The following is Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith’s oral testimony as delivered to the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies, during a hearing on Quality of Life in the Military on Feb. 7, 2019.
Good morning, Chairwoman Wasserman-Schultz, Ranking Member Carter and distinguished members of this subcommittee, I am honored to appear before you today on behalf of the enlisted men and women of the United States Navy, to discuss some of the most significant issues affecting the quality of life of our dedicated 324,000 enlisted Sailors, officers and their families. It is my honor to represent Sailors deployed around the world. They defend our American freedom, opportunity and families of all walks of life.
We appreciate the solemn privilege we have as stewards of the public trust, and shoulder the responsibility to carefully manage and wisely obligate the resources the American public entrusts to us as their stewards. The Navy the Nation Needs demands much from us in this era of great power competition. We must become stronger, faster and effectively build better teams to compete and win in the high-end war-fight at sea.
While we currently have the most capable ships and leading edge technology, our greatest edge in battle against any determined adversary will always be the asymmetric advantage that is provided by our people — the extraordinary talent and equity I have the honor of representing today. With that in mind, there are three specific areas I would like to discuss, that from my fleet engagements and numerous conversations with Sailors, I know are foremost on their minds.
First, family readiness and care. As the Chief of Naval Operations says, “a stronger family equals a stronger fleet.” One common thread I hear at every fleet visit among Sailors in all paygrades is accessibility to affordable and quality child care. A lot of people have tried to bin this and call it a women’s issue. It’s not. We have single fathers, single mothers and dual-working couples. I call this a family issue. Lack of available and affordable child care is a national issue for our generation. For our Navy, it is a critical readiness issue.
Second, infrastructure. As the Secretary of the Navy says, “infrastructure equals readiness.” Infrastructure directly supports ongoing missions and traditional roles of training and housing for Sailors, civilians and families. The condition of many Navy facilities impacts Sailors’ quality of life and their ability to train. Providing first-rate infrastructure contributes to a sharper focus on the mission.
And third, our Sailor 2025 program and initiatives. This is the most critical effort we’ve undertaken in the Navy since the turn of the 20th century to modernize and prioritize talent and innovation — to take our Navy beyond our competition and continue to be the best in the world. These initiatives effectively allow us to recruit, develop, manage, reward and retain talent in our force. Many administrative systems and programs were outdated, overly bureaucratic and riddled with administrative distractions that took time away from warfighters. Sailor 2025 efforts will return time and opportunity to units, allowing leaders to focus on tactical skills and warfighting readiness. Under Sailor 2025, we are empowering our Sailors.
It is crucial that we make the shift from bureaucratic roadblocks to innovative highways. Harvesting innovation means reimagining traditional workflows to maximize efficiency, leveraging ideas that will give us a competitive edge, and developing a more agile workforce empowered to achieve excellence in everything we do and prevail in the maritime battlespace when called upon.
Through sustained commitment and continued investment in removing distractions, and to improving training and quality of life, we will ensure our greatest advantage — our Sailors — are ready for the fight. We appreciate the continuing efforts of Congress to ensure we have all that we need to fight and win. We have and will continue to improve fleet readiness and quality of life for our Sailors and their families, while remaining responsible stewards of taxpayer resources entrusted to our care. Thank you for your steadfast support for the men and women of the United States Navy.