Opening Remarks For Ranking Member Courtney On Seapower And Projection Forces Portion Of H.R. 2810 The National Defense Authorization Act Of 2018
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee and the tireless effort of all members and staff in assembling a mark that continues to ensure America’s security on the seas and in the skies.
This year, the subcommittee welcomed both new members and a new Chairman, Rob Wittman, who faced a challenging year to pick up the gavel. Nevertheless, in the true spirit of the subcommittee, all members worked collectively in a bi-partisan manner to answer our nation’s priorities. It is equally remarkable that this mark was assembled in an extremely accelerated timeline.
This year’s mark takes the first statutory step to codify the multi-year call to grow America’s fleet. Beginning with the 2015 Comprehensive Strategy for Maritime Security, the 2016 Force Structure Assessment, and culminating in the 2017 Accelerated Fleet Plan - it has become abundantly clear that growing today’s fleet from 278 to a 308 ship fleet – which was underway is still inadequate. Rather, the FSA which was released by former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last December stipulated that a 355 ship battle force fleet is required to deter aggression and maintain the security of the seas. I am proud that the 355 ship fleet requirement is formally codified in this year’s mark.
Furthermore, our mark does more than codify this policy. It takes aggressive action to execute this policy beginning immediately. By taking active steps to fund the construction of needed battle force and auxiliary ships this mark sends a clear signal to the American people, our nation’s industrial base, and perhaps most importantly, any potential adversary, that America’s navy will continue to be world’s pre-eminent force on, below and above the seas.
The Seapower mark goes beyond the Administration’s modest request released May 23rd of eight ships by adding an additional five ships to include an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer, two littoral combat ships, a Puller class Expeditionary Support Base, and a San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock ship.
This mark also supports the projection forces portion of the subcommittee’s portfolio. First, we make the necessary financial investment to continue the development of the advanced stealth B-21 program to recapitalize America’s aging bomber fleet. Secondly, we authorized two additional KC-46A tankers. Lastly, this mark authorizes the funds needed to upgrade 20 C-130H aircraft propulsion systems as well as funding Large Aircraft Infrared Counter-Measure defensive systems for C-130, C-17 and C-5 aircraft as requested on the Air Force unfunded priorities list.
Additionally, our mark authorizes the navy to enter into block buy contract for up to 13 Virginia Class Submarines and 15 Arleigh Burke Class destroyers. In regards to attack submarines, this mark notably heeds the call of our nation’s Combatant Commanders, like Admiral Harris, who testified he is only able to meet 50% of the demand for attack submarines in the Pacific theater. He noted that this problem will grow more acute as the submarine fleet declines from today’s 52 to 42 in the late 2020s. By authorizing up to 13 submarines in the next block contract, we will be able to build up to three Virginia Class submarines a year in FYs 2020, 2022, and 2023. This projected manufacturing growth is possible through a reliance upon proven technologies, steady requirements, and smart contracting methodologies that maximize the known efficiencies within our production and supplier pipelines. Furthermore, members of both parties have seized this opportunity to mitigate the forecasted shortfall of attack submarines as Los Angeles class boats are retired. I applaud their efforts.
Lastly, and of particular importance to me, our mark continues to spend wisely in purchasing our nation’s most survivable nuclear deterrent. This year’s mark expands the authorities within the National Seabased Deterrence Fund to include critical common components that will be utilized on the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarine that are also used on Virginia Class submarines and the Ford Class Carrier. Through these authorities this priority program will not only be able to meet its critical development and construction timeline but will continue to realize cost savings along the way.
I am confident that our subcommittee mark makes wise and timely investments today to ensure America’s continued security tomorrow. I strongly encourage your support, and yield back.