ICYMI: Sen. Kelly Discusses MCAS Yuma, Navy Readiness in Senate Armed Services Hearing

In case you missed it, yesterday, 25-year Navy veteran and Arizona Senator Mark Kelly spoke with United States Navy and Marine Corps leadership about investments in programs that will ensure the readiness and competitiveness of US troops.

In the hearing, Kelly asked General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps, about expediting projects that affect health and safety of Marines and their families, specifically Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Yuma’s aging water treatment plant, which was built in 1947 and still supplies a large part of the base. Kelly also turned to Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro to ask about the potential for enhancing collaboration with India on regional shipyard maintenance for U.S. vessels. 

Kelly questions witnesses at the hearing on Thursday, May 12.

Kelly—who recently returned from a congressional delegation trip to visit Poland, UAE, India, Nepal, Qatar, and Germany—chairs the Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities and has maintained a strong focus on maintaining America’s competitive edge over near-peer adversaries like China and Russia, especially as Russia continues wagering its invasion in Ukraine. 

In the recently passed government funding bill, Kelly also secured an investment of $29.3 million for the construction of MCAS Yuma’s Combat Training Tank Complex, an applied instruction building to support combat water survival training and mandatory bi-annual swim qualifications for Marines and Sailors.  

Read his full exchange from the hearing below, or watch the exchange HERE. 

Kelly: Thank you Mr. Chairman. General Berger, I’ve got a question about Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. Arizona is really proud to host the Marines in Yuma including F-35 squadrons. I’ve had the opportunity to fly the F-35 simulator a couple times. It’s nice to know that our premier fighters outmatch those of our adversaries and we’re happy to have them in Arizona. So, we’ve got this premier fighter, but we also have a base that has some infrastructure problems…critical infrastructure. At Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, they’re currently planning to upgrade the water treatment facilities on the installation. And my understanding is that the current treatment plant was built in 1947. So, it’s nearly 80 years old. This treatment plant supplies water for a large part of the base, the base’s systems, but also supplies water for family housing, tenant commands, and the water doesn’t meet water quality standards. I understand the current budget plans would not seek funding for this project until fiscal year 2026, so I’m concerned that the system is not able to meet these water quality regulations for potable water and this. . .will not be addressed for a number of years. So General, are you looking to expedite projects like Yuma’s water treatment plant that affect the health and safety of our Marines and their families? 

General David H. Berger: Thanks Senator, having lived at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in 1991 to 1994, I think, I know exactly what you’re talking about. If you’ll allow me Senator, I’d like to look into this problem, and come back to you, individually, with where that project is in funding and, to your point, what might be done to accelerate it. I don’t think you expect us to shoot from the hip. So, if it’s okay with you, I’ll do the homework and I will come back to your office with “here’s where it lays right now. And this is what it would take to accelerate it. 

Kelly: I appreciate that. I’ve spent a lot of time down there on the base looking at facilities. You know, I really love looking at the airplanes and spending time there but as important as the airplanes are, you know things like enlisted housing, which also my office would like to follow up on that issue, as well. 

Got a totally different question for Secretary Del Toro and Admiral Gilday. So, in April, the State Department announced that the United States and India had agreed at the recent 2+2 dialogue to explore possibilities of utilizing Indian shipyards for repair and maintenance of ships of the U.S. Maritime Sealift Command. I was in India just a few weeks ago and had discussions about this with Indian officials, the Deputy National Security Advisor, their Secretary of Defense and they were really interested in this opportunity and optimistic about it. So, in connection with this possibility, Mr. Secretary, to what degree would doing this work enhance Navy and DOD operations in the Indo-Pacific region, and would doing this work in Indian shipyards strengthen U.S.-Indian relations?

Secretary Del Toro: Thanks, Senator, and thanks for your dedication to this issue because what distinguishes us from the Russians and the Chinese is the strength of the alliances that we have with our partner nations around the globe and that is no better example of our relationship with India as it continues to grow. While the specifics of this deal are being negotiated, I think overall it is a perfect representation of what we need to continue to do around the globe as well in order to support our ships deployed in the Pacific. The CNO has been very engaged in this if, with your permission, I’d like to ask him to discuss the matter.   
Admiral Michael M. Gilday: Thank you, sir. So, I visited India and I specifically asked to go to Mumbai to take a look at their shipyards to see for myself what their capabilities are. This is a quick win for the United States-Indian relationship. We’re just sending now a team over there to do a more detailed survey. My goal is to get a ship in there this summer to do voyage repairs. So, it gives us more flexibility, more opportunities in theater to get ships fixed. I have a high degree of confidence in their ability to do that. I think we are on the right track, sir, and I’ll follow up with you as we nail down that deal.   
Kelly: Alright, and if there’s any other, you know, gaps in authorities that you need from Congress, please let us know. I’d like to figure out a way to get this done. India and the United States, we have the same strategic problem in the region, and that’s China. So, wherever we can look for more opportunities to work jointly with the Indian government and the Indian military, I think it benefits us. Thank you.