Correction: This comment previously incorrectly identified the fiscal year in which the Marine Corps amphibious ship inventory is due to drop to 24. This is expected to occur by fiscal year 2024.
America is a maritime nation, and we have been since our inception; the Biden administration’s 30-year shipbuilding plan does not reflect our heritage or present a vision for our future. Instead, this plan would abandon major tenants of U.S. naval power, circumvent shipbuilding requirements imposed by Congress, break trust with our shipbuilding industrial base, and set the Navy on a downward path to decline. short term in a pivotal decade to confront coercive maritime activity. from China and Russia.
The myriad failures of this 30-year-old shipbuilding demand are exacerbated by the Biden administration’s decision to hide its anemic shipbuilding plan and its intention to accelerate ship withdrawals from Congress last year by not providing for fiscal year 2022 decisions in its budget request.
The Biden administration only introduced this plan after pressure from Congress to provide a substantial way forward. The substance the Biden administration is now providing regarding its vision for the future of the fleet is deeply disappointing.
Over 30 years, the Biden administration projects that it will only achieve the required combat force inventory of 355 ships by FY43 under an unconstrained budget scenario, while submitting a budget request for FY23 that does not fails to keep pace with historic inflation at every turn.
Inevitably, this 30-year shipbuilding plan will undermine key naval missions. Fleet missile tube capacity will be reduced by 10% as the Navy retires the remaining cruise missile submarines this decade, as well as 17 Ticonderoga-class cruisers, including reducing air warfare and strike capabilities on the surface of the fleet.
The Navy’s mine countermeasures mission will be all but abandoned as the Navy retires its eight dedicated MCM ships during the FY23 Future Years Defense Program; accelerate the withdrawal of the Freedom-class littoral combat ships; remove all MQ-8B Fire Scout drones and more than half of MQ-8C drones; and retires two expeditionary sea base ships that could have been used for MCM missions.
Historically, the Navy has maintained an equivalent number of carrier air wings to match the number of operational carriers. Even though the Navy is required by law (10 US Code 8062e) to obtain a minimum of 10 aircraft carriers by 2025 and plans to increase the fleet to 12 aircraft carriers by 2024, inexplicably the Navy has sought permission from Congress that year to authorize the service to retain only nine air squadrons.
Naval construction programs to support the Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030 would also be reduced under this plan, irresponsibly limiting the joint force’s forcible entry capabilities. According to all shipbuilding projections provided by this plan, the Marine Corps drops to 24 amphibious ships in fiscal year 24 and proposes the early end of production of the LPD-17 Flight II line.
The outlook for the Corps is particularly worrisome, as the plan fails to differentiate between the light amphibious warfare ship’s various mission sets and its role as an intra-theater connector versus traditional amphibious ships.
At its core, this plan also fundamentally breaks with the industrial base of shipbuilding. This will limit construction of the FFG-62 Constellation-class frigate so that no second yards can receive work, and the Navy’s ability to disaggregate forces this decade will therefore be limited.
The plan will also provide multi-year procurement authority for just nine DDG-51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, paving the way for future production targets to be reduced.
The lack of a concrete plan beyond the FYDP will continue a trend of uncertainty that risks becoming systemic for the shipbuilding industrial base at a time when labor concerns and modernization investments facilities are of paramount importance for the construction and maintenance of the future fleet.
Congress must reject this plan. We need a budget guided by a strategy to ensure the national defense of the United States and our global interests; this shipbuilding plan fails at every turn. The US Constitution gives Congress the responsibility to “provide and maintain a navy,” and we must uphold that accusation and right the wrongs done by President Joe Biden’s budget request and 30-year shipbuilding plan.
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., is the senior member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., is the senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.