HSAC Member Rep Mike Rogers Statement on Major Fleet Cuts

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (R-AL), Lead Republican of the House Armed Services Committee, delivered the following opening remarks May 11th at a hearing on the FY23 budget request from the Department of the Navy.

Lead Republican Rogers’ remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you to our witnesses for being here today and for your service to our nation.

I remain very concerned about the President’s budget request.

Rather than keeping pace with the threat from China, the President’s budget would let them lap us.

And you don’t need to look much further than the request for the Department of the Navy for the evidence.

The President is seeking to build a paltry 8 battle force ships in FY23.

At the same time, he wants to retire 24.

16 of these ships have years, and in some cases, decades of service life remaining.

The President proposes to retire –
• an LCS commissioned just 3 years ago;
• 2 ESDs with over 30 years of service life remaining; and
• a cruiser that’s about to complete a service life extension that cost us hundreds of millions.

In all, the taxpayer has spent billions on these ships.

But there will be little, if any, return on their investment.

Beyond the incredible waste of money, these retirements represent a huge loss of capability for Navy and Marine Corps.

That became crystal clear when the Commandant informed us that the Marine Corps needs at least 31 amphibious ships to meet its statutory requirements.

Yet the Administration plans to slash the fleet from 32 to 24 over the next two years.

All of this invites a tremendous amount of risk.

And the risk won’t be mitigated for years.

That’s because this administration has no plans to grow the fleet.

Instead, they plan to steadily cut the fleet by 18 ships over the next 5 years.

Forget about the 500 ship Navy many say we need to counter China.

At no point, over the next 30 years does the size of the fleet even reach 350 ships.

While this administration dithers, China is rapidly growing and modernizing its navy.

It already controls the largest navy in the world.

Our fleet of 298 ships was eclipsed years ago by a Chinese fleet of over 350 ships and submarines.

By 2030, the DoD predicts the Chinese will control over 460 ships.

I don’t understand how this administration can conclude that making the size of our fleet even smaller will somehow deter China.

I’m also concerned about the strike fighter gap.

Last year, the Navy insisted the strike fighter gap would close by 2025.

This year, they tell us it won’t close until 2031.

But that assumes Congress grants the Navy the relief it wants from the statutory requirement to field an air wing for each deployed aircraft carrier.

I would caution the Navy to NOT be very optimistic that we will grant such relief.

That means Congress will have to step in again to fill yet another critical capability gap that this administration refuses to deal with.

Setting back our credible deterrent even further is the President’s call to eliminate the Nuclear Sea-Launch Cruise Missile.

According to the DNI, China is fielding a full nuclear triad and is expected to reach 1,000 warheads by 2030.

And they are developing delivery systems that will almost certainly include a sea-launched cruise missile.

Meanwhile, Russia has a 20 to 1 advantage over us in tactical nuclear weapons, including a bevy of nuclear tipped sea-launched cruise missiles.

In light of this growing threat, the recommendation to end SLICK-EM-N is both short-sighted and dangerous.

It’s clear this budget fails to invest in the capabilities required to deter conflict and, if necessary, win the next war.

I refuse to support it.

We should be expanding and modernizing our naval capabilities.

We absolutely should NOT go along with the administration’s plan to cut these capabilities.

I look forward to working with the majority to pass a real defense budget that supports modernization and ensures a credible deterrence.

Finally, I want to assure the Commandant that we understand the importance of Force Design 2030 and continue to support its implementation.

I look forward to further updates on the progress he’s making to reorganize the Marine Corps and ensure its evolution into a 21st Century fighting force.

Congress will continue our oversight of Force Design 2030.

In the meantime, I want to thank the Commandant for all of his interactions with Congress on this plan.

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