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Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Hearing on Fiscal Year 2025 Department of the Navy Budget Request

JACK REED:

Good morning. And since we have a quorum, I will begin by asking the committee to consider a list of 3,549 pending military nominations. All of these nominations have been before the committee the required length of time. Is there a motion in favor to report this list of 3,549 pending military nomination to the senate?


UNIDENTIFIED:

So moved.


JACK REED:

Is there a second?


UNIDENTIFIED:

Second.


JACK REED:

All in favor? Aye.


MULTIPLE UNIDENTIFIEDS:

Aye.


JACK REED:

The motion carries. Thank you very much. Good morning. The committee meets today to receive the testimony of the -- on the president's budget request for the Department of Navy for fiscal year 2025. I'd also like to welcome Secretary of the Navy, Carlos del Toro; Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Lisa Franchetti; and Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Eric Smith.

I would note that this is Admiral Franchetti and General Smith's first posture hearing before the committee. General Smith, on behalf of the committee, I'm pleased that you are joining us in good health and good spirits -- not surprising for a Marine. So thank you, sir. You and your family have been in our thoughts, since your medical emergency last fall.

And we're thrilled at your remarkable recovery. We are grateful to each of our witnesses for your service, and for the service of the men and women under your command, and for the support of all Navy and Marine Corps families. And would you thank them for us, please. The importance of the Navy and Marine Corps joint mission has never been clearer.

Just last month, Iran launched hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel, prompting US Navy vessels in the region to work with the Air Force, Israel, and partner nations to successfully shoot down the incoming munitions. In addition, Houthi rebels in Yemen have launched hundreds of drone and missile attacks against US and international vessels in the Red Sea, disrupting nearly 15 percent of global commercial trade.

However, the American led coalition has shut down the vast majority of these attacks, and has carried out hundreds of airstrikes against Houthi targets and other Iranian proxies, significantly degrading their capabilities. I commend the service members who have taken part in these operations, as well as the Navy and the Marine Corps leadership in facilitating humanitarian support to Gaza.

Our adversaries should take note of the capabilities of the United States and our allies to bring to any conflict. Indeed, in other cities and ports around the world, particularly the INDO-PAYCOM, the Navy and the Marine Corps will continue to be the first line of deterrence and defense against China and other competitors expanding ambitions.

The United States Navy remains the finest in the world. But our maritime forces must adapt quickly to this changing threat environment. To that end, President Biden's defense budget request for fiscal year 2025 includes $257.6 billion in funding for the Department of the Navy. Within this budget, the Navy has requested a number of new ships, the procurement of several new destroyers, frigates, and logistics vessels is well reasoned.

However, the Navy has requested procure only one Virginia class submarine in fiscal year 2025, diverging from the longstanding, two per year plan. Instead, the Navy has requested one submarine, for roughly $2 billion, to improve the capabilities of the submarine industrial base. I understand this was a difficult decision, and I would ask our witnesses to discuss their reasoning, in detail.

Additionally, I would like to know how the recently passed National Security Supplemental Appropriations bill will help improve the situation, particularly with regard to the submarine industrial base and workforce. And let me commend Senator Wicker for his efforts to include $3 billion in that supplemental.

Finally, I would like the witnesses to discuss their expectations for submarine production numbers in the future. Challenges similar to the submarine program are being experienced by other programs, in both private and public shipyards. The department has undertaken its Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization program, which represents more than $25 billion in planned investment over the next 25 years to modernize and improve our Navy shipyards.

The Navy recently completed a 45 day assessment of its shipbuilding program. As the Navy's review makes clear, there are significant hurdles facing the service and the nation to continue modernizing the fleet. Secretary del Toro, Admiral Franchetti, I would appreciate your outlook on Navy's efforts to improve shipbuilding and ship maintenance programs.

General Smith, the Marine Corps is in the midst of a substantial transformation, focused primarily on competition in the Indo-Pacific. The service is restructuring around expeditionary concepts that will provide a more flexible, amphibious force that can support a broader naval fight, once ashore. Indeed, the Marine Corps is much more than a ground fighting force.

It must help control the sea and air in support of the joint force. To achieve this, the Corps is prioritizing a number of modernization efforts, including long range fires, enhanced air and missile defense, and improved ground and amphibious combat vehicles. These platforms should help equip the Marines with improved force protection, lethality, and mobility.

And, General, I would ask for an update on the force design concept and progress. There also may be discussions this morning about the appropriate amphibious force structure. I understand that the Marine Corps continues to seek 31 large amphibious ships to meet its requirements, in addition to smaller vessels, to support the Expeditionary Advance Base operation concept.

Others have asserted that fewer amphibious ships are necessary. I would ask each of the witnesses for their -- an update on these discussions. Again, I want to thank the witnesses for appearing today, and I look forward to their testimonies. As a reminder for my colleagues, there will be a closed session immediately following this hearing, in room SBC 217. Now let me recognize the Ranking Member Senator, Wicker.


ROGER WICKER:

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'm grateful to our witnesses for appearing today. And like you, Mr. Chairman, I want to extend an especially warm welcome to General Smith. General Smith, I think this is, without question, your first visit to this committee since your heart operation. My colleagues and I are very grateful for your recovery.

I was interested to see the special report on one of the news programs just a few days ago. My hat is off to the Good Samaritan, Tim Leland, a CPR trained bystander who happened along -- highly trained -- and was willing and capable of keeping you alive, helping you in your time of need. I'm grateful. And this nation is grateful to this young man.

And I know this experience has given you renewed appreciation for your loved ones and for the Marines you're leading. So, glad to see you looking so good. I want to join all of you in expressing our gratitude to the men and women serving in our Marine Corps and our Navy. In the Red Sea and elsewhere, they execute missions, of which there are no other naval forces capable.

For one example, our Navy has been the first to shoot down an anti-ship ballistic missile fired in conflict. They are accomplishing feats like this so routinely that our nation could easily forget what an astounding accomplishment that was and what astounding abilities we have. Destroyers like the USS Gravely, which was built in my home state of Mississippi, are protecting maritime commerce, our allies, and our own forces.

For months on end, they operate persistently within range of enemy weapons. Their skill and bravery are evident, but these missions come at a cost. Putting our young men and women on extended deployments, places sailor welfare, material readiness, and weapons inventory at risk. This committee has a lot of work to do. And we have a quantum leap that we need to make.

And we need to do it soon. The truth is, that our naval fleet is too small and too old to meet the demands of our combatant commanders and our national defense strategy, particularly in the years going forward. The urgent need to rebuild the Navy is not lost on this committee. The pertinent question becomes, how should we rebuild?

It's clear we will not be able to do so with the Navy's fiscal year 2025 budget request, which contains cuts to naval personnel, shipbuilding, weapons, and military construction -- will not be able to meet the -- the needs of our nation with that request. We're going to -- we're going to have to address this by working across the aisle.

And I'm glad to be sitting next to a chairman who has shown a willingness to do this, over time. Here are the facts. Compared to fiscal year 2023, President Biden has asked the Navy to take a 3 percent cut, when accounting for inflation. These cuts impact the capacity of our force. The Navy is asking to retire 19 battle force ships and procure only six.

It's just a fact. This is completely unacceptable. As I've done in the past, I want to work with my colleagues in congress, as I say, across the aisle, and in the other body, to fix the Navy's budget. The Navy has worked to do, internally, while my colleagues and I work on the budget. The secretary's 45 day shipbuilding review found delays across the entire portfolio.

For example, the constellation class frigate will be three years late, and will take nearly 10 years to deliver the lead ship. This is largely because the Navy cannot keep its requirements steady. Almost 70 percent of the requirements have changed since the Navy signed a contract. So the outcome that we see today is no surprise.

This is not an example of the industry underperforming. This is senior officials unable to manage a program. This is acquisition malpractice and a terrible waste of time and resources. I want to understand what urgent steps the secretary will take to improve the Navy as a customer, regulator, and technical authority.

The upcoming Landing Ship Medium program presents an opportunity for the Navy to avoid heading down the same disappointing path as the frigate. The Congressional Budget Office estimates a cost two to three times greater than the Navy had budgeted. This new program can apply lessons learned to ensure that the Marines get a ship at the capacity and schedule they need for campaigning in the Pacific.

I appreciate the efforts of the submarine industrial base community over the past five years. And I do appreciate the chair's kind words about our efforts and our success recently, in getting over $3 billion for the industrial base. The industrial base community is dealing with a holistic -- in a holistic fashion with structural workforce and supply chain problems.

That's why I insisted last year, as a condition for the AUKUS agreement, that the administration make a significant down payment on the submarine industrial base. This resulted in the $3.4 billion that was included in the National Security Supplemental appropriation. However, I remain concerned that this approach has not been taken for other ship classes.

Finally, I want to touch on the continuing recruiting crisis facing our military. Every service has struggled in recent years, but the Navy has been unique in its response. Other services have invested in reforms and new programs, without sacrificing quality. But the Navy has lowered standards. That approach does not appear to be working.

Recent reports indicate the Navy could miss its recruiting mission by nearly 15 percent this year. We need to know if that's true. The Army and Air Force are now optimistic about their ability to achieve their respective recruiting goals. It's time for the Navy to learn from every other service and reemphasize quality.

I hope our witnesses will explain to this committee how they plan to fix the Navy's recruiting crisis without sacrificing basic standards. And that's just the beginning of what I would like to say. We'll follow up more on some questions. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Wicker. Mr. Secretary, please.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Good morning. Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished members of this committee -- it is indeed, an honor to appear before you this morning to discuss the posture of the Department of the Navy. First and foremost, I'd like to thank General Smith and Admiral Franchetti for, again, answering the call of our nation, time and time again.

They, like all who devote their careers, and in many cases, indeed sacrifice their lives in defense of their fellow Americans, represent everything that makes this country a beacon of hope and freedom around the world. Together, our combined years of service to our country totals over a century, a century marked by multiple deployments, time away from home, and sacrifices made by our families.

And as we gather here this morning, tens of thousands of our sailors, our Marines, our civilians and their families are either stationed or deployed all over the world, making the same sacrifices and enduring the same trials that myself, General Smith, and Admiral Franchetti have faced throughout our own careers.

I think that gives us a special appreciation for their service. In the Indo-Pacific, our Navy and Marine Corps are sailing and operating alongside our international allies and partners in support of a free and open maritime commons, one where nations are secure in their access to the seas, and where their rights, within our exclusive economic zones are respected and upheld by all nations, including the People's Republic of China.

Across Europe, we, in cooperation with our NATO allies, are supporting our Ukrainian partners, as they continue to fight to restore their territorial and national sovereignty, as Russia's illegal, full scale invasion is now into its third year. And I commend congress for passing the National Security Supplemental last month, allowing us to continue providing support to our Ukrainian partners, as they fight to restore peace in their homeland, and indeed, defense of democracy for all countries and all free nations.

And in the Red Sea, as you have stated, Mr. Chairman and Ranking Member, our sailors and Marines have counted hundreds of missiles and drones launched by the Houthis these past six months, over 300, targeting merchant shipping and the warships of both the United States and our international allies and partners.

We are confronting an adversary supported by Iran, that has absolutely no respect for the innocent lives of civilian merchant mariners and one that is actively targeting our ships, attempting to harm our sailors and Marines, because we dare to defend the defenseless. And last month, the USS Carney and USS Arleigh Burke, both operating in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, intercepted several Iranian ballistic missiles heading towards Israel.

For those who question why the American taxpayer should provide for and maintain a Navy and Marine Corps, look at what is happening today in the Middle East, where we are defending the free flow of international commerce and actively defending our international partners and allies. Members of the committee, we appear before you today to ask for your continued support.

We are thankful for the support you've passed, and you've provided us in the past. Your partnership and your commitment ensuring that nearly 1 million sailors, Marines, and civilians of the Department of the Navy that we lead are ready on all fronts, at all times. While the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 required us to make extremely hard choices, the $257.6 billion in the president's budget request for fiscal year 2025, for our department, adeptly balances maintaining and modernizing the fleet and force of today against planning for the future force, while also taking care of our people, within those financial restrictions.

This budget directly supports our department's three enduring priorities of strengthening our maritime dominance, creating a culture of warfighting excellence, and enhancing our strategic partnerships around the globe. We are acquiring the most lethal agile, agile, and capable warships, submarines, aircraft, weapons, and systems that our world has ever seen.

We are also funding the research and development of transformational technologies, and fielding them more quickly to make our fleet more lethal and persistent within the current fit up [ph]. We're investing billions of dollars in the industrial base that supports us, while encouraging them to invest more in resources themselves at the same time.

And as responsible stewards of taxpayer money, we will enforce accountability to ensure that our sailors and Marines have the platforms and the capabilities that they need, on time and on budget. Above all else, we are taking care of our personnel and their families by focusing and improving housing, expanding childcare capacity, and increasing access to mental health resources, amongst other critical areas.

We are clear eyed about the challenges that our nation and our Navy faces today in the maritime domain, both commercial and naval. And as a maritime nation, we must confront the challenges of today and prepare for the potential conflicts of tomorrow, by investing in a strong Navy and Marine Corps. Again, it's an honor to appear before you this morning, and we look forward to discussing with you how best to deliver the Navy and Marine Corps capability that our nation requires.

Thank you.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Admiral Franchetti, please.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Chairman Reed, Ranking Member Wicker, distinguished members of the committee, good morning and thank you for the opportunity to testify on the posture of the United States Navy. On behalf of the sailors, Navy civilians and their families deployed and stationed all around the world, thank you for your leadership and your continued support in providing and maintaining the Navy the nation needs.

I'd also like to thank my teammate, General Smith, for his exceptional partnership and collaboration as we guide our services under the leadership of Secretary del Toro. Flanked by two oceans, the United States is, and always has been, a maritime nation, whose security and prosperity rely on access to the sea.

And for over 248 years, the US Navy has guaranteed that access, operating forward, defending our homeland, and keeping open the sea lines of communication that fuel our economy and underwrite our nation's security. The events of this past year and the actions taken by your Navy Marine Corps team in the Indo-Pacific, in the Mediterranean, in the Red Sea, and beyond, underscore the enduring importance of American naval power.

With an average of 110 ships and 70,000 sailors and Marines deployed at sea on any given day, the Navy Marine Corps team is delivering power for peace, deterring potential adversaries, and standing ready to fight and win our nation's wars, of deterrence fails. I could not be more proud of this team. No other Navy in the world can train, deploy, and sustain such a lethal combat credible force that operates from the seabed to space, at the scope, scale, and tempo that we do. This year's budget supports the National Defense Strategy and my priorities of war fighting, warfighters, and the foundation that supports them.

It enables the Navy to continue to meet our congressionally mandated mission, both in peace and war. It is strategy driven, maintaining our focus on the People's Republic of China as the pacing challenge, the acute threat of Russia, and other persistent threats, like the DPRK, Iran, and VEOs. Given the discretionary spending caps prescribed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and a top line increase of 0.7 percent, the Navy had to make tough choices, favoring near-term readiness, investing in our industrial base, and prioritizing our people, while assuming risk in future capabilities.

Within this fiscally constrained environment, the budget request fully funds the Navy's top acquisition priority and the most survivable leg of our strategic deterrence, the Columbia class submarine. It provides funds for six battle force ships, and incremental funding for two Ford class aircraft carriers in FY 2025, and continues our support to Marine Corps force design by maintaining 31 amphibious ships, procuring three LPDs, one LHA, and eight medium landing ships.

