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Chairman Joe Courtney's Opening Statement: “Department of the Navy Fiscal Year 2022 Budget Request for Seapower and Projection Forces”  

June 17, 2021
Press Release

The Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee meets this morning to hear testimony from the Department of the Navy on the fiscal year 2022 budget. 

Before us today to discuss that request are three witnesses who are not strangers to our subcommittee and we welcome you back this morning – Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition Mr. Jay Stefany, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, Vice Admiral James W. Kilby, and Commanding General Marine Corps Combat Development Command Lieutenant General Eric Smith. Gentlemen, thank you for being here today.    

The 2022 budget for the platforms and capabilities under our panel’s jurisdiction cover a wide range of priorities on and below the seas. Before we get started, I wanted to take a moment to highlight a few areas of focus on the critical Navy component of the 2022 fiscal year budget and the National Defense Authorization Act.

First, it is I think it’s important to know the past in order to understand the present and I want to take a moment to review the journey we took last year with Navy’s fiscal year 2021 budget. As the Congressional Research Service reported in April 29, 2021 a year ago, the prior administration sent Congress a $19.9 billion shipbuilding budget that represented an 18% cut from the previous year and in its future years defense plan, projected a shipbuilding budget for fiscal year 2022 of only $21.1B.   The budget that was submitted this year on May 28 2021 by the Biden administration totals $22.6 billion, 7% higher than last year’s budget submission. 

I share this is not as partisan statement. To the contrary, that record of presidential budget submissions is a reminder that this subcommittee last year as in prior years, has been an independent body that even with constrained toplines like the one we are wrestling with this year, has revised Navy budgets- which is in fact our constitutional duty. Article one, section eight, clause 13 clearly states that it is Congress that has the authority “to provide and maintain a Navy”. and last year we rejected the President’s cut of a Virginia Class Submarine and enacted a final shipbuilding budget of 23.2 billion. Just like last year, we have a tough job ahead of us -this budget has some positive elements and it has some problems that we have to solve.  As I told the acting Secretary of the Navy and CNO two days ago, the absence of a future years defense plan and a 30 year shipbuilding plan adds a higher degree of difficulty to our work and I want to say to our witnesses at the outset today, my colleagues and staff expect clear testimony and follow up answers to questions which will be many in the compressed schedule we face. Shipbuilding and ship maintenance is a long game, and the decisions we make today will have longer lasting consequences than many other parts of the defense department’s budge

As I said, there are some positive elements in the budget submission. In contrast to recent budgets over the last few years, the Navy’s submission makes a very strong request to support our undersea programs. The budget before us supports a continued stable two-per-year production cadence for the Virginia Class Submarine program, and continued investment in the Navy’s number one acquisition program namely Columbia-class construction, and long overdue private-sector submarine maintenance projects. Together, this budget makes the strongest investment in the stability and growth of our undersea capabilities and the industrial base since the 1980s. As Admiral Gilday forcefully testified on Tuesday this week, our undersea advantage over both China and Russia is our most powerful tool of deterrence and we cannot let the size of that fleet falter. This budget accomplishes that goal.

That said, I remain concerned about some of the specific changes and tradeoffs reflected in this budget. Once again, our panel is tasked with making sense of an unexpected reduction in steady rate production of one of our highest priority combatant vessel with the proposed reduction of one DDG-51 destroyer. I am deeply concerned that sudden course change threatens the stability of the industrial base, undermines confidence in multi-year procurement agreements, and threatens our ability to meet our defense strategy.

At the same time, the budget proposes an increase in ship retirements – nearly double the number of new ship construction proposed – including an increase in the retirement of cruisers planned for modernization. Cruiser modernization is an issue that this subcommittee has grappled with for many, many years. I hope our witnesses today can provide more detailed insight into the analysis behind this proposal and how it fits into the Navy’s overall efforts to meet its operational requirements.  

Led by our subcommittee, Congress is clearly on record in bipartisan support of a 355 ship Navy due to the need to grow the fleet and capabilities needed. Whether it’s the fleet of 2022, 2032 or 2042, the fact remains that the investments we make today dictate the fleet we will have tomorrow. And that the fleet we have is aging and becoming more costly to operate while demands for Navy capabilities and presence are increasing.  

Whatever the ultimate goal is for the size of our fleet, the basic fundamentals of successful shipbuilding remain the same: stable and predictable requirements that industry can plan towards and rely on, steady rate production that facilitates effective workforce development and cost reduction, and an underlying long-term strategy that the Navy, Congress, and industry can work from.  

Too many recent budgets have fallen short of these fundamentals only to rely on Congress to fill the gaps. For example, this is the second year in a row, under two different administrations, that the Navy has presented a budget that removes a planned major combatant vessel only to list it as its top underfunded requirement. That is not a trend any of us here on this committee want to see continued into a third year.  

I’m proud that Congress, led by this subcommittee, has played critical and constitutionally required role in shaping our naval forces that provides continuity across individual budget years and administrations. I hope that our discussion here today lays out not just the challenges we face in 2022-- but the opportunities we have in this year’s defense bill to both address the areas of needed improvement in this budget and steps to put the Navy on a more stable path in the 2023 budget and beyond. 

Our subcommittee has a well-earned record for bipartisan scrutiny of the shipbuilding budget to provide this continuity and insight, regardless of which party holds the White House. I am confident that we will act again this year in a similar way and ensure that we make prudent and needed adjustments to build on this initial proposal. 

With that, I turn to my friend and ranking member, Rob Wittman, for any opening remarks he may have.