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1 bomber fleet and improved overall fleet readiness. Its mission capability rate increased 10 percent from last year. It is now over 71 percent, the highest in its history.
The increased spares funding that this Committee and this Congress has supported have paid off dramatically; 16 of 20 weapons systems improved mission-capable rates last year. The C-5B achieved its highest mission-capable rate since 1994, and it is now at 73 percent.
The B-2 improved over 33 percent, the A-10 was up eight percent, and our F-15s were up over five percent. Some of our oldest F-15s are suffering from age and from structural problems, and they are difficult, but the young men and women who do the maintenance on them are extraordinary. They are doing sometimes depot-level maintenance in the squadron level, and they are keeping these planes together in a beautiful way.
MISSION CAPABLE RATES
These are the best mission-capable rates we have experienced in five years and the best annual increases we have achieved since the mid-1980s. Clearly there are challenges. While we are making great progress in adapting the Air Force, we face challenges to our continuing air dominance. The increasing proliferation of advanced surface-to-air missile systems threatens our ability to gain and maintain air superiority in potential conflicts. Manned portable surface-to-air missiles have proliferated extensively. Tactical ballistic missiles and cruise missile technology is spreading.
RUSSIAN SU-37 AIRCRAFT
An advanced fighter has already been produced, specifically, the Russian SU-37, that is superior to our best fighters. But our airto-air world is increasingly dominated by how shall we deal with the cruise missile threats.
We are now facing the undeniable reality that other nations are investing in advanced American military technologies and fielding the best our aerospace industry has to offer in their air forces. While the investment of our good friends and allies is of great value to our alliance industrial base, superior capabilities are now or will shortly be present in American-produced airplanes that don't fly the American flag.
And by the way, Mr. Chairman, on the side, I have been researching what happened in the late 1930s, and at one point a similar thing happened where American industry was supporting foreign airplanes with much greater technology than they were providing to either the Department of the Navy or the Department of War.
Now, while other nations are modernizing, we continue to employ aging systems that are becoming more difficult to operate and more expensive to maintain. The average age of our operational air force is over 22 years per aircraft. And even with planned aircraft procurements, the total fleet average age is expected to increase to 27 years by the year 2020.
We sometimes jokingly put forward a histogram of our age of aircraft and note which ones were in service that are flying today that went into service before I was commissioned into the United States Navy, and I would hate to tell you how many planes that are in service today were in service before my colleague and dear friend John Jumper was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force. We have some old aircraft, sir.
Our proposed 2004 budget addresses a number of our challenges and supports the Department's priorities. It accelerates our modernization and joint capabilities and maintains the gains of readiness and people programs we achieved last year. Most important, it gets money into our procurement program and funds essential capabilities our warfighters need. I strongly request that you support stability in our major programs.
PERSONNEL AND READINESS
Our number one investment priority remains our people. The budget fully supports our authorized total force in strength, funds our education to force development initiatives, puts us on track to eliminate inadequate housing, and reduces out-of-pocket housing expenses on schedule with the Secretary's objectives. We appreciate your continued support of pay raises for our uniformed and civilian airmen.
Our readiness budget increases by six percent. It funds an expanded $6 billion flying hour program and sustains the positive trends we have achieved in our readiness rates. Our proposal increases our infrastructure investment above the 2003 requested level and keeps us on track to meet the Department's goal of a 67year recapitalization rate by 2008.
Finally, I am proud to report our proposed budget increases investment in new technologies by five percent over last year. Next year we will fund 22 F/A-22s if the budget is approved, continuing our move to a sustained production rate. We are attempting to get stability in this program so as to replicate what occurred with the C-17 where we can bring costs down and increase reliability.
Mr. Chairman, you remember very well the C—17 and some of the terrible days it went through, and it barely survived. And yet today when we receive a C-17, within 48 hours it is in the area of operations doing its mission, without any additional work.
The F/A-22 program is improving. It is currently meeting or exceeding all key performance related requirements. We have restructured the upgrade spirals to focus on developing the system's air-to-ground capabilities and recently delivered our initial production aircraft to Nellis Air Force Base.
We are experiencing some ongoing issues with software integration but having nothing to do with the flight controls, and we face the classic challenge in transitioning from development to production, something that you know, Mr. Chairman, I lived through on the B-2, in great agony.
It is not unusual to see these problems at this stage in the aircraft program because, more and more, what we do in the Armed Forces is software-based. But one of the things I would wish to say is that John and I have spent eight months—and eight months ago we got into this program in great depth. Over the period of time, Mr. Chairman, and with discussions with you and some very good encouragement from you, we are proud to say that the planes are now being delivered on time, and, in fact, we may have the first one that is early.
We have had a dramatic improvement in meeting the test points in the envelope for tests. We have gone back and fixed the production problems in which foreign object debris, FOD, damaged a couple of our engines. Key performance parameters have been met. It is stealthier than it was intended to be. The radar exceeds the requirement. We fired at supercruise a series of missiles. We have fired guns. We have taken care of canopy howl and we are fixing the fin buffeting problem. We have a situation with the spares that were not funded previously as they should have been, are finally starting to catch up. And we are now working on the assembly line and the station-to-station work on the assembly line is better than it has ever been.
