Washington- The Navy’s shipbuilding programs for the fiscal year 2017 was addressed at the Senate’s Subcommittee on Sea Power. The plan’s key issues were focused on how to lower the budget to fix old ships and to increase the number of ships in the Navy’s fleet. The two groups also addressed the superior Russian fleet and how to be more effective in the Mediterranean area.
Chairman Roger Wicker from Mississippi said, “The current fleet of 272 ships is insufficient and the Navy is not going to reach its goal of 308 ships until 2021. The Navy shipbuilding programs for 2017 and future years look to accelerate this process with the help of the committee. While we want to increase our number we also want to better equip our current ships with the latest technology.”
The three witnesses who took the task of answering questions and promoted the navy’s plan were: Secretary Sean Stackley, Vice Adm. Mulloy, and Lt. Gen. Walsh. Each witness opened with statements that focused on tough choices that have to be made because of the recent cut to the Navy’s budget. “I do believe that our 2017 budget provides the best balance between capability capacity greatness within our fiscal guidance. We made focused investments, hard priority choices, and innovated reform efforts to deliver a global sea-based force that can fight and win against our five major challenges,” Vice Adm. Mulloy said. The five major challenges he said include: dealing with China, Russia, maintaining stability in the Mediterranean and the Pacific, and increasing the naval readiness in dealing with these issues.
Lt. Gen. Walsh discussed the importance of accelerating the building of the new amphibious ships, the LPD 17. Amphibious ships help the navy and the marines employ on land with a heavy ground support. The older ships do not have this capability and do not offer the advantage that the new ship brings which is to be in two places at once. “The LPD 17 Class of ship is able to bring tremendous aviation capability, medical capability, along with most importantly command and control capability.” Said Lt. Gn. Walsh. “We can now split that ship with an aviation deck with a pretty good significant punch to go with it to be able to deploy independently.” The Navy is making a push for this in the 2017 budget because the LPD 17 ships are mostly used in the Mediterranean area. The Navy is highly involved in this area and feels it is necessary to pursue the acceleration of making these ships.
Along with the Mediterranean area the Navy has a high responsibility in the Asian-Pacific area. “As we focus on the newest platforms and technology, we position them in the Pacific and the numbers go up,” said Vice Admiral Mulloy. He also points out this is very important to have in the Asian-Pacific area because of the rise of China and the strong Russian weaponry. By matching their technology the navy is ready to deal with anything that may happen. Lt. Gen. Walsh said, “Once we secure our stand in this area it will give us more opportunities to fucse on where our fleet may lack. The important issue is to be able to be up to the technology that other fleets have. Right now this can’t be said.”
Senator Jeff Session from Alabama is part of the Republican part. Senator Sessions questioned the problem that is occurring with lowering the standard of 52 ships to 40 ships. Sec. Stackley summarized the reason for this because of the budget reduction and increase building of bigger ships that will be more useful. Sec. Stackley said,”The smaller ships are not performing well and it would not be in the best interest fiscally to continue to keep these number of ships at a large number. With the budget reduction we have to make certain tough decisions and this is one of them.
Vice Ad. Mulloy added, “It will be harder to mobilize a smaller fleet of only 40 ships. It is a necessary risk with more responsibilities else where like the Asian-Pacific. It is a bigger region with the need of more ships their compared to the Mediterranean. “I think you do well, I think you managed the situation right with not being satisfied with that aspect and you are demanding that it be fixed,” said Senator Session.
There is a worry that with a low number of ships there will be a problem with deploying the ships at a fast rate. Vice Admiral pointed out that right now without the budget to support a higher number of ships, a lower number of ships with more to offer is a necessary risk to take.
The Ohio Replacement Program is a program that the Navy has to replace three old ships a year with newer ones. Vice Ad. Mulloy said, “This is and has always been something that the Navy prides itself on. We hope to increase this standard by replacing two submarines a year. This will be hard to do if our budget continues to be reduced. I hope that you understand this and the right steps are taken towards helping us reach our goal in the upcoming years.”
The two parties will meet again in the near future to specify exactly what will be done with the navy ship building request and make decisions on what to move forward with and what might have to be cut from it.
By: Joseph Iraola