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Ranking Member Courtney’s Opening Remarks For Seapower And Projection Forces Subcommittee Hearing On The Air Force Projection Forces Aviation Programs and Capabilities for Fiscal Year 2016

March 4, 2015
Press Release

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

Today’s hearing is a look at an important but perhaps overlooked element of our subcommittee’s jurisdiction. The witnesses from the Air Force will provide important insight into the budget request as it relates to “projection forces,” and I look forward to their testimony.

Our tankers, bombers and transport aircraft serve as the backbone of our nation’s force projection and mobility capability. Yet, they also face a common enemy -- age. Our tankers and bombers are largely legacy programs dating back decades and, in most cases, these aircraft are significantly older than the airmen and women flying them. Our bombers, for example, are an average of 39 years old and our tankers are an average of 50 years old. 

The 2016 budget includes significant resources both for modernization of legacy programs and replacement of others – the KC-46A Tanker Replacement and the Long Range Strike Bomber being among the top priorities in this area. These are important programs that must continue to move forward in order to meet the needs of our nation’s security in the decades ahead. I look forward to getting an update on these and other modernization efforts from our witnesses. 

Another area of particular concern for Connecticut is the modernization of our C-130H fleet. Thanks to the Total Force Proposal authorized by Congress in 2013, the “Flying Yankees” of the 103rd Airlift Wing in Connecticut are now a proud C-130H unit. This mission, which ends several years of uncertainty after losing their A-10 mission in BRAC 2005, provides a sustainable and relevant for our state and an important mobility capability for our nation.

Over the last several years, Congress and the Air Force have struggled to move forward on a clear plan to modernize our C-130Hs. In the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, we provided authority to the Air Force to move ahead with critical near term upgrades necessary to comply with upcoming FAA mandates that go into effect in 2020. I am eager to hear from the witnesses how the Air Force will move forward with these upgrades, as well as your plan for an achievable and sustainable long term plan for C-130H modernization.

Finally, I will close by underscoring the urgent need for Congress to take action to address sequestration and pass a budget with adequate support for our defense and domestic priorities. There are many programs before us today that require significant support in the years ahead, all of which will be put under severe strain absent action by this Congress to fund the budget at least at the levels proposed in the President’s request.

Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing form our witnesses.