WASHINGTON - Today, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower & Projection Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Request.” For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"Today, we meet to Department of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget request. Appearing before us to discuss this important topic are three esteemed Navy witnesses:
Ms. Allison Stiller
Performing the Duties of – Assistant Secretary of Defense, Research, Development and Acquisition;
Vice Admiral William K. Lescher
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Resources and Capabilities; and
Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh
Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.
I want to thank you all for your service and, just as important, thank you for appearing before this subcommittee on the fiscal year 2018 budget request.
Last week, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Richardson, laid out a bold vision for the Navy. He indicated, 'Both China and Russia are able to compete on a global scale, in all domains, and at competitive speed.' In response to this increased global pressure, he stated, 'The future fleet must be timely - we need this more powerful fleet in the 2020s, not the 2040s.'
Without any reservation, I believe that the CNO is correct. Unfortunately, the fiscal year 2018 budget request does not support the vision of the CNO nor of this subcommittee. While I do not object with the budget’s emphasis on current readiness, I believe that there is a high degree of naiveté in the area of ship construction. We must start now, not in 2019. Some believe that ship construction is like a spigot that can be turned on and off. I believe that there are those in defense budgeting that advocate for such an approach. In ship construction, we know one thing for certain: Ship construction is a long game and requires steady funding to achieve steady progress.
Unfortunately, I do not see steady progress toward fulfilling the goal of obtaining a 355-ship Navy. The budget request of only 8 ships does little to build towards a 355-ship Navy. We have hot production lines, ready to add more work. But the call to duty has not been sounded. It is time to get serious and match our peer competitors with aggressive ship construction initiatives.
As to specific concerns with the Navy request, building one aircraft carrier every five years will never allow us to reach 12 aircraft carriers; building two attack submarines a year will result in an attack submarine reduction by 20 percent in ten years; and building only one LCS will result in massive layoffs at both Marinette, WI and Mobile, AL. These are not acceptable outcomes.
As to the Marine Corps, I am pleased this committee supported the authorization of two more San Antonio-class amphibious ships in the last two years. However, I hold some concerns in respect to conducting amphibious operations in a contested environment. As our adversaries become more capable, our Marine Corps may need a bold, new vision to accomplish future missions. This vision may require a change to our legacy forces. Expansion of aviation projection, longer-range connectors and a lighter amphibious capability are all desired attributes of a more capable expeditionary force structure. Unfortunately, I see little in this budget request to change our current trajectory.
I am reminded of the words of John F. Kennedy, himself a proud navy officer, when he said that history has taught us 'that control of the sea means security. Control of the seas can mean peace. Control of the seas can mean victory. The United States must control the seas if it is to protect your security…' Ladies and gentlemen, it is time that our nation wake up and seize control of the seas."