Marine Corps Commandant’s Testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee

General Charles C. Krulak, Commandant, U.S. Marine Corps, Washington, D.C., January 5, 1999

Thank you for this opportunity to further discuss the readiness of your Marine Corps. Your continued attention to military readiness comes at a crucial time: as incidents of global terrorism become almost commonplace; as long suppressed social, ethnic, and religious animosities routinely threaten the stability of once strong national governments; as rogue states such as Iraq continue to ignore international agreements and threaten peace in their regions; and as humanitarian assistance missions become commonplace. The environment-shaping presence, versatility, and responsiveness afforded by your forward-deployed naval services are critical to meeting such challenges. With a credible ability to deliver the appropriate level of assistance or force across the spectrum of conflict -- from humanitarian relief to participation in major theater conflicts -- your Navy-Marine Corps team provides the adaptable, cost effective, and capable force the National Command Authorities need to rapidly respond to such contingencies.

Unfortunately, these world crises are becoming increasingly prevalent. When I testified before this Committee on September 29, I echoed the results of every recent national security study when I stated that this trend suggests not just crises between nations and within nations, but also a greater degree of general instability -- a time of chaos and asymmetric threat. Since that testimony your Marines have continued to respond to the challenges associated with this new, volatile era. Over 1,000 Marines deployed to Puerto Rico in October in support of disaster relief efforts necessitated by Hurricane Georges. Since early November, when Hurricane Mitch struck Central America causing extensive damage, another 800 Marines have responded as part of Operation Strong Support to help rebuild bridges, provide water purification, and distribute relief supplies. Just a few days prior to Christmas, I had the opportunity to visit with our Marines in Honduras, and I can assure you they are contributing substantially to alleviating the pain and suffering of the victims in that region. And, as part of our Total Force, your Marine Reserves have been actively engaged in the war to stem the flow of illegal drugs into our country. Last month, Marine reservists were deployed throughout the Western Hemisphere in support of 16 ongoing counterdrug missions.

On the other side of the globe, your Marines once again responded to Saddam Hussein's refusal to comply with United Nations Resolutions. In late November, the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), which normally operates in the Western Pacific, was directed along with the Navy's Amphibious Squadron 11 to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. The 31st MEU was deployed on the ground in Kuwait, with aircraft on strip alert aboard the USS Belleau Wood, when the initial strike against Iraq was launched in support of Operation Desert Fox. Marine Fighter/Attack Squadron VMFA-312 was embarked aboard the USS Enterprise and participated in strike missions against Iraq as pan of the Carrier Battle Group. In fact, the F/A-18 Hornets of that squadron led both the first and final air attacks off of the Enterprise and into Iraq as part of Desert Fox. Another 1,000 Marines from the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) were also preparing to deploy to the region when the operation ended.

These crisis response actions are, of course, part of our "routine" operations. Today, over twenty-three thousand Marines are forward deployed, away from their homes and families. In addition to the 31st MEU, two other MEUs continually provide forward presence and signal our national resolve in the Western Pacific and Mediterranean regions. Marine Security Guard detachments assist in protecting our embassies at 122 State Department posts and stations worldwide, and we have been asked to increase this number. Your Marine Corps Fleet Antiterrorism Security Teams continue to provide crucial force protection to ships and facilities around the globe. And, the Marines and sailors who make up the Corps' Chemical-Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) routinely deploy to train other agencies -- such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Fire Academy -- in chemical biological incident response and to afford high profile events the guarantee of capable consequence management.

Our readiness concerns have not changed appreciably since my appearance before you in September ... nor, for that matter, have they changed appreciably since 1995, when I made the first of my appearances before this committee. With our rapidly aging equipment and fixed, inadequate defense budget topline, the price of maintaining the high state of near-term readiness necessitated by today’s security challenges had to be paid for out of our modernization, base infrastructure, and quality of life accounts. Because we continue to short-change these important programs, readiness is becoming increasingly difficult -- and increasingly expensive -- to maintain. Daily, your Marines are required to spend more and more time and money to maintain their aging equipment and weapons systems. In short, while our equipment readiness rates remain sufficient to fully support our prioritized forward deployed forces in their crisis deterrent and crisis response postures, they have come at the expense of modernizing the force.

