WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Tactical Air And Land Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, ahead of the Subcommittee's Markup of H.R. 2500 - National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020.
"Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
"First, I want to thank you for your leadership and cooperation in building this mark in a very open and bipartisan manner that continues the long-standing tradition of this subcommittee.
"I’d also like to express my thanks to the subcommittee staff for their support and hard work throughout this process to include Bill Sutey, Heath Bope, Carla Zeppieri, Liz Drummond, Caroline Kehrli, and Jesse Tolleson. We have a true bi-partisan staff.
"Additionally I want to associate myself with the Chairman’s comments in thanking all of the Members of the subcommittee for their active participation this year and for providing valuable input that directly informed the Mark.
"The Chairman has provided a detailed overview of the proposed mark and I will just briefly cover a few specific areas of interest.
"In building the Mark, the Subcommittee conducted oversight on approximately $102.0 billion in program budget authority for fiscal year 2020.
"I believe this mark builds on the framework set by previous Subcommittee action, addresses the importance of modernization, and works to ensure acquisition strategies are aligned with the National Defense Strategy.
"I am particularly pleased with how the mark improves oversight of Air Force fighter force structure challenges.
"The Chief of the Staff of the Air Force, General Goldfein has stated that, 'We are going to be a mix well into the 2030s of fourth-gen and fifth-gen fighters, and they complement each other. One plus one, fourth-gen plus fifth-gen, actually equals three fighters if they’re used correctly because they each make each other better.'
"It appears clear to me we will need a highly capable mix of 4th generation and 5th generation aircraft, complementing one another, in order to meet the objectives of the National Defense Strategy.
"The mark rightfully supports and is committed to both the F-15EX and the F-35 programs. This will set the conditions to ensure the Air Force will field the needed high/low mix of 4th and 5th generation tactical fighters, enabling the delivery of required capacity while also continuing crucial investments for 5th generation capability.
"This is necessary because the F-15C fleet is on average 35 years old, with two-thirds of the fleet past its certified service life. The entire fleet is facing serious structural risks and readiness goals are not being met.
"The F-15EX is the most expedient and cost-effective way to refresh 4th generation fighter capacity, at lower operating costs, and improve existing 4th generation fleet capabilities.
"Regarding the F-35 program, the mark authorizes economic order quantities for buying parts and material in bulk to achieve better cost savings.
"The F-35 Block 4 program has an initial estimated cost of $10.5 billion. Given the scope and complexity of this effort the Mark takes the necessary steps to improve oversight and transparency for this critically needed program.
"We all share concerns about rising F-35 operations and support costs affecting long term affordability which could result in lower procurement quantities in the out-years.
"The mark includes a provision that requires a joint service cost position and an independent cost estimate from the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office to inform overall F-35 life cycle costs.
"This should provide us with what will be required from a resource perspective to ensure aircraft inventory objectives are fully realized.
"The mark appropriately directs the Army to focus on the requirements and acquisition strategies for providing critically needed Vehicle Active Protection Systems for combat vehicles.
"Given what we have learned from subcommittee briefings and hearings regarding current and emerging threats, specifically the proliferation of anti-tank guided missiles and rocket propelled grenades, I think the provision is needed and timely.
"I am also pleased the mark continues oversight of the Department’s plans and efforts to mitigate physiological incidents in tactical aircraft and fully supports these activities.
"As we do move forward, there are still major issues to be decided at the full committee level, including the question of overall funding levels this bill would provide to the Department of Defense.
"Senior Commanders, including General Dunford, Secretary Mattis, and Acting Secretary Shanahan, have testified 3 to 5% real growth in the DOD budget is essential to maintain readiness recovery and our competitive edge over peer adversaries like Russia or China.
"I remain concerned about the overall defense topline and whether we are setting the right conditions for continued growth in the defense budget.
"In summary, this is a good mark that provides necessary oversight and accountability while also supporting critically needed modernization capability for the military services.
"I encourage everyone's support of the mark."