Opening Remarks for Congresswoman Joe Courtney, Ranking Member, Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to take a moment to welcome our colleagues from the Coast Guard and Maritime Subcommittee, who join us today to review the new Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.
The updated 2015 strategy lays out what many of us in this room already know – that our Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard play a central and critical role in our economy and national security at home and across the globe. If anything, the importance of our sea services has only increased since the first strategy was released in 2007 – and I believe that the new strategy properly reflects the new threats, challenges and opportunities facing our sea services and our nation as a whole.
I am particularly pleased that the new strategy lays out not only the broad range of missions and concepts our sea services are tasked with, but also the force levels needed to achieve them. The Navy, with the support of this committee, has made great progress towards putting our force on a clear path to the more than 300 ships and 33 amphibious ships needed to execute the strategy. And, I know our colleagues on the Coast Guard subcommittee have been equally focused ensuring that the Coast Guard can build and maintain their fleet as well.
The new strategy, however, arrives at a time of great challenge here in Congress. This week, both chambers are beginning their work on the 2016 budget that, unfortunately, sets us on a path to fund our sea services at a level lower than the President’s budget request – essentially, locking in sequestration. I think there is broad agreement on this committee that this approach is misguided and, frankly, dangerous.
While it appears that the budget will include a one-year work-around that shifts funding to emergency war supplemental funding outside of spending caps, this approach does not address the root problem – sequestration level caps in law – nor does it provide the long term certainty needed to properly support our nation’s defense. And although those of us on the House Armed Services Committee tend to discuss the defense side of the spending caps, the presence of our Coast Guard here today is a reminder that locking in lower spending caps in non-defense spending has a serious impact to our security as well.
Over the last several weeks, our committee has heard from a broad range of military leaders about the devastating impact that this approach would have on their ability to meet the defense requirements of our nation. We cannot say we have not been warned. I hope the witnesses will discuss how a lower budget level will impact their ability to achieve the path laid out in the new maritime strategy, and the resulting impact to the nation.
I look forward to the testimony today.