Good afternoon. I’m Tom Schievelbein, President of Northrop Grumman Newport News.
It’s my pleasure to welcome you to this congressionally sponsored forum on American Sea Power in the 21st Century.
We have three distinguished speakers today.
Before they speak, however, I would like to recognize and thank the U.S. Naval Institute, the Navy League, the National Defense Industrial Association, the Naval Submarine League, the Surface Navy Association, and the Association of Naval Aviation for jointly hosting these forums with the American Shipbuilding Association.
These forums, designed to be informative in nature, give us the opportunity to discuss topics important to the Navy and to shipbuilding.
Today, our topic is the risks posed by a shrinking fleet-and what this means to our national security and economic prosperity.
It’s important to bring this kind of information to the attention of our policy and decision makers and to the public.
Because these risks are real.
It’s not only our past that reminds us that we are vulnerable-it’s our present.
The bombing of the USS COLE, the tragedy that took place on September 11, the color-coded threat levels, the heightened security in this city as well as others around America, are stark reminders that we are vulnerable.
They are also clear reminders that we need to be militarily prepared as a country to defend our lives, and our way of life, at all times.
We must be prepared militarily to deter aggression.
And when deterrence fails-we must be able to respond decisively anywhere in the world.
One of the critical ways we meet this need is through a strong Navy.
Naval ships are mobile, lethal bases at sea.
They can operate anywhere in the world.
Naval ships do not require permission from a foreign government to engage in military operations far from our shores.
In fact, when foreign governments deny us the use of their land bases, sea power gives the United States the most effective means to defend our freedom.
Yet this all-important means of defense is at risk.
Each year our Naval fleet shrinks.
Yet each year, the number of wars, contingencies, and missions grow.
In 1987, the fleet numbered 594 ships.
Today, it stands at just 301.
Next year, the number drops to 290.
This trend represents a decline to a force level of 200 or fewer ships.
In fact, for the last twelve consecutive years-on average-only six ships per year were bought.
This is the lowest rate of Naval ship production in our nation’s history since 1932.
As a shipbuilder, I can tell you that my industry and the Navy are aggressively developing new technologies to transform the operational capability and flexibility of Naval and Marine forces. Yet technology alone will not keep our country safe and secure.
No matter how advanced-a ship cannot be in two places at the same time.
As the Chief of Naval Operations has stated on numerous occasions, and I quote, “Quantity has a quality all its own. Numbers count in ensuring our Navy is prepared and positioned to carry the national security strategy.”
A Navy allowed to decline so dramatically cannot rebuild overnight.
It takes years to design and build each Naval ship.
It takes an Industrial base made up of shipyards and thousands of suppliers that make all the components and systems that go into ships.
It takes people, many thousands of them, with skills that are learned and fine-tuned over years, not months.
In the past decade, many in my industry have struggled to keep their companies afloat, and to hold on to skilled people in the face of historically low production rates.
Yet at the same time, we’re making major investments in technology, in facilities, in training our people, and in transforming our business and manufacturing processes to try to offset the rising costs associated with low production.
However, it’s not enough.
I can assure you that we in the shipbuilding industry are commit-ted to the security of this country-and to working with our Navy partner in rebuilding America’s sea power to win the war on terrorism.
And this forum today is designed to help all of us move America closer to this goal.
I will now introduce the first speaker.