WASHINGTON — National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Chairman Glenn Grothman (R-Wis.) opened today’s subcommittee hearing on “Strengthening the Fleet: Challenges and Solutions in Naval Surface Ship Construction ” by outlining how the Navy has struggled to produce a coherent long-term, 30-year shipbuilding strategy that is able to compete with China and Russia. He continued by highlighting that poor design, unrealistic timelines, and labor recruitment issues are barriers to a more modern and efficient U.S. Navy. He finished by thanking the witnesses for appearing before the subcommittee and looking forward discussing solutions to the current challenges affecting the Navy.
Below are Subcommittee Chairman Grothman’s remarks as prepared:
Good morning, and welcome to the Subcommittee on National Security, the Border, and Foreign Affairs’ hearing on strengthening the fleet: challenges and solutions in naval surface ship construction.
Today, we are examining the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding programs, American shipyards, naval competition with China and Russia, and the future architecture of the fleet.
I represent the 6th district of Wisconsin and Wisconsinites have a long and proud history of providing high-quality vessels to the U.S. Navy and the world – as do other districts represented in this subcommittee.
I want to thank both of our witnesses here today to testify on behalf of the Navy.
As of April 2023, the Navy included 296 battle force ships. Since 2003, the number of ships in the fleet has been between 270 and 300.
The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act established requirements for an operational 355-ship Navy.
In 2020, the then-Acting Secretary of the Navy testified to the House Armed Services Committee that achieving that 355-ship Navy could cost an additional $120-$130 billion over the next ten years.
Yet, Naval leadership has signaled that 355 ships are not enough.
In February of 2022, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael Gilday, stated that he believed the Navy needed a fleet of over 500 ships to meet the commitments outlined in President Biden’s National Defense Strategy.
So, let’s understand this—the 2018 NDAA required a 355-ship Navy. We still don’t even have 300 ships. It is going to cost at least another $120 to $130 billion to get to 355. But the Biden Administration wants over 500 ships.
It does not look like the Biden Administration is balancing costs, efficiency, or even practical goals when creating their National Defense Strategy.
And the Administration is creating these unrealistic goals at a time when military recruitment and retention is at one of its lowest points.
Additionally, C-N-O Gilday stated in August of 2022, that “the biggest barrier to adding more ships to the Navy is the industrial base capacity.”
There have also been numerous reports on issues related to ship design flaws, fraudulent contracting issues, and delays due to supply chain issues made worse in the pandemic.
Poor designing, unrealistic timelines, and labor recruitment issues – these are the barriers to a more modern and efficient U.S. Navy that we hope to explore today.
Cost overruns and delays have plagued several programs of high importance.
For example, the Zumwalt Class Destroyers have cost the U.S. taxpayer around $22.4 billion in research and development alone.
The Navy has also struggled to produce a coherent long-term, 30-year shipbuilding strategy. This strategy is necessary to enable Congress to effectively fund future programs and create stability within the defense industrial base.
While the Navy continues to encounter delays, between 2015 and 2020, China surpassed the U.S. Navy in size, and is expected to grow to 400 operational ships by 2025.
The United States Navy is and must continue to remain the greatest the world has ever seen. Its firepower and professionalism are unmatched.
By focusing on modernization and future technologies, the U.S. can remain unmatched.
I hope to hear from our witnesses today about ways that Congress can cut the bureaucratic red tape and unleash American manufacturing and ingenuity to meet the threats of the future.
Thank you again to each of our witnesses for participating today, and I look forward to your testimony.