April 29, 2016
Yours in service,
Far too often in recent years, politics has been allowed to interfere with getting our warriors the resources they need to accomplish their missions and return safely home. The F-22, the most advanced fighter aircraft in history, was cut despite growing threats to America's air dominance. Today, Russia and China are moving rapidly to challenge U.S. air superiority -- while our Air Force has shrunk to the smallest size in its history.
In the recent defense policy bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee this week, I authored language directing the Air Force to study bringing back the F-22 to meet the growing threats to our national security. You can read my op-ed in The Wall Street Journal today, co-authored with former Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, about the F-22 and why we need to be better equipping our Airmen, here.
P.S. Restarting F-22 production may not be the answer to the challenges we face in the air. Changes in technology, the industrial base, the export market and the operating environment must be evaluated. But with the end of the Obama Administration in sight, it is high time to begin crafting a strategy informed by facts, not an agenda.
April 27, 2016
In case you missed it, I sat down with Comcast Newsmakers to discuss the legislation I recently authored as Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
Today, we have a Commander-in-Chief who vetoed funding for our Armed Forces over funding for the EPA and IRS. I believe equipping our men and women in uniform with the ships and aircraft they need to win and return home safely comes before any IRS agent’s salary. My legislation makes rebuilding our Navy and defending our men and women in uniform our top priority.
Watch the full interview here or below.
April 27, 2016
The Hampton Roads ship repair industrial base is truly a national asset. The men and women of our region have dedicated their lives to supporting our warfighters, and they are the best in the world.
I recently authored legislation that would ensure our ship repair industry is given the stability it needs to thrive by making sure that major repair availabilities are done domestically rather than abroad. My legislation is moving through the Armed Services Committee this week. You can read about my work advocating for this important economic and national security resource in the Daily Press this week.
Virginia Politics: Forbes pushes ship repair measures
April 26, 2016
Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Chesapeake, wants to bar U.S. Navy ships deployed far from the United States from using foreign shipyards for major overhauls or repairs – that is, projects that take more than six months.
It’s a move he says will help U.S. yards maintain themselves and that will insure work done on naval vessels meets U.S. standards.
Forbes’ proposal is the latest in his series of ship repair initiatives, including measures already adopted by the House Armed Services. Those are:
* a boost in funding for Navy Operations and Maintenance manpower intended to prevent inactivation of cruisers and deactivation of the Navy’ 10th carrier air wing
* an additional $1.3 billion for operations and maintenance that includes $158 million for readiness work on ships that are afloat, $308 million for ship depots and $275 million for Navy sustainment, restoration, and modernization projects.
* Tightening standards for doing repair work away from a vessel’s homeport; while work that required more than six months can now be done at other parts, Forbes’ proposal increases that threshold to 10 months. The move eases burdens on sailors and families and gives the Navy more flexibility to mitigate dips in shipyard workloads, he said. It also, of course, benefits Hampton Roads.
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April 26, 2016
Our warriors are on the front lines, all over the globe, defending this country. Even now, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are risking their lives for our freedom.
My greatest obligation as I serve in Congress is ensuring that our heroes are the best equipped and best trained so that they never find themselves in a fair fight against those determined to destroy our way of life. Last week, I introduced Seapower legislation that represents the largest increase in funding for shipbuilding since the Reagan era. The goal is to make sure our men and women in uniform have the resources to execute their missions and return home to their families.
I recently spoke to Defense News about my legislation and commitment to keeping our military strong. You can read my interview here or below.
Interview: Randy Forbes
April 24, 2016
Randy Forbes, who represents a portion of the Tidewater region that includes the US Navy’s largest naval base and shipbuilding giant Huntington Ingalls, has long branched out to express concerns about defense issues far beyond his home ground. The nearly-released mark of the Seapower subcommittee’s 2017 naval budget reflects Forbes’ desire to increase naval spending into Reagan-era territory. By adding more than $2 billion to the Obama administration’s request, Forbes would raise shipbuilding levels to $20 billion a year and beyond – numbers not seen since the 1980s. He spoke April 20 just as the Seapower bills were being made public.
Your subcommittee’s proposals are in keeping with the general push in the House Armed Services Committee for increased military spending. What are your expectations this ambitious bill will carry through the legislative year?
I am very confident that you will see it go out of the House. And I am actually pretty optimistic we’re going to see it go through the Senate. We’ve got a high degree of optimism on this mark.
Even if the $20 billion level is reduced, you’re certainly socializing that level of shipbuilding. Is that also a goal?
We are putting it out there and I think people are embracing this very strongly. This is setting a check valve as to shipbuilding. It is also important that this is the highest level of shipbuilding funding since the Reagan era. I hope it is a down payment on the 350-ship Navy. [And] it is important for the rest of the world to look and see I’m not going quietly into the night with the dismantling of the Navy and we’re going to begin turning this around.
You foresee $20 billion-plus annual shipbuilding requests for the foreseeable future.
Where is the money coming from?
