Chairman Visclosky Statement at Hearing on FY 2020 Navy and Marine Corps Budget Request
Congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01), Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps:
The Subcommittee on Defense will come to order.
This morning the Committee will receive testimony on the fiscal year 2020 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps.
Our three witnesses are the Honorable Richard Spencer, Secretary of the Navy; Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations; and General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps. We welcome you back before the Subcommittee and thank you for your service.
Admiral Richardson and General Neller, I’d like to take this opportunity to recognize that this is likely the last time you will appear before this subcommittee and congratulate you both on your upcoming retirements. You have both been outstanding representatives for your respective Services and we appreciate the frank and informative dialog we have always enjoyed with you for the last few years.
The Committee has made significant investments in Navy platforms and readiness over the past several years to ensure that Sailors and Marines are prepared for whatever happens throughout the world. We want to understand how the fiscal year 2020 budget request is focusing on increasing readiness, utilizing the platforms currently in the Navy inventory to their full capacity, and taking care of Sailors and Marines and their families.
The recently released 30-year shipbuilding plan continues to assert the need for 355 ships. Since 2001, the Navy force-structure goal has fluctuated between a low of 306 ships in 2013 and a high of 375 ships between 2002 and 2004. However, the current number of ships only totals 289, significantly less than the requirements over the last several years. At the same time, the budget request seemingly contradicts the shipbuilding plan by deferring procurement of a long-planned amphibious ship and canceling the refueling and overhaul of an aircraft carrier. Shipyard backlogs remain high and the shipbuilding industrial base is also facing production delays and capacity challenges. Today I would like to find out if a 355-ship requirement is a realistic goal and how some of the decisions that informed the fiscal year 2020 budget request were made.
Additionally, I remain concerned with reports that the Navy is frequently accepting ships that have both minor and major defects which require additional costs and unscheduled maintenance. We have seen the multitude of issues with the Zumwalt class of destroyers, Littoral Combat Ships, and the lead-Ford class aircraft carrier. It is inexcusable if shipbuilders are delivering ships with defects and we need to understand what steps are being taken to improve this situation.
I am also concerned about the well-being and quality of life for Sailors, Marines, and their families. I have heard about the lack of available childcare and I would like to know what the Services are doing to help mitigate some of the challenges that servicemembers face.
With that, I thank you again for appearing before the Committee today to discuss these important issues. We will ask you to present your summarized statement in a moment, but first I want to recognize the distinguished ranking member, Mr. Calvert, for his opening comments.
Gentlemen, your full written testimony will be placed in the record and Members have copies at their seats. My intent is to complete two rounds of questions for each Member present. In the interest of time, I strongly encourage you to keep your summarized statement to five minutes or less and to be complete, but succinct in responding to questions. Thank you.