Chair McCollum Statement at the Fiscal Year 2022 United States Air Force and Space Force Budget Hearing

2021-05-07 12:02

Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), Chair of the Defense Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2022 United States Air Force and Space Force Budget​.

This afternoon the Committee will receive testimony on the posture of the United States Air Force and Space Force.

Our three witnesses are: the Honorable John Roth, Acting Secretary of the Air Force; General Charles Brown, Chief of Staff of the Air Force; and General John Raymond, Chief of Space Operations.

All three of our witnesses have long and distinguished careers serving our country. This is the first time each of you has testified before the Committee. We welcome you and thank you for your service. 

While the hearing today will cover multiple topics, I will quickly highlight a few that I would like to discuss. 

The Air Force today stands at a pivotal point in its history. General Brown has characterized the Air Force’s situation as “accelerate change or lose”.

In other words, the Air Force must modernize, and do so quickly. This will require trade-offs and hard decisions.

This Committee will need to give serious consideration to the divestment of so-called “legacy” systems, in order to free up limited funding for more relevant capabilities.

At the same time, characterizing a program or effort as “modernization” does not grant it a free pass.

We will continue to scrutinize all programs for cost and performance.

In addition, I will want to hear from the Air Force on how they are tackling climate change, and from both services about how they are combatting
sexual assault and extremism in the ranks.

As to space: In the 16 months since the Space Force was established, significant progress has been made in standing up its operations unit, Space Operations Command. 

However, while progress has been made on the operations side,

progress in addressing longstanding acquisition issues has been disappointing so far. 

Too often over the past two decades, space acquisition programs have been delivered late and over budget—sometimes billions of dollars over budget.

Just one example is the current Missile Warning satellite program, which, according to GAO, was delivered 9 years late and $15 billion OVER the original estimate.  

The intent of establishing the Space Force was to fix these issues. 

Yet, to date, space acquisition appears to be simply the sum of its previous parts with minor tweaks around the edges. 

The Department of the Air Force has yet to resolve fundamental issues on roles, responsibilities, and authorities between its various space acquisition units. 

Nowhere is the lack of progress more evident than the absence of senior civilian acquisition leadership solely focused on space
within the Department of the Air Force. 

More than 80 percent of the Space Force’s funding goes toward acquisition.

Overseeing and leading an organization attempting to deliver such technically complex systems is not a part-time job, which is how it has been handled in the past. 

Congress established an Assistant Secretary of the Air Force position to serve as the Space Force Acquisition Executive, a position that has yet to be filled. 

I believe this person should have responsibility for aligning program plans, budgets, and integrating those plans across the Department.  

I strongly urge the Administration to fill this position at the earliest opportunity and to seek a space acquisition professional to carry out this important responsibility. 

This Committee’s support for Space Force hinges on how well it manages the funding the taxpayers provide to it to deliver capability to the combatant commands.

We would like to hear about the Department of the Air Force’s plans to address space acquisition and bring greater discipline to delivering space capabilities on schedule and within budget. 

I am encouraged President Biden has named Frank Kendall, a seasoned acquisition expert, to lead the Department of the Air Force and its air and space programs.  

I acknowledge that we are holding this hearing before the release of the full budget request and we understand this may limit your ability to answer certain questions.

Given the tight timeframe we will have to write the bill, I ask that you be prepared to respond to members on any specific budget questions that are asked today immediately after the full request is submitted.

With that, I thank you again for appearing before the Committee today to discuss these important issues.

117th Congress