In total, the budget request procures 57 ships and submarines across the fit up. This budget prioritizes war fighting by funding our operations, training, and readiness accounts. It invests in our foundation, with funding for our installations, for our shipyard infrastructure optimization program, and for the broader defense industrial base, sending a strong signal to our industry partners on the need to increase our capacity, to meet the growing demands of the present and the future.

And it continues our strong commitment to our warfighters and our families, through pay raises for our sailors and Navy civilians, and investments in quality of service initiatives, such as unaccompanied, housing, education, childcare, and sailor resiliency. These initiatives, as well as others, enabled by your steadfast support, have helped us maintain historically high levels of retention, which is imperative, given the current recruiting environment.

And while this environment remains challenging, and our manning requirements at sea have increased, we are 2,500 recruits ahead of where we were last year at this time. And I remain optimistic that our marketing and data analytics investments will show additional progress throughout the year. As Chief of Naval Operations, I am committed to pulling every lever available to me to put more ready players on the field, platforms that are ready with the right capabilities, weapons and sustainment and people who are ready with the right skills, tools, training and mindset to defend our nation's security and prosperity whenever and wherever it is threatened.

I thank the committee for your leadership and partnership in ensuring the world's premier fighting force remains ready to preserve the peace, respond in crisis, and win decisively in war, if called. I look forward to your questions.


JACK REED:

Thank you very much, Admiral. General Smith, please.


ERIC SMITH:

Good morning. Chairman Reid, Ranking Member Wicker, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to represent your Marines today. I'd like to start by sincerely thanking this committee for its enduring support and your advocacy for a timely, predictable, and sufficient budget that enables the Marine Corps to remain first to fight.

I would also like to express my deep gratitude for the partnership between Admiral Franchetti and me, as we lead our respective sea services, under the leadership of Secretary del Toro. Whether deterring, responding to crisis, or in conflict, it will be the Navy and Marine Corps expeditionary forces who make first contact with partners seeking help or adversaries seeking a fight.

Our partnership collaboration and integration is a decisive advantage. Last month, I published my updated guidance to the force entitled Maintain Momentum. I chose this title, as I firmly believe the Marine Corps is on the right path, under force design. A few points from that document -- first, I believe the Marine Corps must continue to strike a balance between high end modernization and our commitment to persistent, forward deployed naval expeditionary forces that campaign and respond to crisis, globally.

This effort is represented by our Marine expeditionary units, the coin of the realm. Second, we must prioritize our operations with the Navy and its amphibious ships. And we must provide Marines with the organic mobility to rapidly maneuver from shore to shore, ship to shore, and back again. Third -- on recruiting -- our performance speaks for itself.

We'll continue to make mission, without ever diminishing our standards. Additionally, our top performing Marines are reenlisting at record rates. And we must sustain this trend. Fourth, we must maximize the capability of our reserves to ensure that our nation has a ready bench of warriors that they have relied on since the founding of the Marine Corps Forces Reserve in 1916. Fifth, I'm dedicated to ensuring a quality of life for our Marines that matches the high demands we place on them every day.

That means nutritious food, high quality and accessible gyms, and a safe quiet place to recover from a hard day's work. Our barracks 2030 initiative is our most consequential barracks investment ever. And it is sorely needed. While aggressively pursuing these priorities, I commit to you that our core will always be frugal and accountable with the resources you and the American people provide.

I'm extremely proud of my Marines and civilian Marines, who enable the Marine Corps to receive an unmodified audit opinion earlier this year, the first of any service to do so. They told us what we have long known -- that when you entrust us with the taxpayers money, it is money well spent and fully accounted for.

All these things are critical to maintaining the strength and dominance of your Marine Corps. This year marks 249 years since the founding of our corps. That is 249 years of battles won and peace upheld in the name of democracy and prosperity, for our nation and for all nations who abide by the international, rules based order.

But increasingly, world events demonstrate this order is being challenged. Free trade, unrestricted access to the seas, peaceful cooperation between nations, big and small, are under assault. Our nation's prosperity is underwritten by a strong Navy and Marine Corps, who maintain a global presence and keep malign actors at bay.

Thank you again, for the opportunity to represent your Marines today. I pledge to continue to work closely with each of you to ensure your Marine Corps remains the most lethal fighting force on the planet. I look forward to your questions.


JACK REED:

Thank you very much, General Smith. Secretary del Toro, the comments both Senator Wicker and I made indicate that the shipbuilding program in the Navy is in disarray. The Columbia class, which is the most critical platform that the Navy, and perhaps the nation, is trying to build, is behind schedule and it might fall further behind.

It puts extraordinary pressure on the Virginia class submarine construction. They're already behind 1.2 ships versus two ships a year. You've responded by sending up a request for one Virginia this year, and see a significant investment in the defense industrial base. The first question I have, though, is there seems to be management problems in all these programs.

Some of it is the changing requirements on the ships, so that the contractor suddenly back to square one, in some cases, others as to the inability of subcontractors to produce etc. And I must say, one of the jobs that you have, and it's a tough job, is to find out who's responsible and to take directed action to correct it. So could -- could you tell us what you're doing to ensure accountability in the programs to get them back on track?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. As you suggest, there are a lot of challenges in the shipbuilding industry. And they actually date back to the 1980s, when we gave up on commercial shipbuilding in this country, and lost so much of the talent in the shipbuilding industry. That was compounded, tremendously so, by COVID. And the enormous challenges that we have, with regards to blue collar labor in this workforce, that actually impacts across all programs, because the industry, and even the Navy, in its public shipyards, just simply don't have the people that are necessary to work in our shipyards.

That's sort of the base denominator of it all. But the recent problems that we've actually seen here -- and I don't agree with the characterization that this is all about management, by no means of the imagination -- these are difficult challenges that are presented to the Navy, and as well, the shipbuilding industry, that we have to deal with, clear on. So the delay of major components for the construction of Virginia class, as well as the Eisenhower, is the major reason for the delays in these programs.

So on the Eisenhower, for example, you have Northrop Grumman that's building the main reduction gear, when General Electric used to do that. And they are behind in delivering the main reduction gear, in addition to the high pressure and the low pressure turbines to that carrier, which is why it's behind.

In the case of the Virginia class submarines, it's the turbine generators that are being delivered by Northrop Grumman that are significantly behind. In addition to the quality assurance challenges that have been presented down in Norfolk Naval Shipyard, associated with the nosecones of those submarines that you're very well familiar with, as well -- that has led to significant delays, such that the New Jersey that was just delivered a couple of weeks ago, was delivered three years late.

Now some of this isn't just maintenance problems. It's again, attributed to blue collar workforce challenges that we're having, the greening of the workforce. You could argue that, years ago, as you have stated before in other testimony, you know we had 50 year old supervisors working with 50 year old naval engineers in the Navy.

Today, it's 35 year olds working with each other, right? That has led to significant challenges, with regards to quality assurance. Now in the case of the frigate, quite frankly, it's a retention -- a recruiting and a retention problem in Wisconsin. So what we're trying to actually do, is many things; one, $3.9 billion in the submarine industrial base in fiscal year 2025, followed by $11 billion of investment over the rest of the fit up; $750 million investment in the surface industrial base.

Just in Fincantieri alone, we provided $100 million of resources to the shipyards, so they can provide $5,000 bonuses to their shipyard workers for the first year, if they stay in place, and another $5,000 if they stay in place throughout the construction of the ship itself. So we're doing everything that we possibly can to actually help industry and work with industry to get there.

Industry also needs to do its part. We have too many stock buyback plans that, you know, as we're investing $14 billion into industry, you know, we've got billions of dollars that are going out the other side of the door into stockholders. So they got to focus more on the customer than just the stockholders, as well, too.


JACK REED:

I concur with your final comment. We're looking at companies that are not performing, but are still being rewarded. And, as you point out, the contraction of our defense industrial base and shipbuilding is such that competition is not really there, as it was, perhaps 20 or 30 years ago. The need is great.

And I think we have to put more effort behind it. There's also -- and I -- my time is expiring. There's a capacity issue. I know you have a shipyard infrastructure optimization program, $25 billion over 25 years. That's $1 billion a year. I think we have to come to the -- a real question of, do we have enough shipyards to function, particularly in this environment, where China has 16 major premier shipyards.

And I've taken too much time. Let me recognize Senator Wicker.


ROGER WICKER:

I'm tempted to ask that you be given another five minutes, Mr. Chairman. But I won't do that. Let me ask General Smith and Admiral Franchetti about medium size landing ships. Now let me start with you, General Smith. It's my understanding the Marines originally sought an affordable landing ship of less than $150 million, based on what you saw with the logistics support vessel that Israel was having built.

Tell me what the landing ship mediums will do. And again, we have only five minutes for this round of questions. What will they do, in a -- in a nutshell?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, thanks for that question. The landing ship medium transports are expeditionary forces, inter island. It's beachable. It can get up into low water mark beaches, and it enables us to have access to the entire first island chain.


ROGER WICKER:

And so we're talking Pacific, Indo-Pacific islands.


ERIC SMITH:

Focused on the Indo Pacific, but certainly employable in the Mediterranean.


ROGER WICKER:

OK. So, there's been requirements growth. And I think everyone on both sides of the dais are -- are concerned about this. The CBO now estimates that the landing ship medium will cost two to three times more than this $150 million Israeli landing ship. How many of the original Israeli logistic support vessels could you use?

And what reason would we have for not being able to use those, where you're going to need them?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, the Israeli version does not meet our requirements for beach gradients. The beach gradient of one to 40 is critical, because it opens up access --


ROGER WICKER:

One to 40.


ERIC SMITH:

Yes, sir. Yes, sir.


ROGER WICKER:

That doesn't --


ERIC SMITH:

It means the curvature of the beach, its ability to beach itself, and then back itself off.


ROGER WICKER:

OK. Are there islands where it would work?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, there are. But they would -- they would limit us in our ability to spread throughout the first island chain, to counter the PRC.


ROGER WICKER:

OK. So you are telling this committee that you -- you really can't use any of these logistic support vessels that the Marine Corps initially planned to use?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, they would not be purpose built. We could use them, but we would lose capability. We'd lose access to parts of the Indo-Pacific that we currently need to have access to, in order to counter the PRC's continued aggression.


ROGER WICKER:

To what extent could they be modified, without going two to three times more than the original budget?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I'll have to get back to you on that, on the ability to modify them, without increasing costs.


ROGER WICKER:

Well, obviously, it would -- it would increase cost. But how is it that -- I suppose the Israelis are -- are interested in different kinds of -- different islands and different areas. And it works for them. But -- but it -- what -- what percentage of the islands in the Pacific could you use the existing vessel?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I don't have an exact number for you. I can get back to you on that.


ROGER WICKER:

OK. Well, please do. Let me ask Admiral Franchetti to answer that question on the record. Let me just ask you this, in the time we have, the minute we have. Secretary del Toro, There's a lot of interest in this committee about a four ship buy of Amphibs. Will you commit to a multi-ship buy of amphibious warships?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I am highly enthusiastic for the four-ship, multi-year procurement. I always have been. and we are in final negotiations with the shipyard to actually put forward the proposal. Obviously, depend on what the numbers come back. But we are aggressively pursuing all negotiations with the shipyard to get to a four year, multi ship procurement on amphibious ships.


ROGER WICKER:

When will you be able to give us a more firm answer there?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I hope, within the next 30 to 60 days, sir.


ROGER WICKER:

All right. But can we assume that the -- that we're -- we're all working toward a yes answer?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Absolutely, sir. We have the authorizations, we have the appropriations, and I just want to move forward with the final negotiations to get the best price, on behalf of the American taxpayer.


ROGER WICKER:

OK. Thank you very much.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Wicker. Senator Shaheen, please.


JEANNE SHAHEEN:

Good morning. Thank you, all, for being here, and for your service to the country. One of those initiatives that I think has been helpful to expanding capacity, are the supplier development funds. They can flow down to small businesses, which are so critical to the innovation that we need, if we're going to expand in the way that we want to. We have an important subcontractor in New Hampshire, called Granite State Manufacturing, who's been able to use those funds to expand their capacity to support, both the Virginia and Columbia class submarines.

As the direct result of receiving this funding, they've also formed a partnership with the local community college, which has been critical in providing skilled workers. So can you speak, Secretary del Toro, to the importance of those submarine supplier development funds, and how other small businesses might be able to take advantage of them?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Very much so, senator. They're extremely important. And our PEO SSBN actually is working very, very closely with industry, as we actually obligate the submarine industrial base monies, as well, with small and medium sized companies, to ensure that they have stable funding, to be able to sustain themselves.

It's extremely important. And we're highly committed to it and there's no reason to think otherwise.


JEANNE SHAHEEN:

Good. Thank you. You -- you mentioned along, with Admiral Franchetti, the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan, the SIOOP. And the Navy's call that a once in a generation investment. But what we're seeing in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, for example, is that cost overruns have thrown that schedule off.

And I wonder if you could speak, maybe Admiral Franchetti, to your commitment to ensuring that that project stays on time, on schedule, and how confident you are that that's going to happen. And I should say, as part of that, how much I appreciate, as the Chairman said, Senator Wicker's commitment to getting the $3 billion for the submarine industrial base, that's been really critical to a project like the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, thank you. And the SIOP program is incredibly important, as you said, once in a generation -- 100 year old dry docks. This is really critical for our future, both to improve the cadence and the throughput on maintenance, but also to be able to fit our new platforms that we'll be developing. So again, really thankful for the investment in this.

I think -- I'm very committed. You know, Portsmouth is our first big project that we're doing. I've been up to see it a few times. And you know, they are about 47 percent complete. You know they are on track to meet their deadline in August of 2028. And the really good thing, is that they've been able to continue to do maintenance, while doing the optimization.

And it's very exciting. So not only the dry dock, though, as you know, we're looking across all four public shipyards to do the optimization with, both layout, to increase again, the efficiency of the yard, as well as upgrading the industrial equipment. So the lessons that we're taking from Portsmouth are already having a positive impact in Pearl Harbor.

And we look forward to continuing to learn.


JEANNE SHAHEEN:

Well, the 2023 Inspector General Audit on Environmental Threats to Naval Dry Docks at the four public shipyards, talked about the vulnerabilities and the need to address sea levels and flooding. Portsmouth is -- is one of the only four to have implemented those requirements for resiliency. But we saw, in January in a storm, that water levels came within inches of the top of one of the caissons.

So it's not clear that those resiliency plans are actually going to be good, long term. Can you talk about how you're continuing to look at maturing those climate action plans to address resiliency?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yep. Resiliency, not only of our shipyards, but also of all our bases. We're continuing to focus on that. You know, all of those projects are designed to be resilient, to any sea level rise, as well as seismic. And we're continuing to work to address those needs, as we design the -- the remainder of the projects, as well.


JEANNE SHAHEEN:

Thank you. Finally, I just wanted to speak to the comments that you all made in the beginning, about the Indo-Pacific and the freedom of the seas. I just returned, with Senator Gillibrand and some other Senators, from a trip to the Indo-Pacific. And one of the things we heard in our visits to the Philippines to Vietnam to South Korea and to Japan, was great concern about the PRC's continued incursion into the South China Seas and their territorial waters; the importance of maintaining that freedom of navigation; and their appreciation for the work that our Navy has done to help them.