I remain concerned that by continuing to pour scarce resources into maintaining our legacy equipment and weapon systems at the expense of modernizing the force, we will merely "scrape off the skin cancer" of near-term readiness and allow our long-term readiness cancer to metastasize. We must look beyond today. The difficulties we are now experiencing stem from a problem that will only get bigger and cut deeper into the readiness of the force in the 2000-2010 time frame -- a lack of funding for modernization. During my last testimony I identified a funding shortfall for the Marine Corps at a minimum of $l.5 billion in each year of the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) -- not including the amount needed to increase pay and retirement benefits. This funding shortfall simply must be addressed if our nation is to continue to have the highly capable and relevant Marine Corps necessary to fulfill our role as "a versatile, expeditionary force in readiness ... most ready when the nation is least ready."

(Graphic not available)

Figure 1 clearly reveals the primary source that we have been forced to use to pay the bill for near-term readiness. For more than seven years (labeled in the figure as the "procurement recess"), we have sacrificed our procurement accounts to assist in meeting the growing costs of keeping our aging equipment and weapons systems "ready." During this time we have deferred roughly $3.6 billion of much needed ground equipment modernization alone in order to fully fund near-term readiness in compliance with Secretary of Defense guidance. As I pointed out in September, while we have consistently defined a requirement of $l.2 billion in procurement, that only reflects the "steady state" needed to avoid additional protraction of the timeline from research and development to operational capability. $1.2 billion will not restore the modernization dollars that were spent on near-term readiness over the past seven years. To attain the required modernization at the originally planned rate, the actual procurement requirement is S1.8 billion each year for the next five years.

(Graphic not available)

Figure 2 depicts a sampling of what is happening with just four of our essential ground equipment end items -- the amphibious assault vehicle (AAV), five-ton truck, reverse osmosis water purification unit (ROWPU), and our primary power generation equipment sets -- as a result of the procurement recess. Under each, the item's present average age and its originally programmed service life are listed along with the expected average age of the item by the time it is replaced under current budget constraints. In each case we are, at best, rapidly approaching the planned service lives of our current systems. In fact, in three of the four examples, we have already exceeded them.

Our Marines are working feverishly to maintain the 27 year old AAVs while we have been forced to invest $309 million in a "Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability/Rebuild to Standard" (RAM/RS) initiative to keep it operational, at an affordable level, until the Advanced Amphibious Assault Vehicle (AAAV) is introduced in 2006. Some of our medium truck fleet will have served five years (20 percent) longer than its planned service life by the time we procure the Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement (MTVR). The reverse osmosis water purification unit and our power generation sets will have served two and a half times longer than their programmed lives by the time they are replaced with 21st Century capabilities!

We must do better than this or equipment failures will exceed our Marines' capacity to repair them. As I pointed out in September, our young men and women are already working in excess of fourteen hours each day, and often for six days a week, to maintain this equipment while aboard their home station and theoretically in the "recovery" portion of their deployment cycle. The equipment is breaking down more frequently, and it is spending more time away from the training units while in repair. Additionally, because we are now forced to replace entire assemblies instead of simple parts, the cost of repairing the equipment is climbing to excess.

(Graphic not available)

Figure 3 illustrates the "procurement recess" impact on our aviation readiness. Like Figure 2 it depicts the present average age, originally programmed service life, and anticipated retirement date for four of our crucial end items -- in this case aircraft. In each instance, we have met or exceeded the aircraft's programmed service life. By the time we replace the UH-1N Iroquois utility helicopter it will be 34 years old and will have served 14 years longer than was initially planned. Investment in the 4BN/4BW program to upgrade the UH-1N and our similarly aging AH-lW Cobra attack helicopters, therefore, must be considered a necessity. Thanks to your support with plus-ups during the past three years, we have been able to procure seven KC-130J aircraft to begin replacing the significantly less capable KC-130F Hercules refueling aircraft. Others may question the KC-130J plus-ups, but for the Marine Corps those plus-ups have been critical to the health of our KC-130 fleet. While the KC-130 has operated for nearly twice its planned service life, DoD topline constraints have precluded our budgeting for additional required replacements.

Even after a service life extension program, our CH-46E Sea Knight medium troop transport aircraft met its extended programmed service life this year. This is our primary troop transport aircraft. By the time we completely replace it (along with the 36 year-old CH-53D Sea Stallion) with the revolutionary MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor, vertical/short take-off and landing aircraft, the CH-46E will have served 47 years! In terms of longevity, this is virtually the equivalent of taking the Wright brothers' aircraft, flown at Kitty Hawk in 1903, into aerial combat during the Korean conflict in 1950! The aircraft age would be the same -- 47 years! Yet every day our Marines are boarding Sea Knights to accomplish their mission. Needless to say, your help in advancing the procurement of the Osprey has been greatly appreciated.

