Floor Statements

Washington, D.C. ­– U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, delivered the following opening statement today at a hearing on posture of U.S. Transportation Command:

“The Senate Armed Services Committee meets today to receive testimony from General Darren McDew on the posture of the United States Transportation Command.

“TRANSCOM is more than just a functional command that moves personnel and materiel from place to place. It is a crucial asset on which our military’s global power projection depends—and one we must not take for granted. As General Patton once said, ‘…the officer who doesn’t know his communications and his supply as well as his tactics is totally useless.’ 

“General McDew and his predecessors have warned Congress for years that the proliferation of anti-access, area denial capabilities poses significant challenges for our transportation and distribution networks in contested environments.  Put simply, any assumption that TRANSCOM will have uncontested access to international airspace and sea-lanes in a future conflict is increasingly outdated.

“Transport ships and aircraft can be held at risk over greater and greater distances. Our logistics networks are centered on large air and seaports, which serve as efficient hubs, but are also vulnerable to attack. And then there are threats on the digital battlefield. Even as cyber intrusions have become increasingly prevalent,

nearly 90% of TRANSCOM’s missions are still executed over unclassified, commercial communications networks. This vulnerability extends operational risk to every single combatant command that TRANSCOM supports on a daily basis.

“This committee understands that efforts are currently underway to develop an overarching global plan that would articulate how TRANSCOM would operate in a contested environment, whether that be in the air, at sea, or in cyberspace. General, I look forward to an update on this plan today and ask that you provide as many details as possible as to preliminary findings of this effort.

“I also hope you can discuss TRANSCOM’s inaugural wargame, which took place last fall and examined mobility and distribution operations in a contested environment. Too often, operational wargames focus exclusively on combat capability and take combat logistics as a given. Combat capability is obviously important, but it won’t matter much if it never arrives to the fight, or can’t be sustained once it does. I look forward to hearing the lessons learned in TRANSCOM’s wargame.

“General McDew, it has been almost two years since your confirmation hearing before this committee, and I am looking forward to hearing the steps you have taken to address some of our shared concerns, and what more needs to be done.

“In particular, this committee understands the readiness and modernization challenges across the Department of Defense also affect TRANSCOM. A look at sealift, for example, reveals the same downward spiral we’ve seen elsewhere in the military: budget cuts mean fewer new ships, existing ships get older, maintenance gets more expensive and more difficult, readiness suffers, and more money is siphoned from future modernization to pay for current readiness. 

“Military Sealift Command’s organic surge sealift fleet is essential for rapid response in the event of a crisis or wartime scenario. But the average age of ships in our surge fleet is now 39 years. Over a recent 5-month period, less than 60% of sealift ships were able to activate during planned exercises due to various maintenance problems. The requirement for so-called ‘Roll-on/Roll-off’ ships has been relatively stable since the 1990s. But since Desert Storm, the surge sealift fleet has been cut nearly in half to just 27 ships. We’re already 10 ships short of the current requirement—enough to move two full armored brigade combat teams. And over the next six years, another 9 will likely age out.

“So while I look forward to hearing how TRANSCOM plans to address its readiness and modernization challenges, I do so fully aware that it cannot do truly do so unless we in the Congress step up and do our jobs, repeal the Budget Control Act, and provide full and steady funding to meet our national security requirements.

“General McDew, the committee thanks you for your continued service to the nation, and we look forward to your testimony today. Senator Reed.”