So thank you very much for that. I think that's a very important mission that we've got to continue to support.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Shaheen. Senator Budd, I recognized now.


TED BUDD:

Thank you, Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member, for allowing me to go just a few minutes early. And thank my colleagues, as well, as I'll be attending the unveiling of the new statue of the Reverend Billy Graham, a great North Carolinian, a great American. So thank you all for being here. General Smith, certainly glad to have you back with us for many, many reasons.

General Smith, this year's Marine Corps request, it included significant investments in Cherry Point North Carolina. These projects support F-35 aircraft maintenance and operational readiness. I visited the station in February. And I was impressed by the great things the Marines are doing there, especially with the MFA-542, the East Coast first operational F-35B squadron.

So if I recall correctly, the MFA-542 recently achieved full operational capability. So how will this capability impact the Marine Corps operational flexibility and technological edge?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, having a full up round, F-35B squadron enables us to move to the next level of combat. Those aircraft are able to collaborate, through a classified system, in air, to target adversaries. They're able to run at low signatures. And they're able to penetrate enemy air defenses, like no other aircraft we have.


TED BUDD:

Thank you, General. Secretary del Toro, thank you again, for being here. So as proud as I am of our Marines, I've got deep concerns with the Department of Navy, particularly when I hear about some unfunded priorities. So why was the F-35 flight line utilities modernization project -- why was that on the unfunded priorities list and not integrated into the 2025 budget?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, sir, as I stated earlier, we have been pressurized by the Fiscal Responsibility Act in a significant way. And we had to prioritize readiness over modernization and capacity, as well, too -- and also prioritize our -- our personnel, first and foremost. And it led to very difficult decisions that I, otherwise, perhaps might not have made if it wasn't for those constrictions.

So that's why. That's the reason why.


TED BUDD:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. You know, my concern is that the taxpayers have invested heavily in facilities at Cherry Point. But it seems like you were hoping that we here, in congress, would pick up the tab to make sure that the proper utilities were supportive. So deep concerns there. General Smith, as you know, the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit from Camp Lejeune was extended during their deployment back in March, because of operational needs and involving -- evolving mission requirements.

So how does the Marine Corps balance maintaining crisis response readiness, and at the same time, pursuing force modernization in these types of situations?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, it's not easy. Every time we extend a marine expeditionary unit, we put an additional strain on those ships and we get the cycle out of balance. We're a three to make one force, three argnues [ph] to make one argnue [ph] deployed. So you're out for six months, you're home for 12. And ideally, you're home for 18. So when we have a lack of ready shipping and an extension of the argnues, then you -- you throw the cycle out of balance and you get a misshapen tire, so to speak.

And so it puts a strain on the forces that are forward deployed, because they're extended, and it throws out a balance the forces who are home preparing to train, because the ships they need to train with are forward deployed.


TED BUDD:

Thank you, General. If I understand correctly, the 15th MEU was supposed to deploy aboard the USS Boxer. And that's now unavailable. And the 24th MEU was -- from Camp Lejeune is supposed to sail aboard the Wasp, but that was delayed. So what are the status of these amphibs? And do you have enough ships to support pre-planned deployments in crisis response?

And then what are the long term impacts of ship availability on these MEU deployments?


ERIC SMITH:

Well, Senator, the CNO and I have lock shields, that 31 is the appropriate number of amphibs. That's 10 big decks and 21 LPDs. And through the SIOP, the ship optimization program, we're working to increase the readiness of those ships. But again, the CNO and I have locked shields on the required number, and we're working to get the readiness rates up, so that we can deploy as three ship amphibious ready groups.


TED BUDD:

General, if you would go specifically to the Wasp and the USS Boxer, what is the status of those?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I'll defer to the CNO on the status of their maintenance and their readiness.


TED BUDD:

Admiral?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

The -- so the Wasp is underway. During her certification exercise, probably be delayed from maybe just a few days from her original planned deployment. The Boxer has a material casualty on her rudder, which is being repaired right now. We expect, if the maintenance progresses as it is, on track, to be able to get her out on deployment later this summer.


TED BUDD:

Thank you. Thank you, Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Budd. Senator King, please.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Just last Friday, Senator Sullivan and I took a group of -- bipartisan group of our colleagues to the battlefield at Antietam, which was the deadliest, bloodiest day in American history. One of the units that day, that suffered almost 50 percent casualties, was the seventh Maine Regiment, led by a fellow named Thomas Hyde.

Thomas Hyde received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery that day, leading a charge, basically an unsupported charge into the Confederate lines. The relevance today, is that, after the war, he came back to Maine and founded Bath Ironworks. And Bath Ironworks is the yard that built the Carney and the Arleigh Burke that are now defending the freedom of navigation in the Red sea.

I just think that's a nice, circular history right there. And I can tell you, from Senator Sullivan's and my point of view, it was a very moving and important day that we spent at Antietam last week. Mr. Secretary, you know what I'm going to ask. Whenever I hear about what's going on in the Red Sea, I hear about knocking down Houthi missiles.

And my first reaction is, that's great. Our Navy is doing a great job. My second reaction is, we just shot down $100,000 worth of missiles with about $15 million worth of our missiles -- directed energy. I hope that the department can reprioritize, because the entire Defense Department has cut directed energy R and D and expenditures by 50 percent, by half, over the last three years.

I see directed energy as a crucial part of the Navy's future. Can you commit to me that you will advocate for renewed research, development, and deployment of directed energy weapons to defend this country across the -- across the globe?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I took my first laser course at the Navy Postgraduate School in 1986. And even back then, I thought that we needed to invest far more significantly in laser and high directed energy systems. I regret that we haven't done that for the past 30 years or so. We need to do that, moving forward. There's no question in my mind, to get to a place perhaps, five to 10 years from now, where we could actually start aggressively employing those capabilities on our ships.

We currently -- go ahead, sir.


ANGUS KING:

I hope it's on the five year range and not the 10 year range. This -- I like it that you say we're going to move forward. I want it to be urgently, because again, just from the point of view of economics, shooting down a $20,000 UAV with a $4 million missile does not -- we can't do that very long. Plus we're talking about a very, potentially powerful weapon in defense against, as we've learned in recent conflicts, aerial defense is what it's all about.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Sir, to the extent that I have authority to do so, in pom [ph] 26, I will absolutely do so.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you. Mr. Secretary, again, the DDX is the next level of surface combatant. There's been -- in our 2023 National Defense Act, we talked about collaboration. That collaboration is continuing between the shipyards and the Navy. I -- we can't let that falter, because first in class ships tend to be very expensive.

And one way to avoid that -- and what I'm looking for is, is collaboration still a priority for the Navy, between the Navy and the shipyards, in the design and conceptualization of this new surface combatant?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Certainly, senator. It not only is there a priority, but we're actually living it right now. And -- as we actually had to shift DDGX to the right a bit, partially because we want to be able to fully develop the technologies and the design of that ship, so that we get it right. And so greater collaboration between industry and the government, before we actually go to a full production on a fully designed ship is absolutely the right answer.


ANGUS KING:

Couldn't agree more -- maturity of design is critical. I'd rather move it to the right and not do the R and D and design as it's being built. That's what we've learned in the past, is not --does not bode well for the taxpayers or the -- or the defense base. Also, want to be sure there's a smooth transition for the DDG flight three, to the DDX. We can't have a gap, a trough, if you will, because as the senator from Mississippi knows, you can't turn off and on a workforce, the kind of skilled workforce that's necessary to build these ships.

So I hope that that's part of your planning, is a -- is a smooth transition between the two classes of ships.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Absolutely, senator. If I am afforded the opportunity to be here another four years, I'd be more than happy to do that. We have to ensure that, whether it's me or another secretary, that DDG flight three actually overlaps with DDGX, so that we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Had we done that years ago, for example, with regards -- between Columbia and Ohio, we wouldn't be facing the gap that we currently have, or may have in the future.


ANGUS KING:

Final point, in four seconds, we've talked a lot about shipbuilding. We need to focus and talk about maintenance and improving the throughput of our maintenance facilities, because ships that are sitting at the dock for a year or more are not serving the taxpayers or the defense of the country. So I hope that can be something that can be -- we can discuss further, perhaps take for the record.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, senator, we're doing more than just talking about it. From 2019 to the present, actually we reduced maintenance delays on surface ships by 56 percent. That is a significant, achievable milestone that we simply just don't amplify. But we are making tremendous progress in terms of the maintenance delays on our -- on our ships.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator King. Senator Fisher, please.


DEB FISCHER:

Thank you. Mr. Chairman. General Smith, it's good to have you back with us, in good health. And I thank the rest of our witnesses for their service, and also for being here today. However, I do share the concerns of many of my colleagues, about the Navy's performance, across the board, and whether it's adhering to the FY 2024 NDAA. Last year, after months of hearings and briefings on known capability gaps in our nuclear deterrent, this committee determined that [inaudible] was the best option to fill this capability gap.

In the FY 2024 NDAA, congress, on a bipartisan and a bicameral basis, formally established a program of record for [inaudible], and appropriated significant funding to NNSA to develop the warhead, and to the Navy to develop the missile itself. Admiral, during your nomination hearing last September, you testified before this committee that the nuclear armed sea launched cruise missile is, quote, 'a tailored option that the president should have.' Do you still agree with this statement?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, I do.


DEB FISCHER:

Mr. Secretary and Admiral, I am deeply concerned that the Navy did not request any funding for [inaudible] in their base budget, or in the Navy's unfunded priorities list letter. This is a stark contrast to NNSA, which did include a robust funding request for development of the [inaudible], the warhead, in their unfunded priorities list.

Although the production decision remains years away, let me be clear, we expect the Navy to take all actions necessary to develop this missile, so that if -- if a decision is made to move to production, we can do so, without delay. And I expect to see this program included in your base budgets, moving forward.

For the first time since WWII, to shift gears here, we have Navy ships continuously operating inside the weapon engagement zone of enemy forces. On a near daily basis, we're expending significant, highly capable, and expensive munitions to defend against low cost missiles and drones. Mr. Secretary, we just heard concerns from Senator King.

And you know those concerns come from others, as well, that we need to be investing more in directed energy, so that we can get on the better side, when it comes to the cost per shot curve. But I am also concerned about our ability to reconstitute the missiles that were expending right now. So, Mr. Secretary, how's the Navy reconsidering its industrial base strategy to account for higher than expected levels of munition -- or weapon in attrition?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, first and foremost, senator, thank you for your support of our Navy and Marine Corps. And I know how deeply passionate you are around these issues. We, just in the Red Sea, over the course of last six and a half months, have expended close to $1 billion in missiles -- SM2s, SM6s, SM3s. And thank you for the authorities that you provided us in 2024. For example, for mis -- multiyear procurements for missile systems.

We actually are starting to make progress now, working with the industrial base. Both the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, and myself, have been working with industry. And those production rates are actually starting to come up now, so that we actually will see some increases in SM2 and SM 6 productions.

Obviously, the more sophisticated the missile, the harder it is to produce them. But nevertheless, we are starting to see some progress being made in the production base.


DEB FISCHER:

Thank you. Also, Mr. Secretary, I understand that the next rim of the Pacific exercise, it's scheduled for later this year. And that gives the Navy and the Marine Corps an opportunity to demonstrate their maritime combat capabilities. This is one of the many exercises that we have with our global counterparts.

How's the Department of the Navy investing in these exercises, to prepare for a potential power competition in the Pacific?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Exceptionally well, senator. To give you just two examples, the investments that we've made in Operation Overmatch, and perhaps, you know, just talk a little bit, although, that is a classified program, but will be exercised during RimPac 24, basically. We've also increased our collaboration with allies and partners for RimPac 24, which is very, very exciting.

And the -- on the autonomous side of the house, the unmanned Navy side of the house, we're actually looking to actually employ all four Overlord projects, as well, too, in an incredible way. So we're very excited about RimPac 24.


DEB FISCHER:

Thank you. General, how's the MRF Darwin integrating with the Australian Defense Forces?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, the Marine Rotational Forces Darwin are down there during the dry season. They're integrating very well. They're exercising with them. They're in position to forward deploy, from the southern end of the first island chain, to -- to secure those routes and to defend against the PRC's aggression. So they're doing very well.

And it's a -- it's a well done program. It involves our CH-53s, and it involves an infantry battalion worth of Marines. It's task organized to -- to distribute through the first island chain.


DEB FISCHER:

Good. a few years ago, I led a codell [ph], when they were getting the barracks, the containers ready for the first Marines that were going to be deployed there. So good to hear. Thank you.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Fisher. Senator Warren, please.


ELIZABETH WAREN:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. So the Navy acquires everything, from night vision goggles to aircraft carriers through contracts with big defense contractors. But the contractors often place restrictions on these deals that prevent service members from maintaining or repairing the equipment, won't even let them write a training manual, without going back through the contractor.

Now the contractors say that, since they own the intellectual property and the technical data underlying the equipment, only they have the right to repair that equipment. These right to repair restrictions usually translate into much higher costs for DOD, which has no choice but to shovel money out to big contractors whenever DOD needs to have something fixed.

So take the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship -- General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin considered much of the data and equipment on the ship to be proprietary. So the Navy had to delay missions and spend millions of dollars on travel costs, just so that contractor affiliated repairmen could fly in, rather than doing this ourselves.

Secretary del Toro, when a sailor isn't allowed to repair part of their ship at sea, and a Marine isn't allowed to access technical data to fix a generator on a base abroad, one solution is for the Navy to buy the intellectual property from the contractors. So can you say a little bit about what the benefits are of having -- of the Navy having technical rights for the equipment that it is purchased?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

The benefits are enormous, Senator. And we've actually had tremendous success, I'd say, in the last year and a half to two years, through the taxpayer advocacy program that we initiated when I came in. There have been three examples -- one, gaining the intellectual property rights for the new ACV class of ships that will replace the AAVs. The F-35 negotiations really proved themselves out in a significant way, as well, too.

And lastly, the 20 F18 ENFs that the congress authorized in 2022 and 2023, we were able to make significant gains, in terms of the government finally getting the intellectual property rights that were necessary for us to be able to properly sustain those, moving forward.


ELIZABETH WAREN:

So I am very, very glad to hear this. I like the Taxpayer Advocacy Project and how your training contract officers to secure technical equipment that the Navy buys. But I think you should have the support of congress on this. Senator Braun and I have introduced the Stop Price Gouging the Military Act to give DOD more tools to get cost and pricing data so that you will be in a better position to negotiate better deals with the contractors.

There's also more that we can do to ensure that the Navy and the rest of the services have the rights they need to bolster readiness. So let me ask you, Secretary del Toro, would having a stronger focus on right to repair issues during the acquisition process, like prioritizing contract bids that give DOD fair access to repair materials and ensuring that contract officers are looking into buying technical rights early on -- would that help the Navy save costs and boost readiness at the same time?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Very much so, senator. In fact, one of the things that we have prioritized, since I came in as Secretary of the Navy, given my acquisition background, is actually those negotiations need to happen as early as possible, before we -- even as we develop the acquisition strategy for that contract, to go out to bid.

And by doing so, we will reap tremendous returns. And in the case of the LCS, senator -- by the way, and I applaud former CNO, Mike Gilday, now our current CNO, Lisa Franchetti, for actually moving the LCS maintenance strategy from a contractor service focused strategy to a sailor focused strategy.


