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HONORABLE ROBERT B. PIRIE, JR.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
(INSTALLATIONS AND ENVIRONMENT)
SUBCOMMITTEE ON BASIC RESEARCH
COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
U. S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
"THE FUTURE OF ANTARCTIC RESEARCH"
23 JULY 1996
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am Robert B. Pirie, Jr., Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations and Environment. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today about the transition of logistic functions from the U. S. Navy to the Air National Guard in support of the United States Antarctic Program.
I am the senior manager responsible for ensuring Navy support for the U. S. Antarctic Program, as well as the executive agent for the Department of Defense's overall support of the U. S. Antarctic Program. Let me start with some background on the Navy's long- standing involvement in Antarctica, and the role that other Department of Defense organizations play. I will then explain why we are phasing out our logistic support, and how we are implementing transition plans developed in close coordination with other organizations in the Department of Defense and the National Science Foundation.
The U. S. Navy in the Antarctic
The U. S. Navy began its post-World War II involvement in Antarctica in 1947 with the largest expedition ever to explore the continent and surrounding waters. It involved more than 4,700 Navy and Marine Corps personnel, 13 ships and a number of aircraft, producing the first medium-scale maps of the region. Nearly 12 years later, from mid-1957 to the end of 1958, worldwide interest in the Earth's environment led to the International Geophysical Year. As part of this initiative, 12 nations established 65 research stations on Antarctica. The United States occupied seven of these stations, including one at the South Pole. The U. S. Navy provided logistic support for the U. S. stations. The United States continued its year-round presence in Antarctica and established a permanent science program as the U. S. Antarctic Program.
In 1959, the United States signed the Antarctic Treaty which preserved freedom of access to the continent and its surrounding waters for all nations, prohibited all military activities on the continent, and reserved Antarctica for science and other peaceful purposes. The Navy remained in Antarctica to provide logistic support to the U. S. Antarctic Program.
In 1976, National Security Decision Memorandum Number 318 directed that the U. S. Antarctic Program be fully managed by the National Science Foundation, who would budget for all science and logistic functions and reimburse any other agencies supporting the program. White House Memorandum 6646 of February 5, 1982 continued this arrangement, directing the Departments of Defense and Transportation to provide logistic support requested by the National Science Foundation on a cost-reimbursable basis. It also directed the National Science Foundation to use commercial support and management facilities where these were determined to be cost-effective.
Today, the National Science Foundation has three permanent stations in Antarctica to support its research program. During the austral summer, nearly 2500 scientists, support personnel and visitors require transportation to the permanent stations as well as to isolated field camps around the region.
Throughout this period of time, the Navy has provided logistic support for the U. S. Antarctic Program, dedicating as many as 850 billets for providing a full range of ground and air support functions. We have provided public works, waste disposal, hazardous waste management, food services, janitorial functions, air traffic control, weather forecasting and air logistic services, to name a few. During an average season (October to March), the Navy's Antarctic Development Squadron (VXE-6) flies 3800 hours in direct support of this program. The aircraft are specially modified ski-equipped C-130 military cargo planes (LC-130), owned by the National Science Foundation and operated by the Navy. They are uniquely designed for polar operations and are capable of reaching any location on the continent.
Department of Defense Support Functions
Although the Navy has provided the bulk of the support functions to the U. S. Antarctic Program, other Department of Defense organizations have also contributed their support:
The Military Sealift Command has provided bulk cargo and petroleum sealift;
The Department of the Army has augmented trans-shipping terminal operations;
The Defense Logistics Agency has managed the supply of food, fuel, and other consumable products for delivery to the Antarctic;
The Air Force and the Air National Guard have provided inter-continental heavy airlift and augmented inter-continental airlift across the Antarctic continent.
The Department of Transportation, through the U. S. Coast Guard, also supports this program by supplying ice-breakers to clear the way for fuel and cargo vessels to McMurdo Station. Coast Guard vessels also serve as platforms for conducting scientific research in Antarctic waters.
Transfer of Navy Logistical Support Functions
The Navy has had a long and proud history of supporting the science program in Antarctica. It is a unique and fascinating mission, and it was with some serious reluctance that the Navy began in earnest in 1992 to consider withdrawing from this operation.
The Post-Cold War drawdown of funding for ships, aircraft, and other weapon systems put severe pressure on the Navy, along with the other military services, to focus their assets on core military requirements, and to reduce or eliminate non-essential missions. Despite reimbursement, billets used to support the U. S. Antarctic Program count against the Navy's military end-strength ceiling, and are not available for manning Navy ships and aircraft. The Antarctic support mission required unique training needs, one-of-a-kind aircraft maintenance and support needs, complicated personnel rotational assignments, yet provided limited operational benefit.
In March 1993, the Navy hosted a two-day workshop with representatives from the National Science Foundation, the Air National Guard, the Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to begin exploring other logistic support alternatives. The group proposed a three-phase Navy withdrawal plan to (1) commercialize base support functions, (2) commercialize Antarctic helicopter operations, and (3) withdraw the Navy from the LC-130 operations.
The Navy and the National Science Foundation have been successfully implementing the first two recommendations. Most of the base support functions have now been contracted out by the National Science Foundation, reducing Navy manning by almost 300 billets. Last week, the National Science Foundation awarded a contract for commercial helicopter operations which will reduce Navy end-strength by about 100 more billets. A detailed list of functions being contracted out, and their transition status, is outlined in the National Science and Technology Council's April 1996 Report on the U. S. Antarctic Program.
