Mister Chairman and distinguished members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to share my views of current Naval force structure impacts on fleet operations with you today.  Your continued appreciation and support of the dedicated men and women who serve in our Navy any your supportive efforts on their behalf have positively affected our ability to respond worldwide.  We in the Fleet are keenly aware of your support, and sincerely thank you for it.

As Commander, Third Fleet, I exercise operational control of assigned forces in the Eastern Pacific.  I am responsible for the training and preparation for deployment of West Coast and Hawaii-based Naval forces, and primarily support requirements in the Central Command, the Western Pacific portion of the Pacific Command, and counter-drug and engagement operations in the Southern Command. 

Today, there is just barely enough force structure to carry out the National Security Strategy.  With current force structure, maintenance funding, and operational commitments, we have been able to provide forces to meet major requirements, but this is not to say that a simple re-shuffling of schedules provided the solution.

As Fleet Commander, a primary mission of COMTHIRDFLT is to protect our area of the Pacific Ocean.  This requirement is met by prioritizing requirements, and apportioning forces based on those requirements.  In the past, for example, when a Soviet submarine was suspected of being in the Eastern Pacific, many ships, submarines and aircraft would have been engaged in the detection and tracking effort.  This was good for crew morale, and provided a valuable training opportunity while achieving the area protection mission.  Today, when a Russian submarine is in the Eastern Pacific, the minimum number of assets needed to ensure it is detected and tracked is applied because additional assets are simply not available.

As a force provider and trainer, Third Fleet provides trained and ready forces to the Unified Commanders.  For COMTHIRDFLT, the National Security Strategy is defined primarily through the Global Naval Force Presence Policy (GNFPP).  The opening sentence of the GNFPP states that USCINCCENT, USCINCPAC, and USCINCEUR each has a requirement for continuous carrier battle group and amphibious ready group (ARG) with embarked Marine Expeditionary Unit (special operations capable)(MEU (SOC)) presence within their areas of responsibility.  We have not had the force structure necessary to meet this requirement for several years.  Therefore, the GNFPP apportions the available CVBGs and ARG/MEU(SOC) assets among the Unified Commanders so that, on average, there are approximately 2.5-2.75 CVBGs and 2.5-2.75 ARG/MEU(SOC) forward deployed at all times.  We currently have the force structure to continue to meet the minimum GNFPP apportionment guidelines.  However, guidance from the Chief of Naval Operations states that each CVBG should contain six surface combatants; due to force structure limitations CVBGs deploying from the West Coast normally deploy with only four surface escorts.  Because of increased combat capability of our modern platforms the power represented by this reduced number is in no way reduced, but there are many times when numbers count as much or more so than the combat capability of any individual unit, especially in the forward presence role.

Another requirement of our force provider mission is to provide continuous surface combatant presence to USSOUTHCOM, and approximately 180 days of combatant presence to USCINCPAC for their counter-narcotics missions.  We have met this minimum requirement.

COMTHIRDFLT also has the mission of theater engagement.  For forces on the West Coast, this means routine exercises with Japan, Canada and Chile, and one major biannual exercise with Canada, Chile, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom.  Our force structure has allowed us to continue these exercises, although the periodicity of many of our exercises recently changed from annual to biannual due to force structure reductions. 

Another important aspect of theater engagement is that of the port visits our ships make to non-Navy ports in the United States.  These port visits provide a valuable opportunity for the people of America to see first-hand the fine men and women of their Navy, and allow our Sailors to enjoy many areas of the United States they would otherwise not see – from Alaska to Southern California.  This is very important to us, and we think it’s important to the other Americans our Sailors meet.  We have not been able to conduct as much of this type of engagement as we need to.  Force structure limitations, and the very important and necessary constraints on underway periods needed to provide homeport time to enhance the quality of life of all Sailors, means that we are not able to fill the requests of all West Coast ports which want Navy ships to visit.  In the area of theater engagement, there are frequently requests for ship visits on the West Coast that go unfilled.  Engagement is part of our mission; port visits are important to readiness, recruiting, retention and morale.   

