WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., today participated in a full committee hearing discussing the future force posture for the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, which included an update on vital shipbuilding programs.
In his remarks, Wicker emphasized the need for an aggressive and speedy response to the massive buildup in naval forces by the Chinese Communist Party, starting with improving future shipbuilding plans.
“China is rapidly expanding its military forces and preparedness.?We cannot be complacent in our response,” Wicker said. “And yet, late yesterday, the Navy submitted its statutorily required 30-year shipbuilding plan which seems to embrace complacency.”
Wicker also mentioned the failure of the Biden administration’s strategy to divest from current ships without replacing them with new platforms.
“The strategy of 'divest to invest”=' does not work. In fact, that failed doctrine is a contributing factor for why we are in this predicament.?The assumptions included in this budget have the size of the fleet shrinking even more in the next five years,” Wicker said. “I see a whole lot of “divest” and very little “invest” in this budget.?I fully expect that Congress will work together in a bipartisan way and put a stop to this disgraceful lack of commitment to our Naval forces.”?
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, and Commandant of the Marine Corp General David Berger testified before the committee.
Read Wicker’s opening remarks below or watch them here.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I welcome our witnesses and thank them for their many years of distinguished service.?
I want to associate myself with the generous words of appreciation that the distinguished chairman has made with regard to Admiral Gilday and General Berger.
I would add to that the talented team of Marines and Sailors who have been such a great help to all of us in our effort to get this right.
I also want to associate myself with the Chairman and his concern that the budget proposal would take us in the wrong direction. I think on a bipartisan basis we will be able to rectify that.?
Members of this committee know all too well that the Chinese Communist Party represents the greatest threat to our nation.?Today, we are in a more complex and sobering threat environment than we have seen since World War II.?In that war, our economy was larger than all our adversaries combined, with an unmatched industrial base.?We no longer enjoy that advantage.?Not by a long shot.?
The evidence is clear: China has launched 75 new warships since 2018, compared to our 35.?China has over 200 hardened aircraft shelters, more than eight times what we have available in the Western Pacific. And there are other examples of this imbalance.?But I am even more troubled by China’s recent creation of defense mobilization offices, air-raid shelters, and wartime emergency hospitals.???
China is rapidly expanding its military forces and preparedness.?We cannot be complacent in our response.?And yet, late yesterday, the Navy submitted its statutorily required 30-year shipbuilding plan which seems to embrace complacency.?Even in the most aggressive alternative plan, the Navy will not reach the statutory 355 ships until fiscal year 2042.?Compared to last year’s plan, it trades 35 amphibious warfare ships for support vessels, harming the Marines’ ability to project force.?
The Navy’s FY24 budget request is anemic. Under the President’s proposal, the size of the fleet would shrink further. Let me be clear:?this budget request has failed – yet again – to build a U.S. Navy fleet that is capable of meeting even basic tasks, to say nothing of growing strong enough to deter near-term threats. Thankfully, there is bipartisan agreement that we must substantially increase the shipbuilding budget.?
I am concerned with production constraints at our shipyards.?Despite Congressional support, the Navy has proved unable to achieve delivery of two attack subs a year, three destroyers per year, or two frigates a year.?This trend puts us further and further behind the goal to build a 355-ship Navy. Expanding our shipbuilding capacity will require generational investments combined with new approaches to growing the workforce.?
Growing our shipbuilding capacity will also require stable demand signals. The Navy introduced uncertainty into the shipbuilding industry by excluding the LPD amphibious ship from the FY24 budget. Congress has reversed decisions like this in the past, and I certainly hope and actually am confident that we will do so again this year for LPD-33.??
I am also concerned about ship maintenance, which is essential to avoiding a smaller fleet available in the near term.?Lack of investment in maintenance, together with rising requirements, has left the fleet in brittle condition.?As a result of decades of deferred maintenance, the Navy wants to decommission 11 ships, including 8 before the end of their expected service life.???
The strategy of “divest to invest” does not work. In fact, that failed doctrine is a contributing factor for why we are in this predicament.?The assumptions included in this budget have the size of the fleet shrinking even more in the next five years.??I see a whole lot of “divest” and very little “invest” in this budget.?I fully expect that Congress will work together in a bipartisan way and put a stop to this disgraceful lack of commitment to our Naval forces.?
Finally, I am concerned that the Navy is not sufficiently leveraging promising new technologies. This is in contrast to the Marine Corps, which has embraced innovative concepts and equipment relevant to the high-end fight.?The Navy should adopt resilient communication advances, invest in autonomous technology, make use of additive manufacturing, such as 3D printing, and alternative materials such as composites.?Navy acquisition must do a better job moving cutting-edge programs into production, and do so urgently.???
A Western Pacific conflict would lean heavily on our naval and air forces. Congress needs to exercise its constitutional obligation to provide the resources, equipment, and ships necessary to provide for the common defense.?And I am certain we will.
So, thank you all for your service, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.?