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Posted by Randy | April 01, 2015

The aircraft carrier remains the most visible and effective instrument of U.S. military power. Building a mixed and technologically-advanced Carrier Air Wing, including unmanned aircraft, is essential to preserving the carrier’s dominance in the decades ahead. I recently authored an Op-Ed in Defense News laying out my vision for unmanned carrier aviation.

Commentary: Where Is Unmanned Carrier Aviation Heading?
Defense News
By Congressman Randy Forbes
March 31, 2015 

"What's going on with the Pentagon's longest-running drama, the Navy's Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program?" Bill Sweetman recently asked in Aviation Week. In the absence of any updates from the Pentagon, it's a question that is on the minds of many interested parties.

Until last year, the Navy's efforts to add an unmanned aircraft to the carrier air wing appeared to be on track and close to delivering impressive results. And then, just when it seemed a brave new world of unmanned carrier aviation was dawning, Congress got involved.

Or so it might seem. Last December, Congress passed a National Defense Authorization Act that constrained the Navy's use of funding for the UCLASS program in fiscal year 2015. In its markup, my subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces mandated that the secretary of defense review the requirements guiding the UCLASS program and report back to Congress before awarding any contracts for the "air vehicle segment" of the program, effectively putting aircraft development on hold.

Some commentators have alleged that this constituted just one of several instances of "politics, mainly in the form of ill-conceived spending constraints … making it harder for the joint force to tap the full potential" of unmanned technology. In the case of UCLASS, however, I strongly believe that the constraints imposed by Congress will help the joint force truly exploit the full potential of unmanned carrier aircraft.

I am convinced that where carrier aviation is concerned, unmanned aviation's greatest promise lies in its potential to fill the carrier air wing's most glaring capability gap: its lack of a sufficiently long-range penetrating strike capability. Although the carrier and its air wing are among the most versatile and effective military tools available to US commanders today, their value in the decades ahead will be determined in large part by how the carrier air wing evolves to meet anti-access challenges arising in the Western Pacific and around the world.

In order for the carrier to meet its full potential as a power-projection instrument, its air wing must include aircraft that can launch and recover from beyond the reach of prospective adversaries' sea-denial capabilities and penetrate sophisticated air defenses with a load of sensors and weapons. To do so, these aircraft will need a greater combat radius than key threats they face and current manned carrier fighters can achieve; air refueling capability; all-aspect, broadband stealth; and a sizable internal payload.

Armed with such an aircraft, the carrier and its air wing would be capable of meeting the full spectrum of foreseeable operational challenges.

As noted above, the Navy appeared for a while to be on track to develop such an aircraft. Building on joint research and development efforts, the sea service developed an Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstration (UCAS-D) aircraft, the X-47B, that made unmanned aviation history in May 2013 by conducting the first unmanned catapult launch and arrested recovery aboard a carrier at sea. In April, the UCAS-D is poised to achieve another aviation milestone by conducting the first autonomous midair refueling from a manned tanker.

Although only a prototype, UCAS-D seemed like a steppingstone to the long-range penetrating strike capability envisioned above. All seemed well until the Navy circulated a draft request for proposals for a follow-on UCLASS aircraft in 2013, indicating that the Navy had decided to go in a different direction. Instead of a combat-capable evolution of the UCAS-D, the Navy was now expressing interest in a semi-stealthy and only lightly armed aircraft that could stay aloft for roughly 14 hours and conduct intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and light strike missions.

I recognize that a high-endurance ISR capability is needed by the carrier air wing, and that there is also a need for the air wing to refuel more efficiently. I also recognize that unmanned vehicles have the potential to effectively and efficiently carry out both of these missions.

But neither of these capability gaps in organic ISR and aerial refueling is as glaring as the air wing's lack of penetrating long-range strike capability. Manned carrier aircraft can (and currently do) mitigate these capability gaps in ISR and aerial refueling, as can "off-board" aircraft, including the many long-endurance maritime surveillance UAVs and tanker aircraft in the programmed Navy and Air Force fleets.

But more importantly, it will not matter whether on-board or off-board aircraft fulfill these important but ultimately supporting functions if the carrier does not have the long-range penetrating strike capability needed to carry the fight to future adversaries.

As is too often the case in this age of growing threats and scarce resources, the question that Congress faces with regard to UCLASS is one of prioritization. The ongoing debate over platform requirements is really about competing conceptual visions for unmanned carrier aviation, and making sure that the carrier air wing's "hierarchy of needs" is addressed in a strategic manner. That is why I fully support the Pentagon's decision to conduct a Strategic Portfolio Review that will inform the requirements for unmanned carrier aircraft.

