WATCH: Kelly Chairs Airland Subcommittee Hearing on Army Modernization

This week, Arizona Senator and Navy combat veteran Mark Kelly, Chair of the Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee, underscored the need to modernize the Army to maintain our advantage over our adversaries and effectively support allies in Europe, the Middle East, and the Indo-Pacific region in a hearing to review the Army’s annual budget proposal.  

In his opening remarks, Kelly discussed his recent visits to Ukraine, the Middle East, and Asia where he witnessed the importance of a modern and ready Army and the power of joint and coalition operations. He also asked the Army about progress on key modernization initiatives and highlighted modernization as key to avoid conflict. 

“It’s in the nation’s best interest to avoid going to war with a near peer adversary, and the best way to do that is to outpace on the cutting edge, while continuing to modernize current capabilities in a manner that makes clear to our adversaries that they cannot beat us on the battlefield,” said Kelly. 

Kelly also highlighted the crucial role that Arizona facilities like the Electronic Proving Ground at Fort Huachuca and Yuma Proving Ground play in supporting the Army’s modernization efforts. 

Sen. Kelly delivers remarks during a Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing

Click here to watch the full hearing. Click here to download video of his opening remarks.

See below for a complete transcript of his opening remarks:  

The Subcommittee on Airland will come to order.  

I want to welcome Mr. Doug Bush, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology. General James Rainey, the Commanding General of the Army Futures Command, and General Karl Gingrich, Deputy Chief of Staff for Army in the G8.   

I want to welcome our witnesses. Thank you for your service, thank you for your willingness to appear before us today.    

As we meet today to review the Department of the Army’s investment and modernization strategy as presented in the Fiscal Year 2025 budget request, it is important to note that the Army remains heavily engaged, supporting Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, conducting complex operations in the Middle East, and increasing training and exercises in the Indo-Pacific. I would like to acknowledge the work soldiers are doing across the globe and express our gratitude to them and their families for the vital role they play.   

Through all of its endeavors, the Army is working to increase its readiness, accelerate its modernization, and improve its interoperability with allies and partners. The Army seeks to do this by focusing on four key areas: Warfighting, Delivering Ready Combat Forces, Continuous Transformation, and Strengthening the Profession. 

We look forward to discussing modernization in this context. 

I’ve had multiple opportunities to travel to Ukraine and the Middle East over the past three and a half years. Each trip has shown me the importance of a modern and ready Army. Operations in Ukraine and the Middle East continue to demonstrate the need for ground combat forces in effective multi-domain operations as well as the power of joint and coalition operations. 

They also provide an illustration of the complexities the joint force would face if compelled to conduct similar operations in a larger and contested maritime theater. I recently returned from a bi-partisan delegation to INDOPACOM where I had the opportunity to see firsthand how our forces are preparing. The Army will play a critical role in the Defense of Guam and in enabling any future combat operations in the Pacific. This is why the Army remains focused on its six modernization priorities: Long Range Precision Fires; Next Generation Combat Vehicles; Future Vertical Lift; Network; Air and Missile Defense; and Soldier Lethality. 

In the last year, the Army has made notable adjustments in some of these portfolios as it makes tough decisions to balance force modernization with maintaining enduring capabilities. Today, the Subcommittee seeks to better understand how the Army will address remaining gaps moving forward.  

In its networking programs, the Army has shifted from a plan to insert modernized capabilities in 2 year “capability sets” to a more iterative, agile approach consistent with a necessary emphasis on continuous transformation. The Subcommittee supports this approach and looks forward to learning how the Army will balance iterative modernization while seeking big steps forward in efforts such as: long-range hypersonics; directed energy; mid-range missile capability; and human-machine integrated formations.  

With submission of the 2025 National Defense Authorization Act, we recognize that the Army is required to operate with a largely flat budget. At the same time, the Army’s munitions support to Ukraine and Israel has exposed capacity limitations in our industrial base.  

Mr. Bush, we’ve had occasion to discuss this work before, and today I would appreciate an update on how the Army is using the replenishment of these items as well as its own investments to build future capacity. Further, we are interested in how the Army is employing recently authorized multiyear procurement authorities as well as your assessment of any additional resources or flexibilities that would further improve munitions development and production.

Finally, the rapid growth of unmanned aerial systems creates an urgent need for the Army to develop and field its own broad range of UAS, and also the ability to defeat similar systems at scale. We recognize the Army’s investments in these capabilities and look forward to better understanding how to accelerate these efforts. 

It’s in the nation’s best interest to avoid going to war with a near peer adversary, and the best way to do that is to outpace on the cutting edge, while continuing to modernize current capabilities in a manner that makes clear to our adversaries that they cannot beat us on the battlefield. We must do this to meet challenges in the Indo-Pacific, in Europe, and in the Middle East. We would like to better understand how the Army is balancing risk between newer modernization priorities and supporting enduring programs. 

The Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona has been a proud host for signature efforts like Project Convergence, which plays an important role in guiding Army modernization activity. We applaud the Army’s work in this area, as such events inform and accelerate not only Army programs but joint and coalition operations as well. The Subcommittee is interested in an assessment of this year’s Project Convergence and the capability and capacity of current testing and training facilities to support the modernized force to include the Army National Guard and Army Reserves, which are critical components of the Total Army. 

The Army continues to make significant progress in its modernization efforts, but the environment only grows in complexity. I have great confidence in all of you and look forward to a productive year as we continue to field the world’s best Army.