RANKING MEMBER COURTNEY’S OPENING REMARKS FOR SEAPOWER AND PROJECTION FORCES SUBCOMMMITTEE HEARING ON 355 SHIP NAVY: DELIVERING THE RIGHT CAPABILITES
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman and thank you to our witnesses for once again testifying here before the committee to discuss the future of the Navy’s size and force structure.
In 2016, the Department of the Navy produced a new Force Structure Assessment which determined that the Navy our nation needs is a 355-ship navy. This is not a number that the Navy came to simply because it believed it needed a larger force. It reviewed and validated the stated requirements – and the real-world demands – faced by our combatant commanders. It looks to present challenges and those expected in the decades ahead.
Unfortunately, the Administration’s last two budget requests have fallen short of the achieve the goal of attaining the 355-ship level in a strategically meaningful amount of time. The latest long-term shipbuilding plans does not achieve that level at any time in the next three decades, and likely will not under current estimates until the 2050s.
As the Navy itself has made clear in the new shipbuilding plan, there is room to grow our investments in ships and submarines above and beyond the plan laid out in the 2019 budget. Our subcommittee last year worked hard on a bipartisan basis last year to produce a defense bill that adding new ships, provided strong multi-year authorization for boosting submarines, and made clear that achieving a 355-ship Navy is the law of the land.
Secretary Guertz and Admiral Merz, you have both been before our panel in public testimony and private meetings regularly over the last few weeks and months. I hope that you have come away from these sessions with a good understanding of how our subcommittee works well together to produce a solid bill in support of shipbuilding and our at-sea capabilities.
Above all, I hope you have gotten the message loud and clear that we are ready to move ahead in constructive way to do all we can to achieve the 355 ship navy. What we will need from you as we begin our work on the 2019 defense bill is a commitment to work with us to utilize all the tools we have available here in Congress and in the Navy to get to that 335 level – and build as many ships and submarines built as quickly and efficiently as possible.
At the same time, I think we all understand that achieving this higher force structure will not happen overnight nor is not something we can simply build our way to. We need a comprehensive approach that includes not only building new ships, but also making sure that we maximize the capability and availability of our existing fleet. A ship in drydock—or worse, sitting pierside waiting to be drydocked—is of no use to our combatant commanders and only puts more strain on an overstretched fleet.
I have shared with our witnesses my ongoing concern about continued delays and shortfalls in maintaining our ships – particularly with our attack submarine fleet. I’ve seen promising testimony from the Navy this year about the recognition of the need for a more comprehensive approach that leverages available capacity of our public and private shipyards. However, we have more work ahead to ensure that we are moving forward in the smartest way possible and I look forward to discussing this issue further with our witnesses today.
Our job in Congress is the deliver the authority and resources. It is the Navy’s job to execute those authorities and resources. I look forward to the discussion with our witnesses today to deliver the right mix of capabilities as we drive toward growing the fleet the nation needs.”