Although there is no time to waste, it is imperative that the Navy "measure twice and cut once" on the first and only unmanned carrier aircraft in its program of record. Given prospective fiscal constraints, competition from other programs and the long timelines needed for aircraft development, the opportunity costs of proceeding with the wrong vision and the wrong requirements are simply too high for Congress to stand idly by. The aircraft we begin procuring today must be the aircraft we will need in 2025 and beyond. For all the reasons mentioned above, I believe that aircraft will be, and must be, a long-range, air-refuelable penetrating strike platform that can out-range the mounting threats to the carrier and play a major role in joint efforts to defeat anti-access networks.

Read the article here.

Posted by | March 31, 2015

The Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard recently released a new Maritime Strategy. I’ve shared my thoughts on what any successful Maritime Strategy should contain here and recently discussed the subject with USNI News, noting the significant progress made since the last Strategy was released in 2007.


Rep. Forbes: New U.S. Maritime Strategy Revision 'Light Years Ahead' of 2007 Original
By Sam LaGrone
March 30, 2015

The recent revision to the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard’s maritime strategy is ‘light years ahead’ of the 2007 original draft, the chairman of the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces told USNI News last week.

Two weeks after the rollout of the tri-service plan. Rep Randy Forbes (R-Va.) said he mostly pleased with the content of A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower (CS21).

“I thought the last one wasn’t very strong at all it didn’t have much meat to it. This one is light years ahead of where that strategy was and because of that I think this could be something that could have a lot more shelf life to it,” Forbes said.

“It is certainly something we are looking at and paying attention to with our subcommittee."

In particular, Forbes was pleased the Navy included a component about China.

“They were pretty straightforward talking about the challenge China would pose,” he said.

“That’s something if you leave out of our maritime strategy, it almost becomes worthless.”

However, Forbes would have liked to see more attention on the industrial base and a force structure assessment specifically for the Navy.

“I think one of the things that more and more people are becoming a little bit concerned about is our over all industrial base — what it’s going to look like five years down the road and ten years down the road?” he said.
“I would have liked to have seen them do a laydown about that industrial base is and then some planning on how the maritime strategy will help support that industrial base so we will have it there to provide the ships and repairs we’ll need down the road.”

Forbes has been vocal about a perceived lack of overall U.S. military strategic direction.

“I find the degree to which we as a nation are devoting any real intellectual energy to the subject [of strategy] to be minimal, just as I find that our capacity to devote such energy to be waning,” read a July 28 from Forbes to Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Jonathan Greenert.

“I write to you because of my sense that an effort to restore strategic thinking in the U.S. government must be started and championed by a strong advocate. I believe the Navy can be that champion and the Chief of Naval Operations can be its chief advocate."

Over the 18-months CS-21 revision process, the Navy shared drafts and asked legislators for their input into the final revision, including Forbes.

“The Navy actually met with us early on in this process, talked to us and said ‘we included some of your suggestions in this maritime strategy’ and in face they have — throughout,” he said.

“Overall they did a very good job with this maritime strategy and it should guide us in many of the decisions we should make over the upcoming months.”

Read the article here.
Posted by Randy | March 27, 2015
Wanted to highlight a bill for you that I recently cosponsored – The Detaining Terrorists to Protect America Act (H.R. 401) – to push back on what I strongly believe is the Administration’s ill-advised approach towards the remaining detainees at  GITMO.

What this bill does:
  This legislation accomplishes several important priorities: 1) suspends international transfers of high and medium risk detainees; 2) prohibits transfers of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen; 3) extends the current prohibition on transfers to the U.S.; and 4) increases transparency regarding risk assessments of the remaining GITMO detainees.

Bottom line: I believe for the Administration to put politics above national security, and personal priorities above the interests of the American people is beyond shortsighted – it is dangerous.

Recently, I joined Neil Cavuto on the Fox News Channel to discuss the President’s recent comment that he should have closed GITMO on his first day in office. Click here to watch if you missed it.
Posted by Randy | March 25, 2015

Defense isn’t just another line in the budget – it is a constitutional duty. The consequences of getting our national defense wrong are far-reaching and, despite what the Administration will say, far more devastating than getting funding for the EPA wrong, or the IRS. The bottom line is if we get national defense wrong, nothing else matters.

Below is the speech I delivered on the House floor yesterday during the budget debates. Click here, or the image below to watch, if you missed it.

Posted by Randy | March 21, 2015

In case you weren’t able to tune in on Thursday, I wanted to pass along the clip of my discussion with Neil Cavuto on Fox News about the President’s comment that he should have closed GITMO on his first day in office. You can watch the exchange here, or by clicking the image below.

