The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee met today for a hearing on Navy shipbuilding and impacts on the defense industrial base in a time of fiscal uncertainty.Chairman Rob Wittman made the following statement available as prepared for delivery:
"Before we begin this hearing, I would like to note today's importance in our nation's history, the 11th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th. For 11 years now, our all-volunteer force has been engaged in combat operations requiring cyclical deployments. Some of our Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines have deployed 4, 5, 6 times some have even been called upon to serve on 12 or 13 combat deployments.
"We owe a debt of gratitude, thanks, and unwavering support to the men and women of our armed forces and their families -- a debt that can never be repaid. These men and women and their families epitomize the United States of America and their courage, bravery, commitment, work ethic, pride and professionalism which are the characteristics that continue to make this country great.
"You need look no further than some of the names of the newest ships in our Fleet to understand the honor that is paid to the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for this country over the last 11 years: names such as the USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), and USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115). These ships will serve this Nation for the next 30-40 years and the service, sacrifice, and legacy of these men will never be forgotten.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all the families who lost loved ones on September 11th, 2001, our all-volunteer force and their families. Never has so much been sacrificed by so few for so many for so long...
"With this as our backdrop, I can think of no better topic to discuss than the 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan and concerns I've had regarding our defense industrial base. Over the last year, this subcommittee has held two hearings, conducted numerous briefings and facilitated many engagements with the Department of the Navy and industry, and traveled to shipyards across the country to learn first-hand about how effective DOD's 30-year plan is and how it impacts our defense industrial base. We learned that the annual plan is critical to establishing priorities and identifying challenges that need to be addressed in both the short and long-term. We also learned that historically the plans have played an integral role in leading to programmatic improvements and cost savings over time. I would like to take this time to thank all of these yards for their hospitality and professionalism as they shared with us their enthusiasm for their trade and their commitment to building the best Navy in the world.
"This hearing is focused on the 30-year plan's impact on our shipyards and closes out what I believe has been a valuable effort in identifying challenges and concerns so that we in Congress can make decisions based on fact rather than speculation. Critical to this effort were oversight visits to Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut; Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine; NASSCO in San Diego, California; Huntington Ingalls Industry in Pascagoula, Mississippi; Austal in Mobile, Alabama; and Huntington Ingalls Industry in Newport News, Virginia where we build our Navy's ships and submarines. In my view, nothing takes the place of "on the ground" observations and the opportunity to speak frankly with the people responsible for day-to-day operations, particularly in an industry as unique and critical to our nation as shipbuilding.
"As we all know, warship planning, design, and construction is one of the most complex industrial endeavors a nation faces when determining national and maritime strategy. Whether we're building submarines, amphibious ships, destroyers, logistic ships, or aircraft carriers, we can't get the job done without an industrial base that has the talent and intellect to solve unique design and engineering problems. Shipbuilding is an art form and a perishable skill. It is done by the most highly trained and experienced corps of engineers and tradesman in the world. It is supported through business and industry spanning 50 states and designed and engineered by our greatest asset: the American people.
"After conducting our oversight visits, it was clear to me that while American ingenuity, creativity, and initiative are alive and well in our shipyards, it is also clear to me that challenges exist. In a constrained fiscal environment facing the dire impacts of sequestration, many in industry are considering forced layoffs, contract renegotiations, disruptions to production, and poor future vendor supply prospects.
"This afternoon the subcommittee will focus on maintaining a robust and sustainable industrial base capable of executing the Navy's shipbuilding plan and our national strategic objectives, particularly as we pivot to Asia. As articulated in the final report of the QDR Independent Panel: "A robust U.S. force structure, one that is largely rooted in maritime strategy will be essential." I look forward to hearing your perspectives on the challenges we face, including planning for surge capacity and recapitalization of the fleet.
"The focus of this hearing is not to dive into specific programs and the nuances and challenges of certain platforms; this is the duty and responsibility of another subcommittee. The goal here today is to focus on the macro level of shipbuilding and discuss the impact on the defense industrial base in a time of fiscal uncertainty. The one lesson we learned during our visits to all the shipyards is the delicate execution and attention to detail that must be displayed while progressing through the planning process. A balance must be achieved in order to attain a sustainable workload, workforce, all while producing a capable and effective platform. The industrial capacity at these yards and the supply chains that support them is unique. It is imperative that as we move forward and shift to an Asia-Pacific centric strategy that we effectively balance the planning process with the industrial base capacity that is needed to achieve maritime and national security success in the 21st Century.
"Secretary Stackley, Rear Admiral Eccles, thank you for being here today and thank you for your continued distinguished service to this nation. Each of you, along with VADM Blake, who has appeared before the committee in the past, understands ships and you know this business. We appreciate your expertise and insight on this very important matter. The bottom line is: ships are different from many perspectives particularly acquisition and procurement. As you gentlemen note, "shipbuilding programs do not have the opportunity to build full-scale prototypes." The United States Navy essentially is the only service that will commission a prototype and then take it to war.
"I look forward to your testimony and I hope that we can have a thoughtful and meaningful dialogue on these important issues."