ELIZABETH WAREN:

Well, I very much appreciate the direction you're going in this. I want congress to be able to help you on this. Ensuring that our service member equipment works shouldn't depend on whatever price some contractor wants to set, after the fact. DOD should be able to follow your lead and secure the rights to repair in all of its equipment, early on. So thank you very much.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Thank you, senator.


ELIZABETH WAREN:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Warren. Senator Ernst, please.


JONI ERNST:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. And thank you to all of you for testifying in front of the committee today. I'm proud to have served for over 23 years in our nation's uniform. And I was first inspired, actually, Ukrainians. And these are the Ukrainians that I met on an agricultural exchange program in 1989. Then under Soviet control, my Ukrainian brothers and sisters asked me about what it was like to be free and what it was like to be an American.

And those moments, outside of the comfort of my rural Iowa upbringing, my Iowa home, inspired me to give back to the country that I love. And I came back from that exchange, and I joined Army ROTC at Iowa State University, where my patriotism was solidified. I'm grateful that my daughter and her husband have followed in those footsteps, and both are proudly now serving in the United States Army.

But today, folks, young people are not being inspired to serve. Frankly, the perks of service are tarnished, when an administration attempts to cancel everyone's student loans. Others have witnessed, and quite possibly been influenced by the anti-American rhetoric they see and hear from the left, both on campus and online.

Further, students who were kept out of the classrooms by COVID lockdowns are still reeling from the consequences. We have seen this, by the lowering of ASVAB scores by as much as 9 percent. Currently, only 23 percent of 17 to 24 year olds are fully qualified to serve. Our military is facing a dire recruiting crisis, and our service branches must address it. So Secretary, I will start with you.

And let's focus on this recruiting challenge. This year, the Navy is on track to be short, roughly 16,000 sailors. Just a few years back, in November of 2022, the Navy raised its maximum enlistment age to 41 years old. Now I would consider that young. But that's a little old for an initial enlistment. What is the Navy doing right now to remedy these challenges and increase recruitment?

How do we overcome this?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, first and foremost, senator, thank you for the comments that you made with regards to Ukraine. Someone who was born in a communist country, myself, and lost my homeland to communist and autocrats, I cannot thank you enough for your support of the Ukraine and for the supplemental. With regards to recruiting, it does remain challenging, for many of the reasons that you mentioned.

And it is all hands on deck. But I want to be clear, we -- we're not going to be 16,000 sailors short. We may be somewhere between -- less than 6,200. I think it's going to be far less than that, in fact. But we actually decided to actually raise our goal to recruit more sailors this year, unlike the other services.

So we set the goal at 40,600, because of the shortfalls that we will have at sea. So therefore, it's all hands on deck, and perhaps the CNO can comment briefly, on the multiple steps that are being taken to actually close that gap.


JONI ERNST:

OK. Thank you. And, historically, I'm going to go back to the comments I made about education, because historically, education benefits have produced more of our high quality recruits. And there was a Rand study that found the number of high quality recruits increased after the passage of the post 9/11 GI bill.

Do you believe that extending similar benefits to that of the GI bill, for non-serving individuals, through the administration's so-called student debt cancellation plan, has impacted recruitment efforts and undermined the fundamental principles of military service?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Ma'am, I'm focused on recruiting, you know, recruits into the Navy and the Marine Corps. And one of the -- when you talk to our recruiters, the biggest challenge that they sometimes have is, actually getting access to the high schools themselves. So we're working very closely with the Department of Education, and with supervisors from across the nation, to try to break down those barriers that our recruiters can actually get access to the high schools.

Currently they're being allowed two times a year. We want to increase that to about four times a year. I've written over thousands of letters to -- to high school principals, in fact, allowing our recruiters back in. That's the number one challenge that our recruiters have, in terms of getting to the high school students themselves.


JONI ERNST:

I am really glad you brought that up, secretary, because last year, I did have an effort to force high schools to allow recruiters into those high schools. It is law that they be admitted into those high schools. Five percent of our high schools across this great United States of America don't allow recruiters on their campuses.

So we'll continue pushing that effort for you, secretary. And I'm going to double back, because I will tell you, that I have had so many of my former soldiers come to me and say, I served multiple deployments overseas, for GI bill benefits, for those education benefits. And now others are getting them for not serving.

I think it's absolutely unfair what is going on across the United States today. I think we are wiping away the benefits that we have promised to those that have stepped up and worn the flag of these great United States. We have to do better. And we need to reward those that serve. And I think part of our recruiting challenge is that we don't reward those that serve enough, or we give their benefits to others that don't deserve them.

So thank you all very much for testifying today.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Ernst. Senator Kelly, please.


MARK KELLY:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary del Toro, I want to talk in a little bit more detail about the nuclear armed sea launched cruise missile, or SLCM, and I want to make sure that we're clear on the direction of the system and understand the opportunity costs that may come with fielding it. You know, I get that there is a arms control rationale here, that there is a -- possibly we could provide Russia with an incentive to both reverse development of, you know, a new land based cruise missile that's nuclear armed.

This could be part of a negotiation. You know, I get that part of it. You know, at the same time, we -- my understanding is we're developing a low yield, the W76-2, low yield SLBM warhead, that could fill the same need for a low yield weapon. My concern, though, is that fielding the SLCM-N would likely necessitate removing some conventional munitions from our submarines.

I'm especially concerned about the Virginia class submarines, and possibly having to sacrifice torpedoes for cruise missiles. You and I were aboard USS Indiana. And we spent some time in the torpedo room. And you know, the modification of weapon systems aboard a ship is significant. There would have to be changes in the safety system, security, storage, launch, communications, command and control for nuclear weapons, secure comms, authorization protocols.

So Mr. Secretary, I know you've previously voiced concern over development of a nuclear armed sea launched cruise missile. What -- I mean, do the -- does the Navy currently have plans for how we would integrate SLCM-N into a Virginia class submarine? And have we considered that we are likely -- if we were to do this, we're likely going to replace weapons that we would need and we are more likely to use in a conflict with China?

I mean, when you consider the number of ships we're dealing with and the number of torpedoes that we would need, we would have to replace those torpedoes with nuclear armed sea launched cruise missiles aboard a sub. So I just want to get your take on where we're going with this plan.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir, well, I think you hit the nail on the head, senator. And to be clear, we are moving forward with -- standing up the program management office, as required by the law. But having said that, I'm concerned about how it will operationally impact our -- our submarine force and their ability to, actually to conduct the tactical and operations that they actually need to do in the South -- in the -- in the Pacific and elsewhere around the world, that actually will prevent us perhaps from doing the things that we need to do tactically and operationally, by providing this SLCM capability to the submarine.

It will fundamentally change the mission of many of those submarines themselves. The second issue that I'm very concerned about, is the opportunity cost here, associated with the cost of the -- of the missiles themselves. This will be a multi-billion dollar program that will prevent us from doing other things that are equally important, I think, throughout our naval enterprise.


MARK KELLY:

Well, thank you. The -- the probability of us, in the future, using a torpedo against a warship is much higher than the probability of using a nuclear launched cruise missile against a target. So thank you. In my remaining time, Secretary del Toro, you've talked about the need for a renaissance in American shipbuilding.

You mentioned a little bit, as I was walking in the door here -- I think you labeled it maritime statecraft. I agree with that wholeheartedly. Right now, China, Republic of Korea, Japan -- they build about 98 percent of global ship construction. China is the world's largest ship builder, controls most of the merchant ships in the world -- 5,500. We have about 80 or 85, I think, merchant ships flying the US flag.

I'm concerned with the size and the status of the US Merchant Marine, and how it's a risk to our national security. As you know, insufficient commercial maritime capacity impacts peacetime trade and supply chains, but also has a great impact on our ability to move things we need to move, if we're engaging in combat somewhere across the globe.

And this isn't a capability that can be turned on overnight. As you know, we need to invest in this now, so we're ready in the future. That's why, last week, I released a bipartisan, bicameral report, with Congressman Waltz and Garamendi and Senator Rubio, called the Congressional Guidance for a National Maritime Strategy.

Our report provides a comprehensive vision to revitalize the nation's maritime sector. And now we're working to turn the recommendations from the report into legislation. I don't want to go over my time, but I'm going to submit some questions for the record to you on this subject.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I've read the recommendations and agree with all 10 of them.


MARK KELLY:

All right, thank you.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Kelly. Senator Sullivan, please.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And I want to thank the witnesses today. General Smith, it's good to see you back, sir. Semper fi. We're all really glad you're back. By the way, a little discussion on 31 amphibs -- what you're talking about -- remember, we directed that. So the debate is over. Right? That's a Congressional direction.

So I think it is important. One of the themes from this hearing, is the shipbuilding crisis that we are facing. I met with the CRS experts, Congressional Research Service, experts -- best in government, some have been doing this for decades. This was a quote from them. 'This is the worst position the Navy has been in, over the past 40 years, for designing, building, maintaining, and crewing ships.' That's what the Congressional Research Service experts said.

Senator Wicker has already said, this is acquisition malpractice. The Chairman said it's in disarray. I want to get more to the issue of who's responsible and what should be done to fix it. But let me begin. General Smith, would you agree that, as a leader in the Marine Corps, no matter what level you're serving at, accountability and responsibility is a critical component of leadership?


ERIC SMITH:

Yes, sir.


UNIDENTIFIED:

So, if a Marine platoon commander has a Marine who loses his rifle on an exercise, what typically happens to that Marine platoon commander?


ERIC SMITH:

That platoon commander will be relieved.


KEVIN CRAMER:

And that's not a hypothetical issue. In 2020, a battalion commander and a sergeant major were relieved after two rifles went missing on a training exercise at Camp Lejeune. Admiral Franchetti, paragraph 0802 of the Naval regulations, titled Responsibility of a Commanding officer, says that the responsibility of the commanding officer for his or her command is absolute.

What happens in the Navy, if a captain of a warship is asleep in her cabin, and an officer standing, watch collides with another ship?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Historically, they've been relieved of command.


KEVIN CRAMER:

So that is also not hypothetical. Since 2012, the CO of the USS Porter, USS Jacksonville, USS Antietam, the USS John McCain, USS Fitzgerald, USS Connecticut, have all been relieved. Mr. Secretary, congress, under Title X has given you the direction to, among other things, oversee the construction of outfitting and repairing of naval ships in an effective and timely manner.

One thing that I think has not been brought up here, is my assessment, respectfully of your tenure, is you haven't been focused on that. One of the things you've actually been focused on -- a lot on is climate change, where in your nomination hearing, you devoted a full paragraph on climate change. You never mentioned shipbuilding lethality or war fighting.

In your strategic guidance you issued to your department, you mentioned climate change nine times. You don't address the size of -- of trying to increase the fleet. You got to this committee, your climate action plan, a year before your shipbuilding plan. Where -- can you point to your Title X responsibilities for climate change, Mr. Secretary?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I spend 75 percent of my time on ship building. So I don't agree with your characterization.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Can you answer my question? Where is your Title X responsibilities on climate change?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

On climate change? It actually impacts everything, senator. It impacts --


KEVIN CRAMER:

Where are your Title X responsibilities that we gave you --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Manning equipment, training, sustaining.


KEVIN CRAMER:

They don't exist.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

You can't -- no, they do exist, senator. I disagree with you.


KEVIN CRAMER:

No, I am looking at Title X right now.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

And I'm telling you that climate change and the impact that it has on installation readiness --


KEVIN CRAMER:

Not in it, Mr. Secretary.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

-- actually has an impact on combat readiness.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Okay. I need you to just. Mr. Chair [inaudible] answer the question. I'm actually trying to ask questions.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, to suggest that climate change does not have an impact on combat readiness and installation readiness is -- it's just not correct.


JACK REED:

I would ask the senator to --


KEVIN CRAMER:

I'm asking for a little more time here, actually.


JACK REED:

Senator you -- you usually have a little more time. Let's first ask the question. I will allow --


KEVIN CRAMER:

Okay, well, let me answer the question I asked the secretary.


JACK REED:

-- allow the secretary to answer.


DAN SULLIVAN:

No. I'm going to answer it for him. It's not in Title X. There's nothing on climate change in Title X. The shipbuilding crisis that we have right now, is not just a fiasco. It's amplified by this, our main adversary, who is building ships at the rapid rate. In 2021, the PLA had 341 ships. This year they have 370, in 2025, they'll -- they will have 395. By 2030, they will have 435 ships -- 141 more ships than we have.

Our fleet, as we've discussed is shrinking. So, Mr. Secretary, I'm going to ask this final question. Marines and sailors that you lead have a strong culture of responsibility and accountability. In light of that, I feel compelled to ask, if a Marine platoon commander gets relieved, because one of his Marines loses a rifle, and a Navy captain gets relieved, because his crew hits another ship, while the captain is asleep, should the Secretary of the Navy be relieved or resign for failing on his number one mission, shipbuilding, particularly when he is spending so much time on issues that are not even part of his Title X responsibility?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Actually a good leader, what they do, is they actually take assessment of the conditions that exist when one comes in. And you know well, senator, that the acquisition issues that we're dealing with go back decades. What I'm trying to do, and have been doing from the day that I became secretary, was to be honest, transparent, and deeply committed to turning things around.

And that's exactly what I've done. The ships -- the 50 ships --


KEVIN CRAMER:

Let me ask one, final question.


JACK REED:

No. I must say, Senator Sullivan, your time has expired. Senator Kaine, please.


TIM KAINE:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. To Secretary Del Toro and Admiral Franchetti, I want to begin with a question that goes back a ways, and that is the mental health of our sailors. As you know, and Secretary del Toro, I thank you for accompanying me in the Hampton Roads area. In the last couple of years, we've had some serious issues with suicides among our sailors.

And we had two different units in Hampton Roads, very different circumstances. But there were some commonalities. One, folks who were connected with the refueling of the George Washington, which was in dock for a very long time; and second, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center, two thirds of whose personnel are sailors assigned to that billet, but one third of whose personnel were sailors in the fleet, who became assigned to the billet on a limited duty status, because they were pregnant, because they had a physical injury, because they had a mental health issue, because they had a disciplinary challenge in the fleet.

The suicides that happened at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center were all among the limited duty staff, who were there for kind of an unknown period. They weren't -- unless it was for pregnancy, people didn't know when or if they would be returning to the fleet. And they didn't know when they would know the answer to that question.

And folks on the George Washington had trained for an MOS, you know, as a surface officer, and then, they end up in a long term status, where the ship is in dock and they're not really doing the thing for which they trained. So in each instance, this grouping of suicides -- and each one was different, of course -- but the grouping of suicides happened among people who were probably experiencing a little bit of lack of purpose or confusion about their status.

This committee has passed bills like the Brandon Act, and in other ways, tried to encourage more focus on mental health issues. Can you give us, the committee, a progress report on implementation of the Brandon Act? The Navy was first to move out on it, but also just more generally, what you're trying to do to make sure that people feel that sense of purpose and that they don't -- their colleagues don't miss obvious signs that they need help?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, thank you, senator. Thanks for your commitment to this cause. And it's a very important cause, the mental health of our service members, Marine Corps and the Navy. First, it starts with treating people with dignity and respect, across the board. Specifically, with regards to the limited duty status, delays that existed, I would argue, a year ago or so, the CNO and the commandant actually worked hard at trying to limit the amount of time that personnel have to actually spend in a limited duty status.