The lack of commercial capability to provide the kind of ski-equipped, fixed-wing air support required by the U. S. Antarctic Program provided no commercialization opportunities for this function. The Navy and National Science Foundation discussed this requirement with other government agencies. The Coast Guard considered taking on the mission as an extension of their current C-130 operations. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has a fleet of aircraft that support science, also considered the mission. The National Science Foundation encouraged a close look at the Air National Guard for potential "single-point management" of fixed wing logistic support for Antarctica. The Air National Guard had already been augmenting Navy operations in Antarctica since 1988 with use of their own aircraft, and they also have had a complementary role of LC-130 logistic support in the Arctic since 1975.
In December 1994, the Director of Defense Research and Engineering proposed the transfer of this function from the Navy to the Air National Guard. The Navy, Air Force and the National Science Foundation agreed that transferring the Antarctic LC-130 operations from the Navy to the Air National Guard had many advantages:
The Air National Guard has a core wartime mission for flight support in polar regions, while the Navy has no such mission.
The Air National Guard already maintains a robust C-130 infrastructure, and is mission-funded to train, maintain and fly ski-equipped LC-130s for Arctic missions. The Navy has no other active duty C-130 operations. The VXE-6 Squadron is a single-purpose requirement for training, maintenance and operation of the LC-130 aircraft for this non-warfare operation.
The Air National Guard has experience in the Antarctic environment. They have augmented the Navy's support to the U. S. Antarctic Program with nearly 500 flight hours annually.
The U. S. Antarctic Program complements the Air National Guard mission. Since operational requirements for each pole occur in opposite seasons, both missions can be supported by the same aircraft, personnel, and infrastructure with only a small enhancement to the current Air National Guard levels.
The transition provides substantial savings to the National Science Foundation in terms of direct costs and reimbursable expenses to the Department of Defense. The merging of Arctic and Antarctic activities into year-round polar operations will reduce by half the number of full time military billets reimbursed by the National Science Foundation for Antarctic support. Part-time (reserve) Air National Guard personnel supporting the U. S. Antarctic Program will be reimbursed only while in a full duty status, thus reducing overall personnel costs substantially.
The transition also provides the opportunity to defer procurement of new aircraft, which the National Science Foundation planned to seek within the next six years. Both the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Bills fund upgrades to the Air National Guard's older LC-130 aircraft to improve operational safety, extend the life cycle of the aircraft, and reduce maintenance costs. The Air National Guard has asked the National Science Foundation to also budget for upgrading existing National Science Foundation aircraft to ensure full compatibility of all aircraft supporting Antarctic operations. Combining the upgraded National Science Foundation aircraft with newer Air National Guard aircraft into a larger fleet of LC-130s will spread flight hours over more airframes, extend the service life of the entire fleet, and defer purchase of new aircraft until 2030. The deferred aircraft procurement savings to the National Science Foundation are estimated to be $350 million over 35 years.
Based on all of these considerations, the Air Force agreed in February 1995, with the National Science Foundation approval, to assume the Navy's remaining air logistic role. The Navy, Air National Guard, and National Science Foundation representatives have been working in close cooperation to develop a detailed three-year phased transition plan to acquire and train personnel, draw down the Navy's role and stand up the expanded Air National Guard mission while avoiding any impact on the U. S. Antarctic program operations. This plan was endorsed at a February 1996 meeting called by the Director of Defense Research and Engineering.
The transition started in March of this year, with the Air National Guard hiring personnel to provide an additional 300 flight hours for this coming season, which runs from October 1996 to March 1997. In the second year, the Air National Guard will increase its support to more than 40 percent of the total flight hours. In March of 1998, the Air National Guard will officially assume operational command of the Department of Defense fixed-wing air support to the U. S. Antarctic Program. By the third year, the Navy will have reduced its role to 195 billets and about 30 percent of the flight hours. The transition will be completed in March 1999, when the Navy's role in the U. S. Antarctic Program will come to a close.
Of particular concern in the transition is maintaining safety of flight operations on the ice. We are fully addressing this concern. Last year, I visited Antarctica to get a full understanding of the complexities of the mission. I am well aware of the safety issues involved. I have asked Rear Admiral Paul Tobin, Oceanographer of the Navy, to visit Antarctic this season to observe firsthand the Navy, Air National Guard and commercial operations to ensure that the transition is proceeding smoothly.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Defense is convinced that replacing the Navy support to the U. S. Antarctic Program with a mix of private contractors and the Air National Guard is a very sound approach. The three-step transition mutually agreed to by all parties is well underway: The first step - commercialization of base support functions - is nearly complete. The second step achieved a significant milestone when the National Science Foundation awarded a contract for Antarctic helicopter operations last week. We initiated the final step to transition LC-130 flight operations to the Air National Guard in March of this year. This last step will be phased in over the next three years, with the Navy concluding its logistic support role for the U. S. Antarctic Program in March 1999.
Single-point management of LC-130 operations by the Air National Guard will reduce the costs to the National Science Foundation and the nation by eliminating duplicative Navy/Air Force infrastructure and providing one organization with a year-round mission. The Air National Guard mission is enhanced consistent with a part of their wartime mission. I am confident that they can do the Antarctic air logistics job and do it well The Department of Defense will remain a critical provider of support to the U. S. Antarctic Program through the Air National Guard, the Defense Logistics Agency, the Military Sealift Command, and the Air Mobility Command. We are committed to ensuring a seamless transition from the Navy to the Air National Guard with no impact on the science and the safety of the U. S. Antarctic Program.
That concludes my statement. I would welcome any questions.
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