I will continue to push back on the Administration’s actions that put politics above national security, and personal priorities above the interests of the American people.

Posted by Randy | March 20, 2015

Recently, I joined my colleagues in sending a letter to the President, calling upon him to direct Secretary of Defense Carter to develop a plan to field a robust, multi-layered homeland ballistic missile defense system capable of defending the U.S. from the full range of ballistic missile threats.This plan is due to be delivered to Congressional Defense Committees by March 31st.

You can read a copy of the letter, here. The proliferation of missile technology poses threats to the homeland and to our military forces and allies overseas.  I am committed to fully resourcing the development of critically-needed missile defense capabilities and protecting the homeland.

Posted by Randy | March 19, 2015
Real quick – wanted to be sure you had seen this good news. Recently, there was controversy at Robins Air Force Base in Georgia when a complaint was made over Airmen saying "have a blessed day” as part of their greeting to visitors at the security gate entrance.  The phrase was not part of official protocol, but rather a traditional southern phrase offered voluntarily by the greeters.

After review, the Air Force reinforced that the phrase is perfectly acceptable under the new AFI 1-1 policy protecting religious freedom. You can read the Robins Air Force Base’s statement on their facebook page, here.

I will keep working to protect the ability of our men and women in uniform to exercise the very freedoms they are fighting for. To stay up to date on these issues, click here to like my Facebook page.
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

As the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard prepare to release a new Maritime Strategy, I believe we have a unique chance to set a strong course for our sea services in the years ahead. Read my Op-Ed, with former Navy Secretary John Lehman, on what direction the new Strategy should take.

What Navy’s New Maritime Strategy Should Say
By John Lehman and Rep. J. Randy Forbes 
March 11, 2015

After years of ill-considered budget cuts and a focus on large-scale land wars, the U.S. Navy had entered a period of qualitative and quantitative decline, diminished readiness, and a lack of confidence in its own mission and capabilities.

Foreign adversaries seemed ascendant, including a radical theocracy in Iran and an expansionist Russia. Many American political leaders seemed resigned to a significantly reduced global role, and the Navy showed signs of abandoning its historic inclination toward an aggressive, offensive-minded spirit.

We refer not to the present day but rather to the late 1970s and early 1980s. Then, as now, the U.S. Navy faced a deteriorating international security environment, an aging and shrinking fleet, and an administration woefully inadequate to the tasks before it. Ronald Reagan’s ascension to the presidency and determination to reverse the country’s military decline required a new strategy for the Navy.

The 1982 Maritime Strategy offered a unique opportunity to translate Reagan’s vision for resurgent American power and restored national defense into an actionable plan for the Navy and Marines. It refocused the Navy on its offensive mission — to take the fight directly to the Soviet Union rather than to consign itself to simply transporting troops to the fight, as many even in the Navy’s leadership seemed resigned to do.

The document not only helped remind the service of its fighting spirit, but also sent a powerful signal to friend and foe alike that the service remained a force to be reckoned with. The 1982 Strategy would remain the essential blueprint for our Navy through the collapse of Communism and victory in the Cold War.

The release Friday of a new Maritime Strategy offers a similar opportunity to set a clear roadmap for our Navy, Marines and Coast Guard, one that will outlast the current administration and provide the intellectual firepower required to rebuild our sea services for the challenges ahead. To be successful, the new Maritime Strategy must contain four key elements.

Signaling. A key element of the 1982 Strategy was signaling America’s renewed commitment to robust naval power to both our adversaries and allies. The new Maritime Strategy must follow a similar path, clearly conveying to states like Russia, Iran and China our determination to maintain sufficient capacity to ensure access to the global sea-lanes, freedom of navigation, and a stable balance in key regions of the globe. As important, the document should offer allies and potential partners and unambiguous statement of U.S. support in the face of revisionist powers seeking to upend the peaceful, U.S.-backed order of the previous 70 years.

It must also include an expectation that the United States will continue to rely heavily on our allies and partners to provide significant naval contributions, both to regional challenges like Iran and China but also to global efforts like anti-piracy and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Budget Coherence. The new strategy must provide high-level thinking to inform the Sea Service’s annual budget proposals, which too often appear to be accounting exercises as much as realistic statements of military requirements. The new Maritime Strategy can lend coherence to the coming years’ budget proposals by clearly stating the nation’s expectations of the Navy-Marine Corps Team. For example, a candid statement of the challenge posed by Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) systems can offer important legitimacy for existing and emerging countermeasures and strengthen the hand of those programs’ advocates inside the bureaucracy. A forward-looking approach toward something like unmanned carrier-launched strike assets would similarly assist the services, and Congress, in budget debates that could use a dose of strategic foresight and long-term thinking.