But we've done a long list of other investments, thanks to the lessons that we actually learned about sailors working in shipyards, and particularly the George Washington, that have led to tremendous improvements. And perhaps, the CNO can comment on a few of those.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary. And mental health is health. You know, we're really focused on all of our sailors, and being able to contribute, to the best of their ability, every day to get after that war fighting spirit, and be able to do the job that they came into the Navy to do. You know, after that we stood up, at the direction of the secretary, quality of service, cross-functional team to really dive into a lot of the challenges that were experienced by the sailors there, in the Hampton Roads area.

And we're continuing to make good progress on those. In terms of mental health specifically, though, we put out a mental health playbook. It's really one stop shopping for sailors at every level of leadership, to be able to provide the -- all the different resources available to someone, to be able to connect them, whether it's a chaplain, whether it's mental health, whether it's military, family life counselors to really no wrong door of folks being able to get assistance that they need.

The other one is, that we found, you know, to reduce the stigma of potentially seeking assistance, is to put the assistance closer. So we have a lot -- 43 percent of our mental health and behavioral health techs are with our operating forces right now. And I would say the last one, on limdo [ph], we're doing a limdo do sprint right now.

But a couple of the things that we've done already are establishing a coordinator at each command, to be able to really coordinate what each one of those people are doing. And then, we're looking at, what is the limited duty condition, and what can they actually do to give them meaningful jobs, meaningful work, and that sense of purpose, until that is remedied.


TIM KAINE:

That is helpful.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

The other -- last one is, on the, you know, looking very closely at our shipyard manning, for extended overhaul periods, to make sure that a sailor doesn't do their entire first tour enlistment in a five year overhaul, that they actually have an opportunity to go and do what they came in the Navy to do. Those are just a couple examples.


TIM KAINE:

One last question, very quickly -- the industrial base is currently producing Virginia class subs at 1.3 a year. We need to be two a year, for our sake, and 2.3 a year to meet our commitments to AUKUS. When, based on the current investment levels of ours and the Australian investment, when will we hit two a year?

And when will we hit 2.3 a year?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, senator, I'm proud to report that, in the immediate, actually we're at 1. -- just slightly less than 1.4 now. So the investments that we have made in the shipbuilding industry and the submarine industrial base, for example, are starting to finally pay off. And keep in mind, as well, too, the continuing resolution of six months delay prevented us from making those investments, until just recently, as well.

So I'm hopeful that, by 2028, 2029 period, hopefully, we'll be able to get back up to the 2.0, 2.33 production rate that's necessary to be able to support AUKUS and support our submarine base, as well, too.


TIM KAINE:

Thank you very much. I yield back, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Kaine, Senator Cramer. please.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you to all of you for your service and for being here. I want to follow up a little bit on -- on the discussion, Mr. Secretary, with Senator Sullivan. Would you admit that you have said climate change is a very high priority for you, whether it's 75 percent or 25 percent or 2 percent?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I will tell you exactly what I said, that climate change is a top priority. I think anybody who denies that climate is not having an impact on our environment and our operational readiness is just insane.


KEVIN CRAMER:

You've said plenty already. You've said it -- plenty already. So your rationale for focusing on climate change, is that climate change is in everything. Therefore, anything -- you can focus on anything and everything and justify -- and --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

But I don't.


KEVIN CRAMER:

-- put it on climate change.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

But I don't. I'm focused, actually, on climate rise along our sea bases and our Marine Corps bases.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Fine -- different topic. That -- that's a -- that's an outcome, perhaps, but that's not a cause. And I think you -- the tendency is, you focus on climate as though we're the cause of it, or the Navy is the cause of it, as opposed to how you defend against it. But here's what I want to get to -- you rationalize focusing on climate change, because it's -- it's in everything and anything and, therefore, whatever you want to focus on, it all comes back to climate change.

And the message matters, Mr. Secretary. The message matters. Let me ask each of you this question. Other than climate change, what is our most significant threat to the United States and to our freedom and to -- to our liberties? Let's just say -- let's keep it to nation states. But what would those priorities -- who would those priorities be?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Would you like me to start first?


KEVIN CRAMER:

Sure, sure.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Look, the main threat to, again, with regards to climate change, is installation readiness and our ability to actually be able to deploy our ships from the ports that we so rely upon and to train our Marines in bases that are along the coast that we rely upon.


KEVIN CRAMER:

So do you think that China's going to wait for us to fix all of that before they make a move?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No. Nor is it interfering with the things that we're doing, actually, to deter China around the world, as well.


KEVIN CRAMER:

How much do you think China worries about climate change? How much -- how much does the China navy worry about climate change?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Obviously, they don't worry about it a lot, because they're the biggest contributor in the world to climate problems, right? So if they don't care about their environment, they don't care about their people -- those aren't the cultures and values that our military actually commits --


KEVIN CRAMER:

So, while our military is sitting around, you know, being focused on climate change and -- the Chinese military is not, somehow, we win because we're on the moral high ground?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, we are focused on building very capable ships -- 57 of them exactly, have the best capabilities in the world, to deploy against the Chinese. In addition to all the things that I can talk about here, I'd be happy to talk about in closed session, which are the SAP programs, like Operation Overmatch and everything else.

For the past six and a half months, our Navy and Marine Corps has proved to the world how capable we are. We are the very best. But that also includes, worrying in the future, about the impact that climate has on our installation --


KEVIN CRAMER:

Well, when I look at this chart that Senator Sullivan put up, I see a really big problem, that's not being addressed nearly as enthusiastically as climate change is, with the Navy. Let me go to something that I think maybe you can all answer for me. I've been focusing a lot, with the various services, and asking them about, ok, we're in a -- we're -- we have a flat budget.

It's a cut, when you consider inflation. We all -- you are all trained to say, or required to say, well, it still meets the National Defense Strategy. It allows us to increase capacity. And you pretend like it's all going to be ok. And I get it. You have to. I got it. You've got a boss in the White House that wants you to say those things.

But -- but, could you tell me, in what areas do you think this flat budget presents the greatest risk, the most risk? Again, it's -- it's plainly -- according to you all, what areas are most at risk, because of this?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I think that, given the difficult decision -- and I would also like to point out that, you know, we just didn't come to the Fiscal Responsibility Act.


KEVIN CRAMER:

I understand that. I am not blaming you.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

It was members of congress who actually were negotiating the debt limit ceiling --


KEVIN CRAMER:

I'm not blaming.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

-- that led to the Fiscal Responsibility Act --


KEVIN CRAMER:

I am not blaming.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

-- that caps our funding.


KEVIN CRAMER:

I agree.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

So, I cannot spend [inaudible].


KEVIN CRAMER:

I'm not blaming you. I'm asking you, what is at the most risk, as a result?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Three areas -- installation readiness, the air wing of the future, and -- well, those are the two primary ones -- installation readiness and the air wing of the future, and just MILCON, in general.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Admiral Franchetti.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

So as I said, our budget focused on current readiness, people. And we've taken risk in the future. So air wing in the future, SSNX, DDGX, CVNs, and a lot of our money is going into SIOP, from a MILCOM perspective right now -- 60 percent.


KEVIN CRAMER:

General Smith.


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, our barracks 2030 initiative is -- is most at risk. And that's a quality of life issue, because the main thing is the Marines. Without the Marines, the equipment is irrelevant.


KEVIN CRAMER:

So if those of us on this dais and within the chambers, and frankly in the other chamber, were to try to provide more than the FRA, which the FRA number was a mistake. I wish we didn't have to deal with it. And we don't, if we changed the law. We're in the changing the law business. Would we reduce risk if we provided you with a lot more?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, senator, you would.


KEVIN CRAMER:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Cramer. Senator Rosen, please.


JACKY ROSEN:

Well, thank you, Chairman Reed. I would also like to thank Secretary del Toro, Admiral Franchetti, and General Smith -- appreciate you being here testifying today. I'm going to focus a little bit -- mostly on Nevada and Fallon Naval Air Station. And we implemented some -- we're starting to implement Fallon modernization.

So Secretary del Toro, you know, in Nevada, we are so proud to host Naval Air Station Fallon, home to Top Gun and our nation's -- this our nation's premier air carrier wing and our Seal training centers. And again, I want to offer you and your staff my personal gratitude for working with me and the Nevada delegation on a consensus proposal to modernize the Fallon Range Training complex, which was included in the FY 2023 NDAA. So as you know, offer -- authorizing FRTC modernization, it was no small feat.

And it was the result of input from the Navy, the Department of Interior, tribal governments, from Nevada's local governments, and so many stakeholders. It was a compromise that the Nevada delegation will continue to provide support to so, that we can ensure the proper implementation. So as you know, the Navy is currently working with other federal agencies and my constituents, to meet the requirement of making full payment to impacted, grazing permit holders.

We got a lot of ranchers there. So as the Navy goes through the process of appraising the loss of these permits, it's critical that my ranching community and Nevada stakeholders to really -- adequately compensated. And so this is going to include the loss of their impacted ranching operation, improvements made to include water access, and FSA loans that they might have associated with their allotment.

And so I raise this, because I've heard concerns from ranchers in Nevada, northern Nevada, that the Navy isn't -- they're not considering all of the variables, when it comes to pay outs of their grazing allotments. And so, Secretary del Toro, can I get your commitment that the Navy will ensure that all grazing permitees impacted by implementation of FRTC modernization are fairly compensated?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

You have my commitment, senator. It's my understanding, we've been working very, very closely with the ranchers. I can't guarantee that every single one of them is going to be satisfied with the negotiations. But we are engaging with them, very transparently, and very seriously, to compensate them for all the reasons that you just mentioned.

And I also want to thank you, personally, for your leadership, actually. The expansion of Fallon is critically important to our current and future warfighters. By expanding that range, we can expand the training associated with the F-35, associated with the advanced missiles that we've been focused on, as well.

That's what I've been focused on, actually, for a long, long time now. And I thank you for your efforts to make this a reality.


JACKY ROSEN:

Well, thank you. We'll continue to work with you. And I also am going to ask if you'll commit to briefing my staff on the amount of funding you have today, and what you're going to believe -- what -- what you believe you'll need in FY 2025, and beyond, to meet some of these commitments, specifically, as it relates to Fallon.

So thank you for that. I'm going to talk about housing. We've talked about military housing. Fallon again, a major asset, provides a range space needed to ensure the fleet's deployable and operationally ready. The base has been designated a remote duty installation since 1989, and of course, the quality of life challenges that accompany that.

So we're the only Navy base, naval Air Station Fallon, in the continental United States, designated in a critical housing area, with housing in very short supply. So the vast majority of those stationed at Fallon live in Reno or Carson City, which are both at least an hour away. So I understand the Navy anticipates entering into some public-private ventures to build about 172 new homes in Fallon.

But we need a lot more infrastructure required to support them, such as expanding existing wastewater treatment plants. So given the long distances sailors have to travel, between their home and Fallon, Fallon's designation as a critical housing area, remote duty installation, are you considering providing some stipend or assignment incentive pay to help alleviate the costs?

And we also have to attract that civilian workforce you need. So could you speak to those issues?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

So the challenges in Fallon have been significant. And we're well aware of them. And I so wish that we actually -- given the Fiscal Responsibility, the act, had more resources to devote to housing and everything else. We are investing, in 2025, a lot, an FSRM, to try to improve the existing housing as much as we can.

We hope to make greater investments in MILCON, in 2026 and 2027. But we are deeply focused on this. And we will look at this, specifically, to see if there's anything that we can do to alleviate the conditions in Fallon.


JACKY ROSEN:

Thank you. I appreciate it. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Rosen. Senator Tuberville, please.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Good morning. Thanks for being here. General Smith, I was able to recently meet with some Marines that came from the Indo-Pacific -- great people. Let me tell you, they're -- they're exactly what we need in our military. You know, what resources can congress assist with to better support our mission in the Indo-Pacific?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, thanks for that question and thanks for the praise of our Marines. I share it. My own son is a Marine, although, you know, he's -- he's still -- he's still on the --


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

He has to meet his recruiting goals, right?


ERIC SMITH:

He's got a media's recruiting goals. He's still on probation. What I would say, sir, is we need predictable, steady funding for our amphibious warfare ships. We need LHAs on four year centers, and LPDs on two year centers, because that provides us the operational flexibility and mobility that's required to counter the PRC.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

I know you've kept an eye on the Middle East. And we have seen unmanned drones, small, unmanned drones. Talk about what we've learned, and what we can take from there, to the Indo-Pacific, in this next incursion.


ERIC SMITH:

Yes, sir. What we've learned is that directed energy weapons are going to be a thing of the future, because we can't get into a reverse cost curve, where we're expending, you know, million dollar missiles to shoot down $100 drones. We've got to invest in the technology and the capability to disable drones, in flight, to disable their targeting infrastructure, and to knock them down, without shooting a missile at them, because that's again, that's putting us on the wrong side of the cost curve.

And we're working on that now, at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Yeah. I think Senator King would agree with you on that. We've talked about it quite often. Secretary del Toro, the Navy recently released their 45-day shipbuilding review last month. And there are significant delays. The Columbia class are now 12 to 16 months late. We make components in Mobile, for the Columbia class, and we hear a lot about studying this and doing a report on that.

You know, we need results, obviously. And I know you're on top of that. What are we doing to fix this?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir. Well, just as one example, senator -- and I know your commitment and passion for this -- you know, down in Austal, for example, the Navy actually worked very closely with Austal over the last couple of years, to turn it into a steel production facility. And I have been encouraging the big primes, over the last two and a half years that I've been secretary, aggressively, to actually outsource more of their work hours to companies like Austal and the smaller shipyards, so they can help with production.

So, in 2023 alone, we had 3 million additional hours of outsourcing that's taken place. We hope to increase that in 2024, hopefully, to 6 million. Right? And it's the smaller shipyards that actually help, as part of the team, to then increase the production rates. So that, with -- along with all the other investments, the $14 billion over the fit up, basically, I think our -- we're going to see production rates continue to grow in the future, because of those efforts.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Yeah. And we're also running into a problem. You know, we budget it, we appropriate it, but we're having a tough time allocating money. For some reason, we're running into a stone wall of people not doing their damn job, to be honest with you. And, you know, if we can't get the money allocated, we can't build anything; we can't pay people for working.

And we're having a tough time, now, getting people to work, and people that are trained to work. And it's getting worse and worse. It is not getting better. If you -- you've obviously, been addressing that.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, sir. And I agree with you. And you know, with the continuing resolution, we can't allocate those funds until the funds are actually given to us. So I'm actually increasing our contracting workforce in 2024, so that we could actually provide resources to the vendors far quicker, once they get the alloca -- once we get the authorizations and the appropriations in place.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Yeah. And you know, we're working very hard to train people. We're actually recruiting out of McDonalds, Walmart, hiring welders and all those things. I mean, we're in a tough time right now, of getting people actually off the couch, back to work, and -- and getting them trained. And you're obviously, talking with people about that.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

And I think we need to get innovative, senator. And one thing -- I'll give you an example of something we just recently did over the last few weeks, in Ohio, for example. So we met with the Boilermakers Union in Ohio, because they have experienced slowdowns, basically, in their -- in their workforce. So Bartlett Industries in Ohio, for example, is training those boilermakers on how to actually work in their shipyards.