While not a platform or a weapon, there are shortfalls in numbers of critical systems that inhibit our ability to train effectively.  For example, the shortage of satellite channels limits our ability to train to use our network-centric warfare capability effectively.  Shortages of precision guided munitions greatly restrict our ability to train and most effectively use what are clearly the weapons of choice to improve combat effectiveness and survivability.

Decreased assets have caused us to be more creative in how our platforms are used.  For example, due to the shortage of attack submarines on the West Coast, ballistic missile submarines are frequently used to provide the opposition force for battle group training.  However, this brings its own challenges, as we are not allowed to have non-U.S. ships and aircraft obtain acoustic signature data on our ballistic missile submarines.  This is a significant problem, as Canada is a frequent and important participant in our joint force training exercises.

Deploying battle groups and amphibious ready groups do not have sufficient intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance awareness due to training constraints.  The limited availability of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms – EP-3s, P-3s, U2s, and unmanned aerial vehicles – during training evolutions (fleet, competitive, and joint task force exercises) precludes appropriate training and architecture-testing prior to deployment.  All intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets, specifically unmanned aerial vehicles (such as GLOBAL HAWK and PREDATOR) and Air Force U2 aircraft, are required in order to provide realistic joint training for Navy units afloat.   An organic signals intelligence airborne capability with capabilities similar to the ES-3A is required.  For THIRD fleet training in FY2000, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance asset availability is heavily dependent on Air Force contributions.  No replacement for Navy organic signals intelligence airborne capabilities is anticipated in the near future, therefore the availability of other assets for Battle Group training is even more important. 

Lack of organic airborne signals intelligence capabilities has reduced battle force indications and warning posture.   Furthermore, lack of organic airborne signals intelligence has degraded indications and warning support to combat search and rescue, strike, and other high priority war-fighting missions in support of operational commanders.  Air Force airborne signals intelligence has not routinely been able to support Pacific Command battle group and amphibious ready group training.

Intelligence personnel force structure afloat is also barely adequate.  Aircraft carrier Intelligence Specialist manning has been reduced.  Personnel gaps exist during the inter-deployment training cycle that prevent efficient training.   Battle groups routinely need augmentation from other units.

COMTHIRDFLT is fortunate that the only force structure change occurring in FY2000 in ship and submarines is the decommissioning of JOHN A MOORE (FFG 19), to be replaced in FY2000 upon the commissioning of USS LASSEN (DDG 82).  The result is no change in the overall number of ships and a net increase in the capability of the Fleet with this modern asset.

While there are slight decreases in force structure of specific aviation squadrons, the overall force structure of Third Fleet aviation assets is projected to increase by sixteen aircraft in FY 2000.  However, my most significant concern about our aviation force structure is the advancing age of our aircraft due to increased operational tempo and inadequate modernization and aircraft replacement rates.

There is no longer a sufficient number of Tomahawk missiles to fully load every deploying ship.  The projected buy of Tactical Tomahawk should solve this problem in the future, and conversion of some older Tomahawks and some submarine variants to surface launch capability will mitigate this problem until Tactical Tomahawk is in the fleet in sufficient numbers. However, until then, we must very carefully manage existing numbers and types of this critical war-fighting asset. This management often entails sending our Tomahawk capable ships out of their homeports to Naval Weapons Stations for on load and off load operations more frequently than desired.

Training missile and weapon expenditures are also underfunded. Our Naval Aviation squadrons do not have sufficient numbers of precision guided weapons with which to train. As the demand for precision and speed grows, we must provide aircrews with an adequate number of precision training weapons to ensure that they are ready on day one when called upon to go into combat and quickly produce results with minimum casualties and collateral damage. In the Surface Warfare area, Third Fleet ships require 17 Sea Sparrow missile firings to maintain an M2 readiness level; in 2000 due to resource constraints we are allocated 8.  Likewise, we require 6 RAM firings to maintain M2 in training; in 2000, only 3 are allocated.