As I pointed out in my earlier testimony, the costs of maintaining our aging fleet of aircraft are becoming exorbitant. We have experienced a 43 percent increase in our average cost per flight hour in the last three fiscal years alone. As with our ground equipment, our aircraft are spending increasing amounts of time in the maintenance hangars and are unavailable for proficiency training. Also like our ground equipment, the price of obtaining spare parts is rapidly becoming prohibitive. Modernizing our aging aircraft fleet is simply the only solution.

The cost of failing to properly invest in modernization is also being seen in our infrastructure. Our bases and stations are the "carriers" from which we launch our forward-deployed forces. They must be kept afloat. However, within the constrained resources available to the Marine Corps, we are approaching the point of being able to perform only the most critical readiness related infrastructure maintenance. Maintenance resources must be applied across all categories of facilities (both operational and support) to keep our installations viable for the long term.

As I have testified for the past four years, we have been forced to make infrastructure maintenance and recapitalization one of the bill payers for near-term readiness by underfunding our property maintenance, military construction, and family housing accounts and diverting these funds to maintain our aging weapons and equipment. Funding in each of these areas remains austere, and under existing topline constraints does no more than slow the deterioration of our facilities. In spite of efforts to contain it, our backlog of unfunded maintenance and repair of real property grows by approximately $60 million each year and will exceed $1 billion by FY03. To reverse this trend, our Maintenance of Real Property account needs to increase an average of $125 million (for a total of $500 million) a year; and in order to attain the defense goal to eliminate substandard family housing in FY10, our family housing funding should be increased by a total of $940 million from FY00 through FY10.

Our austere military construction program also remains seriously underfunded, allowing us to focus solely on meeting our most immediate readiness needs (installation operations and training facilities), complying with safety and environmental standards, and maintaining our commitment to bachelor quarters construction. At current funding levels, our plant replacement cycle exceeds 190 years, compared with an industry standard of 50 years! Our goal is to replace our physical plant every 100 years by investing one percent of the plant value in new construction. Attainment of this modest goal would require an additional $75 million each year across the Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP). If we attempted to achieve the industry standard, it would require an additional $275 million per year.

The FY99 budget initiates a long overdue reversal of the steadily declining resources allocated over the past several years to ground equipment modernization funding. But the FY99 level for Marine Corps procurement remains considerably below our historical average of $1.2 billion. It is essential to note that it will take years to recover from the cumulative effects of low procurement levels caused by the "procurement recess." Ground and aviation modernization requirements must be fully funded in order to ensure the future readiness of the Marine Corps. An additional $500-$650 million per year across the FYDP is required for procurement of ground equipment, and another $750 million per year is required for aviation equipment to sustain Marine Corps readiness and capability into the next century.

Your Marines have risen to the challenges of today's fiscal realities by doing everything humanly possible to maintain the readiness of their aging unit equipment and weapon systems. Our approach to warfighting dictates that we "equip the man," and not "man the equipment." I am concerned that, given our present funding, we are failing to properly equip the Marine of the next century. If we are to remain the world’s only superpower, we simply cannot continue in the direction we have been heading. At the dawn of an age where, increasingly, the actions of the individual Marine can have strategic implications, we cannot afford the risk of our maintenance burden becoming so onerous that repair efforts begin to replace training and field time. Similarly, we cannot allow such a maintenance burden to impact on the morale of our Marines. We are precariously close to that point today.

Quite simply, we are ready today because of your Marines' tremendous commitment; their high, uncompromising standards; and their selfless sacrifice on behalf of their nation. As always, the American taxpayer gets full value from their Corps of Marines. They are our greatest success story and we must vigilantly guard the quality of both our recruits and the Marines we retain into subsequent enlistments. Through Herculean effort, our recruiters have successfully "met mission" for forty-two consecutive months. They continue to exceed every DoD and Marine Corps quality standard in the process ... and you can be sure that your Corps sets the highest standards! We need to reinforce our recruiters' success by providing them with the resources to continue recruiting bright young men and women of character from today's extremely competitive and challenging market.

