Collins, King Call on Defense Secretary to Support President’s Commitment to a Larger Navy Fleet

From their positions on the Appropriations and Armed Services Committees, the Senators have championed a 355-ship fleet that is integral to our national security and supports thousands of jobs at Bath Iron Works

Click HERE for a copy of the signed letter.

 

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and U.S. Senator Angus King (I-ME), a member of the Armed Services Committee, wrote to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to express their strong support for a larger Navy.  Recent reports indicated that the Department is considering requesting reduced funding for shipbuilding over the next several years, which would be a sharp departure from the national policy to increase the size of the fleet to 355 ships. 

 

“We were deeply concerned to read recent reports that the Department of Defense may propose significant reductions to planned shipbuilding procurement in its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request to be submitted to Congress in the coming weeks,” Senators Collins and King wrote.  “We write to express our strong support for a 355-ship Navy and to urge continued support from the Department for a robust shipbuilding budget.”

 

“Ultimately, Congress is responsible for annual Department of Defense and Navy appropriations, and we will continue to support a growing fleet in order to protect our national security and ensure our national prosperity as threats around the world continue to grow… We expect this congressional support for Navy shipbuilding and DDG-51 procurement to continue in FY 2021 and beyond, and we hope the Department and administration will join us in these efforts,” Senators Collins and King continued.  “As you continue to develop and finalize the Department’s FY 2021 budget request, we urge you to reverse course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans that may be under deliberation and to support a 355-ship Navy.”

 

From maritime security patrols in the North Atlantic to freedom of navigation missions in the Pacific, Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51s) are the workhorses of the Navy.  Senators Collins and King have fought to ensure that Bath Iron Works has the resources it needs to continue building these destroyers and support our military.  Last month, Congress appropriated $5.1 billion for three DDG-51s and a $390 million increase in advanced procurement for a down payment on an additional ship next fiscal year, as well as funding for infrastructure investments that will allow the shipyard to prepare for future contracts. The President signed this funding into law on December 20th.

 

Last month, Congress appropriated $5.1 billion for three DDG-51s and a $390 million increase in advanced procurement for a down payment on an additional ship next fiscal year, as well as funding for infrastructure investments that will allow the shipyard to prepare for future contracts. The President signed this funding into law on December 20th.

 

Click HERE for a copy of the signed letter.  The full text of the letter is below.

 

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Dear Secretary Esper:

 

We were deeply concerned to read recent reports that the Department of Defense may propose significant reductions to planned shipbuilding procurement in its fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget request to be submitted to Congress in the coming weeks.  We write to express our strong support for a 355-ship Navy and to urge continued support from the Department for a robust shipbuilding budget.

 

In 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the national policy of achieving a 355-ship Navy, approximating the President’s bold campaign pledge and adopting the fleet size called for in the Navy’s own December 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA).  Three other congressionally mandated, independent studies similarly called for a Navy much larger than the current 293 deployable battle force ships in the fleet today.  Contrary to this established policy and identified national security need, media reports suggest the Department may propose a budget plan that would actually result in a smaller fleet in 2025 than we have today.

 

One of the proposed budget cuts would reportedly reduce by five the number of Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers planned for construction over the next five years.  DDG-51s are truly the workhorses of the Navy worldwide, conducting freedom of navigation missions in the South China Sea, leading maritime security patrols in the North Atlantic, and deterring Iranian aggression in the Persian Gulf.  The newest Flight III variant, to be delivered to the fleet in the coming years, will significantly improve the anti-air and ballistic missile defense capabilities of the Navy.  For example, the new AN/SPY-6 radar will be 35-times more sensitive than current systems and will allow our destroyers and other defended ships to operate in higher threat areas.  In short, we need more of these ships in the fleet of the future, not fewer.

 

We also are greatly concerned about the impact to the shipbuilding industrial base should significant cuts actually come to fruition.  As the Navy’s FY 2020 30-year shipbuilding plan correctly identified, “our shipbuilding and supporting vendor base constitute a national security imperative that is unique and must be protected,” and portions of the industrial base could be at risk without consistent and continuous commitment to steady acquisition profiles.  We need to ensure stability in our industrial base and proposed cutbacks would threaten both our security and our economy.

 

Ultimately, Congress is responsible for annual Department of Defense and Navy appropriations, and we will continue to support a growing fleet in order to protect our national security and ensure our national prosperity as threats around the world continue to grow.  Last month, the FY 2020 defense appropriations bill enacted into law provided $23.9 billion for 14 battle force Navy ships.  This included funding to procure three new DDG-51 Flight III destroyers, as well as an additional $390 million in long lead materials to support construction of three DDG-51’s in FY 2021 (one more than currently planned, and two more than reports indicate the FY 2021 budget might propose).  We expect this congressional support for Navy shipbuilding and DDG-51 procurement to continue in FY 2021 and beyond, and we hope the Department and administration will join us in these efforts.

 

As you continue to develop and finalize the Department’s FY 2021 budget request, we urge you to reverse course from cutbacks to shipbuilding plans that may be under deliberation and to support a 355-ship Navy.  Thank you for your consideration of this important issue, and we look forward to your response.