WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's joint hearing titled “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request.” For testimony and to watch the hearing click here.
"Today, we meet to Department of the Navy's Fiscal Year 2019 budget request. Appearing before us to discuss this important topic are three esteemed Navy witnesses:
Honorable James Geurts
Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development & Acquisition;
Vice Admiral William R. Merz
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems; and
Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh
Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.
I want to thank you all for your service as well as for appearing before this subcommittee on the fiscal year 2019 budget request.
Concurrent with the budget request last month, the Secretary of the Navy released a 30-year shipbuilding plan that addresses new capabilities and offers a plan to recapitalize the current force structure. While I am pleased that the plan was timely, I am concerned that it does not properly advocate for the Navy the nation needs. In fact, on page 8 of the plan, it references the 2016 Force Structure Assessment in a table, clearly identifying a need for 355 ships. Yet, on page 12, the 30-year shipbuilding plan only reaches 342 ships by 2039. Critical shortfalls in aircraft carriers, large deck amphibs, and attack submarines are debilitating to our national security and only serve to embolden potential adversaries. I think that the Navy sometimes misses the strategic imperative and national urgency associated with the message our nation sends to the world when an inadequate shipbuilding budget is proposed. Shipbuilding is a sign of our nation's resolve, and a weak shipbuilding request is carefully watched by our adversaries. We need to significantly improve our Navy's shipbuilding to meet the President's objective of a 355-ship Navy.
As to the Marine Corps, I am pleased this committee supported the authorization of another San Antonio-class amphibious ship in the FY18 NDAA. While I continue to hold some concerns with respect to conducting amphibious operations in a contested environment, I understand that the Marine Corps is actively seeking new strategies to overcome this challenge through exercises such as BOLD ALLIGATOR. I applaud these efforts. Our Marine Corps was created to be an amphibious force, therefore we must rapidly insert innovation into amphibious warfare to ensure we are successful in future conflict.
Additionally, I am concerned about the Navy's enabling forces and specifically the surge sealift forces. Our inability to provide a more responsive surge sealift will place soldiers and marines lives at risk in future conflict. If you can't get to the battle in time, you need to fight your way in. We have seen the casualties of such a strategy in prior conflict. We have to do better to support the warfighter.
I am reminded of Winston Churchill who at the worst of times in World War II remarked 'I never worry about action, but only inaction.' Ladies and gentlemen, we have had 70 years of relative global peace with the absence of a major world war. This global peace was secured by the blood and sweat of our greatest generation. Our Navy's inability to act and embrace a bold shipbuilding vision will embolden our adversaries and risks the global peace that our fathers secured for our future.
Our witnesses today are here today because they are the best our nation has to create the bold vision our nation needs. Gentlemen, it is time to act and establish a sustainable, upward trajectory for the Navy. I am confident in your ability to do so."