Implementation. The 1982 Strategy was unique in that it was not simply words. Rather, it offered specific guidance that could be easily operationalized and implemented far down the chain of command. Of course, the earlier strategy had important differences from today — for one, the 1982 version was classified, with an unclassified annex intended for public consumption, while today’s will be entirely public.

Nevertheless, the new strategy must convey to our sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen a series of specific guidances that can relate to their operational-level challenges and even be incorporated broadly into advanced training programs like Top Gun. Reiterating the service’s commitment to core competencies like amphibious assaults, anti-submarine warfare and mine warfare, along with a discussion of the challenges and opportunities in those warfare areas, will provide the intellectual foundation our operator’s need to actually execute the missions of the future.

Holistic. Most importantly, the new Maritime Strategy must include all aspects of American naval power to be successful. The 1982 Strategy spoke not only to the role of the traditional sea services: It considered the role of the Air Force’s maritime aircraft and even attempted to account for the Army’s role in any future maritime conflict.

Success in future conflicts will be even more dependent on integrating the strengths of all our military services, from the Air Force’s long-range strike capabilities to the Army’s possible entrance into counter-A2/AD missions with a return to land-based anti-ship missions. The new strategy must reflect this reality and think holistically about the future face of warfare, where domains cannot be easily divided by military service and challenges like cyber-warfare and counter-space operations defy easy bureaucratic organization.

Our maritime services have a unique opportunity to accomplish something far too rare in today’s Washington: to create a lasting document that fully conveys American strategy and purpose to a world that has often been confused by recent U.S. strategic incoherence. The 1982 Maritime Strategy can serve as a useful example of a strategy document that made a significant contribution to the real-world success of U.S. national security policy. While much has changed in the three decades since that strategy was released, the need for a forcefully stated and clearly expressed U.S.  maritime strategy is timeless.

John F. Lehman served as Navy Secretary from 1981 to 1987. Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.) is Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

Read the article here.
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

The United States has a choice. We can continue on our current path and provide our military barely enough resources to fight the wars of the past, let alone prepare for future conflicts. Or we can begin the process of restoring the greatest military the world has ever known to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Below is my recent Op-Ed on this subject with former Senator Jim Talent.

America's Self-Inflicted National Security Crisis

Real Clear Defense
By J. Randy Forbes & Jim Talent
March 12, 2015

Over the past several years, knowledgeable witnesses appearing before Congress have testified to an impending crisis in national security. Whether it is the readiness of American personnel, the capability of our ships and aircraft, or the size of the force itself, the warnings have been both frequent and alarming. The Chief of Staff of the Army, General Ray Odierno, is uncertain whether the United States could prevail in a major regional war. General Mark Welsh, Chief of Staff of the Air Force has warned that we can no longer be assured of dominating the air in a future conflict. The Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear, has stated that losing just a few more ships will reduce our Navy from a global to a regional power. They all believe that we are not near a crisis point for the defense of the United States. We have already reached it.

Four years ago, Secretary of Defense Bob Gates offered a plan calling for modest yearly increases in his Department’s budgets over the next ten years. We had serious doubts whether that budget was sufficient to enable the armed forces to recover after ten years of hard fighting and after a history of underfunding -- especially for the modernization accounts -- dating back to the 1990s. But the Gates’ proposal would at least have allowed the Department to maintain its end strength, support a modest increase in shipbuilding, and begin to recapitalize its inventories.

However, within a short time Congress and the President agreed on the Budget Control Act and sequester, which together cut the Gates’ budgets by $1 trillion over ten years. Secretary Leon Panetta said at the time that those cuts were “like shooting ourselves in the head.” He was right; the cuts have forced reductions in personnel, the elimination of modernization programs, and a dangerous decline in day-to-day military readiness.

For example:

-Under sequestration, the Army will be cut to 420,000 soldiers, its smallest size since 1941. Training will be reduced for most units to only platoon and company-level exercises. Modernization will be reduced, forcing the service to rely on equipment purchased during the Reagan build-up;

-Today’s Air Force inventory of fighters, bombers, among others, is the oldest and smallest in the history of the service. Less than half of the service’s combat squadrons are fully ready today. Under the full impact of sequestration, readiness will plummet and the number of fighter, bomber and surveillance units will be reduced again by half. Also affected will be the Air Force’s ability to provide strike, close-air support and surveillance to protect a more vulnerable smaller army;

- The size of the fleet will shrink, per the Chief of Naval Operations, to a regional force of about 250 ships, possibly lower. By 2020, US naval forces assigned to the Western Pacific will total only one-third to one-fourth of the size of China’s growing modern fleet which will be between 325 to 350 ships. Moreover, the ability to reinforce that diminished fleet, as measured by the Navy’s contingency response force, will continue to decline as readiness continues to decline

- The Commandant of the Marine Corps, testified on February 26 that one half of his non-deployed units suffer from shortfalls in personnel, equipment and training under the current limited impact of sequestration. The full impact of sequestration, he explained, would force the Marine Corps “to divest ourselves of people …or to stop training.”

