The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee met today for a hearing on the The Navy's 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan--Assumptions and Associated Risks to National Security. Chairman Rob Wittman gave the following opening statement as prepared for delivery:
"We stand at a critical juncture in our Nation's history. As we see combat operations draw down in Afghanistan, and our strategy shift to the Asia Pacific, it's important to focus attention on our Navy and the plans detailing our naval force structure for the years to come. We need to closely examine the assumptions and associated risks of the Navy's current shipbuilding plan and consider its implications.
"It goes without saying that the future of the U.S. Navy, its role in advancing our national defense strategy, and of course, its importance in preserving the economic order on the world's oceans, stand out among the concerns that merit a serious national discussion about the way forward, particularly in a time when short-term financial objectives appear to threaten and undermine our strategic interests.
"After reviewing the plan, I have a number of concerns about our ability to conduct core Navy missions in the short and long-term. Last year, I traveled to the Middle East to observe combat operations aboard the U.S.S. John.C. Stennis. I also traveled to Pacific Command to meet with commanders who work these issues every day to learn firsthand about their concerns.
"After doing so, I returned with one conclusion: we need bolstered and continued presence in both these regions and we need a plan that adequately addresses this reality. Every commander I spoke with informed me that "presence" is the concern that keeps him up at night. Where gaps exist, other countries such as Iran and China, will fill the voids.
"As written, the Navy's current plan fails to recognize this reality and has many additional shortfalls. Chief among them, assuming the plan is fully executed, are: significant time periods where we fall short of the attack submarines we need, times where we fall short of the large surface combatants we need and, finally, times when we fall short of the amphibious warfare ships we need.
"This is unacceptable. We can, and must, do better. Numbers matter when assessing strategic risk despite the incredible capability of our current ship inventory. With that said, the capabilities of these ships matters as well and we need to find the right balance to execute the maritime strategy of the 21st century.
"As you said in your statement, Mr. Cropsey: 'capability is not a substitute for the presence that comes with a sufficient number of ships.' I think the expression, 'quantity has a quality all its own' also accurately captures this dilemma. The strategic risks associated with shrinking our Navy, as currently planned, are simply too high.
"I'm looking forward to learning more about your concerns regarding the plan which I hope you'll address in your testimony today, particularly about possible contingency plans. Again, thank you for being here."