As an Armed Services Subcommittee Chairman, my focus is on strengthening our national security and maintaining Virginia's role in ensuring our military remains the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. To do that, three specific areas I am working on are boosting the base defense budget, growing the size of the Navy's Fleet to 355 ships, and utilizing technology and innovation to maintain a competitive advantage over our adversaries.
I explained why each of those is important to the defense of our country in a recent article I submitted for the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce Magazine. You can read the full article below.
It's an honor to serve you and Virginia's First District in the People's House.
REPORT - Our Defense Has Three Focus Areas: Growth, Technology & Budget
By Congressman Rob Wittman
At the beginning of 2017 I took the gavel as Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. As Chairman, I have three areas of focus, each of which I believe will help strengthen our national security and maintain Virginia's role in ensuring our military remains the greatest fighting force the world has ever known. Those three areas are boosting the base defense budget, growing the size of the Navy's Fleet to 355 ships, and utilizing technology and innovation to maintain a competitive advantage over our adversaries.
First, we must boost the defense budget. The defense sequestration spending caps enacted through the Budget Control Act of 2011 devastated our military readiness, denying our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines the equipment and training necessary to achieve the missions we have asked them to do. When top military leaders come before the full Armed Services Committee, or before the Seapower Subcommittee, that is the message they deliver to Members. They also remind us that as we have been forced to cut defense spending, the global security environment has become increasingly volatile and complex and the world has become a more dangerous place. To meet the challenges we face around the world we must boost the defense budget.
President Trump just unveiled a budget proposal that may be an improvement compared to past years, but I believe it falls short of what we need to reverse the damage done by the sequester and to restore our military's readiness. His budget called for $603 billion in base defense spending. In my view, $640 billion is what we need to be spending on defense to ensure we can deter adversaries, support allies, and protect the homeland.
Next, we need to grow the Fleet to 355 ships. That is the number the Navy has said it will need to respond to the threats we face across the globe, to ensure the free flow of commerce around the world, and fulfill humanitarian needs. Achieving that goal will take investment and a larger skilled workforce.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, building a 355 ship Navy over the course of several decades will cost around $800 billion. And while that may seem daunting, it actually only takes an additional investment of $5-6 billion per year over current funding levels to achieve. I believe we can do that. But it has to be a priority. The current budget proposal actually cuts shipbuilding funding. I will be working with my colleagues to increase that account.
From the outset of my Chairmanship I made it a priority to visit all of the major shipyards across the U.S. All of the visits I've made left me with the impression that our industrial base has the capacity to expand operations and build more ships, assuming we have the workforce to meet demand. With this in mind, I am working on bipartisan legislation to advance the capabilities of two-year community and technical colleges to assist the federal government and industry in securing the talent pipeline for domestic maritime industry jobs. That will mean more shipbuilders and maintainers to sustain and grow our Navy's Fleet.
Finally, we need to utilize technology and innovation to maintain a competitive advantage over our adversaries. That can be achieved, in part, through the acquisition reform effort being led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman, Mac Thornberry. The driving force behind this effort is to find the best value for the money we spend on defense. As any business owner knows, it is not always the best idea to simply select the cheapest option without considering quality. Through acquisition reform, we aim to create a common sense solution to ensure effective procurement throughout the Department of Defense.
Boosting our defense budget, growing our Navy to 355 ships, and utilizing technology and innovation to maintain a competitive advantage will strengthen our national security and Virginia’s role in protecting our country. These three critical areas will be my focus as Seapower Chairman and your representative.