Washington, D.C.—At a Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senator Susan Collins criticized the inadequate funding for national security that was provided in the President’s fiscal year 2022 (FY22) budget request.
The lack of prioritization for defense resulted in a cut to the procurement of a DDG-51 Flight III destroyer in the Department of Defense’s budget. If this budget were enacted, 500 skilled shipbuilding jobs could be lost next year, and even more in subsequent years.
Senator Collins directed her questions to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas W. Harker and Admiral Michael Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations.
“[L]et me be blunt in my assessment of this budget: it is not close to adequate to meet the challenges that we are facing around the globe,” said Senator Collins. “It does nothing to help us counter the increase in the Chinese fleet. In fact, it goes in the opposite direction, and the disparity will be even greater. And third, it jeopardizes our industrial base, where we have only two yards building large surface combatants…”
Senator Collins asked, “[W]as the DDG excluded from the budget simply because you were given an inadequate top line that you had to meet?”
“We were unable to procure the DDG because of funding challenges,” Secretary Harker confirmed. “[A]s we went through when we balance things out to provide the best budget, we did not have room for that destroyer in the budget.”
Admiral Gilday echoed Secretary Harker by stating, “It was absolutely an affordability issue. We fought for that hull right to the bitter end. And if you take a look at where the money would come from, to pay for that additional destroyer…our proposal is to decommission 15 ships, old cruisers, primarily, or we would be taking money out of manpower, out of spare parts, [and] out of ammunition. And we've learned those lessons in the past that that's a bad place to take that money from.”
Addressing her colleagues on the Committee, Senator Collins responded, “[O]ur responsibility…is going to be to look across the entire government and every department's budget as a full committee, because when you see the double-digit increases for all of the civilian agencies, and then you get to the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security and essentially see a cut in real terms…our priorities are out of whack here. And I hope that that we can remedy that.”
As a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Senator Collins has strongly pushed back against the Administration’s proposal to cut funding for destroyers. Following reports that fiscal year 2022 budget request would propose procuring only one DDG-51, the Maine Delegation wrote to President Biden to emphasize their opposition to this plan. After the release of President Biden’s budget request, the Maine Delegation released a statement underscoring their commitment to increasing procurement for DDG-51s. Last week, she urged Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to reverse the proposal to cut a Navy destroyer.
The President’s FY22 budget request seeks a 1.6-percent increase in defense spending over the prior year, which is a cut in spending when taking into account inflation. The President’s budget requests a 16-percent increase in non-defense discretionary spending. The Navy has identified the restoration of the DDG-51 cut from the budget as its number one unfunded priority, indicating the Navy still believes it requires the ship, but budgetary constraints forced the service to prioritize other programs in its formal budget request. Congress ultimately determines the level of spending and fund allocation within the Navy in its annual appropriations bills and budget resolutions.
The Office of Naval Intelligence estimated that the Chinese Navy had about 360 ships in 2020, and China is expected to have a 400-ship fleet in 2025. Today, the United States Navy has 296 battle force ships.