Washington, D.C. — At a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, U.S. Senator Susan Collins questioned leadership of the Department of the Navy on the Administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget request for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
During the hearing, Senator Collins discussed how the Navy’s presence in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean is vitally important to the security of the U.S. and our allies in the region, particularly given growing Russian aggression.
“Based on increased operations in the Mediterranean, as well as Russian maritime activity in the Baltics and in the Atlantic, do you believe that we have a sufficient number of ships in the Atlantic fleet?” asked Senator Collins.
“There is always a strategic balance that needs to be struck,” said Admiral John Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations. “It's a continuing conversation because the strategic environment is changing. But what we have seen, and we can show you the numbers, is a steadily rising commitment to naval power in the European theater… We sent the Truman Carrier Strike Group north of the Arctic Circle up into the North Atlantic for the first time since 1991 and relearned a lot of lessons up there.”
Senator Collins also pressed leadership on the Navy’s plans for the next generation of large surface combatants and expressed her concerns about taking on a new ship design too quickly due to past experiences with the DDG-1000 class, in which the Navy transitioned to the DDG-1000 and then back to the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers after a four-year break in production.
“I do want to express some concerns about starting down the path to a new hull until the requirements have been thoroughly identified and validated, and industry has had the opportunity to help the Navy determine what truly is achievable,” said Senator Collins. “I'd be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on how budgeting and planning for the next generation of large surface combatants will address that need to ensure stability and predictability in the industrial base.”
“We're going to make sure that we're getting the best value for our dollar, but we must weigh the stability of the industrial base at all times and its health,” responded Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer.
“One of the things that we’re doing differently… is to bring industry into the discussion of the requirements so that we’re not coming off with something that will just be impossible to invent, and then build, and then integrate,” added Admiral Richardson.
Last weekend, Secretary Spencer joined Senator Collins, as well as members of Maine and New Hampshire delegations, in Maine to visit the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PSNY). Senator Collins also introduced Secretary Spencer when he delivered the commencement address to the graduates at Maine Maritime Academy in Castine on Saturday.