Although we are presently successful in our recruiting efforts, our manpower outlook is not entirely promising. The increasing demands we are placing on our Marines and their families, coupled with the nation's lucrative, private sector economy, are beginning to threaten our retention efforts. While we currently have very few retention problems, the growing disparity between our Marines' quality of life and that of their civilian counterparts is making retention of the highest quality Marines for our career force more and more challenging. In the 21st century, the individual Marine will increasingly operate with sophisticated technology and will need to make the tactical and moral decisions once required of only our more senior officers. Retaining our very best Marines to serve as our leaders in the challenging environment of the next century is critical!

We should bear in mind that the "all volunteer force" is somewhat of a misnomer. In reality, it is an "all recruited force," and we must afford service members similar advantages to their civilian counterparts with respect to job satisfaction and care for them and their families. Breaking away, as was done in 1986, from historical retirement plans and benefit services conveys a message to our Marines that the nation does not appreciate their many sacrifices.

As Marines make their career decisions, the erosion of benefits translates into a growing perception that military careers are less advantageous than civilian employment. Our unit commanders routinely cite dissatisfaction with the 40 percent retirement pension at 20 years of service (called Redux) as one of the foremost reasons for separations prior to retirement eligibility. Originally intended to keep our military personnel in for longer periods of time, it has had the exact opposite effect! Marines who entered the service after 1986 are, twelve years later, just beginning to understand the importance of their future retirement. They note the disparity between their pension benefit and the 50 percent, "traditional" pension at 20 years afforded to their predecessors, and they wonder why their service is considered less significant. They are asking themselves whether 40 percent of basic pay at the earliest retirement date is adequate compensation for the level of sacrifice our nation demands from them and their families. Their answer is not to stay in longer, as was the goal of "Redux" ... their answer is to get out after the first enlistment. Their answer is not to make the services a career. The commanders' assessments indicate that Redux considerably reduced enticements for having a military career and will increasingly become a deciding factor regarding continued service. The negative impact on retention, in turn, will degrade the stability and quality of our officer and non-commissioned officer force. Readiness will eventually suffer as more experienced personnel leave for the civilian job market and are replaced by less experienced, and in some cases less qualified, Marines.

By restoring the traditional retirement plan, preserving benefit services, pursuing the reduction of the civilian-military pay gap, and enhancing their quality of life through appropriate equipment and infrastructure repair and replacement, we can demonstrate a clear and genuine appreciation for the selfless service provided by our Marines and their families. Your support for this goal was evident in the 3.6 percent pay increase for 1999. As we continue in our quest to further close the civilian-military pay gap and reduce this critical readiness challenge, we need your continued support for the planned 4.4 percent pay raise in 2000 and the proposed replacement of the Redux retirement plan.

A few of our readiness concerns were addressed by the administration’s FY 99 $1.1 Billion Readiness Supplemental Request which you approved, and of which the Marine Corps received a total of $64.6 million. While many might consider this an inconsequential amount, it is exceptionally important to a service accustomed to getting the most out of every dollar they receive! This funding provides modest relief in several areas critical to near-term readiness, to include: recruiting, providing clothing and equipment that Marines in the field need to survive and sustain themselves, and performing critical maintenance of aging equipment. Of course, while we are grateful for this supplemental relief, it does not begin to address the root of our readiness challenges. We simply must adequately invest in ground equipment and aviation modernization; infrastructure, to include maintenance of real property, military construction, and family housing; and quality of life initiatives to include adequate compensation.

I believe that we have a cogent, cost effective, and common sense plan to maintain near-term readiness while simultaneously transitioning to the Marine Corps our nation needs in the 21st century. But I cannot execute that plan without additional funds. At this unique time -- a strategic inflection point when emerging technologies, if exploited, will fundamentally alter and substantially increase our warfighting capability -- we cannot afford to sit idle. Technology is ever changing, and if we are going to maintain our technological advantage in defense, we simply must modernize the force.

Our plan to do so is not haphazard. As Marines, we have long prided ourselves on frugality with respect to our nation’s treasury. Your Marine Corps has aggressively pursued every opportunity to mitigate the impact of our funding shortfalls. We have implemented improved business practices; bought used items instead of new ones, such as recapped tires; and remanufactured major aviation end items. Unfortunately, while buying some time, even these actions do not solve our modernization and infrastructure problems.

