UPDATED with Marine Corps data CAPITOL HILL: More than 60 percent of Navy and Marine Corps strike fighters are out of service, the Navy confirmed today. While 62 percent of fighters are effectively grounded, the overall figure for all naval aircraft is 53 percent. [UPDATE: With some of the oldest fighter jets in service, Marine Corps figures are even worse: In December, 74 percent of Marine F-18 Hornets were not ready for combat — 208 of 280 aircraft; see below for details.] Such striking numbers underline why Defense Secretary James Mattis, military leaders, and many legislators have prioritized fixing readiness for the force we already have, an immediate crisis, over the long-term build-up of a bigger force that President Trump promised in his campaign.
Pro-defense lawmakers still want the build-up, but they acknowledge it’s going to take years, if not decades. For example, legislators have asked the Congressional Budget Office to study alternative spending plans to build a 355-ship Navy over 15, 20, 25, or 30 years, the new House seapower subcommittee chairman said today.
“It’s important that we build ships but it’s also equally as important that we maintain the ships that we have,” said Rep. Rob Wittman, who’s taking over the Seapower & Projection Forces panel from fellow Virginian Randy Forbes. “Our commitment there will be equally as fervent as for building new ships.”
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