And so -- and then, hopefully, we're going to be providing those to Wisconsin to help with the -- with the constellation class frigate in Wisconsin.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Yeah. And, Admiral, we're -- we're running -- we're running low on people. And you talked earlier about recruiting. Please tell me we're not dropping our standards to recruit. That'd be the worst thing that we possibly could do -- drop our standards. We need a well-trained, obviously, a group that wants to do it for the right reasons.

Your thoughts?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Senator Tuberville, we are not lowering our standards. We are working really hard to improve our recruiting enterprise, to improve throughput per recruiter, and -- and really look broadly at getting out to every zip code in America, to bring that talent that we need. People that meet our standards, we want them on our team -- every single one of them.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

Are we taking non-citizens, non-American citizens in the Navy?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

We only take people that are legally allowed to enter the Navy.


TOMMY TUBERVILLE:

OK. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Tuberville. Senator Blumenthal, please.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Thanks, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, all, for being here, and thank you for your service. And, Secretary Del Toro, I know you visited Electric Boat a number of times. You share my passion for undersea warfare. If I were to propose an amendment to the NDAA, increasing the number of submarines for fiscal year 2025, to two, instead of the one, would you oppose it?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I wouldn't oppose it, senator, but I certainly would be hopeful that the resources aren't taken away from other critical programs that we're trying to execute on right now, as well.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Well, would you agree with me, that the best way to increase the number of submarine production, from one to 2.3, is not to cut, but to send a signal to the defense industrial base, including suppliers, that we're going to be making real steps toward that goal of 2.3?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I think we need to help industry, by making the investments that you have made in the submarine industrial base, to the tune of $15 billion. We have, currently, 11 additional submarines that are in construction, three additional ones under contract, in order to get the production rate up. But if we can't deliver those submarines on time, that also presents opportunity costs, where in a year where we're fiscally constrained, we basically won't be able to do other things that are critically important to the enterprise, as well.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Well, I think you appreciate that the suppliers to the defense industrial base take a very strong signal from that cut. I'll give you an example. Collins and Jewell in Basra, Connecticut is a critical supplier of structural welding fabrication. Before the FY 2025 budget release, they were preparing a $2 million investment with Micro Precision, another critical Connecticut supplier, to expand their facilities in the state, so they could hire more workers from the manufacturing pipeline initiative in the state of Connecticut.

After that budget release -- on hold. Hillary Company, in Groton, they specialize in solid modeling software for advanced design, fabrication, metal welding and joining -- they planned to upgrade their water jet in order to increase capacity, to serve production at Electric Boat -- on hold. I could name --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

So that's exactly what the resources in the submarine industrial base investment are designed to do, to actually help those companies. I'd be happy to reach out to those companies and see where we could actually provide them with the funds, to make the CapEx investments that they need to make.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Well, they need a signal that we're moving from one submarine this year to two submarines, so they can plan. They need dollars. They don't need words from me or, with all due respect, from you.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

But I'm not just providing words. We're providing resources in the submarine industrial base, of $15 billion.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Well, they need purchase orders, is what they need. They need purchase orders that come from Electric Boat, which are using dollars that come from the United States of America.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

But we have 11 submarines that are actually under construction right now. And we have three additional submarines that are under contract. Fourteen submarines is an enormous investment, and what we need for the future. If the production rates had been -- and if industry actually had invested more of their own money, as well, too, in the CapEx investments and other investments they need to make, to get the production rates out, we'd be in a better place, overall.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

I see no plan. I see an explanation for why we're behind, but no plan to recover.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

We are working -- we're working very -- there is a plan, senator. We are working very aggressively with all those vendors and with the primes, as well.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Can you give us a plan?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Absolutely, sir. We have plans in place. And we'll show you exactly what we're doing, with the entire submarine industrial base investment that you've been so helpful to us in providing.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

Let me ask you about the Xavier Sander Act. It's named after a young man from Connecticut who committed suicide, because he was on the USS Washington, which was under repair, in maintenance. He was confined to the ship for -- he was on the ship, living there, while it was under maintenance. And we passed a law that provides that base allowance can be provided to enlisted men, when they are on ships that are in maintenance.

Maybe you or Admiral Franchetti can update me as to what progress is being made in implementing that law.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, sir. We have basically -- want to make sure that our sailors have a separation from their work and their life space. So we -- when they are on the ship, in the shipyard, we've given the flexibility to move them off the ship, to have housing outside of the ship, and -- when it is not habitable.


RICHARD BLUMENTHAL:

I -- my time is expired. But I would appreciate, in writing, an update from you elaborating on that answer.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, sir.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Blumenthal. Senator Schmidt, please.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Thank you. Secretary Del Toro, I have a question. So do you believe -- you know, recruiting is down 20 percent last year. Ao far it's on pace -- it's down 30 percent this year. Do you believe that the obsession that the political leadership has right now, with DEI, has helped or hurt recruiting efforts?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, sir. I don't think DEI has hurt recruiting efforts at all.


ERIC SCHMITT:

You don't?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, sir.


ERIC SCHMITT:

You don't think it plays any factor at all?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, sir.


ERIC SCHMITT:

You don't think your obsession with race essentialism and immutable characteristics turns off a lot of people?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I'm not obsessed with any of that, senator. Whenever you, on the record, heard me say anything to that effect?


ERIC SCHMITT:

Well, no, it's in your materials, your -- your DEI 101 materials, and the indoctrination that you're putting through, this cultural Marxism. You don't believe that it has any impact?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I am not indoctrinating anybody, senator.


ERIC SCHMITT:

OK. Secretary, I want to read to you from your materials, what allyship is. Allyship is to take intentional actions, such as listening, learning, and uplifting those who may be disadvantaged to ensure all voices are heard and respected. Being an authentic ally is to form genuine relationships, to advocate for fair treatment, and increase feelings of inclusion and belonging for all.

Do you believe that you --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Do you not want all the members of your team to feel like they're included?


ERIC SCHMITT:

Well, I Have a question. Do you believe that you were an ally for the 1,878 soldiers who were fired, or the 3,746 Marines who were fired for not taking the COVID shot? Were you an ally for them?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Sir, I followed the laws. They disobeyed the law.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Well, did they feel included?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

They disobeyed a law.


ERIC SCHMITT:

They were fired.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

They were fired, they were fired, because they disobeyed the law.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Do you regret that? Do you regret that?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

[Inaudible] currently existed. I have no regrets --


ERIC SCHMITT:

You have recruitment challenges you refuse to --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

[Inaudible].


ERIC SCHMITT:

You refuse to admit that DEI is a part of this. You're firing qualified people who are well trained. And you sit here so smugly, to act like none of that has any impact on the readiness of our Navy.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, we recontacted 3,500 of the 4,800 people who were fired. You know how many actually decided to come back to the Navy and report? Two.


ERIC SCHMITT:

How many? Shocker. Shocker at the level of disrespect they received from their government.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

[Inaudible] --


JACK REED:

Excuse me -- gentleman, senator.


ERIC SCHMITT:

-- not because [inaudible] COVID test --


JACK REED:

Senator, please --


ERIC SCHMITT:

-- disgusting.


JACK REED:

-- ask a question. And Mr. Secretary to respond.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Yeah. Thank you. General Smith, I understand that, on May 3rd, two individuals were detained by gate guards after lying to gate guards, and then trying to forcibly bypass security checks. Now anonymous sources are reporting that one of the detained individuals was a Jordanian national, who recently crossed the US southern border.

Also, one of the two is on the terror watch list. What do you know, what have you been briefed by ICE on this?


ERIC SMITH:

Senator, I'm not familiar with that. I can get back to you on it, after I check with NCIS.


ERIC SCHMITT:

OK. I don't have any other questions, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you very much, Senator Schmitt. Senator --


ERIC SCHMITT:

Chairman, Mr. Chairman? I do have one more question before we -- thank you. I have some time remaining. I do want to -- Secretary Del Toro, I do want to understand, based on your previous conversations, I really do have to get you on the record. Do you believe that climate change is a bigger threat to the American people than Communist China's ambitions?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

They're different.


ERIC SCHMITT:

No, but do you -- I'm asking you to weigh them. We all make decisions. We're weighing --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I am not going to weigh them. One impacts the other [inaudible] --


ERIC SCHMITT:

So you can't sit here and tell us that Chinese communist ambitions are more dangerous to the American people than --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

And I do not think you've been following all the things that I've been doing, since day one --


ERIC SCHMITT:

I'm asking you a question.


JACK REED:

Senator Schmitt.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

[Inaudible] China.


JACK REED:

Excuse me.


ERIC SCHMITT:

I'm asking you a question.


JACK REED:

You asked the question. Senator, the Secretary will respond. And then, I think, you yield your time and agree --


ERIC SCHMITT:

I just have a couple more seconds, because I had about a minute and a half left. Do you --


JACK REED:

This is not an argument. It's a question and answer.


ERIC SCHMITT:

That's fine. I'm asking a question. Do you believe that climate change is a bigger threat to the American people than a nuclear holocaust?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Of course not.


ERIC SCHMITT:

OK. Well, thank you for actually being so courageous.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

[Inaudible] --


ERIC SCHMITT:

Thank you. I just have to say, that your comments about this -- hold on -- I'm finished. Your comments about this, Teddy Roosevelt and Admiral Nimitz would be rolling in their grave the way that you equivocate on this.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, actually Admiral Nimitz cares deeply about installation readiness, actually.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Climate change -- he was a big climate alarmist?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

It wasn't as a bigger problem the, as it is now.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Okay. Yeah. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Well, thank you, Mr. Schmitt. But I think it's appropriate right now to make a point, that this committee has operated for many, many years, based on mutual respect for the witnesses and the Senators, and to ask questions, receive answers. And if you disagree with the answer, make a comment to that effect.

But the level of argumentation at this point, I think, is something we haven't seen in a long time. It's not new, Senator Schmitt. It's -- I think it's been on both sides. And I -- I hope we can move on to more questions and answers. But I respect your position very much.


ERIC SCHMITT:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Go ahead. Senator Manchin, please.


JOE MANCHIN:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And -- and I do agree, as being a chairman of a committee, the civility and how we show the respect for what you all have done. We do have agreements and we have disagreements. We can respectfully do that. But with that being said, General Smith, I'm glad to see you back in good health.

We've had many good discussions. Knowing you, and the Marines in general, I can't say I'm surprised that you're fully back to work so quickly, knowing you. I need to thank the Marine Corps, and you in particular -- I've been advised by six Marines during my time in the senate. This will likely be the last opportunity I'm going to have to recognize the Marine Corps contribution to my office, particularly my senate office here in Washington.

I've had Lieutenant Colonel Jason Lambert, I've had Gunnery Sergeant Rob Moser, I've had Major TJ Byers, I've had Major Sean Desenkowski, I've had Gunnery Sergeant Dane Ossoff, and I now have Major Greg Carroll. They've become integral parts of my staff during the time I've been here in the senate. I know every member of my staff has benefited from their professional and their personal experiences of interchanging and interacting with them.

So I want to thank the Marines for allowing me to have six absolutely outstanding individuals.


ERIC SMITH:

Well, we thank you for the opportunity to place them there, for them to learn how our system works --


JOE MANCHIN:

Well, we learn as much from them as they might have learned. I'm hoping they got as much in return as they gave us. I really do.


ERIC SMITH:

I guarantee they did, senator.


JOE MANCHIN:

Now, Secretary -- we'll bring it down a notch here, ok? Secretary Del Toro, you oversee one of the most unique national security assets in our country. It's called the Allegheny Ballistic Laboratory, known as ABL. And that's in, what we call Rocket City, in West Virginia. It's the only government owned -- the only one that we all own, the government owned, contractor operated munitions facility.

To lay it out plainly, that means this infrastructure is owned by taxpayers. All it may be holding to the federal government, not to shareholders of a private defense contractor. ABL builds components for more than 17 types of munitions used by every branch of our military and a variety of our allies and partners, including Ukraine.

However, I'm -- and I'd say with all due respect, they get overlooked. ABL gets overlooked, because they don't do the final assembly for these weapons. You have the property there to do it. You have the expansion there to do it. Instead, we ship every single component out to another privately owned facility, which has received more than $200 million in taxpayer funds to subsidize and prop up production quality issues, issues they're having.

They can't do what we're doing. We're sending them the components. They are not adequately doing their job. And I've also learned that Navy now -- this is what I can't believe -- now plans to partner with that underperforming private company -- the name of that company is Aerojet Rocketdyne -- Aerojet Rocketdyne -- to build another duplicate version of what we already own, as a federal government.

And they're going to do it at Indian Head in Maryland, which is not that far from Rocket City. You already own all that in Rocket City. So my question is, ABL covers more than 1,500 acres, that you own, that we own, with more than adequate space for expansion. So we can't figure out, why is the Department in the Navy.

It just seems like they're determined, hell bent on spending more taxpayer money. You can say wasting it, to prop up an underperforming, truly underperforming, private company instead of investing in the national assets you already have. And you can do it right there and do the assembly there. You have total quality control.

It's been excellent. So the only thing I can ask you, publicly, if you'll come -- and if I can -- if we can bring Secretary LaPlante with you, I'll accompany -- you will go. And if something's wrong, tell me, I'll be the first to step back. But I see no reason why we can't continue to build out what you have -- what we own as a government, what we control, and to expand there, to do full -- it's just that -- they can double overnight.

They're ready to go. But the money's all going different -- and only thing I can say is, that the private contractors have more umph than we have, with our own.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I know we're deeply committed to trying to reduce production tremendously. So -- but I commit that I'll go with you, and I'll invite Secretary LaPlante to come with me, as well, to meet with you to take a look at the division of labor, as it applies to this situation.


JOE MANCHIN:

We will do sooner than later, it's not that far. We can -- we can drive over, and if you, maybe get a helicopter -- give me a ride in a helicopter, we'll jump over real quick.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, I'd be happy to drive.


JOE MANCHIN:

Thank you, sir. Thank you. Mr. Chairman --


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Manchin. Senator Rounds, please.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First of all, thank you, to all of you, for your service to our country. Secretary Del Toro and Admiral Franchetti, are you aware of the 20 month Ember study authorized to study the sharing of the electromagnetic spectrum in the critical 3.1 to 3.45 gigahertz band?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I am, Senator.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Are you aware of the finding of this interagency study, that found sharing in this band, between the federal and commercial systems, is not feasible, unless, and I quote, 'certain regulatory, technological, and resourcing conditions are met and implemented.'


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I am, Senator, and very concerned about it.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Are you aware, also, that the estimate of this interagency study was that implementing the conditions could take 30 years and $260 billion, if this portion of the electromagnetic band alone, even under the very stringent conditions were met, that could be the cost -- were you aware of that?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Are you also aware that the current legislative proposals in the Commerce Committee call for the use of the 7 to 8 gigahertz band, where the Navy and other services maintain similarly critical systems for the defense of this country?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. And can you tell this committee where you stand on these efforts, if followed through without the most stringent conditions, such as the development and implementation of dynamic spectrum sharing, interference safeguards, and a massive influx of federal resources to maintain the defense of this country?

If those aren't included, what is your position on the current proposals to not only look at the 3.14 or 3.45 gigahertz band, but also the 7 to 8 gigahertz band for commercial production?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I'm extremely defensive in any infringement on our spectrum band, and also very concerned about the opportunity costs that it would create. I just don't feel we have enough resources to be able to do what sometimes is being suggested to be done.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Secretary Del Toro, there are -- there are -- we have not had a single uniformed individual with any other opinion, other than what you have offered just now. The challenge that we have is, is continuously from the administration, there seems to be a push, because they recognize that there is a 5G and eventually 6G needs.

