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National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 2 minutes.

I appreciate the hard work that the committee has undertaken. We have before you a bipartisan amendment also offered by my colleagues Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Bentivolio. The purpose of the amendment is simple: it will help make the naval fleet stronger and more sustainable by allowing the Navy to decide the level of aircraft carriers in the future; stay at the current level of 10 at some point in the future instead of going back to a congressionally mandated level. It does not eliminate any aircraft carriers.

The entire Department of Defense is in the midst of a major reality check as budgets shrink, priorities change, and new technologies emerge. I don't pretend to be a naval expert, but our Navy is being pushed into shallow waters as a result of sequestration. And now more than ever, we should allow them to make the decisions.

I have been a little concerned that some people in opposition say that this amendment would make a 10-carrier fleet permanent. Nothing could be further from the truth. It simply will allow the Navy to decide if it wants 10 aircraft carriers at some point in the next three decades. Now, if they're afraid that this will happen, then it means they think that the Navy 5 years, 10 years, 20 years from now will decide that they have higher strategic needs.

The history of the 12-carrier requirement was imposed for the first time in two centuries by Congress in 2006. That number, being unsustainable, was reduced to 11 in 2007. That cap still being too high, the Navy had to seek a waiver from the Congress to temporarily drop it to 10.

If the amendment passes, the Navy will still go back to 11 carriers in 2016 when the Ford is commissioned. But at that point, we should allow the Navy to decide, not people in Congress.

I reserve the balance of my time.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself 30 seconds just to say the Navy is going to have 11 carriers when the one under construction goes into operation. Nothing in this amendment denies them that.


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself the remainder of the time.

The notion here that somehow, unless we impose a permanent mandate on the Navy, they are not going to do what my friends from Connecticut and Virginia say they're going to do, I think, is ludicrous.

This is a symbol of Congress micromanaging, substituting its judgment for that of the command structure. It is, I think, important for us to, in a small way, express confidence in them. They will have their 11 aircraft carriers, as the Gerald Ford is commissioned. They'll be back at 11.

The question is, are we going to have a mandate in perpetuity to substitute our judgment for the realities of the Navy in 5 years, 10 years, 30 years, regardless of force structure, threats or technology?

This is a small symbol of what's wrong with the process here and why we can't get control over many of the budget issues.

I'd respectfully suggest support for this bipartisan amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.


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