I would be remiss as an operational Fleet Commander if I did not mention the effect of increased encroachment on our ability to conduct realistic combat training.  It is imperative that Naval forces continue to be able to conduct full spectrum mission training, to include live fire training; without it we cannot train, evaluate, or certify battle groups and amphibious ready groups for integrated combat operations.  Inability to conduct realistic combat training also puts our Sailors and Marines at unnecessary risk; no one wants their first experience of realistic combat conditions to be in actual combat.  The Navy is acutely aware and is a strong supporter of efforts to protect our environment.  However, protection of the environment must be balanced with support for the best possible training for our Sailors and Marines.  The current status of the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility in Vieques, Puerto Rico is the most visible and acute example, but by no means the only one, of the continuing and pervasive encroachment by civilian organizations and government agencies on our ability to conduct realistic training.   This cannot be allowed to continue without a tremendously negative effect on our ability to quickly and effectively fight and win in combat.  Every branch of our armed forces is faced with increasing pressures on our ability to conduct needed training from a variety of diverse interests. Tension exists between government agencies and special interest groups in virtually every area in which we train.  We must protect our ability to meet current and projected needs for the development and fielding of the next generation of weapons, for their effective employment tactics and for the training of our forces in their use.  Since the inception of the military training range system during and following WWII, the armed forces have lost half of the space that was once available to conduct training and tactical development. The effect of training range encroachment, in all of its many forms, has negatively impacted the effective combat training of our forces and will increasingly continue to do so unless we are successful in protecting the vital national security assets that our training ranges represent.  Addressing these issues in a coherent and balanced way is of great importance to our future success in combat and to the safety of the men and women who we send in harm’s way.

Force structure throughout the Navy is such that an increased commitment anywhere necessitates reduction of operations somewhere else, or a quality of life impact due to increased PERSTEMPO.  We have been conducting Northern and Southern Watch for many years, and training CVBGs, ARGs, and surface escorts for those operations is one of the primary missions of Third Fleet.  When the situation in Bosnia/Kosovo required that the Atlantic Fleet CVBG return to the Mediterranean instead of staying in the Arabian Gulf as planned, this did not mean that the demand for forces in CENTCOM was any less.  Therefore, the Western Pacific CVBG, USS KITTY HAWK, deployed on short notice to take up the commitment in CENTCOM.  This resulted in a gap in CVBG coverage in the Western Pacific, with a resulting risk to PACOM objectives and the loss of training and engagement that KITTY HAWK would have provided to the Pacific Commander.  Ultimately, CONSTELLATION deployed early, catalyzed by North and South Korean gun firing skirmishes at sea, with the battle group’s final training preparations conducted enroute, in the Hawaiian operating areas, prior to continuing Northwest to the Seventh Fleet area of operations.

The crisis in East Timor caused a similar ripple effect and is an appropriate example of how the Navy is being stretched.  The National Command Authority and the Pacific Commander decided that the United States would support the Australian-led peace keeping operation in East Timor by providing heavy lift helicopters.  Because of East Timor infrastructure difficulties and force protection considerations, it was decided that sea-based helicopters provided the most appropriate and timely response.  The only ship that could meet the required time line was the USS BELLEAU WOOD, whose homeport is Sasebo, Japan.  Because of a previous emergent deployment and a large percentage of time already out of homeport, BELLEAU WOOD could not stay on station in the Timor Sea for the period of time desired by the U.S. commander.  Therefore, it was decided to have USS PELELIU sail early from the Arabian Gulf and relieve BELLEAU WOOD.  This resulted in no ARG/MEU(SOC) presence in the Central Command area of responsibility, resulting in increased risk to CENTCOM objectives and the loss of training and engagement that PELELIU would have provided the Central Command Commander.  Until a recent decision was made to use civilian contract helicopters to sustain the heavy lift requirement, USS ESSEX was preparing to deploy on two-week notice from San Diego.  Had we been required to deploy ESSEX, this would have violated some of the Navy’s quality of life PERSTEMPO rules, but it was the only other solution that met the heavy lift requirement to support forces deployed to the area.  Additionally, East Timor required the unplanned deployment of the Kitty Hawk battle group and the Belleau Wood ARG.  Although the Navy met the requirements dictated by the East Timor crisis, this increased presence near Indonesia necessarily caused a reduction in Naval presence in both Southwest Asia and near Korea.

