Washington, D.C. – U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at a hearing on the Department of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request.
Chairman Rogers’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
Today we complete our FY24 budget and posture hearings with the Department of the Navy.
I want to thank the Ranking Member and all the Members for their cooperation, hard work, and dedication as we worked through 27 hearings in 13 legislative days.
These hearings have helped provide the information we need to markup the FY24 NDAA next month.
I also want to thank our witnesses for being here and for their service to our nation.
The President is requesting a 5 percent increase for the Navy and a 3 percent increase for the Marine Corps.
Unfortunately, with today’s record level of inflation, those increases don’t go very far.
We are seeing that very clearly in the request for shipbuilding.
The President is seeking to build a paltry 9 battle force ships in FY24.
At the same time, he wants to retire 11.
Several of these ships have years of service life remaining.
These retirements represent a huge loss of capability, especially for the Marine Corps.
The President plans to slash the number of amphibs by 10 percent, leaving the fleet below the statutory floor of 31.
We put 31 into law because that’s what the Marine Corps told us was the bare minimum they needed to successfully carry out their mission.
Going below that number invites a tremendous amount of risk.
That’s clearly why General Berger included a new amphib as his number one unfunded priority this year.
I think you’ll find support for that request from this committee.
But even if we fund that amphib, the Navy still plans to reduce the number of battle force ships by 11 over the next 5 years.
Forget about the 500 ship Navy many say we need to counter China.
At no point, over the next 18 years does the size of the fleet even reach the statutory goal of 355 ships.
While this administration dithers, the CCP is rapidly growing and modernizing its navy.
It already controls the largest navy in the world.
Our fleet of 296 ships was eclipsed years ago by a Chinese fleet of over 350 ships.
In two short years, the DoD predicts the CCP will control over 400 battle force ships.
I don’t understand how this administration can conclude reducing the size of our fleet will somehow deter China.
Making matters worse is confusion surrounding the Navy’s shipbuilding plan.
It’s not one plan, it’s four plans.
Each of them with different force structures and total number of ships.
Our shipyards can’t plan, make investments, and properly operate with this uncertainty.
It is also the absolute worst signal to send our adversaries, especially the CCP.
Finally, I’m also concerned about the strike fighter gap.
It’s not forecasted to close until 2031.
But that assumes Congress grants the Navy relief from the statutory requirement to field an air wing for each deployed aircraft carrier.
I would inform the Navy that it’s highly unlikely we will grant that relief.
The Navy should focus on mitigating the fighter gap in the short term by accelerating planned upgrades to our existing fighters, especially the F-35’s.
They should also expedite the fielding of unmanned collaborative drones and pair them with our existing fleet to enhance capabilities.
The point is we should be modernizing and expanding our naval capabilities.
We absolutely should not be cutting them.
Finally, I want to commend the Commandant on the progress he’s making with Force Design 2030.
Preparing our Marines to be successful in a conflict with the CCP is critically important.
Force Design 2030 will do just that.
I look forward to further updates on the progress he’s making to transform the Marine Corps into a 21st Century fighting force.
With that I yield to the Ranking Member.