Ranking Member Courtney’s Opening Remarks for House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces Hearing on FY19 NDAA Subcommittee Markup
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am proud to join you in offering our mark for the Seapower and Projection Forces portion of the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act. The proposal before us reflects the thoughtful bipartisan work and cooperation that our subcommittee has a well-earned reputation for.
Over the years, our subcommittee has earned a stellar record of constructively influencing the debate about our nation’s priorities on, above and below the seas. For example, the 2018 appropriations process that concluded on March 23rd with passage of the final omnibus in many ways reflected the bipartisan input and priorities for ships, aircraft, and capabilities that were set here in our subcommittee last year.
This year’s mark continues to push the Navy to explore options to build up the fleet, we have received encouraging testimony in recent weeks on plans that will accelerate our path to a 355-ship Navy. However, it is clear that Congress will need to continue to be an active and engaged partner with the Navy, the administration, and industry to seize opportunities presented in the shipbuilding plan to go above and beyond the current strategy.
To that end, the mark before us recommends three additional battle force ships above the President’s request. It also continues the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel program to ensure that future mariners at our state maritime academies have new, American-made training ships and follows on last year’s work on this subcommittee to recapitalize the Ready Reserve Force.
This mark and the broader full committee mark also build on the work this subcommittee has done to ensure the Navy and industry have the resources to build our undersea force toward the 66-boat level required in the December 2016 force structure assessment that was drafted by the previous administration. The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan notes sufficient industrial base capacity to build additional submarines in FY22 and FY23, boats which would be included in the next block contract which is currently under negotiation.
Last year, this subcommittee included authorization to procure those additional submarines in our mark – authority that was eventually carried to the final NDAA and this year’s Omnibus. Navy officials have recently testified to us about their intention to use this authority to provide options for additional submarines in the next contract. This year, we will recommend to the full committee a robust authorization for the long lead time materials necessary this year to build these submarines in FY22 and FY23.
This mark also recommends important investments in our Air Force projection forces. It fully funds the B-21 bomber program and Presidential Aircraft Replacement program, and provides funding to address shortfalls in long-range precision weapons. It also recommends additional support for important propulsion upgrades for our legacy C-130H fleet, including the Flying Yankees of Connecticut’s 103rd Air National Guard Wing.
Finally, I want to highlight the hard work of the staff for their tireless effort to put together this mark: Dave Sienicki, Bruce Johnson, Phil MacNaughton, and Megan Handal. None of this is possible without the countless hours they put in and invaluable expertise they provide us.
Thank you again, Mr. Chairman, for a productive and collaborative process that has led to, I believe, an excellent product here today. I urge support for the mark, and I yield back.
Statement on En Bloc Package
I would like to thank the members for their amendments to the subcommittee mark. I especially want to thank one of our new members, Rep. McEachin, for his common-sense amendment to ensure that overhaul of the USS George Washington, happening in his home state of Virginia, includes the capability to launch the Navy’s next generation of unmanned aerial tankers. I encourage members to support the en bloc package.