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Wittman Discusses FY24 NDAA, AUKUS Security Pact, Submarine Industrial Base, Shipbuilding at POLITICO Defense Summit

This week, Congressman Rob Wittman, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), discussed the Senate’s holdup of the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) conference process, supplemental funding for the U.S. submarine industrial base, U.S. shipbuilding, and the security pact between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, known as “AUKUS.”

The congressman was joined on the panel by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), who serves as ranking member of the HASC Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, of which Rep. Wittman previously served as chairman.

(Watch the panel discussion here)

On the Senate’s delay in advancing the NDAA:

“In my timeframe and how the Senate operates, if they don't assign and go to conference by the end of this week, it makes it incredibly difficult to get it done before the end of the year without the ping pong, as you said. And that is members and staff going back and forth about the provisions that we have differences on and trying to find a way forward and then consulting with, as it's called, the Big Four, the chairman and ranking member of the House and Senate. So that's a more likely scenario is we don't get a motion to go to a conference this week out of the Senate.” 

On supplemental funding for the U.S. submarine industrial base:

“Joe and I have been fighting for that for years. We wish it had come years ago. … [The additional funding for the submarine industrial base is] one of the things in the supplemental that I agree with, I think those are the places where we need to make things happen. … And with all the other challenges that are out there as well as making sure that we have improvements to our shipyards or ship repair yards.”

On the AUKUS security pact to counter the Chinese Communist Party's aggression:

“AUKUS needs to result in a net increase in submarines among the three nations. We want to ensure it helps our industrial base, contributing to the growth of the Australian industrial base. We've discussed milestones for organic capacity with Australian officials. The enterprise is on track, but it's a complex and challenging task. It requires a focused effort to make sure the results benefit all nations involved. The progress made so far, the supplemental request, and the Australians' investment amount to $6.4 billion. This influx is significant, considering the workforce needed to build Columbia and Virginia-class submarines. The trajectory looks promising, but we need a steady demand signal to grow the submarine industrial base.”

On shipbuilding’s role in U.S. military power:

“It's about time people recognize the U.S. Navy's influence on global actors. The Navy is the tip of the spear, and our sailors and Marines, no matter how skilled, can't walk on water. We need to build more ships, and the right number is 355. 

“The requirement of 66 attack submarines won't be met until 2049. We need to accelerate that timeline, as it's the one area where we maintain tactical superiority against adversaries worldwide.”