WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Rob Wittman (VA-01), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, delivered the following opening statement at the subcommittee markup for H.R. 7900 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023. The Subcommittee's mark is available here.
Rep. Wittman’s remarks as prepared for delivery:
I appreciate the Chairman yielding.
As I prepare for this markup, I measure its success in its ability to deter China. There is no other standard for which we should be concerned. So let’s measure the ledger. China is on a trajectory of building a 460-ship fleet by 2030. China is delivering their third aircraft carrier later this year. China is expanding internationally with their most recent diplomatic victory in the Solomon Islands. China continues to dominate hypersonics capabilities, threatening U.S. forces in theater. And finally and likely most importantly, China is playing a home game, able to project power from their home shores, seeking to dominate neighbors that unfortunately stand in their sphere of influence.
So, what is our response? The Biden team would cut our naval force structure, building 8 ships and retiring 24 ships in fiscal year 2023 alone. The Biden team proposes to reduce our fleet’s missile strike ability by over 1000 missile tubes. We are not adding capabilities – we are reducing them across the board and hoping that our adversaries will cooperate.
And finally, as we play an away game, far from the shores of our homeland, the Biden administration continues to rely on 45-year-old ships with no attrition reserve to support our logistics objectives. We need to do much better to deter future conflict.
I think this mark is a good mark and reverses several of the negative trends endorsed by the Biden administration. It stops the early retirement of one cruiser and four amphibious ships. It establishes a statutory floor for the numbers of amphibious ships necessary to project Marine Corps forces. And finally, it fully supports key future enablers including the Columbia class ballistic missile submarine and the B-21 bomber programs -- critical efforts to modernize two legs of the nuclear triad.
But, I think it is not enough. Most importantly, we should be expanding our fleet rather than allowing it to contract, matching the pace of the expansive Chinese fleet in both capacity and capability. The service chiefs have indicated that this is only going to happen with an increase to the defense topline. As we know, the Biden administration submitted a defense budget request that failed to account for record-high inflation at every turn. I am committed to fixing this egregious oversight and supporting a defense budget topline that reflects 3-5% real growth over inflation. With this real growth, I support retaining Littoral Combat Ships and Expeditionary Support Bases that have decades of service life remaining and the ability to support conflict and a range of global missions. I also support an expansion of our ship construction program including destroyers, amphibs and auxiliary vessels. We need to use all of the levers available to us as we seek to maintain a competitive edge with China. I intend to use our amendment process at the full committee to implement some of these structural changes.
Finally, I want to thank Chairman Courtney for his continued leadership and stewardship of our Seapower and Projection forces. Our nation has no better advocate than Chairman Courtney and am glad to continue to work with him to solve our nation’s most difficult challenges.
In closing, I remain optimistic in our United States’ resolve to pace the China threat. We need to be bold and resolute, matching our nation’s treasure with our strategic goals.
With that, I yield the balance of my time.
Specifically, this year’s proposal:
§ Recommends to the full committee that the Navy procure 8 battle force ships: two Virginia-class Submarines, two Guided-missile Destroyers (DDG), one Guided-missile Frigate (FFG), one Landing Platform Dock (LPD) Flight II, one Fleet Oiler (T-AO), and one Towing, Salvage, and Rescue Ship (T-ATS).
§ Recommends to the full committee an additional $250 million in Advanced Procurement, Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy, toward a Landing Platform Dock (LPD) that will be procured in Fiscal Year 2024.
§ Authorizes the Secretary of the Navy to enter into a multi-year procurement contract for up to 15 Guided-missile Destroyers (DDG).
§ Authorizes the Secretary of the Navy to enter into a block-buy contract for up to 25 Ship-to-Shore connector crafts.
§ Directs the Maritime Administrator to carry out a program to complete the design and construction in United States shipyards of up to 10 sealift vessels for use in the National Defense Reserve Fleet.
§ Sets a statutory floor of 31 L-class amphibious ships.
§ Prohibits retirement of the USS Vicksburg (CG-69).
§ Prohibits early retirement of all four amphibious vessels proposed for fiscal year 2023 divestiture including: USS Germantown (LSD-42), USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), USS Tortuga (LSD-46), and USS Ashland (LSD-48).
§ Requires the Secretary of the Navy to consult with the Commandant of the Marine Corps on all major decisions directly concerning amphibious force structure or capability.
§ Authorizes appropriations for the Maritime Administration and recommends full funding for the Maritime Security and Tanker Security Programs.
§ Directs a Comptroller General review of the Navy’s amphibious warfare fleet.
§ Directs a Comptroller General review of the Navy’s Guided-missile Frigate (FFG) program.
§ Maintains a 271 aircraft statutory floor for Air Force’s C-130 aircraft.
§ Maintains a 466 aircraft statutory floor for Air Force’s air refueling tanker aircraft.
Directs the Secretary of the Air Force and the Secretary of the Navy to include FAA-certified parts in supply chain solutions.