But the pieces that they're looking at involve areas that are critical to the defense of this country, because of the physics involved. There has to be, within the Department of Defense, someone who will stand up and make very clear to the administration that these proposals will be extremely expensive and detrimental to the defense of this country.

Have you expressed those concerns to the administration?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I have expressed the concerns to my chain of command. Yes, senator.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Admiral Franchetti, do you have anything to add to that?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, as you stated, and the secretary stated, this is an act -- really critical spectrum for us. You know, it would be incredibly detrimental and very expensive, if we were even able to adapt the systems to be able to do without that spectrum. So if there were to be an agreement, the -- the sharing, the regulations -- it would have to be very strict, as you described.

And there would always have to be opportunity for us to have access to those spectrums, to be able to both train, but potentially defend our homeland.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Which means that you have to have a dynamic spectrum sharing product in place. It does not exist today. We're working on it. But it is not there today.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Secretary Del Toro -- and I'm going to change the subject a little bit, for both you and Admiral Franchetti. I think nearly everyone agrees that the state of the Navy's shipyards is inadequate to face, you know, the greater power competition. To cite just one example, the USS Boise, you've heard me talk about it before, it has been in and out of maintenance and unavailable to our warfighters, since June of 2016. I know Secretary Del Toro was able to meet with the leaders of HD Hyundai and February this year, and see firsthand how they are using AI enabled capabilities to enhance and manage their shipbuilding efforts.

To what degree are the Navy's public shipyards currently using predictive analytics and AI to assist in optimizing the workflows, operations, and scheduling at the shipyards?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

So, senator, we're finally making the appropriate investments, over the last couple of years, to try to get to a better place. And they've now -- actually have a platform that they're using that does just this. But I'm also proud to say that, finally, you know, we do have actually a contract in, to actually repair the Boise.

And thanks for your support, as well, too, to make that happen, those efforts are underway, in addition to the two others that were suffering problems, over the long term. And these are the issues that I've been trying to fix since I came in as secretary. And I'm proud to say that all three submarines now have contracts on them, to get them operational and be put back to sea, thanks to your support.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. Admiral Franchetti.


LISA FRANCHETTI:

I just wanted to offer that's, again, the critical reason we need to do SIOP, just in general. Our public shipyards really need to be upgraded, both in terms of the dry dock, but the industrial plant equipment, as well as the modernization of the flow and the taking advantage of the technology that we have today to modernize them.


MIKE ROUNDS:

Thank you. General Smith, I just want to say, thank you for your service to our country. Thank you, sir. And to your team, as well. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Rounds. Senator Peters, please.


GARY PETERS:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And to our three witnesses, thank you for your testimony today, and thank you for your service to our country. It's appreciated. Secretary Del Toro, as other Senators have noted, the Navy is working hard to expand the submarine industrial base to support the state of the art Virginia class and Columbia class submarines.

Congress has supported these efforts, allocating billions of dollars to support submarine builders, suppliers, and the workforce. And as part of these efforts, Secretary Guertin shared, during a recent sea power hearing, that the Navy is looking to expand the submarine industrial base capacity outside of our existing shipyards, including other states, like the state of Michigan, which has a great deal of industrial capacity, as you well know.

So my question for you, secretary, is could you elaborate on Secretary Gurdon's comments about expanding the submarine industrial base in Michigan? And can you commit to work with me to ensure that Michigan industrial base can provide world class products to solve these submarine supply chain and workforce challenges?

We have the ability to do that.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, senator. Actually, in 2023 alone, I took -- I directed both the Marine Corps and the Navy to increase the amount of investment we have in small businesses and medium sized businesses. We have pumped $1.7 billion of additional monies for those competitive areas to be -- actually become more healthy. As a result of that, we've actually added 1,000 small business companies to the Navy marketplace.

These are the efforts that have to be done systematically, from the very beginning, to make things better. And that's what I've been doing for the past two and a half years. In the case of Michigan, we just met with your economic development team in Wisconsin. And we actually talked to them about how we could work closely together, with you, to take full advantage of the submarine industrial base investments that are being made, in order to feed, particularly Marinette Shipyard in Wisconsin, so that we can get the Fincantieri program back on track.


GARY PETERS:

Great, wonderful. I hope you continue those efforts. Let me know how I can assist you in those efforts. I appreciate that. Admiral Franchetti. Secretary Guertin's comments in that sea power hearing, also indicated the Navy's commitment to surge capacity and personnel to move the constellation class frigate program in the right direction, in tandem with the shipyard.

I certainly believe the additional funding congress is providing for the frigate industrial base and workforce is also critical, and we'll continue advocating for inclusion of resources this fiscal year, as well. But my question for you, Admiral, is can you share the Navy's long term commitment to the frigate, and how we must get this program right, and its role and importance to the future fleet?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, thank you. And I just had the opportunity, with the secretary, to go up to Marinette and talk with the folks there, and really committed to supporting them in addressing their workforce challenges that they have. The frigate is an absolutely critical ship for our Navy. It has, for a long time, and most of my career, we had frigates.

They were definitely the -- one of the key workhorses of our fleet. It provides lots of great capability, in conjunction and married up with our destroyers and supporting our carrier strike groups. But to be able to operate all over the world, with the capability that it's going to bring, at a lesser cost than the DDDGs, is a very Important to our Navy.

So very excited to get them on board and as quickly as possible.


GARY PETERS:

Wonderful, great. Secretary Del Toro, you recently completed a 45 day shipbuilding review, highlighting the need to address the shrinking national design and engineering workforce. And I am sure you're aware the University of Michigan is the last remaining, standalone, undergraduate, through doctoral, Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering department at an R1 university.

So with this in mind, how are you supporting existing naval architecture programs, and growing the US naval engineering workforce, for the long term?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, I've been actually traveling quite a bit to community colleges and universities around the world, trying to get them to commit to our shipbuilding industry. I just came back from the University of Michigan, where I was very honored to actually give the commencement speech in the engineering school, for example, and meet with the tremendous staff and engineers that we have there, who provide -- it's one of the two institutions in the United States that provides the naval architects to the United States Navy.

The Office of Naval Research actually made a more significant investment in the program, as well, too. So we are working all levers across the country, everywhere we can, to try to get shipbuilding back on track.


GARY PETERS:

Great. Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Peters. Senator Scott, please.


RICK SCOTT:

Thank you, Chairman. Secretary Del Toro, Admiral Franchetti, and General Smith, I want to thank each of you for being here. I want to thank you and everybody that works with you and all your hard work. And I respect everybody that serves in the military. But as a former enlisted Navy sailor, a US senator, an American citizen, I am extremely concerned about the accountability of our Navy.

And I'll give -- I'll tell you why. And I loved my experience in the Navy. The Navy failed in recruiting last year, and all indications point that you're going to fail this year. The Navy projects it's going to miss recruiting numbers by 6,000 sailors this year. And currently performing worse than every other service.

This is happening, while the Navy has reduced minimum aptitude, education, fitness and character standards to as low as legally allowed. This stands in stark contrast to the Marine Corps, which is exceeding expectations in recruiting, while maintaining its high standards. When you look at the readiness in the Navy, from an equipment standpoint, things don't look much better.

The first Columbia class submarine is 12 to 16 months late; the fourth and fifth blocks of Virginia class submarine are 36 and 24 months late; the first constellation class frigate is 36 months late; the future aircraft carrier enterprise is approximately 18 to 26 months late; the Navy is retiring ships faster than it's replacing them, and has a terrible record of getting ships done on -- maintenance done on time.

It's my understanding, the military has a plan to recapitalize all the C-130s by 2028. These planes are critical for logistics movements and to win a war in the Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific commander has stated they need -- they need them to move fuel, sonobuoys, aircraft parts, supplies, people throughout the Pacific.

The Indo-Pacific commander has stated that they count on this ability to prosecute a war with Communist China. Air Force is on time with its recapitalization, which is now at 50 percent. The Marine Corps has recapitalized 100 percent. But the Navy hasn't even started to recapitalize the 32 year old fleet of aging 130s. It's -- I would assume that you would say, if a ship runs aground, leaving naval ports -- Norfolk, San Diego -- that the captain would be held accountable.

My -- here's my concern. We've got delays in our yards. We've got maintenance ended up being overbudget delayed. We've got major ship building delays. We've got recruiting failures. And my concern is, I've not heard anybody that's been held accountable. There have not -- I assume there's an admiral over each one of these.

And I've not heard that one's been held accountable, and they're all continuing to get promoted. Is that true -- either Secretary Del Toro or Admiral Franchetti:


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Senator, you mentioned a lot of challenges. I see each challenge as an opportunity to make the world a lot better. These often, are problems that have festered for decades, without the right leadership, actually applying the right lessons to avoid the mistakes that were made in the past, of which there were many that I could actually highlight.

Yet at the same time, our fleet actually has been batting back the Houthis for six months in the Red Sea, more successfully than any other Navy, or Marine Corps, for that matter, in the Mediterranean, since WWII. In the Indo-Pacific, we've actually been deterring the Chinese, actually by establishing allies --


RICK SCOTT:

Can you just back to my question real quick? Who's been held accountable? You've got delays -- you've got delays all over the place. You've got recruiting failures. Is -- has anybody -- has anybody been held accountable? I'm a business guy. Whether we -- whether you, you know, if anybody takes a job, they're expected to perform the job.

And if they can't, I mean it's their fault. I mean there's, you know, don't take the job, if you can't, you know, you can't do it. So my question is, has anybody been held accountable for shipyard delays, maintenance delays, recruiting failures -- who's -- anybody held accountable?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Different people have been held accountable, at different times, for different things, but you have to be more specific than just that.


RICK SCOTT:

Give me one example.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I mean, how do I hold -- I try to hold industry accountable, as well, too. Look Fincantieri for -- is one example. Their retention rate, actually, last year was atrocious. That is part of the reason why we have actually established up to a three year delay in the delivery of the constellation class frigate.

Where we're trying to do is, actually put positive efforts in place to help Fincantieri get to a better place. When in the case of the enterprise, the main reduction gear from Northrop Grumman has been delayed, because they actually won the contract, and it wasn't General Electric who had it before. You know, that's created problems, as well, too.

Now back to the case of the constellation -- maybe if the constellation, if that had not been underbid during the previous administration, and hadn't been delayed from the very beginning, and they came in with a best value price for it, and the Navy had not accepted it back then, we'd be in a better place, with regards to the frigate, as well, too.


RICK SCOTT:

So the answer is, not one person in the Navy has been held accountable for --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

No, that is not the answer, senator. There have been people held accountable for different reasons at different times.


RICK SCOTT:

I ask you for one. I -- just give me one.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, I'm not going to invade people's privacy, either, in terms of individuals who have been held accountable for different problems in the Navy.


RICK SCOTT:

So, this is --


CARLOS DEL TORO:

I have a record of holding even senior leaders accountable when they falter in the United States Navy. And my track record shows that.


RICK SCOTT:

Thank you, Chair.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Scott. Senator Duckworth, please.


TAMMY DUCKWORTH:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And good morning to our witnesses. Secretary Del Toro, I want to discuss the housing issues at Halsey Village at Naval Station Great Lakes. I understand housing issues have plagued Halsey Village for years, even from a previous administration. I'm not here today to assign blame, but I do want to work constructively with the Navy on a path forward.

The Navy leased Halsey Village to Hunt Military Communities under a 50 year lease, and Hunt is responsible for day to day operations. The Lake County Board chair and mayor of North Chicago, where Halsey Village is located, wrote to Hunt Military Communities on October 2023, to express their concerns regarding the physical condition of Halsey Village.

In their letter, they wrote, there is not a neighborhood in all of Lake County that is in worse condition than Halsey Village. The neighborhood has taken on the moniker of Zombie Village, given the great numbers of homes in various states of neglect, end quote. There are 353 housing units in Halsey -- within Halsey Village.

Currently, 249 housing units are uninhabitable, with 44 of these units so badly deteriorated that they are cordoned off behind a chain link fence. It is unacceptable that the Navy is renting housing units in Halsey Village to military families and Illinois residents. knowing the conditions of these homes.

The Navy also offers prorated rent for sailors to live in Halsey Village. This creates an incentive for junior enlisted sailors to live in substandard conditions. No one should be living in Halsey Village. And the Navy should not be creating an incentive for sailors to live there, either. I want to discuss the future of Halsey Village, and communicate my expectations, as the Navy finalizes decisions.

One, the Navy must keep my office, Senator Durbin's office, and the Lake County community and local elected leaders updated on decisions being made regarding Halsey Village. The path to remediate and redevelop Halsey Village will take years. And I understand that. I will remain laser focused on ensuring the interests of the community are protected and heard.

Two, there are still 22 housing units in Halsey Village being rented to military families. And 88 units are rented at market rate to Illinois residents. Until a decision is made on the future of Halsey Village, the Navy must continue to be responsive to the needs of the residents, and force Hunt Military Communities to address any maintenance issues.

Three, I understand that the Navy is discussing options to redevelop the land after the homes in Halsey Village are demolished. The Navy must ensure that no corners are cut, using a commercially compatible developer, to avoid environmental remediation costs, if such a solution would not be acceptable to the Lake County community and local elected leaders.

For example, to avoid remediation, you can't just pour concrete over it and say, okay, it's now commercial property. That way, we don't have to deal with remediation, if the community actually wants to have that property be used for future residential housing, which is desperately needed in the community.

Secretary Del Toro, I understand that remediating and redeveloping Halsey Village will be costly, and this problem preexists your tenure there. I understand that. I ask that you work with me and my staff to ensure that remediating and redeveloping Halsey Village remains a priority for the Navy, and that we are resourcing these efforts appropriately.

Can you commit to that?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Absolutely, senator.


TAMMY DUCKWORTH:

Thank you. Secretary Del Toro. Once the Navy finalizes plans for Halsey Village, can you provide my staff with a copy of the Navy's plan to remediate and redevelop Halsey Village, including any timelines associated with those plans?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, Senator.


TAMMY DUCKWORTH:

Thank you. And if you find yourself in Illinois, in Chicago anytime this summer, I invite you to come out to Halsey Village and I will tour it with you.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, ma'am. Promise to do so.


TAMMY DUCKWORTH:

Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I yield back. Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Duckworth. Senator Mullin, please.


MARKWAYNE MULLIN:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, I just want to make an observation here. And I'm not -- this is not trying to be confrontational to you at all. You've had enough of that. I don't really feel like doing that today. I have eaten. So I'm trying to be in a good mood. But I just say, first of all, you mentioned a while ago, and -- as a bragging point, that you're battling the Houthis, a terrorist organization.

You call that success, when they don't have a navy. If we want to eliminate them, we could. If we wanted to just stop what they're doing, we could. By holding them back for six months, but yet they're still disrupting and still have the ability to attack shipping at freighters -- that's not a win. That's -- that's far from a win.

We are the United States Navy. And we were, at one time, the largest Navy. But we've seceded that to China, which goes back to what Eric Schmidt was saying about the idea of it -- of -- of the climate being the biggest threat to China. I really don't think China is too concerned about the environment, at this point.