But there are still some things, and the one that stands up is software, which will plague this program. It is plaguing an intelligence program that you know very well, Mr. Chairman. We should tell you the airborne laser is going to suffer the same thing, and we are now trying to hunt ahead of time to see how many of our programs were not properly funded for the period of integration and test, because the assumption that everything would go together correctly the first time simply is not borne out in reality.
We found that in the past, monies that were allocated to fund a second systems integration laboratory for software—software integration laboratory—were cut to save money. We found that in linking up places within the program that were supposed to have been done so software could be developed was cut in order to save money. We found that there were programs associated with classified parts of the program where the contractor thought that they weren't allowed to collect data so as to be able to do better diagnosis. It was a misunderstanding of the rules.
We are fixing as many of these things as we can, and each time we make an investment, like we are investing in the software integration lab, it is to do something for this program and for the F35, because so much of the F-35 depends on this program functioning well. For instance, 55 percent of the engine for the 35 is really based on the F/A-22.
To work the software issue, we are going to take one aircraft and make it our flying-proof aircraft for software. We were able to go in December from under two hours of stability in software in the lab to well over eight hours. We moved to the airplanes because they were in initial production in some instances, experiencing difficulties again when we bring everything together, including all of the antennas. So we will take one plane, make it as close to production configuration as possible and make that plane work, and then move that software to the other aircraft. This doesn't mean we can't do the test. It does. It means we don't go the period of time without one or the other subprograms experiencing some difficulty; none affecting the safety of flight.
What is different, Mr. Chairman, is we now have a more realistic cost estimating regime established. We were embarrassed to tell you that in the past we were doing things on a 50/50 basis. We have ended that. We now do it on an 80 percent basis, which means that we should be able to minimize surprises to you, sir.
We think we have a far better management team in our Air Force on top of this program. It is not that we won't face unknown unknowns, but we are working hard to make sure that any unknown unknown is as bound as it can be. We remain committed to our buy-to-budget strategy. We will maximize the number of aircraft we procure within the established budget caps.
We have kept our word to you, sir, and we believe that once we can get stability in this program, we can lower the costs. We have already demonstrated that we can lower the costs of the radar by 40 percent and have a dramatically improved radar because technology is moving forward and there are things we can do.
This process of ours of trying not to ask you for more money on this serves as not only an insurance policy for the taxpayer, but it provides a dramatic incentive for your Air Force and our industry suppliers to get it done right. With your support, we will continue to deliver the only operational system we will field this decade that puts iron on the enemy.
May I add, Mr. Chairman, we are dedicated to bringing the system online because it will alter how we fight.
As you know, both John and I will be the first to recommend to Secretary Rumsfeld that this program be terminated if we believe we cannot bring something to you of which you would be very, very proud. And therefore, we would ask you, sir, to give us our chance, give us more than eight months. Give us a chance to bring this plane on to show you what we can do.
AIR FORCE TRANSFORMATION
Mr. Chairman, we are also working very closely with Secretary Rumsfeld and our colleagues to implement a range of sensible management practices that we believe will help minimize obstacles in the path to effective future administration of the Department. Particularly, we are looking at measures to transform our personnel, acquisition, administrative, and range management practices.
We thank you very much for the investment you have made in our future and for the trust you have placed in our concerted effort to provide America with air and space dominance. I think on behalf of all our airmen, Mr. Chairman, you and your colleagues are providing them the wherewithal that, should the President ask them to perform, they will do so and they will do so to make you proud. Thank you.
Mr. LEWIS. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Summary Statement Of General Jumper
General Jumper. Mr. Chairman, Congressman Murtha, Chairman Young, it is a pleasure to be before you today and for this chance to tell you about the outstanding men and women of the United States Air Force.
Let me begin, Mr. Chairman, by saying that my boss here, who talked about the increase in mission capability rates across our force, this would not have been possible without the support of this Committee that put out there, into the hands of our airmen, the parts and the supplies they needed to do their job.
Let me also add that there is no greater help to our retention issues of the past than to put into the hands of our airmen out on the flight line the parts they need to fix their airplane. It is because when we break faith with them by not giving them that part, is when they begin to walk out the door. When we give them the tools they need to do their job, we find that they stay with us. So let me thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Committee, for that level of support which has made that difference.
AIR FORCE ACADEMY
Right up front, Mr. Chairman, I would like to address our situation at the United States Air Force Academy. The Secretary and I have been personally involved in this situation. We have not put anybody else to be our spokesman on this, as we talked earlier. It is our absolute determination that our United States Air Force Academy will graduate officers of character, of honor, and of integrity, and that the crime of any kind of assault will absolutely not be tolerated either among the cadets or those who would hope to be officers. We have dedicated our full power to this, sir, and we will fix this problem.
Sir, let me continue to mention that this, the year 2003, is the 100th anniversary of powered flight, and we have come a long way since those days of wood and fabric machines to the point now that we are reaching for the frontiers of space in this exciting world that we live in. And this environment, we all know, sir, is very much different than any environment we ever expected.
If we even go back to before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Soviet Union and look at the predictions that were made back in those times, we would find that by the year 2000, the United States was to have been a second-rate power. We would find that probably no one around could point to a place called Kosovo, and very few people could name even a majority of the "Stan's" and yet over the decade that has passed since, the decade or more since Desert Storm, we have found ourselves in all of those situations, and we found that we have been able to adjust to those and deal with them in a rather spectacular way. Again, thanks to the help from this Committee and the great airmen that we have and the flexibility we have in all of our services.