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Ranking Member Courtney Statement on Defense Strategy Commission Report

November 14, 2018
Press Release

Washington, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Ranking Member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, issued the following statement following the release of a congressionally-directed report by the Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States:

“The report published this week paints a stark picture that our nation’s strategic advantage is severely at risk,” Ranking Member Courtney said. “The report also makes clear that the Administration’s 2018 National Defense Strategy lacks the depth and coherence necessary to link our military strategy to the resources needed to address the national security challenges our country is facing today. The report presents an invaluable ‘second opinion’ on the direction the Department of Defense and Congress should take in the coming years.

“I am unsurprised to see that the Commission's report states that the Navy’s two top priorities in the near- to mid-term should be increasing the size of our undersea force and dramatically recapitalizing our military sealift fleet. As Ranking Member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, I have consistently raised these issues through hearings and legislation to make it clear that our current shipbuilding plan will not address our undersea requirements in a strategically-meaningful amount of time. This report should serves as a clear warning to the Navy, Defense Department leadership and the administration that we must change course before it is too late.

“As we move into a new Congress and a new majority, I intend to remain laser focused on these critical capabilities which play central roles in our nation's ability to project power and deter our strategic competitors.”

The Commission on the National Defense Strategy for the United States was established by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2017 National Defense Authorization Act to evaluate and make recommendations with respect to the national defense strategy for the United States. Among the bipartisan Commission’s findings and recommendations:

  • On the strategic environment: “In 2018, this Commission believes that America has reached the point of a full-blown national security crisis. The U.S. military remains the strongest in the world, but the number and geographic diversity of security challenges, the technical sophistication of U.S. rivals and adversaries, and other factors mean that America’s military capabilities are insufficient to address the growing dangers the country faces. America is courting unacceptable risk to its own national security, and to the stability and prosperity of the global environment from which it has benefitted so much.”
  • On the inadequacy of the 2018 National Defense Strategy: “The Commission applauds the priority the NDS places on competition with China and Russia as the central dynamic in shaping and sizing U.S. military forces and in U.S. defense strategy more broadly. The Commission is nonetheless skeptical that DOD has the attendant plans, concepts, and resources needed to meet the defense objectives established in the NDS, and we are concerned that there is not a coherent approach for implementing the NDS across the entire DOD enterprise.”
  • On the importance of submarines and military sealift to US national security: “Protecting U.S. interests from China and Russia will require additional investment in the submarine fleet […] Given the distances involved in the Indo-Pacific region, the United States will also need to expand and modernize its logistics capacity, particularly its tanker, strategic airlift, and military sealift fleets.”
  • On the Navy’s priority investments: “The Navy, likewise, will have to grow. As China and, to a lesser extent, Russia invest in their undersea capabilities, the United States must expand its submarine fleet. Yet the NDS and associated shipbuilding plan do not provide for that growth; under current plans, there will actually be a reduction in the number of submarines over the next decade. Moreover, to project and sustain combat power into the Western Pacific and other theaters, the Navy must dramatically recapitalize and expand its military sealift forces.
  • On Iran: Following the U.S. departure from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, for example, the potential for conflict in the Middle East—which was already rising—is probably greater than before.
  • On the effect of tax cuts on defense spending: “As for revenues, over the past two decades there have been several significant tax cuts (President Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, President Obama’s payroll tax cuts, and President Trump’s 2017 tax reform bill) that have decreased resources available to fund defense and address broader fiscal challenges.”

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