In fact, they're laser focused on us. And in fact, they're running circles around us. In fact, as you know, Mr. Secretary, they have the largest navy in the world now. They built 30 ships last year alone. We barely completed two. That's a problem. Don't you think?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

That is a problem.


MARKWAYNE MULLIN:

That's a huge problem. Yeah, we're retiring 50. By -- according to your records, you guys have roughly 50 that you're going to retire or have to go in for maintenance, is going to be out of service, by 2028. We have 292 ships currently on the fleet. Not all of them are actually out to sea. They have 370. I'm sure they're laser focused on the environment.

Our concern is, are we safer today than we were? The answer to that is, probably not -- probably not, because we're trying to balance the environment with world power. And your body language would, just honestly, just aggravate people just by the way you're behaving. And I mean that sincerely, because you don't take it serious.

In fact, it's serious to us. And you almost joke and laugh about it, with your body language. And I -- and I'm just saying, as a constructive criticism, that could be a problem, because we want you to succeed. The last thing I want you to do, is not to succeed. But even when you was pressed by -- by Senator Scott over here, Rick Scott, you made a reference to the last -- previous -- the last administration, why you're in the situation you're in today, because they had something under bid.

But yet, we have current things that are constantly coming under bid. You've been in the position for how long now?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Two and a half years, senator.


MARKWAYNE MULLIN:

Two and a half years. How long has this administration been in place?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

About three.


MARKWAYNE MULLIN:

I think it's time to start owning your own responsibilities, and still -- still blaming the previous administration. And yet, you sit there, and you go, nah, nah -- that's the problem, sir. It's not that we're just trying to be confrontational with you. It's that, I don't think you're hearing us. It's like, you know best.

We're just senators up here and we have no opinion. That's a problem. And so, if you want to try getting along so we can all get in the same boat and sing and row together, then let's have actual serious conversation about actually moving forward and what our priorities are. The Navy's need to be focused on winning fights.

Let the EPA worry about the environment. Now switching gears totally -- Admiral, good to see you. I want to talk a little bit about Genesis. And I say this, because we're having serious recruiting issues. I mean, I had a conversation this morning with three people, that their sons were all trying to get in the service.

One is a D1 track athlete -- waited eight months to finally get in, and they were giving him a hard time, because of Genesis, because he's broke a leg or two. You know, there were some other ones that had some health concerns from his past, when he was a little kid, and he actually dropped out after six months of trying to be in. By the way, all these are D1 athletes.

Another individual had -- had had some issues with their shoulder. Still competing, but couldn't get in the service. And I just kind of go around. I mean, I was a pretty rambunctious kid. I broke a lot of bones. And I would believe that, most boys, if they haven't at least broke some bones, probably didn't live a good life growing up, because you got to push yourself.

My son, currently, is a D1 wrestler for Oklahoma State -- got cleared to wrestle internationally, got cleared to wrestle by USA, by NCAA wrestling. And he has -- having a hard time getting cleared in, because he's supposed to report to boot camp this summer, and yet he hasn't got cleared yet. I'm not bringing it up for my son, for you to do anything.

I'm just saying, is Genesis actually helping us? Because they start looking at an accident he had when he was seven years old, when he got bucked off a horse and he broke his arm. And they asked him a question about -- seven years old, broken arm is. Is it really working? I mean, I understand what Genesis is trying to do, I get that.

But at some point, is it getting in the way to help us recruit, or is it actually hindering our ability to recruit?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, thank you. And you know we've had a lot of discussions about Genesis, actually all of the service chiefs and OSD, working with the DHA, which is the owner of the system, to provide this kind of feedback, of where it is potentially slowing things down. And I think, you know, just in my time as the CNO, that we've made some definite improvements in streamlining the process, in reducing the amount of times people have to go back and get paperwork.

And DHA continues to take this feedback. And I will provide this feedback right now, as well, to them, as we continue to move that process forward. So I think, you know, it's a little bit of growing pains with the new system. We're really committed to working with DHA, to make sure that it does what it needs to do to get us our recruits into the system as quickly as possible.

So again, I would like to get with your staff offline on those, because it's always good to have examples, because it helps illustrate exactly where some of the hold ups are and the reasons.


MARKWAYNE MULLIN:

We'd love to work with you on it. Thank you. I yield back.


JACK REED:

Thank you, Senator Mullin. Senator Cotton, please.


TOM COTTON:

Admiral Franchetti, I want to start by commending the sailors who have been under attack by an outlaw band of rebels and brigands in Yemen, since October 7th. It's the case that the Navy is now awarding them combat awards. Is that correct?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes.


TOM COTTON:

We heard testimony -- we've had a briefing on the committee, from officials from Central Command, that those sailors have now been in what was called the weapons engagement envelope for longer than any sailor since WWII. Is that the case?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Yes, it is.


TOM COTTON:

So we should all be proud of their bravery and skill. But I do not think that is a good news story. That is a bad news story. When our sailors go into the weapons engagement envelope, the point should be to destroy the envelope, in the first place, so those outlaws don't have those weapons anymore. Yet, it seems that all we're doing there is shooting down missiles and drones that are flying at our ships, or other ships in the region, or maybe -- maybe -- shooting down missiles and drones as they're being fueled on the launch pad.

Is that a fair assessment?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

Well, Senator Cotton, I would say there are two aspects to what we've been doing there. We have Operation Prosperity Guardian, you know, working hard, with 20 other nations to keep the free flow of commerce going. And that's what you're talking about, defending against missiles. We also have another operation, which is designed -- excuse me -- to degrade the Houthi capability ashore.

Again, those are policy decisions. And the Navy's job is to provide options to the CENTCOM commander and the CENTCOM commander's options do go up.


TOM COTTON:

And I know that the three of you are not in charge of these warfighting decisions, and ultimately, they're policy decisions. But I find it alarming that we have all these sailors that are, in my opinion, sitting ducks. It's great that we have the defense systems that we need to keep them safe. But it only takes one of these missiles and drones to get through and hit one of our ships and cause a mass casualty event.

That's what we saw a few months ago, in the tri-border region of Iraq, Syria and Jordan, when we lost three soldiers. So I would encourage you all, as you're discussing these policy matters inside of the Pentagon, to stress that you would like to see your sailors not sit in the weapons engagement zone, but destroy the weapons engagement zone.

General Smith, you haven't gotten to talk much today. So why don't we talk about Marine Corps recruiting. There's been a lot of talk about the challenges the Navy recruiting has faced. We've had the same conversations with Army recruiting, which I think is even more severe, so much so that they had to drop their recruiting goals to meet them.

The Marine Corps is going to meet its goals, is that correct?


ERIC SMITH:

That is correct, Senator.


TOM COTTON:

OK. So that is a good news story. So what do you think the Marine Corps is doing right, that other services can learn, not only the Navy, but especially the Army, since its challenges are more severe, and it's more like the Marine Corps?


ERIC SMITH:

Well, Senator, our recruiting environment is one that is professionalized. We have career recruiters, so each of our recruiting substations are our recruiting stations -- Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio -- has a career recruiter. And we reward our recruiters who are out there for one tour. They are given their choice of duty stations when they finish a successful tour, or they're given their choice of school.

And if they don't meet their mission, they're relieved. I mean, it's a Marine Corps mission. We're not selling anything. We're offering an opportunity. And it's part of our -- our branding, if you will, that we're -- we're offering people an opportunity to earn the title. Marine. And that's the thing that we continue to express.

While there are benefits to joining, there's the GI Bill, and that's very important. You're -- you're competing for the title, Marine. and we hold that very, very dearly. And we, you know, there's an old recruiting poster, we didn't promise you a rose garden. We still believe in that. And we still believe in the value of service to our nation.

And we're not lowering our standards. And people are attracted to that.


TOM COTTON:

I think that's wise advice to heed. There are other problems, like Senator Mullin talked about, with Genesis. We've heard testimony on this committee before. I think there's bipartisan agreement that Genesis has probably swung too far in the direction of excluding people who could serve, as opposed to making sure you don't have medical washouts in initial entry training.

There's also an issue, I think, with your -- your doctors at MET stations around the country, and the throughput they have. But I think at the end, it's what General Smith says. The armed forces are here to defend the nation. They are not a skills training program for people who want a civilian job. They're not a financing program for people that want to go to college.

It's not a daycare for people who have kids or health care for people who are sick. It's not a travel agency for people who want to see the world. The armed forces may do all those things. But the armed forces, first and foremost, are designed to fight and win our nation's wars. And that -- the one thing we will promise all of our recruits, whatever service they enter, is hard and realistic training that will enable them to win and survive in combat, in defense of this nation.

Thank you.


JACK REED:

Well, thank you, Senator Cotton. And your words have been amplified by your own personal service. Thank you. Senator King requests an additional round. Senator King.


ANGUS KING:

Secretary Del Toro, I think there's some confusion in this hearing about your interest in climate change. My understanding is, it's not an academic interest in climate change, writ large, it's an interest in how climate change will affect the operation and readiness of the Navy. Is that correct?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

That is my chief most responsibility as Secretary of the Navy, is to care for the mission readiness of the Navy and the Marine Corps. And part of that is installation readiness.


ANGUS KING:

I went back and looked at Title X. One of your responsibilities is construction, outfitting, and repair of military equipment, construction, maintenance and repair of building structures, and utilities necessary to carry out the responsibilities of the department. And then later on, it says one of your responsibilities is carrying out the functions of the department, so as to fulfill the current and future operational requirements of the unified and specified combatant commands.

Estimates are, sea level will rise about a foot in the next 15 to 20 years, as much as 6 to 8 feet by the end of this century. I would suggest that, if you're not taking account of that in your facilities, in everything from docks to all of the -- all of the coastal facilities, that would be a dereliction of duty.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir. We won't be able to maintain the ships, the submarines, everything else that we operate on these bases, without paying attention to what might occur in the future.


ANGUS KING:

And in fact, some of your facilities -- I've been in Norfolk a couple of years ago -- are already suffering the effects of rising sea level. Is that correct?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Yes, sir. And the Marine Corps, as well, too. We've had to expend an extraordinary amount of resources, actually to raise roads in Parris Island, for example, and Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune, and a lot of other investments. So we have to pay attention to these things, or otherwise, they'll get the best of us.


ANGUS KING:

And your responsibility, because of the effects on readiness and operations are to mitigate and adapt to these changes. That's correct is it not?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

That's correct, senator.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you. I do want to change the subject just briefly. We talked about directed energy. The other technology that I think we've missed is hypersonics, particularly defense against Hypersonics. And I hope that is an emphasis of your R and D, as you go forward. We've got $12 billion aircraft carriers that we don't want to be sitting ducks.

We need -- must develop defensive mechanisms for hypersonics.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Very much so, sir. And -- and that encumbers things that we do in cyberspace and SAP programs. But investment in CPS is also important for us, as well, too. And as we address the very difficult challenges that we've had in shipbuilding for decades now, and you take a look at the Zumwalt class destroyer, for example, you know, in overcoming the challenges with the advanced gun system.

Now trying to put CPS on it, it is one of my top priorities, as well. And hopefully, we'll have it on the first one, late 2025, and then, the second 2026, and the third one in 2029.


ANGUS KING:

Well, I hope that's -- it's an urgent priority, not just a priority, because our -- the core of our deterrence is our projected sea power. And we have to be able to defend it. If we can't, the deterrent goes away.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

We just lifted the first advanced gun system on the Zumwalt just last week, sir. It's moving along well.


ANGUS KING:

Where was the Zumwalt built again?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Bath, Maine, sir.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you, sir. Admiral, we talked a lot about recruiting. I want to thank you for sending a ship to the coast of Maine this summer. One of the problems with recruiting, if you look at the data nationwide is, there are many parts of our country now who never see a person in uniform. They never see military assets in the northeast.

There are virtually no bases left. My own hometown of Brunswick had a naval air station for 50 years, 60 years. Now it's gone. The people -- the Navy people that were the -- just, in many ways, the heart of our community, are gone. So thank you for sending the ship to Maine. And I would urge you to do similar kinds of deployments, because we need young people to see their military, to see people in uniform.

And -- and I think that's an important step. Finally, Admiral, I just want to commend to you, following up on work on mental health. This is a crisis, as you know. It affects suicide, it affects readiness, it affects the -- the well-being of your sailors. So I hope that this is a continuing process on the ships, on the shore.

And is that something that you see as a priority?


LISA FRANCHETTI:

It definitely is a priority. And we'll continue to focus on this. Earlier this year, we put out our culture of excellence, where we look really broadly at our entire culture, and all of the things that we are doing to support our sailors. Mental health is one of them. There are a lot of other programs that we pulled all together, again to create warfighters.

And that's all about getting after their body, mind, spirit to build great people, great leaders, and great teams. And we're going to be focused on this for a long time in the future.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you. General Smith, I want to welcome you back. And you fought your own battle this year. And you also rendered a service by proving to the American people that Marine Corps generals do, in fact, have hearts. So that was a plus. Thank you very much, Jim.


ERIC SMITH:

I think some of my Marines might debate that point with you, sir. But I do, in fact, have a heart. And it is fully functional.


ANGUS KING:

Thank you. Yes, sir.


JACK REED:

Well, thank you very much, Senator King. Just a few points, as we close. First of all, I will relay to you that I was speaking to General Kurilla, the CENTCOM Commander, commending him on an extraordinary operation, that defeated a huge missile attack in the state of Israel. And he went out of his way to commend the Navy.

I didn't bring it up, he brought it up. And for a West Point grad and a paratrooper like General Kurilla, that -- you must have made an impression on him, your service members.


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Well, and thank you for your own service, Mr. Chairman.


JACK REED:

Well, thank you. But [inaudible], you should be proud of that. In fact, frankly, I think, before that attack, if you said that we could destroy, essentially every missile that was being fired -- there were hundreds of them -- and only have one casualty, unfortunately, a young Bedouin child -- you'd say no, that's not possible.

You did it. It was the US Navy, as well as our air force, our naval aviators, etc. So we are performing better than any other service has ever performed. But we still have lots of problems. And you're dealing with them. The discussion on climate change here is interesting, because, when I was a kid, the Arctic Ocean was frozen.

And now, I don't think the Arctic Ocean is frozen. In fact, I think it's navigable. So let me ask you, Mr. Secretary, does a navigable Arctic Ocean prevent challenges to naval strategy?


CARLOS DEL TORO:

Very much so, sir. And we're seeing it, actually, with greater Chinese incursion and greater Russian activity, as well, too. As you know, our nation doesn't necessarily have the icebreakers that are necessary to operate freely in that zone. I'm very proud of the fact that our Navy is also stood up, and actually when Russian ships were deployed close to our islands, we actually deployed necessary destroyers out there to go meet them.

That will continue to be even a greater challenge in the future.


JACK REED:

That is the result of the accumulating effects of climate change. So, from a strategic point of view, we have to worry about it. From an equipment point of view, we have to worry about it, because of icebreakers, which we've not really invested in. Training, we have to worry about it. In fact, I know the military has just -- the Army, I should say, excuse me -- the Army is increasing its presence in Alaska, with the new airborne unit training, etc., interagency training.

So, you know, it is an important concern. I should -- I hope that would be obvious. But, thank you, all, very much for your service, for your testimony. We will adjourn the public open, session, and reconvene at SVC 217, at 12:30, for the closed session. And thank you for your testimony. The open session is adjourned.

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