Nov 28 2018
Miss. Senator Says Return to Obama-Era Spending Caps Would Be ‘Unthinkable’ & ‘Irresponsible’
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., Chairman of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, yesterday led a hearing to receive testimony regarding the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding plans. The hearing comes amidst growing concerns that the Navy has been lagging in shipbuilding and will not be able to defend U.S. interests without significant additional investments in new vessels.
“Let’s be honest with the American people about how far behind we’ve gotten,” Wicker told the Honorable James F. Geurts, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition.
Wicker asked the panel of witnesses about the Navy’s progress towards meeting its goal of a 355-ship fleet, which became the national policy of the United States when President Donald Trump signed Wicker’s “SHIPS Act” into law last year.
In his opening statement, Geurts confirmed the Navy is on track to hit the congressionally mandated 355-ship minimum by the 2030s, which is two decades earlier than initially projected.
However, Geurts also noted the need for a bigger fleet has increased and not declined.
The Senator also discussed the funding challenges for procuring a new fleet in time to meet emerging threats across the globe. Despite Congress’s recent action to increase appropriations for the Department of Defense, Wicker noted the specter of a flat or declining budget returning in the future. The Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which capped defense spending levels for the better part of a decade, is due to snap back unless Congress takes action next year.
“I view that as unthinkable and it would be irresponsible on the part of this Congress,” Wicker said.
“Obviously, at the BCA level, that significant of a cut would be difficult to imagine us executing the current plan under BCA caps,” Geurts said.
Vice Admiral William R. Merz, who is the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Systems, said that “there would be immediate impact” if BCA level funding returned.
“Depending on how long [BCA-level funding] lasts, I think we could go from immediate to devastating impact on the program,” Merz said.
The other witness at yesterday’s hearing was Lieutenant General David H. Berger, who is the
Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration; & Commanding General for the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.