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Wittman statement on updated Navy shipbuilding plan

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Rob Wittman (VA-01), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, issued the following statement on the updated shipbuilding plan from Secretary of Defense Mark Esper: 

I am encouraged to see Secretary Esper show his stalwart commitment to expanding and modernizing our fleet under the Battle Force 2045 plan. It is clear that any major conflict with China is going to be in the Pacific theatre and our Naval fleet is going to be the tip of the spear. Our fleet must be able to distribute lethality, adapt in a complex environment, and have the survivability necessary to engage in a high-end conflict—many aspects of this are highlighted in this Battle Force 2045 plan. 

For example, I am extremely pleased to see the Department calling for a larger and more capable submarine force, with Secretary Esper going as far as to say we must begin working towards a 3-per year build rate as soon as possible. This echoes what I have been saying for years—our attack submarines are our greatest asymmetrical advantage and we must exploit this strength to its utmost. 

Additionally, I am thrilled to see more of my public assessments echoed in this plan, particularly the focus on increasing our strategic sealift and integrating the Marine Corps’ new force design into our future Navy. If we are going to fight and win, these will be critical to our success. 

However, while I am encouraged by many of the elements outlined by Secretary Esper, I have concerns about the reorganization of our carrier force structure and the emphasis on unmanned and optionally manned platforms. I look forward to exploring these concerns further through discussions with Secretary Esper and Secretary Braithwaite. 

Finally, I am pleased to see the Department develop this plan through budget-constrained realities, and I look forward to seeing the Navy’s overall shipbuilding account increased to meet the national defense strategy. This increase will get us to matching the average percentage spent on new ships during President Reagan’s naval buildup in the 1980s and will put us squarely on the right track to finally delivering the Navy we need. 

I look forward to working with the Navy and the Secretary of Defense to put us on the path to retaining naval superiority for decades to come.


Congressman Rob Wittman represents the 1st District of Virginia. He serves on the House Natural Resources Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, where he serves as the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.