Calvert Remarks at FY24 Budget Hearing for the United States Air Force and Space Force (As Prepared)

Mar 29, 2023

The Defense Subcommittee will come to order.

Today, the Subcommittee will receive testimony from:

•      the Honorable Frank Kendall, Secretary of the Air Force;

•      General C.Q. Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force;

•      And General Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations. General Saltzman, welcome to the Subcommittee.

Air and space superiority are more important than ever, as the U.S. faces the challenge of strategic competition with China.

To safeguard our national interests and defend our partners and allies, our military must maintain superiority in all warfighting domains.

Due to the significance of air and space capabilities in these demanding environments, we must continue to invest in our capabilities, create new technologies, and build a world class workforce.

For Fiscal Year 2024, the Air Force and Space Force’s combined budget request is $215 billion, roughly $9 billion over the Fiscal Year 2023 enacted level.

This request makes continued progress on prior year funding from Congress. However, these investments come with certain tradeoffs, like the divestment of capable aircraft, that this Subcommittee must carefully consider.

I am encouraged by many aspects of this request such as the shift to digital engineering, increasing investment in agile combat employment, and the delivery of priority programs like the B-21 and NGAD.

Yet I fear we are still not moving fast enough. To quote General Brown, we must accelerate change or lose.

With new Major Defense Acquisition Programs on the horizon like Collaborative Combat Aircraft and the Next Generation Air-refueling System, I am challenging the Air Force to set the example by fundamentally changing how we develop and field advanced systems and bring the DoD into “Industry 4.0”.

Having just returned from the Indo-Pacific region, I am acutely aware that adversaries like China and North Korea are not waiting for us to field of our advanced systems to take action. We need progress now.

All three of you have my commitment to work closely with you throughout this budget process to find ways we can hasten the fielding of the platforms needed by our warfighters today.

We cannot let our legacy procurement processes inhibit our ability to decisively defeat any adversary.

I also want to highlight some concerns I have with the request, especially with respect to our military and civilian personnel.

We are all aware of the challenges the entire Department is having with recruitment and retention within the Active, Guard, and Reserve components. I want to hear about your strategy to recruit the force of today and leaders of tomorrow.

Further, I continue to be convinced that our civilian workforce is not appropriately structured to sustainably meet the National Defense Strategy. To meet the threat environment within budget constraints, we must prioritize the fielding of weapons systems and advanced technologies – not a bloated bureaucracy.

For the Space Force, the Fiscal Year 2024 budget request is $30.2 billion, a 15 percent increase over last year’s enacted level, and the largest request ever for the Service. 

I am pleased to see this increase, as all our military forces rely on space for mission essential services. 

I have been impressed with the work of the Space Development Agency and their rapid development-to-acquisition process. We need to get capability on orbit faster and should leverage commercial capabilities.

However, I am very concerned about the increasing threats posed by adversaries, particularly Russia and China—both of whom have carried out provocative tests demonstrating anti-satellite capabilities.

So, I would like to hear how the proposed budget accelerates the development and fielding of more resilient capabilities to counter these threats.

Finally, I would like to hear General Saltzman’s thoughts on his strategy to shape the Space Force and position it for success.

Before we hear from our witnesses, I would like to recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, Ms. McCollum, for any opening comments.