Friday, May 15, 2009
Rep. Akin Challenges FY2010 Naval Budget and Priorities [Steve Schippert]
Give a quick read of Rep. Todd Akin (R., Mo.), ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces, completely obliterating those who say, in effect, “Trust us. We really are going to expand the Navy and address concerns, just like we said.” Apparently Representative Akin subscribes to “Trust, but verify,” a view held by that silly old conservative who should no longer be mentioned in proper Republican circles, so enlightened are they. But I digress . . .
Verify he did. Wow. For those of you who barely skim Defense press conferences and take words spoken at face value, pay attention as Representative Akin does proper legwork.
I was also interested to hear the Chief of Naval Operations state yesterday, at the Full Committee hearing, that the Navy still intends to maintain a minimum of 313 ships. It had begun to sound as if the Secretary of Defense, in his Foreign Affairs article, and the Navy, in its budget roll out, were beginning to back away from that number. It was not clear to me how the Navy planned to implement the joint Maritime Strategy, with its emphasis on forward presence, if the Navy intended to accept fewer ships. A ship can only be in one place at once and today’s fleet is the smallest it has been for nearly one hundred years.
Despite the good news, however, that the Navy is not backing away from the goal of increasing the size of the fleet, the CNO also acknowledged, in his written statement, “Our FY 2010 budget aligns with the path our Maritime Strategy has set; however, we are progressing at an adjusted pace.” That sounds like code to me for “This budget request doesn’t invalidate our Maritime Strategy, but it won’t allow us to meet our goals.” I see evidence of this in the budget request for shipbuilding. For example, the Navy will commission and decommission the same number of ships this year — which means, no net increase in the number of ships. To be fair, we can’t blame that on this budget request. But the simple math — 300 ships, with an average 30 year life — means we need to commission and decommission about 10 ships a year. This budget requests only 8 ships and presents no future plan to give Congress any reason to believe the Navy will ever meet its force structure requirements.
Our colleague, Representative Forbes, asked Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen about the lack of a 30-year shipbuilding plan at a hearing earlier this week. Admiral Mullen stated, “it will come in the '11 budget. And I would say we can rely reasonably well on the 30-year shipbuilding plan that's been submitted before.” But I count at least nine ways this budget diverges from the FY09 plan:
• Moving the funding of carriers to five year centers, drops the force to 10 carriers in 2039.
• Building 3 DDG 1000 destroyers instead of 7.
• Building 1 DDG 51 destroyer instead of zero.
• Not building the next generation cruiser (CG(X)) in FY11.
• Not building a large deck amphib for the Maritime Prepositioning Force in FY10.
• Not building a Mobile Landing Platform ship for the Maritime Prepositioning Force in FY10.
• Not shutting down the LPD-17 production line at 9 ships, but funding the final increment for the 10th ship.
• Building 2 T-AKE ships in FY10 instead of zero.
• Investing half a billion dollars in R&D for the replacement of the OHIO Class submarine.
So, in fact, we cannot rely upon the last shipbuilding plan and evidently we won’t receive a new one. We have the same problems on the aviation front, but I’ll save those comments for next week’s aviation hearing. Therefore, we can only rely on the testimony you provide today to shed light on the analysis that went into the decisions that were made within the shipbuilding account. The investments that the Navy is making in ship construction and R&D were evidently a higher priority than addressing the strike-fighter gap, which until recently, the Navy said was a serious concern. This may be true — but to do our jobs, it becomes critically important that this committee understand your reasoning.
In the context provided, it is definitely understandable why Representative Akins is having a hard time understanding the logic. If you didn’t catch that, go back and read it again. You’ll not find such in tomorrow’s edition of the New York Times.
I don’t pretend to know much about Missouri’s Rep. Tom Akins, but he did his job prudently well here. If he’s going to be asked to sign onto a budget, the man has to understand naval priorities and how they are being addressed.
05/15 06:09 PMShare