You’ve heard [HASC] Chairman [Mac] Thornberry talk about the need for a higher end for national defense. If we get the dollars he is talking about then we are going to get those dollars in some form. The other thing is over a longer period of time we have to continue to look at efficiencies. Many of the things in this mark actually do those efficiencies. [With the SSBN(X) Ohio Replacement Program submarine] we get to buy twelve boats for the price of 11. [With] Fire Scout [unmanned helicopter], for four more we pay $70-plus million for one, we get four more for another $50 million -- that is a crazy good deal. But I think -- no buts about it -- we need higher ends for a national defense. I think the country is realizing that now. And we’ve talked about we only need a shift of about 1.5 percent to be able to do all the shipbuilding we need.
A shift inside the budget?
I’ve always talked about raising that top line. But even if we didn’t you could have adjustments in that budget that could build ships.
This is a major election year, where everything is political. Is this a Republican initiative? Is this something that can come from across the aisle?
First of all, I will tell you this is a Republican initiative. I hope this is a Democrat initiative. But our subcommittee is very bipartisan in how it acts, how it functions. That is not just language -- this is a bipartisan mark. This is along the lines of people who believe strongly in defending and protecting the country. It is something that is going to be embraced by both the Republican and the Democratic parties because it is an American issue not a partisan issue.
You propose buying an aircraft carrier every four years. Doesn’t that make it harder to pay for? The Navy had moved to five years for affordability reasons. And you want to do this in the 2020s when the SSBN(X) submarine will be in full acquisition.
Actually we think it will reduce the price because of efficiency. If we get these [production] lines running the way they can, ultimately it’s going to be a cost saver for us. But we have to look at all the projections. By 2040 we’ll be down to a 10-carrier fleet. I think about three-fourths of the members of Congress realize that is a dangerous place for us to be. I think the Pentagon realizes that. I think the good news is both the industrial base and the Navy have realized that this four-year turnaround time is a very doable time frame.
Carriers are intended for a 50-year lifespan. The viability of the carrier is being debated in light of new and growing threats from the Chinese and elsewhere. Yet you see the viability of the aircraft carrier worthy of the investment, especially across the 21st century.
Not just me, but I think the United States Navy sees that same viability. I think most military analysts think that. There are challenges to the carriers just like there are challenges to Guam, to cyber. But we are not going to say we are pulling out of Guam. We are not going to not use computers anymore. I think what we do is roll up our sleeves and say how do we overcome these challenges. Equally important, our bases are getting fewer and fewer across the world, but the threats are getting larger. The most important platform we have in keeping the conflict from going from 0 to 3 is a carrier and a carrier strike group. The most important thing we have to win that conflict is our surge capacity with our carriers. We simply can’t do that if we get down to 10 carriers.
There is talk of basing another carrier and an air wing in the western Pacific, perhaps Japan. What’s your view on that?
No, I don’t think we need to do that. I think the analysis doesn’t show that. The analysis shows we need to have carrier coverage dependent not on where they’re home ported but on the number of carriers we have. So I don’t see the need to do that, and you start to look at a lot of cost that may make it prohibitive.
You’re also asking the Navy to study how to keep building two attack submarines per year in those years when SSBN(X) is funded and maybe even three, which could make four subs a year in the 2020s.
In 2029 we are going to be down to 41 subs. Right now the requirement minimum is 48. I think that [after the Navy’s current force assessment is complete the] number is going to be higher than 48. Then you realize that regardless what number we put on paper the Chinese are looking at our limits and they’re probably going to double what we have. The only way we close the gap is by adding an additional submarine beginning in 2021. I feel very comfortable that that is the right way to help close that delta. I feel very comfortable the industrial base can handle it. And I think the Navy is beginning to feel very comfortable that we can do that.
An attack boat runs about $2 billion plus. To balance that plus-up would you support a reduction in the number of surface ships built every year?
Two things I emphasize are the false choices [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] was trying to make us make between capacity and capability, and I’m not going to let them also give us a false choice between surface ships and submarines. Weaknesses are weaknesses, vulnerabilities are vulnerabilities. I’ve seen these threat levels increase. I’ve seen the Russians buzz us at 30 feet above our ships. I’ve seen the Iranians shooting missiles across our bows. I’m seeing them capture our soldiers. I’m seeing Chinese aggression in South China Sea. I’m seeing the North Koreans trying to get a ballistic missile with nuclear capability to hit this country. None of that suggests to me that I need fewer surface ships or that I need fewer submarines.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter directed the Navy last year to reduce LCS procurement to one ship this year, although the Navy is requesting two ships based on industrial concerns. You restore a third LCS in 2017. You would appear to be directly at odds with Carter’s appreciation of the LCS program.
I am directly at odds with Secretary Carter’s lack of a study or analysis to suggest we can change that. I want to make sure no one sat back with a pencil and said we need more money here, cut these programs out. And so far the studies and analysis from the Department of Defense and the Navy say we need 52 small surface combatants. You can’t just sit back and erase those studies and say okay now I think 40 is the right number. If you want to do something else tell us what else you are going to do. And if you want to have a different analysis, do the analysis but at least give us the facts not just your opinion.