While these examples point out the inherent advantages of flexible, forward deployed Naval forces, they also clearly show that there are not enough forces to meet all of the Unified Commanders’ requirements.  The inherent elasticity that results from a properly sized and trained force is becoming more difficult to realize.  The ability to surge forces in support of major theater war contingencies does not match the requirements.  We would not, in my view, be able to surge forces as quickly or as well resourced as we did in preparation for Operation Desert Storm in 1990 because we do not have assets much beyond those required to sustain today’s rotational deployment operations.

Additionally, the strain on assets is being manifested in other ways.  Non-deployed aviation readiness has leveled out, following several years of steady decline.  However, non-deployed aviation readiness remains below the CNO’s readiness goals.  Lack of fully mission capable (FMC) aircraft at the Fleet Replenishment Squadrons is a major limiter in the throughput in the aviation training pipeline.  All surface ship and submarine readiness indicators are steady or slightly declining over the past two years.  The average number of CASREPS per submarine has increased 2.5 times over the average in 1995.  Not only is the number of total CASREPS increasing, but the average age of CASREPS is also increasing.  The civilian technical representative community has been cut 25 percent since 1996.  And our ability to provide the war reserve material and sustainment for a major theater war has decreased significantly, mainly in our ability to provide the munitions, in particular, precision munitions, necessary for a major theater war.

Nowhere was the stress of high demand – low density more evident than with our EA-6B and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft.  Increased support requirements during Kosovo operations caused the EA-6B and ISR squadrons to operate at a maximum surge capacity that was far beyond their sustainable mode of operations.  This surge required the use of personnel and equipment from non-deployed squadrons, placing added stress on people and resources.  To meet these expanded requirements the EA-6B community is being restructured to include another squadron.

We need to invest in a modernized and capable force structure now with a focused and expanded program in order to maintain Naval superiority well through the first half of the 21st century.  First and foremost, we must do whatever it takes to recruit, train, and retain quality Sailors.  This year’s increases in pay and retirement accounts are a good start, but they are only the beginning of what is required.  Beyond pay and benefits, our Sailors must believe that they belong to a quality organization, one with a focused, important mission – our Sailors have to believe in themselves, and they must be convinced that the American people see their Navy as relevant and important.  They must be given the tools to succeed – training, technologically superior ships and aircraft, adequate spare parts, and fully funded modernization programs.  I believe our retention statistics reflect a belief among our junior Sailors that we have not provided them the tools for success that are indicative of a quality organization.

On the horizon, there is a broad array of technologies ranging from electric shipboard propulsion, to extended range guns, new and improved aircraft, enhanced ISR coverage, improved submarines, new precision guided munitions, and new amphibious lift, to name only a few.  The common and highest leverage technologies, however, remain those in the realm of information processing and exchange.  Future platforms and weapons systems must be able to take advantage of technological innovations and be fully integrated to utilize network-centric warfare principles, they must be easy to maintain, and they must be reliable.  But most important, they must be present – forward deployed – in sufficient numbers that they provide the deterrent and response capability needed and expected by our national leadership.

As always, the future is hard to predict.  The inevitable increase in the realm of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, particularly in direct support of regional stability as part of our National Strategy, is emerging in the Pacific.  Whether a natural disaster in a benign country, or violent turmoil involving armed force, these are likely and emerging requirements.  I do see continued high demand and stress on an already hard working and near-capacity force, with decreasing flexibility to sustain the current pace of events with the resources in hand.  I know that you share my desire that our Navy remain fully ready and capable of deterring conflict; reacting to crises and winning our nation’s wars should it be necessary to do so.  

As greater emphasis is placed by the American people on fast and effective combat, minimizing collateral damage and avoiding casualties, we must have the tools to succeed – realistic training, technologically superior ships and aircraft, adequate spare parts and fully funded modernization programs.  Given these necessary and essential tools, the talented and dedicated Sailors and Marines we are recruiting and retaining today will ensure our Nation continues to deploy the world’s premier naval force.

Thank you for your continued strong support, and for the opportunity to testify before this subcommittee.