WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), today delivered the following opening statement at a SASC hearing entitled, “Posture of the Department of the Navy." Witnesses at today’s hearing include Hon. Raymond E. Mabus, Secretary of the Navy; Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations; and Gen. James F. Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps.
As prepared for delivery:
Our security is being challenged in ways that I haven’t seen in all of my years serving in Congress. Events across the Middle East, Africa, and most recently in Ukraine have brought into sharp focus a reality the President seems unwilling to accept: the tide of war is not receding.
Continuing down a path to slash a trillion dollars from our national security budget will leave us with a Navy unable to meet mission, overtaxing our sailors and Marines and prematurely retiring ships and aircraft.
A shrinking Navy directly impacts our economic and security interests around the world. The global economic system is dependent on open sea lanes as 90 percent of global trade is by sea. A strong and well-resourced U.S. Navy is vital to protecting our access and freedom of maneuver.
The Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan, like the previous 30-year plans, does not include enough funding over the long run. The Navy needs to buy 10 ships per year to sustain a 300 ship fleet. Last year’s budget bought 8 ships, this year’s budget buys only 7.
In fact Admiral Greenert has stated the Navy would need a 450-ship fleet in order to meet the needs of combatant commanders. A smaller fleet will lead to longer deployments and more strain on our personnel and their families.
Earlier this week Admiral Locklear also testified that submarine requirements in his area of responsibility are not being met. While the US is shrinking our submarine force, the Chinese are growing theirs, as well as developing a new ballistic missile that will provide them with enhanced capability.
How can our allies and our adversaries take the pivot to Asia seriously when we aren’t even adequately resourcing the requirements of our Combatant Commanders.
Further complicating our ability to meet Combatant Command and ship force level requirements is the future acquisition of the Ohio class ballistic missile submarine; the center piece of our nuclear triad. The new Ohio class submarine program will require annual spending of well over $6 billion per year.
Without additional Navy procurement funding, the Ohio replacement will crowd out other ships, as well as other Navy and Marine Corps investment and readiness needs. This greatly increases the prospect of a hollow naval force, at the same time our industrial base is struggling to sustain both itself and a much smaller fleet.
Under the FY 15 budget readiness will also deteriorate further as the Navy is short $5 to 6 billion in its base budget. The Navy is still very dependent on OCO funding to meet readiness needs. The Commandant has consistently told us that the Marine Corps requires 2-3 years of OCO funding for reset after all forces return from Afghanistan. That bill is $1.3 billion.
The Navy is facing other serious challenges, ranging from ethical lapses involving cheating within the nuclear force to contracting improprieties. The Navy also still is grappling with ship construction quality control and cost growth issues. I hope our witnesses will be able to address these issues today with the committee, and specifically what actions are being taken to address them.
We face the prospect of a future Navy unable to meet its global presence mission, and looking more and more likely to succumb to the same fate that has befallen the British fleet, and no longer be a global force.
The nation needs to “reset” its fiscal priorities and embark on a second Reagan-like build-up of our nation’s defense, and in particular, our Navy.
Before closing, I want to especially thank General Amos, as this will likely be his last opportunity to appear before this committee. General, our nation owes you a debt of gratitude for your many years of dedicated service.
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