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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, delivered the following opening during a hearing to consider the Defense Authorization Request for the exercise 2023 and the defense program for future years.

“This is a critical time for our national security and the stakes are very high. Appropriately funding the Department of Defense to keep this nation safe and defend our interests is the most critical constitutional duty that the Congress is accomplishing and which I take very seriously,” said Senator Cramer. “But I have to say, like last year, I’m very concerned that President Biden’s defense budget request falls short – nowhere near enough to give our Navy and Marine Corps the resources, equipment and training they need. Quite simply, because this budget does not follow inflation, it is a cut. I hope we can come together again to provide the Department with the real budget growth it needs to fund critical modernization, readiness and staffing shortages.

“The bottom line is that this budget sends China and other potential adversaries the wrong message – that we are not prepared to do what it takes to defend ourselves and our allies and partners,” continued Senator Cramer

The hearing included testimony on Navy and Marine Corps investment programs from Mr. Frederick J. Stefany, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; Vice Admiral Scott D. Conn, deputy chief of naval operations for the United States Navy for combat requirements and capabilities; and Lt. Gen. Karsten S. Heckl, U.S. Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration.

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Full remarks as prepared for delivery can be viewed below.

“Thank you, President Hirono.

“This is a critical time for our national security and the stakes are very high. Appropriately funding the Department of Defense to keep this nation safe and defend our interests is the most critical constitutional duty that the Congress is accomplishing and which I take very seriously. To that end, I thank the President for convening today’s hearing to consider the Navy and Marine Corps programs as part of the budget request. of the President for the 2023 financial year.

“But I have to say, like last year, I’m very concerned that President Biden’s defense budget request falls short – nowhere near enough to give our Navy and Marine Corps the resources, equipment and training they need. Quite simply, because this budget does not follow inflation, it is a cut. I hope we can come together again to provide the Ministry with the real budget growth it needs to fund critical modernization, readiness and staffing shortages.

“Regarding the president’s budget, I want to make three technical points:

  • First, we just received detailed budget justification documents on Friday even though the budget was submitted a month ago. We need to complete the NDAA and this delay is not helpful;
  • Second, the choose-your-own adventure format of this year’s shipbuilding plan lacks consistency, and the three different outcomes raise more questions than they answer; and
  • Finally, the acquisition of the amphibious ship LHA-9 is counted twice in this budget in violation of the law. We need an explanation.

“More broadly, I am concerned about the state of our Navy and its downward trajectory. It seems to me that the Navy faces a confluence of four key issues.

“First, President Reagan quickly added many ships to the fleet – nearly 600 Navy ships. Thirteen of the 24 ships proposed for dismantling this year were purchased in the 1980s. Reagan-era ships are reaching the end of their lives in large numbers, just as they were purchased. The promises of former Navy officials over the years to modernize and extend the life of many of these ships, or to replace them with new ones. new ships, have not materialized.

“Second, the Littoral Combat Ship or LCS program was to be a significant part of our fleet with 55 of these ships in service by 2018. Instead, we have 24 LCS today. Unfortunately, this class has been plagued with problems from the start and one of the main reasons for the program – the anti-submarine warfare capability, which was supposed to be operational 12 years ago – has been completely canceled in this budget. Nine of the 24 ships proposed for decommissioning are LCS.

“Third, we need Navy shipbuilding programs that can scale. There is a high opportunity cost in time and money for failure in Navy shipbuilding – this is a key lesson of the LCS, CG-X, DD-X and DDG-1000 programs. Just think that if the LCS plan was delivered as promised, today we would have a fleet of around 330 ships with 55 LCS capable of hunting submarines, neutralizing mines and conducting surface warfare. Instead, we have 31 fewer ships and no small surface combatants capable of hunting submarines.

“To that end, the new Constellation-class frigate program must succeed if we are to grow our navy. Unfortunately, the lead ship will not be completed until 2026 – 11 years after the decommissioning of the last of our 51 Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates – which has resulted in an acute and continuing gap in the frigates’ ability to escort the Navy. convoys, chasing submarines. , and defend high-value assets.

“Fourth, we need an ongoing commitment from every administration and Congress to provide regular and predictable funding to the Department of the Navy. As bad as the president’s request for 2023 is, the planned cuts in shipbuilding in the coming years are worse, with the LPD amphibious ship production line ending abruptly with no transition plan. This is simply unacceptable because it will both further shrink the fleet and starve our Navy’s shipbuilding industrial base, which is already barely holding together.

“I also have concerns related to the health and trends of naval aviation and the extent to which this budget supports the Commander of the Marine Corps’ force design, but to save time I will not focus on these now.

“The bottom line is that this budget sends China and other potential adversaries the wrong message – that we are not prepared to do what it takes to defend ourselves and our allies and partners. And we should worry about China for a multitude of reasons, but looking only at its navy, its fleet surpassed our fleet size target of 355 ships two years ago and continues to climb steadily. reducing our navy to 280 ships over the next five years simply does not make sense.

“A few specific areas I hope to cover today include:

“Mr. Stefany, I would like to discuss five shipbuilding issues to better understand how this subcommittee can be helpful.

“General Heckl, the Marine Corps appears to be aggressively pursuing air and missile defense systems in the Indo-Pacific. I want to better understand how these systems can both protect Marines in forward positions and assist combatant commanders. to deny maneuvering space to an adversary I am also interested in the commander’s requirements for amphibious vessels.

“I look forward to the testimony of our witnesses today.”