rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron composite fabricator, drills out rivets on a KC-135 aileron she is overhauling at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., July 28, 2016. The squadron manufactures and maintains components for KC-135, B-1B, B-52H, E-3 and E-6 aircraft. Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis
Sarah Holshouser, 553rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron composite fabricator, drills out rivets on a KC-135 aileron she is overhauling at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, July 25, 2016, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. The 553rd CMMXS manufactures and maintains components for KC-135, B-1B, B-52H, E-3 and E-6 aircraft.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Greg L. Davis)
Composite Fabricator
Sarah Holshouser, a 553rd Commodities Maintenance Squadron composite fabricator, drills out rivets on a KC-135 aileron she is overhauling at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, Tinker Air Force Base, Okla., July 28, 2016. The squadron manufactures and maintains components for KC-135, B-1B, B-52H, E-3 and E-6 aircraft. Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis
Photo By: Greg L. Davis
VIRIN: 160728-F-VV898-057

Five witnesses from all services told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s readiness and management support subcommittee that DoD’s organic industrial infrastructure has suffered as a result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which put sequestration spending cuts in place, and the lack of stable, consistent funding.

Lt. Gen. Larry D. Wyche, deputy commander of Army Materiel Command; Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, commander of Naval Air Systems Command; Vice Adm. Thomas J. Moore, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command; Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael G. Dana, deputy commandant for installations and logistics; and Lt. Gen. Lee K. Levy II, commander of Air Force Materiel Command’s Air Force Sustainment Center, testified at the subcommittee hearing.

This is not a new revelation, as many of the lawmakers acknowledged, noting that the military had no choice but to use readiness accounts to maintain the current level of operations. That, combined with increased operations around the world, has created a backlog of maintenance that will take years to eliminate, all five officers told the Senate panel.

Systems Sit Idle

Further, they said, hundreds of thousands of DoD civilians who maintain vehicles, weapons systems, aircraft, ships and submarines are being overworked to make up the difference. Finally, they added, millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted as all these systems sit idle, waiting for parts and workers to maintain or refurbish them.

Defense leaders have been telling lawmakers about this problem since the Budget Control Act of 2011 passed, and all of the men asked the panel to pass a budget. Operating under a continuing resolution, they said, would severely hamper efforts to dig out of the readiness hole.

“The longer the Army operates under the budget caps in an unpredictable fiscal environment, the more difficult it is to sustain production and retain a skilled workforce,” Wyche told the panel.

Aircraft fleets are getting older, and there is an increasing demand for work on V-22s, F-18s, F-15s, A-10s and the whole line of helicopters, the officials said.

“In our fiscal [year] 2017 funding request, the department has taken a major step forward in addressing the required funding for these ‘enabler accounts,’” Grosklags said. Having a full-year continuing resolution would destroy that and deepen the problem, he added.

Mismatch Between Capacity and Required Work

In shipyard maintenance, Moore told the senators, there is a mismatch between the capacity of shipyards and the required work, and roughly a third of the U.S. fleet at any time is in need of maintenance. Money cuts exacerbate this problem, and the backlog in public and private shipyards has grown, he said.

Maintaining military equipment is complicated, and the workers who do these jobs must be top-notch and they must be trained – a process that can take years, the admiral noted. Consistent and stable funding would allow all the services – but especially the Navy in shipbuilding – develop the workforce needed to maintain this critical industrial base, he added.

Aging equipment is a continuing problem, especially in the Air Force, Levy said. If his aircraft were cars, he told the panel, they would qualify for antique license plates.

These aircraft have done yeoman’s service for the total force, but the airframes are old and require constant vigilance and maintenance, Levy said. This adds to the headaches that the industrial base must confront, he added.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)