Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the following statement after today’s Full Committee hearing to receive testimony from the Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Donald C. Winter, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael G. Mullen, and the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, General James T. Conaway, on the Fiscal Year 2008 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps:

            “My personal experience and my study of history underscore for me the importance of a strong and vibrant Navy.  Because we need a Navy that is able to help achieve our range of national security goals, I am very concerned about the shrinking size of our ship force structure.  This month, the Navy will fall to a low of 274 ships.  For members such as myself, who not too long ago participated in a build-up to almost 600 ships, 274 is a shocking number.  Frankly, I am not persuaded it is the right number.

“I am encouraged that in 2008 the Navy will commission 7 more ships than it decommissions and will budget for 7 more new ships in 2008, but we need to understand what the plan is to accelerate the effort to increase the size of our Navy and to ensure the effort then stays on schedule. 

“I am pleased that the 2008 budget request includes an increase in the size of the Marine Corps.  I have been calling for an increase in the size of our ground forces for a number of years and I believe this increase is the right response to the security challenges currently facing this nation.  

“On the other hand, I remain concerned about the impact of current operations, particularly the troop increase in Iraq, on Marine Corps readiness.  The House Armed Services Committee remains deeply committed to meeting the needs of our Marines deployed to combat, and we are especially interested in the Marine Corps’ needs for reset of equipment.  In a bipartisan effort, this committee added almost $6 billion to last year’s budget for Marine Corps equipment reset.  We look forward to working together to ensure that Marine Corps reset needs are met for the coming year.”