Chairman Visclosky Statement at Hearing on FY 2021 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Budget Requests

2020-03-04 11:00

Congressman Pete Visclosky (IN-01), Chair of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's hearing on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget requests for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps:

The Subcommittee on Defense will come to order.

This morning the Committee will receive testimony on the fiscal year 2021 budget request for the United States Navy and Marine Corps. 

Our three witnesses today are the Honorable Thomas Modly, Acting Secretary of the Navy; Admiral Michael Gilday, Chief of Naval Operations; and General David Berger, Commandant of the Marine Corps.  This is your first time before the Subcommittee and we welcome you.  We look forward to hearing your thoughts about the fiscal year 2021 budget request and engaging in a dialog with us.        

Normally, I like to keep my opening remarks brief at these hearings; however, I have some significant concerns with the Department of the Navy and ask my colleagues’ indulgence. 

The bulk of my remarks will focus on the fleet; however, I would like to begin by highlighting my concerns about the well-being and quality of life for Sailors, Marines, and their families.  Of particular interest to me is childcare.  Whether it is Key West, San Diego, Camp Pendleton, or right here in the National Capital Region, we continually hear from Sailors and Marines about the lack of available childcare.  The Committee made a significant investment in fiscal year 2020 to mitigate this issue and I applaud the Navy building upon that investment in the FY 2021 request.    

Moving on to address the fleet - although the Committee has not yet received the fiscal year 2021 shipbuilding plan, we are aware that the Secretary of Defense continues to call for a 355-ship fleet by 2030, echoing the fleet size outlined in last year’s 30-year shipbuilding plan.  It is my understanding that the Navy currently has 294 ships in its inventory and plans to have 297 by the end of fiscal year 2020 and 306 by the end of fiscal year 2021.  I realize that building ships is a time consuming process, and once cannot gauge a shipbuilding plan in isolation.  However, I am genuinely puzzled by the degree the fiscal year 2021 budget request deviates from the previous shipbuilding plan.

Beyond that contradiction, what is even more disturbing to me, is the fact that the Department of Defense chose to transfer $911 million of fiscal year 2020 shipbuilding funds to support the President’s misguided effort at the southwest border.  We hear time and again that more ships are required but then actions like these are taken, severely undercutting the credibility of that argument.  Needless to say, these wall reprogrammings have completely broken the trust between the Department and the Committee.  

Furthermore, I am bewildered by the Navy’s approach to the Virginia class submarine program in this budget.  Late in the budget development process, the Navy removed funding for a second Virginia class submarine; then placed that sub at the top of its massive unfunded priority list, knowing full well that Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle will advocate to find the $2.8 billion needed to construct that boat.  It is clear to me that the Navy didn’t make the difficult choices required to reduce other programmatic funding to fund the second submarine and is expecting Congress to do so for them. 

I am also interested to hear an update on ship and submarine maintenance issues.  Shipyard backlogs remain high and the shipbuilding industrial base is facing production delays and capacity challenges.  Last year we included an additional $625 million for submarine maintenance – again I would ask how you are building upon that investment.

Finally, I remain concerned that the Navy may still be accepting ships with 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.  We need to understand what steps are being taken to improve this situation and what we can do to assist you.

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.

116th Congress