The nominee to be the next Under Secretary of the Navy Tuesday said the service’s new force structure reviews should be coming out in the “very near future,” and he also discussed the importance of Navy modernization and moving toward a clean audit.

“The Force Structure Assessment that is ongoing and should be released shortly is another key element of what the warfighting requirements will be. I really look forward to reviewing both the Force Structure Assessment and the 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan when it comes out in the very near future,” Erik Raven, the Biden administration’s nominee to be Under Secretary of the Navy, said during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 22.

The White House first announced Raven’s

nomination to be the second highest civilian in the Navy Department last December. Raven has years of experience as a Senate staffer. He currently serves as the majority clerk of the senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee and has been with the committee since 2007. Previously, he served as national security adviser and legislative director to former Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), fellow to former Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) and held several positions for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif). (Defense Daily, Dec. 14).

The administration then formally sent Raven’s nomination to the Senate in February (Defense Daily, Feb. 18).

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) asked Raven for his views on the most recent 30-year shipbuilding plan that called for a range of 321-372 ships while the last Force Structure Assessment called for 355 ships, as mandated by Congress. Wicker noted the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) has repeatedly said the fleet cannot increase the current 297-ship fleet without a larger budget without risking readiness and in that context asked what mix of ships should be emphasized and how he plans to fund shipbuilding.

“In terms of establishing a good shipbuilding plan for the Navy, I think there’s a couple of elements here. First of all is …the 30-year shipbuilding plan. That is the signal to industry of what to expect for future years, so industry can prepare to build those ships in the most effective manner possible,” Raven said.

Raven also acknowledged authorities provided by the committee “to make sure that industry can operate efficiently in building those ships is a very critical tool.”

Wicker pressed Raven for how soon does the “very near future” mean for when the new plans will be released, but he was unable to publicly disclose that.

“My understanding is the Department of Defense is planning to release those – I’m afraid I can’t be more specific than in the near future, but I understand that will be soon.”

Separately, Raven also emphasized the importance of modernization as a “strategic imperative” for the Navy and Marine Corps.

“I wish to leverage my 15 years of experience on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee to maximize the power of every dollar that Congress provides. This means identifying the capabilities that are needed, setting a plan for acquiring them, and working with partners in industry to deliver them efficiently,” he said in his opening statement.

Raven added the need to modernize is not limited to major platforms and new technologies like hypersonic missiles or artificial intelligence but “it also applies to the facilities and infrastructure that generate readiness for Navy and Marine Corps forces.”

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) asked how Raven he will ensure the various new platforms being developed by the Navy will be efficiently and effectively integrated on an operational level. He specifically cited systems like the Constellation-class frigates, Ford-class aircraft carriers, unmanned surface vessels, and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

“In terms of the integration of new capabilities, I think the Navy is looking at a mix of both capacity and new capabilities to deliver those – what’s needed by our sailors. And in terms of those new platforms I look forward to working closely with the CNO and others to make sure the capabilities of those exciting platforms are delivered.”

Committee chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) asked Raven for his perspective on moving the Navy to a clean audit, which it has not achieved yet.

Raven said the Marine Corps is purportedly closing in on a clean audit within a “couple of years” and said he wants to understand where they have made progress and then take a closer look at the Navy and what obstacles they are facing to achieve a clean audit.

In answers to written questions, Raven said the Marine Corps aims to have a clean audit done in two years. He said that, if confirmed, he will make sure the Marines have the resources needed for that goal and apply lessons learned to the Navy with its audit.

Raven’s written answers describe many benefits to achieving a clean audit, but that “the true benefit of audit is ingraining audit rigor into the Department’s business DNA, understanding and improving Navy and Marine Corps business processes, and implementing internal controls to safeguard resources and increase transparency of how resources are used across the enterprise.”

I believe [an] audit supports financial excellence, which maximizes spending power and contributes to the lethality and readiness of the Navy and Marine Corps and strengthens congressional and public confidence in Department of the Navy resource requests,” he added.

Raven underscored he wants “to understand the critical path to a clean audit opinion that supports operational mission requirements. I would also direct audit remediation to focus on large dollar value, mission critical assets, and an ability to track and validate the resources provided to the Department.”