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Biden’s Navy budget ‘sucks’ says Armed Services Cmte. No. 2

Freedom-variant littoral combat ship USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) transits Atlantic Ocean, Dec 16, 2021. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Aaron Lau)
March 31, 2022

The vice chairwoman on the House Armed Services Committee said President Joe Biden’s proposed budget for the 2023 fiscal year “sucks” and called for the U.S. Navy to apologize to the American public following the service’s proposal to retire a total of 24 ships in the 2023 fiscal year, including nine relatively new Freedom-class littoral combat ships (LCS).

House Armed Services Committee Vice Chair Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA) began a seven-part Twitter thread by saying, “I have delayed putting out a statement about the Defense Budget because frankly it would have been mostly full of words you might expect from a Sailor, but here goes: It sucks.”

Luria then went on to criticize the Navy’s plans to decommission more warships than they will start to build in 2023.

“The Navy owes a public apology to American taxpayers for wasting tens of billions of dollars on ships they now say serve no purpose,” she tweeted.

“They propose decommissioning 24 ships; 11 of which are less than 10 years old,” Luria continued. “1 has been in service less than 2 years and 2 are currently in modernization.”

In a Monday press briefing, Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget, said the cuts to the fleet would include five cruisers, nine littoral combat ships (LCS), four landing dock ships, two submarines, two oilers and two expeditionary transfer docks.

On Wednesday, the Navy confirmed the nine LCS ships slated for decommissioning would include all of the remaining Freedom-class LCSs currently in active service. Before 2021, the Navy had 10 Freedom-class ships in active service, but retired the first of its class, USS Freedom (LCS-1), in September. Two more Freedom-class ships, USS Minneapolis-St. Paul (LCS-21) and USS Cooperstown (LCS-23) are still in the process of being prepared for active service, while four more Freedom-class ships are currently under construction, reported.

On Monday, Pentagon comptroller Michael McCord said the decision to scrap the Freedom-class ships was due to “issues with both their mission packages” and combining mechanisms, which help power the ship’s turbines.

Gumbleton said decommissioning the 24 warships would provide the service $3.6 billion in savings that it can apply to future budgets. He said the projected savings are “not an insignificant number.” Luria did not agree that the cost savings were sufficient to justify the scrapped warships.

Luria continued her tweet thread, saying the plan to scrap the 24 ships is “All to save…0.5% of their budget.”

“This, along with an anemic building program, will shrink the navy to 280 ships, at the same time they are calling to build a 500-ship Navy,” Luria added. “HINT: If you want to grow the Navy, stop decommissioning more ships than you build.”

In other comments reported by the Virginia Pilot, Luria said, “In the face of current threats, we are gutting the Navy now to say we’re going to rebuild it in 10 or 20 years.”

“China is not a ‘pacing challenge’ when they will soon have double the size of our Navy,” Luria added. “We are losing 1000+ VLS cells, with NO PLAN to replace them. Instead, we are investing in the next ‘Gucci’ missile and technology that will not be mature for 20+ years.”

In 2019, China overtook the U.S. as the nation with the largest naval force. As of early 2020, the U.S. had 293 active warships, compared to China’s 350 active ships. The Navy’s proposed 2023 budget would bring its fleet size down to 285 ships.

The trend of shrinking fleet sizes comes even as the Navy has discussed shipbuilding goals in recent years that would expand the fleet to around 355 ships by 2030.

Luria said the Navy’s plan to cut 24 ships and only build nine new ones — one of which Luria said had already been authorized — would place the Navy further away from its 355-ship fleet goal, the Virginia Pilot reported.

Luria is not the only lawmaker that has criticized the Navy’s plans.

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), the ranking member of the House seapower subcommittee, said “I am particularly disappointed that even as we aim to grow our naval and projection forces, this budget continues the divest to invest strategy that will shrink our fleet once again,” the Virginia Pilot reported.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticized Biden’s overall defense spending proposal.

“President Biden’s defense budget reflects the world he wishes for — but not the world as it is,” Inhofe said. “You simply can’t look at the world around us now and think this budget is adequate to confront all the threats we face, let alone to accelerate our attempts to maintain or restore deterrence and secure U.S. interests for our children and grandchildren.”

Inhofe said Biden’s budget doesn’t sufficiently address inflation in the U.S. economy.

“Real growth — 5 percent above inflation — is what we need if we are to meet this moment,” Inhofe said.