Our military has deployed to more locations around the world at a far greater rate than was ever the case during the Cold War. After almost two decades of fighting multiple contingencies worldwide with a force structure that is 40 percent smaller and equipment that is decades old, our military readiness is declining.
Our troops on the front lines are being forced to use equipment well past its service life. We have terminated more than 50 modernization programs in the past two years and drastically scaled back and slowed down the production of ships, ground vehicles and aircraft, increasing overall costs. Our equipment reset costs after years of fighting will be in the billions.
All of this is coming at a time when the Obama administration has cut the defense budget by $487 billion and will potentially cut another $500 billion because of the sequester, devastating our military readiness and national security. Despite decreasing military funds, the administration continues to force the military to spend more on an expensive alternative energy agenda, including the purchase of biofuels for operational use and the construction of commercial biofuel refineries.
While I fully support the development and use of all alternative fuels, the priority for our defense spending must be maintaining readiness.
Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ primary focus must be on the readiness of our Navy — not taking funds needed for operations and maintenance or defense modernization to prop up the unproven biofuel industry.
Our Navy has had readiness problems over the past few years, with more than one-fifth of its ships falling short of combat readiness and fewer than half of its deployed combat aircraft being mission ready at any given time.
According to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert, there will be a 15 percent increase in the number of ships and subs deployed, with the number of ships and attack boats deployed at any time rising from 93 today to 107 by late 2016. Increased deployment rates affect sailors and Marines as well as maintenance.
The Navy’s increased operations tempo coincides with planned decreases in the number of aircraft carriers and submarines as the Navy falls far short of its 313-ship target. The end result will be gaps in our forward presence and a decrease in mission readiness of the fleet.
When every defense cut degrades our military’s readiness, why would we want our Navy to pay four to five times more than necessary for fuel? With a military budget that continues to decrease, where is the Navy going to get the funds to pay for biofuels? What is the Navy willing to give up for biofuels?
Energy efficiency in the military is a worthy goal that I support. The Pentagon is pursuing some alternative energy solutions that are affordable and make sense, but biofuels still face significant challenges.
A 2011 RAND Corp. study concluded, “There is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels rather than petroleum-derived fuels. ... In short, the military is best served by efforts directed at using energy more efficiently in weapon systems and at military installations.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.