Admiral DeMars, Vice Admiral Reynolds, Members of the Naval Submarine League, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Morning. I want to thank you for your invitation to speak at your NSL Corporate Benefactor Recognition Day. It is always a pleasure to escape Capitol Hill and speak about an issue that is very near and dear to my heart: the role of our naval forces, specifically submarines, in the defense of our nation.
With the l 091h Congress settling into its legislative routine, now is the time to highlight and promote the remarkable capabilities of America’s silent service and begin a dialogue on the future of our Submarine Force. I recently sent a letter to Congressman Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland who is chairman of the Subcommittee on Projection Forces. This subcommittee has direct oversight re-responsibilities for Navy and Marine Corps programs including our nation’s submarine fleet. As a Member of this subcommittee, several of my colleagues and I have requested hearings on the current and future state of our Submarine Force. The integral role of the submarine in this security environment is not being met with appropriate procurement and maintenance funding. While several factors are to blame, we are facing increasing demands and decreasing resources for our submarine fleet.
While the schedule is still being finalized, this is certainly a hot topic on the Hill and I look forward to our hearings and discussions. Recently, I formed the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus with Representative Gene Taylor of Mississippi. To date, we have over 60 members who have joined us from across the country. Members of Congress from landlocked states like Missouri and Arizona have joined our ranks as we all realize that shipbuilding and the associated industrial bases have a huge impact nationwide. I am pleased to report that Members of Congress from submarine-heavy districts have joined in great numbers as Representatives from Connecticut, Virginia, and Washington state are among our membership. This is truly a surface/subsurface partnership, as the issues and challenges confronting the subsurface navy and its industrial base are the same ones facing our surface and carrier friends.
While there are certainly many issues confronting the industrial base that produces these stealthy and versatile platforms, there is yet another issue of requirements and the current Submarine Force. The 2001 QDR Baseline Submarine Force called for 55 subs. We have 53 in our inventory today. On Saturday, USS JIMMY CARTER, the last of the Seawolf class, will be commissioned -bringing our inventory up to 54. While this new addition to the sub fleet is welcomed, we are not prepared for the long term challenges of our Submarine Force structure as the Los Angeles class will begin to decommission in just a few years.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Attack Submarine Study of 1999-2000 set 68 subs in 2015 and 76 in 2025 as goals for growing our Submarine Force. This will allow us to meet all of the operational and collection requirements of both the Combatant Commanders and our Intelligence Community. Anything below 55 SSNs in 2015 and 62 in 2025 would leave our combatant commanders with insufficient capability to meet urgent crucial demands without gapping other requirements of higher national interest. Incidentally, a complement of 18 Virginia Class submarines would be needed in 2015 to meet the goal of 55 SSN. There is no way that we will reach that number at current production levels proposed by this and recent budgets.
Stealth, sustainability, versatility, combat effectiveness: there are few platforms in our military inventory that bring so much to the table. I am absolutely certain that we will employ these ships with greater frequency in the future and our next generation SSN will be the dominant undersea warfare platform of the 2111 Century. It is up to the leadership in the Pentagon and those of us in Congress to devise strategies that will enable us to meet the requirements of the Joint Chiefs and Combatant Commanders.
It is incumbent upon all of us both in and out of uniform to make a correct determination on the size and shape of our future Submarine Force. Here are a few recent observations from both the Navy and the outside perspectives which are helpful in framing the debate:
- A senior Navy submariner recently estimated that the Navy is meeting only 65% of the Combatant Commander requirements worldwide.
- A Congressional Budget Office study on long term implications of current defense plans for Fiscal Year 04 said
Notwithstanding some modest changes in planned procurement rates for attack submarines, maintaining a force of 55 SSN remains the Navy’s most serious challenge.
- A non-partisan think tank, the Lexington Institute, made a similar determination: “the continuing evolution of the threat against the American homeland and U.S. interests abroad demand that the country continue to invest in and deploy advanced submarine technology optimized for the new environment. With adequate funding, robust training, and innovative operational thinking, the submarine fleet will continue to be the Navy crown jewel well into the future.
In the current fiscal environment, we are meeting increased challenges with dwindling budgets. Of course, we were disappointed to hear the budget proposal of the Virginia class order being cut from 2 to I as this build rate will not sustain us to meet the Combat-ant Commander requirement both now and in the future. Addition-ally, this decision will only result in a net cost INCREASE in the long term. These myopic budget decisions are cause for concern, and I assure you that they will be a priority for me in this Congress.
The 21″ Century has indeed brought many challenges to our national security. The current environment has forced us to be prepared for both the asymmetric and traditional threats, amid operations in both Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Fortunately, we have assets which allow us to respond to these challenges, and the submarine is absolutely critical to this capability. The recent decommissioning of USS PARCHE and commissioning of USS VIRGINIA provide an opportunity to take a step back and examine where we have been and then look toward the future. The subsurface threat has changed significantly since PARCHE was the vanguard of our Cold War operations. While many of PARCHE exploits are best left untold, we nonetheless celebrate her and the rest of the Sturgeon-class for their contributions to the defeat of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.
Our future threats are no longer a large fleet of nuclear-powered Soviet submarines. We find ourselves facing diesel powered, littoral subs that have grown in number since the end of the Cold War. Countries such as Iran and China are building fleets of almost undetectable diesel-electric submarines which we must prepare to counterbalance. The Virginia class submarine will give us this capability and be able to shoot Tomahawks, launch unmanned vehicles of all types, and allow our undersea Navy to continue its proud tradition of service to the nation.
Finally, as a Member of the House Armed Services Committee, my top priority is supporting the men and women of the United States Military. This committee is unique in that it is perhaps the most non-partisan on Capitol Hill. All of us have the same goal: to support our Armed Forces and, of course, our submarine fleet. Again, I thank you for the invitation to speak here today and I look forward to your questions.