More significantly, we have attempted to take advantage of the fact that we are presently unchallenged by a military peer-competitor and are unlikely to be challenged anytime during the early portion of the next century. We have been willing to accept some level of risk during the transition to new, 21st century capable equipment and weapons systems. To the maximum extent possible we are attempting to leverage those "leap ahead" technologies which promise a warfighting edge well into the next century, while minimizing expenditures on procuring evolutionary technologies and maintaining old systems that do not promise a significant advantage on tomorrow's battlefield. We elected to refrain from pursuing procurement of the F/A-18 E/F Superhornet and to extend the service life of our AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft via the Remanufacture Program in order to replace both the Harrier and our F/A-18 C/Ds with the revolutionary Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

This represents a substantial risk on our part. Our present fixed wing aircraft are aging, and it will take some sacrifice for us to maintain them while we wait for the JSF to come on line. Yet the battlefield of the next century demands an aircraft with the JSF's capabilities. The future of Marine Corps aviation -- and therefore our ability to field expeditionary, combined arms task forces -- is inextricably linked to the JSF program. The Short Take-Off and Vertical Landing (STOVL) variant of this aircraft will provide us with a superior performance, state-of-the-art, multi-mission jet aircraft that can operate with full mission loads from amphibious class ships or austere expeditionary airfields. The JSF will be a superior attack aircraft; a stealthy, top-line fighter; and an escort for the MV-22 troop transport aircraft -- all in one platform. Replacing both the F/A-18 C/D and the AV-8B, it will surpass the combined strengths and capabilities of both these aircraft. This "neck-down" approach will result in optimal commonality between variants and minimize aircraft life cycle costs. These efficiencies are multiplied several-fold when you consider that the JSF will also replace our Air Force's F-16 and our Navy's F/A-18 C/D, along with the Royal Navy's Harriers.

The equipment we procure must support new operational concepts that are focused on winning in the 21st century battle environment. To meet the challenges of the 21st century and to capitalize on the promise of emerging technology, the Navy and Marine Corps are, together, pursuing a bold new operational concept ... Operational Maneuver from the Sea (OMFTS). When OMFTTS is fully implemented, forward deployed Navy and Marine Corps forces will be significantly more capable of operationally decisive action as an independent force, a component of a joint task force, or a partner in combined operations. Through OMFTS, the Navy and Marine Corps will exploit the technological dominance of American industry and of our national laboratories to substantially enhance our mobility, command and control, logistics, and combat support capabilities. But again, we can only build an OMFTS capable force and maintain our current readiness with additional funding.

I am optimistic that beginning in FY 00, we will start to do just that. In our recent exchanges with the President, we have been given every reason to believe that the administration recognizes our present readiness concerns and fully intends to begin addressing them. The budgetary planning guidance that we recently received indicates a firm commitment by the administration to begin rejuvenating defense investment, to reverse current modernization trends, and to facilitate building the force our nation needs in the next century.

The administration's plan -- if strictly adhered to over the course of the FYDP -- will start to put an end to our neglect of force modernization. However, it still falls short of providing the resources we need to fully recover from the procurement recess in the most timely and cost effective manner. As I mentioned to you in September, the Marine Corps requires $500-$650 million per year across the FYDP for procurement of ground equipment and another $750 million per year for aviation modernization to meet that goal. Delaying these resources continues to defer the problem to the "out years," and every year it is delayed causes us to pour still more of the taxpayer's money into maintaining our legacy equipment. While the readiness "cancer" becomes more manageable, it continues to metastasize -- just at a slower rate.

The bottom line remains that we are ready today, but our readiness has come at the expense of investment in our modernization, infrastructure, and quality of life accounts. The administration's recent budgetary planning guidance represents a chance to reverse this downward spiral. It is an opportunity to curb the wasteful tide of investment in maintaining our legacy equipment and weapons systems, and a chance to start the transition to the "911" force our nation will require in the 21st century. It is a good beginning, but your help in supporting, maintaining, and building upon this commitment is crucial. The problems we have faced are the result or over seven years of insufficient funding. The solution to these problems cannot be achieved overnight -- it will take a sustained period of increased funding to recover from the cumulative effects of years of underfunding.

We can, and must, meet the challenges of today while concurrently building the defense capabilities our nation will require in the future. Now is the time to put our money towards the future -- towards tomorrow's threat. Your naval services have a clear view of that threat, and a well-defined plan for building the force needed to meet it. We need your help to get there. Your continued support in providing for our Marines and for the modernization of their equipment and weapons systems will keep us the nation's "expeditionary force in readiness" into the new millennium. We are ever mindful that it has been your consistent, steadfast, and unfailing support that has preserved our ability to answer the nation's "911," call during this critical time of post-Cold War adjustment. Your Marines know what you have done for them, and they greatly appreciate it.