RANKING MEMBER COURTNEY’S OPENING REMARKS FOR HOUSE ARMED SERVICES SUBCOMMITTEE ON SEAPOWER AND PROJECTION FORCES SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING ON DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE FY2019 BUDGET REQUEST FOR SEA POWER AND PROJECTION FORCES
“Thank you Mr. Chairman, and thank you to our witnesses for being here. Today’s hearing is an opportunity to discuss the bomber, tanker, and airlift platforms that ensure that we can respond anywhere, at any time, around the world.
The 2019 budget request for these programs reflects the challenging balancing act facing the Air Force and the Congress. For instance, the budget continues significant investment in major replacement programs like the B-21 bomber and the KC-46 tanker. At the same time, a large portion of the request also covers a range of modernization efforts aimed at keeping older legacy bombers and tankers operational and relevant for years to come.
This is not an easy balance to maintain, and your input today will help our subcommittee evaluate whether we have the right in this year’s defense bill. With that in mind, I wanted to quickly highlight a few areas of focus.
As I noted earlier, the 2019 budget continues significant and needed investment in the KC-46 tanker replacement. However, I remain concerned about additional delays in this high-priority program. Just last week, the Air Force announced that the delivery of the first operational tankers may not occur until next year. I hope our witnesses today will explain how the Air Force is working to address the program’s schedule and the impact of delays on the rest of the tanker fleet.
Another ongoing area of ongoing and bipartisan interest on our subcommittee is the modernization of our C-130H fleet. This subcommittee has led the way in moving upgrades like the Avionics Modernization Program, or AMP, forward after years of delay and I appreciate the Air Force’s continued support for AMP in the 2019 budget. However, I am disappointed that budget does not fund other needed upgrades like new high-efficiency propellers and engines for this fleet. I look forward to exploring this issue more in our session today.
I also hope that our witnesses will provide additional clarity into recent developments on the Air Force One replacement program. There have been very public and high level pronouncements about a deal to save $1 billion on the new aircraft. Unfortunately, to date very little detail has been provided to our subcommittee, or the American public, about this arrangement. At the same time, the Air Force is moving forward on costly sole source contracts to sustain and upgrade the current Presidential aircraft. I believe that our subcommittee deserves greater insight into what is happening with this program as well begin our work on this year’s defense bill.
Finally, I wanted to take a moment to highlight the “Flying Yankees” of Connecticut’s 103rd Airlift Wing. In 2017, the wing demonstrated the versatility and relevance of the C-130H mission by deploying both overseas to support ongoing missions abroad and domestically in support of hurricane relief. Whether it was flying over 1,300 combat sorties or delivering over 200 tons of food, water and supplies to hurricane victims, the men and women of the 103rd showed just out valuable they, and their aircraft, are to our nation.
Thank you again to our witnesses. I look forward to today’s discussion.”