WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's markup of HR 2500, The National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2020:
"I appreciate the Chairman for yielding and want to thank him for his leadership on the subcommittee. Navigating the perils of a reduced topline is particularly difficult and I think the Chairman has done a good job with the topline that has been provided while developing this mark.
"For example, supporting the administration’s request for three Virginia class submarines and three destroyers is particularly important. This allows the Navy to more adequately develop the required force structure to meet future challenges. The mark also does several things to augment the administration’s request to include restoring the authorization of appropriations for USS Harry S. Truman’s midlife refueling and authorizing the next San Antonio class amphibious ship.
"Additionally, I am also delighted with our continuing effort to change the trajectory of the merchant marine. For example, reauthorizing the 60-ship Maritime Security Program and authorizing a new 10-ship Tanker Security Program are all valued steps toward restoring maritime capabilities in a contested environment. Additionally, we begin to recapitalize the Ready Reserve Force by requiring the Navy to order two replacement vessels. These deliberate steps are essential to providing adequate logistics in case of a major escalation in conflict.
"On the aviation side, I am supportive of the mark’s effort to include additional V-22, P-8s, E-2D and C-130Js. Continuing these aircraft production lines with an adequate volume is essential to providing national security requirements at a reasonable cost. On one other aviation program, I do oppose the inclusion of a provision related to Air Force One and look forward to discussing this issue at the full committee mark.
"This mark continues a deliberate oversight of two emerging programs that are critical for our national security to include the B-21 Raider program and the Columbia ballistic missile submarine program. I had the opportunity to visit both of these construction yards over the last few months and I continue to be impressed with these programs. In my estimation, these programs are being challenged by an extremely brittle industrial base. I am pleased that we have continued to place emphasis on an effort to better manage this fragile industrial base by allowing a more even cadence of development and developing additional subcontract options. We need to ensure that these programs remain on schedule and within the government estimate.
"In conclusion, I think this mark is a good mark but is diminished by a decision to mark to a lower defense topline. This reduced topline required the Chairman to make some difficult cuts in a variety of shipbuilding and aviation programs. I am hoping that we can move to restore some of these more onerous reductions as we continue our markup process and into conference.
"I want to especially thank Chairman Courtney for his leadership on this subcommittee. He continues to set the standard in delivering a bipartisan mark that supports innumerable advances for the military services.
"This is a good mark and I urge all my colleagues to support.
"With that, I yield the balance of my time."