Last year, the National Defense Panel co-chaired by former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry and former Centcom Commander John Abizaid, convened to review the Department of Defense Quadrennial Defense Review plans. In a report, the Panel bluntly, repeatedly, and unanimously condemned the cuts and warned of the nefarious effect they were having on America’s armed forces:

“[T]oday the Department is facing major readiness shortfalls that will, absent a decisive reversal of course, create the possibility of a hollow force that loses its best people, underfunds procurement, and shortchanges innovation. The fact that each service is experiencing degradations in so many areas at once is especially troubling at a time of growing security challenges.” The Panel recommended strongly that the cuts be reversed and the Gates’ 2011 budget be reinstated as the minimum funding necessary to protect American national security.Those recommendations were recently endorsed by a bipartisan group of 85 defense experts who condemned the “cuts [that] are undermining the readiness of our forces today and investment in the critical capabilities they will need tomorrow.

We live in a time of increasing global risk. Russia is invading Ukraine and threatening Eastern Europe, China is engaged in a massive military buildup to support its provocative actions in the Western Pacific, North Korea is increasing its nuclear stockpile, ISIS has established a caliphate, Iran is approaching nuclear capability, and Islamic terrorism is spreading to more and more countries. There is no conceivable world where what amounts to unilateral American disarmament would make sense; but in the world of today it is madness beyond measure.

As we write this, the leaders of Congress are preparing their budget resolution for the upcoming year.  That budget should, as a minimum, incorporate the recommendations of the National Defense Panel by increasing defense spending to at least the Gates’ baseline as soon as possible within the ten-year window; it should also lift defense funding in FY 2016 substantially above the President’s recommendations so that the Department can restore the current readiness of its forces and begin a realistic plan to modernize its inventory of equipment.

America’s armed forces are the foundation of a national security architecture that is designed, in the first instance, to deter aggression against American and its vital national interests. Essentially, the United States uses its power to manage and defuse threats before they rise to the level of uncontrollable armed aggression or conflict. Our servicemen and women have done their part; they continue to show the highest degree of courage and commitment. The least they deserve from their political representatives is a budget that is honestly designed to give them the capabilities they need. That hasn’t happened for four years, and everyone knows it; it must happen now, before another year is wasted, and while there is still time to avert the storms that are gathering around the world.

Representative J. Randy Forbes is Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee in the House Armed Services Committee.

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) senior fellow Jim Talent is the director of the National Security Project 2020 at AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies. A former U.S. Senator from Missouri, he was a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the chairman of the Subcommittee on Seapower.

Read the article here
Posted by Randy | March 13, 2015

A recent Op-Ed in the New York Times contended that our Navy, which is near its smallest size since World War I, is more than large enough for today's world. Needless to say, I strongly disagree. My rebuttal letter was published in today's Times.

Stop the 'Decline of Our Navy,' a Congressman Says
The New York Times
By Congressman Randy Forbes
March 12, 2015

To the Editor:

Re “Our Navy Is Big Enough” (Op-Ed, March 9):

Contrary to Gregg Easterbrook, the Navy has entered a genuine crisis caused by years of dangerous underinvestment and the folly of sequestration. After peaking at nearly 568 ships in 1987, the fleet now numbers 275 ships.

Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the commander of the United States Pacific Command, testified that on its current course, the Navy risks becoming merely a regional rather than a global power.

Regarding the challenge posed by China’s rapid military expansion, the Chinese have spent the last two decades investing specifically in areas of perceived American weakness, developing options like antiship missiles, diesel submarines, and sophisticated antisatellite and cyberwarfare capabilities designed to limit American access to disputed waters.

Beijing does not need to match the United States ship for ship to deny our fleet critical access to the Asian Pacific.

Mr. Easterbrook seems willing to accept the loss of open access to global waters like the South China Sea, which China has claimed as its own. I refuse to accept a world where revisionist powers are able to alter the status quo with impunity because America’s Navy is too weak to resist.

Read the article here.