Rep. Courtney’s Opening Remarks at the House Armed Services Committee Markup of H.R. 2500 the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am pleased to present the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee’s portion of the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act to the full committee today.
This year’s mark by the Seapower panel is a continuation of many years of bipartisan work and I want to recognize and thank Ranking Member Wittman for his unwavering commitment to strengthening the Navy and Air Force’s ability to respond to the challenges and threats of today.
As we have in previous years, we applied rigorous review and analysis to the portions of the President’s budget request under our jurisdiction. I would note that our work to dig into our portion of the budget came well before the establishment of any topline for the bill, and our mark reflects rigorous oversight and the identification of savings that allowed to produce a proposal that re-prioritized investment in ships, aircraft, and capabilities under our purview.
The adjustments we made to get to this point are far less a reflection of any kind of “cap” or restriction to the defense budget, but instead apply good budget sense to save taxpayer dollars while preserving core priorities. Indeed, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Dunford, testified before this committee earlier this year that a $733 billion topline is, quote, “completely informed by the analysis we did for the path of capability development.” We intend to follow that analysis in this committee by marking to the $733 billion top line.
This year we also benefited greatly from the input of the new members of this subcommittee, whose intelligence, energy, and diverse life experience contributed greatly to today’s mark.
I will now take a few moments to highlight some of the key elements of our proposal.
The mark authorizes a shipbuilding budget of just over $22 billion for 11 battle force ships including three Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, the first guided missile Frigate; one LPD Flight II amphibious ship through incremental funding authority; one T-AO 205 oiler; and two towing, salvage, and rescue ships.
Our subcommittee, with the strong support of the full committee, has worked for the last several years to press the Navy and DOD leadership to increase Virginia-class submarine construction to address the looming shortfall in our undersea force. After failing more than once to utilize this authority and even opposing our efforts last year, the President’s budget finally embraced the work of this subcommittee by requesting three Virginia class submarines. In testimony throughout the year, we heard time and again how important any additional submarines above the two-a-year rate would be to mitigating the submarine force structure shortfall and helping to de-risk the Columbia program as it ramps up production in the coming years. Our mark authorizes the resources necessary this year to achieve this important goal.
Our mark also explicitly rejects the President’s Budget baffling proposal to cancel the planned refueling of the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, a proposal which would have abandoned $538 million of sunk costs already made in a critical ship less than halfway into its service life, a plan that was not supported by the Navy’s force structure assessment or statutory carrier requirements.
Our subcommittee continues to address necessary reforms related to Navy collisions in the Pacific in 2017 by including a new requirement that will better align the training our sailors and officers receive with the systems actually installed aboard their ships.
I want to also emphasize our work in a critical but often overlooked aspect of our nation’s security – the recapitalization of our sealift and maritime response capabilities. In this mark, we have translated the urgent testimony from leaders at the Maritime Administration and Transportation Command into substantive action by including a long-term reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program, creating a new Tanker Security Program to help secure our military’s fuel supply, and establishing a new-build domestic sealift vessel program based on existing designed and well-established shipbuilding practice. This mark also rejects the Administration’s efforts to cut funding for the National Security Multi-mission Vessel (NSMV), which is critical to training the pipeline of mariners needed to support our sealift capabilities.
This mark also recommends strong support for our projection forces priorities, such as the KC-46A refueling tanker and the B-21 long range bomber. Once again, our mark also recommends expanding needed propeller and propulsion upgrades for our fleet of legacy C-130H aircraft, despite the Air Force’s frustrating unwillingness to invest in these safety- and efficiency-minded upgrades.
As is Congress’ constitutional obligation, the subcommittee mark includes necessary oversight over several programs to ensure these remain on track. This year we expand our oversight authority over B-1 fleet readiness, B-52 reengining, and the new Air Force One aircraft, to name a few. In each of these cases we subject these programs to the same scrutiny that we apply to all military aircraft under our jurisdiction to ensure responsible spending.
I am also glad to see that elsewhere in the bill there are important provisions that support our partners around the world, specifically language that requires an evaluation of Ukrainian naval capabilities and how the U.S. can help to augment those capabilities. This kind of support is critical, particularly in light of reports today that Russia is continuing its significant military buildup in the Crimea region.
Altogether, we are presenting another strong, bipartisan mark that I fully expect to become part of a strong full committee mark of the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act. None of what I present today would be possible without the support of the dedicated staff that has worked tirelessly to produce it: Phil MacNaughton, Kelly Goggin, Dave Sienicki, and Megan Handal. We are all grateful for the expertise and support you have provided in the process of creating and helping to advance this mark forward.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back the balance of my time.