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Luria highlights key readiness issues at HASC hearings

Elaine LuriaCongresswoman Elaine Luria, D-Va., questioned key Department of Defense and Navy leadership during two House Committee on Armed Services budget hearings this week.

On Wednesday, the Committee examined the Fiscal Year 2021 Department of Defense budget request. Throughout the hearing, Luria pressed Secretary of Defense Mark Esper for answers on military readiness.

Luria noted that in the Department of Defense’s annual performance report, the top priority was to “improve the Department’s ability to measure, assess, and understand readiness.”

The congresswoman then asked the Secretary of State how the DOD can work toward readiness if they cannot even define it.

“It is impossible for us to move toward the goal of military readiness if we cannot even define or measure this critical concept,” Luria said. “While I appreciated Secretary Esper’s response, that indicated DOD now has a better understanding of readiness, it was not reflected in the DOD’s annual performance report. It is important that DOD defines and provides metrics for readiness, so that we can evaluate its needs and promote our national defense.”

Luria shifted then her focus toward concerns about the aging Strategic Sealift. During a military crisis, 90 percent of all Army and Marine Corps equipment would need to be carried by ship. This would require sealift vessels to quickly deploy and transport cargo to the warzone.

The congresswoman stated that for between $1.5 billion and $2 billion, DOD could acquire all the ships they need to fulfill the Strategic Sealift’s mission, yet DOD does not prioritize that. She asked General Mark Milley about reevaluating DOD’s plan which does not emphasize the need for adequate Strategic Sealift capability.

The following day, HASC analyzed the Department of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget requests. In that hearing, Congresswoman Luria highlighted failures in naval ship construction for Thomas Modly, the Acting Secretary of the Navy. Her first line of questioning was about the failures of the Littoral Combat Ship program (LCS).

The congresswoman lamented that the ships were just prototypes that did not work. She asked Modly about his plan to build platforms and ships that do the mission.

“I am appalled that the Navy’s plan to get to 355 ships prioritizes quantity over capability and functionality,” Luria said.  “It is unacceptable that we send sailors to pour their blood, sweat, and tears onto nonoperational ships that are funded at the American taxpayer’s expense. The Navy must do better for our servicemembers and for the taxpayers.”

Afterwards, Luria questioned Modly about the Navy’s plan to get to 355 ships. After Modly stated that the first two LCS ships were not designed to be operational ships, Congresswoman Luria asked him why they were counted in the 355 ships.

Luria continued her line of questioning about the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP) and inquired how the failed OFRP can used as a basis for the Integrated Naval Force Structure Assessment and 30 Year Ship Building Plans, which have yet to be released publicly.