Chairman Courtney’s Opening Remarks for House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Markup of H.R. 2500 the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act
Good afternoon everyone. We are here today to consider the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee’s portion of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Since I first joined this panel in 2007, the Seapower Subcommittee has had a well-earned reputation for productive bipartisanship. I am pleased to report today that our subcommittee continues that tradition, with the help of Ranking Member Rob Wittman and all the members of our panel, particularly the impressive class of new members that have brought new energy and life experience to the committee’s work.
The full mark, along with a summary, was released to the public yesterday and I hope that everyone has had the chance to review those materials. I will take a few moments here to highlight some of the key elements of our proposal.
As we continue to grow the fleet towards the 355-ship requirement, the mark recommends to the full committee a shipbuilding budget of 11 battle force ships including three Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, the first guided missile Frigate to replace the Littoral Combat Ship; one LPD Flight II amphibious ship through incremental funding authority; one T-AO 205 oiler; and two towing, salvage, and rescue ships.
Our subcommittee has worked for the last several years to press the Navy and DOD leadership to increase Virginia-class submarine construction to address looming shortfall in our undersea force. While we have led the push for providing the authority needed to expand attack submarine production beyond the two a year rate, until this year the Administration not only failed to utilize this authority but in fact opposed our efforts.
This year, the President’s budget reversed course and embraced the work of this subcommittee by requesting three Virginia class submarines. In testimony throughout the year, we heard time and again how important any additional submarines above the two-a-year rate would be to mitigating the submarine force structure shortfall and helping to de-risk the Columbia program as it ramps up production in the coming years. Our mark authorizes the resources necessary to achieve this important goal. I want to thank our colleagues on the defense appropriations committee Chairman Visclosky and Ranking Member Calvert who passed a mark two weeks ago that is aligned with this priority.
Our mark also explicitly rejects the President’s Budget misguided proposal to cancel the planned refueling of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, despite the fact that Congress has already provided and the Navy has already expended $538 million for that purpose. The budget our subcommittee received this year would have retired this critical platform short of the mid-point of its service life, a baffling proposal that was not supported by the Navy’s force structure assessment or statutory carrier requirements.
Our subcommittee continues its oversight of issues related to Navy collisions in the Pacific in 2017. The mark creates a new requirement that shipboard systems on our surface ships have formal schoolhouses for training. This will ensure that our sailors are not seeing a system or combination of systems for the first time when they arrive on board.
I want to also emphasize our work in a critical but often overlooked aspect of our nation’s security – the recapitalization of our sealift and maritime response capabilities. Testimony from leaders at the Maritime Administration and Transportation Command has shown that we cannot delay in this recapitalization effort without deep harm to our ability to respond to a crisis. In this mark, we provide the Navy and these agencies the tools they need to maintain and expand America’s maritime industry by including a long-term reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program and creating a new Tanker Security Program to bolster our refueling capability and help secure our military’s fuel supply. This mark also rejects the Administration’s efforts to cut programs which work to increase critical domestic sealift capacity and train the future mariners who will serve alongside our active duty servicemembers if called upon to do so.
This mark also recommends strong support for our projection forces priorities, such as the KC-46A refueling tanker, the B-21 long range bomber, and other critical platforms. Once again, our mark also recommends expanding needed propeller and propulsion upgrades for our fleet of legacy C-130H aircraft. I continue to be frustrated by the Air Force’s lack of urgency in addressing these upgrades, and our panel will continue to press the service to ensure that these legacy aircraft are as safe, efficient and capable as we can make them.
Taken together, we are presenting another strong, bipartisan mark that I fully expect will once again have a strong influence on the final FY20 National Defense Authorization Act. None of that would be possible without the support of the dedicated staff that has worked tirelessly to produce this mark. I want to recognize our subcommittee staff, Phil MacNaughton, Kelly Goggin, Dave Sienicki, and Megan Handal, whose work over many weeks has brought about the outstanding product we have before us today. We are all grateful for the expertise and support you have provided in the process of putting this mark together.
Thank you and with that I yield to Ranking Member Wittman for any remarks.