The leaders of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee this week reiterated their push to secure increased Navy funds in the next budget and discussed their sense the Biden administration will support growing the fleet to meet future competition in the Pacific.

Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the subcommittee’s chair and ranking member, respectively, told attendees during the Surface Navy Association’s virtual symposium paving the path toward a 500-ship fleet will require having “uncomfortable” discussion of how to grow the Navy’s “slice” of Pentagon’s spending plans.

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Feb. 22, 2016) — Capt. John F. Meier, Pre-commissioning Unit Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN 78) commanding officer, talks with Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut (D) in his in-port cabin during a scheduled visit to the ship. Ford is scheduled for commissioning in 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Patrick Grieco/Released) (This image was altered for security purpose by blurring out security badges)

“The inescapable conclusion is we really have to start recognizing that the Navy’s share of resources has to grow. You just cannot address all of the plans and the analysis, which scream out for a larger, sophisticated fleet, without recognizing that this is going to cost money. And there’s not an endless horizon of rising toplines in terms of the overall size of the Pentagon that you can really count on necessarily,” Courtney said.

Wittman added he wants Congress to think about the Navy’s future fleet plans, including getting after 500 ships, in increments beyond the five-year Future Years Defense Program blocks of spending.

“The good news is that I think leaders, both in elected office and at the Pentagon, are realizing how incredibly important the Navy is as a component of the [future] and that you can’t get to where you need to be if you just continue to cut the pie one-third, one-third, one-third. The investment has to be there,” Wittman said. “We need to be looking at saving dollars internally and looking at what we can do to do more per our dollar than the Chinese do per their yuan or the Russians do per their ruble. That’s incredibly important. That’s how we’re going to strategically get out in front of all of the things that are happening before us with our nation’s needed increase in naval capability.”

In December, the Trump administration released an FY ‘22 Fiscal Planning Framework that, along with the long-delayed 30-year shipbuilding plan, outlined cuts to other Defense Department programs to pay for the planned larger Navy (Defense Daily, Dec. 11). 

Courtney said he has positive discussions with Tony Blinken, Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, with signs pointing to support within the incoming administration for the Navy’s push to expand the fleet with advanced capabilities to best compete in the Indo-Pacific region.

“There was nothing knee-jerk in terms of his response that I think would really mean that we’d have a very difficult job sort of making the case [for a larger Navy],” Courtney said.