Ranking Member Courtney's Opening Remarks For Seapower And Projection Forces Subcommittee Hearing On Department Of The Air Force Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request For Seapower And Projection Forces
“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing on the 2018 Air Force budget request for the projection forces programs within our jurisdiction. Thank you, as well, to our witnesses here today.
The tankers, bombers, and airlift programs that fall under the “projection forces” side of our panel’s oversight serve as the backbone of our nation’s ability to bring and sustain the power that preserves our nation’s interests around the world. As we know all too well, however, these important aircraft all share the common enemy of age. The tankers and bombers in service today are largely legacy aircraft. These aircraft, in most cases, are much older than the airmen and women who fly and service them.
That is why it will be critical that we ensure that the 2018 budget properly invests in the refueling, mobility, maritime patrol and long-range strike programs under our purview.
Among other things, the budget continues to reflect the high strategic priority placed on two critical recapitalization programs – the KC-46A Pegasus Tanker and the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber. Both of these programs are vital to ensuring that our nation can continue to support operations around the world, and respond when needed.
Another continued area of concern for me and for this subcommittee is the modernization of our C-130H fleet. Back home in Connecticut, the “Flying Yankees” of the 103rd Airlift Wing have largely completed their transition to their new C-130H flying mission. Half of their aircraft recently deployed overseas on their first combat mission, which was a capstone to years of effort to stand the unit up stemming from the 2005 base closing round.
As we all well know, the C-130H fleet is an aging one in need of modernization. This panel led the efforts in the 2015 NDAA to unlock the avionics modernization program needed to upgrade these aircraft to meet international airspace restrictions by 2020. A second phase of the program is focused on additional cockpit and technology upgrades. We have heard testimony about the progress made on both these increments of the avionics modernization program, and would appreciate any updates on how the 2018 supports these efforts.
Along those lines, Congress has invested substantial resources into other C-130H modernization initiatives, such as upgraded engines and propellers. It is my understanding that funding provided in 2016 and 2017 is currently on hold pending the results of operational testing being conducted right now. Given the strong interest we have in ensuring that the C-130H remain relevant into the future, I would appreciate an update on this testing and the way ahead.
Finally, over the last year Congress has made meaningful and bipartisan progress in limiting the impact of sequestration and the Budget Control Act. While mitigating the across the board cuts in 2016 and 2017 was important, the fact remains that our Air Force, like the military at large, remains handcuffed by sequestration in 2018 and beyond. World events will continue to have further demonstrate just how important it is for all of us on this committee and our colleagues on both sides of the aisle, to come together to make the compromises needed to protect our security and support the needs of our nation.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses and our colleagues on the subcommittee.”