Washington, DC - U.S. Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, delivered the following opening statement at a hearing on the Department of the Navy's FY22 budget request for seapower and projection forces.
Rep. Wittman's remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to thank Chairman Courtney for yielding and thank our three witnesses for testifying today.
If we are sincere in preparing for maritime conflict with a great power, we should all grade President Biden’s Navy budget request as unacceptable. I give it a “D-“. With proposing 8 battle force ships, of which 2 are tugboats, we are going backwards, not forwards, in our attempt to deter global conflict.
I think what is most perplexing to me is the lack of vision and the desire by senior Biden officials to mark time while the lethargic Biden nomination process continues. We are already six months into this administration and we were only informed this week of the administration’s intent to nominate a Secretary of the Navy.
It has been said that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned. In this case, President Biden is fiddling while the Navy is metaphorically burning. We have no strategic direction, no plan to dissuade China, and no budget to adequately prepare for maritime conflict. The administration even refused to deliver a five-year budget plan and a 30 year shipbuilding plan as required by law.
Secretary Hicks recently indicated that this budget request was developed with a clear-eyed approach on how to “deter military aggression” when it comes to China. I think that she must have overlooked the Navy.
While the administration is fiddling, the budget request is recommending that we divest 15 battle force ships, including 7 cruisers. These 7 cruisers alone have more missile capacity than the entire British fleet. We have already spent hundreds of millions on ensuring these cruisers are returned to the fleet.
While this administration is fiddling, the administration indicates that they cannot afford a second destroyer, a critical platform to deter maritime conflict.
While this administration is fiddling, the budget underfunds critical investments in tomahawk missile, heavy weight torpedoes and sonobuoys.
While this administration is fiddling and stymied with inaction, the Navy is prepared to give up on over $700 million in smart acquisition savings available by procuring 4 amphibious vessels.
President Trump established maritime conflict as a key budget priority and prepared a plan to deliver this capability. President Trump’s plan envisioned discrete cuts throughout the Defense Department to fund the 12-battle force ships he proposed for construction in FY22. The Biden administration arrives, wants to take more time to study the future of maritime conflict, and throws out the tremendous work by our witnesses today. Undoubtably, the Biden team will reach the same conclusions as their predecessors. …Or perhaps they already had already reached their own conclusions and are now building an assessment tailored to prove themselves right. Frankly, this waste of time is not only unacceptable, but it is dangerous and imperils our national security.
It is time to stop fiddling.
We need to be visionary to allow the industrial base to right size and deliver efficiently for our national security needs.
We need to be steely eyed in dissuading conflict and delivering adequate resources to enable this plan.
And, we need to be brave enough to balance cross-service resources to deliver credible power relevant to future conflict.
We have so much work on this budget request to make it even mildly prepared to dissuading future conflict. I look forward to working with my colleagues to correct this dangerous naval trajectory.
Finally, I want to be clear: I do not lay this blame at the feet of our witnesses today. I believe they are all great Americans who are in the difficult position of defending a lackluster budget developed—in part—by folks who never have to testify before this committee.
Again, I appreciate the Chairman for having this important hearing and I yield back the balance of my time.