Washington D.C. – (Link) House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith made the following opening statement at today’s Navy posture hearing:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And thank you, Secretary Mabus, Admiral Greenert, and General Amos.  We very much appreciate your testimony today and your service on behalf of our nation.  I hope you will also take our thanks back to the brave men and women in the Navy and Marine Corps currently serving in harm’s way in Afghanistan and around the world.

“About three months ago, Congress voted to pass the Ryan-Murray Bipartisan Budget Act to set the budget authorization levels for Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015.  While providing DOD with about $10 billion in relief from sequestration for the 2015 budget, it did not repeal sequestration or do anything about it from 2016 onwards.  As a result, DOD and the Navy had to build a budget assuming continued significant funding reductions mandated by Congress.

“Predictably, many members of Congress have condemned the recently released President’s budget request that meets the caps required by that law for 2015.  Many have pointed out that reducing the budget will likely result in increased risk in executing the nation’s defense strategy, and they are probably right in making that judgment.  But, as the saying goes, “you get what you pay for”, or in this case, what you decide not to pay for.  By choosing to repeatedly resist raising the debt ceiling and refusing to even discuss additional tax revenues as part of larger budget deal, this House has chosen to leave significant defense cuts – which most members voted for – in place.

“In this context, the Navy and Marine Corps budget requests for 2015 is mostly good news, especially in comparison to the Air Force and Army that are being forced to take much more dramatic cuts in force structure.  The Navy, at least for 2015, is holding its size and structure intact while also beginning to restore readiness and making some critical investments in the future.  The Marine Corps, while taking some modest reductions to personnel, has been able to begin to rebuild its amphibious capability and even invest in new areas such as enhanced quick-reaction forces to support US embassies worldwide.

“And, despite what some might have you think, the US Navy remains – by far – the most powerful and capable naval force in the world.  Lots of other nations have ships, some are even high quality, but no navy in the world can match the capability our navy can bring to a fight.  In particular, in the vital but less talked about areas of logistics, maintenance, command & control, and training, our navy remains the world’s gold standard.

“The Marine Corps, while facing readiness and training challenges like all the services, will remain larger than the armies of many of our major allies.  In some cases, the Marine Corps is larger than the entire Armed Forces of some of our allies.  The amphibious capability and forward presence the Marine Corps provides remains unmatched.

“However, retaining these high standards requires adequate funding, and the Department of the Navy’s base budget of $148.0 billion for 2015 is down about 7% from a peak of $156.0 billion in 2011, although we do not yet know what the Overseas Contingency Operations Budget request will mean for the Navy and Marines.  And, unless Congress does something about sequestration that funding is going to go down over the next five years.

“The 2015 budget provides funding for a force of about 285 ships and submarines, including 10 aircraft carrier battle groups.  The Navy’s budget request includes funding for seven new and modern ships, important investments in the technologies of the future, such as unmanned systems and cyber capability.  The Marine Corps budget includes continued large investments in new aircraft with an additional $1 billion for new ground combat equipment.

“With regard to the aircraft carrier issue, while I would like to see the Navy retain its planned 11 aircraft carriers, I do have questions about what doing so will mean for the rest of the Navy.  For example, if we keep 11 aircraft carriers and the associated air wings, will we be able to invest properly in submarines, unmanned systems, cyber, and other critical technologies? What are the tradeoffs?  I look forward to learning more about that today.

“Thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back.”