Do you still support a down select on LCS to just one shipbuilder?
No. I don’t think we need to do a down select at this particular point in time and as long as we don’t need to do it I think we can keep both of these yards going.
You also are trying to add another amphibious ship in this budget, either an unrequested 13th LPD-17-class amphibious transport or a new LX(R), a ship the Navy isn’t planning on buying until 2021. What is your thinking there?
The Marine Corps feels they need it. Not just want it, need it. We are very concerned about their amphibious capabilities. The other thing is we are moving along pretty well with how we are building those LPD 17 ships. You talk about efficiencies and costs it just makes sense while these [production] lines are doing well why cool them off, why have the cost of getting them started up again when we can go ahead and produce ships we know the Marine Corps is going to need. This is something the Navy is going to embrace and we have given them the flexibility here to do it. We don’t want to break that rhythm.
The Navy is proposing yet another variation on the cruiser modernization plan, the program to take 11 cruisers out of service, modernize them and return them to active duty. Congress has been clear in its desire to have the work done in sequence and limit the number of cruisers out of service at any one time, yet the Navy now proposes to induct all 11 cruisers into modernization by the end of 2017. What’s your reaction?
We just went back and took a page out of Ronald Reagan’s book Trust and Verify. We said if that is what you want to do let’s just prove it. So what we have done is kind of put a lasso around the Secretary of Defense’s office and said as soon as the Navy certifies they’ve got all these under contract we are going to let you have your dollars, and until you do we want you to put a little skin in the game. We are just going to take your word that you are committed to doing this. If they’re committed to doing this they shouldn’t have any problem with this provision at all.
But you know, when they first came over here they were all gung ho about euthanizing these cruisers -- but every single one of them admitted they needed the cruisers. They were euthanizing because somebody at [the Office of Management and Budget] told them they needed to take these cruisers out. I don’t want OMB running the national defense of this country. Then we said we are not going to let you do it. Of course they got religion, came back and said you misunderstood us, what we really want to do is modernize and not euthanize them. So they did the 2-4-6 program, which was their program by the way. [The 2-4-6 program allows the Navy to modernize 2 cruisers a year, remain under modernization for no more than 4 years, and allow no more than 6 ships to undergo modernization at any one time.]
Now we are just saying okay, we are going to do your program. We are going to take you at your word, but you need to put your money where your mouth is. And as long as you are committed to doing this fine, but we are going to find out whether they are or not. And that is all we do in this mark, to say we are going to hold your money until you’ve got certifications, you’re doing what you are saying you are going to do.
So you reject this latest proposal for all 11 ships to be out of service by 2017?
Yes. We think we need these cruisers. I want to make sure this is not a ploy just to take them out to meet some sort of artificial budget requirement that somebody somewhere other than the Navy has imposed upon them.
This situation has been going on for some years now, and Adm. John Richardson has succeeded Adm. Jon Greenert as Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). Why is it you continue to question their sincerity?
We have indications from them that this is driven by dollars and cents, not driven by some new plan they have. I do not question the CNO’s integrity or his forthrightness, nor did I previous CNOs, but I think this is something driven outside the Navy itself.
At-sea incidents and encounters with China, Russia, Iran and North Korea continue, often with US ships simply watching as jets zoom close by and missiles are launched over their bow. How do you think the Navy is doing in responding to these multiple threats?
I don’t think the Navy makes the decision oftentimes on what the response is. I think that is an administrative decision that comes from the commander in chief. I think if the Navy had its options the Navy would have had a little stronger response when you look at, for example the South China Sea and what the Chinese have done there. I know that is something they felt we should be stronger at. I am very concerned about some aspects of the readiness that we have. And quite honestly I can’t tell you if it is based on specific incidents right now or if it is over all the Navy.
I do think though that it is imperative for us to make sure we are meeting the needs of the Navy. When I look at just a couple of snapshots -- one snapshot is [Pacific Command commander] Admiral [Harry] Harris telling us that he is only getting 62 percent of the submarines he needs. That worries me. When I hear that in 2007 we could meet 90 percent of our combatant commanders validated requirement, and this year we will meet about 43 percent, that bothers me as well. And when I see reports that our Marines flying our planes are having to go into museums to get parts that gives me serious pause. That is why we think this mark is so important, to tell Congress, tell the world we are turning this around and we are serious about it.
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April 22, 2016
For the last 8 years, this Administration has been dismantling the greatest military in the world. But as the world becomes more dangerous, we simply cannot continue undermining our national defense and sending our sons and daughters into the fight without the equipment and training they need.
This Administration has repeatedly attempted to mothball half of our Navy's cruisers, some of the Fleet's most capable warships. I recently wrote an op-ed in Navy Times explaining why I am preventing this from happening in the Seapower legislation I released this week. Bottom line: this Administration wants to manage our Navy’s decline, I am committed to rebuilding it. Read more in Navy Times.
Lay-up plan jeopardizes some of the Navy’s best ships: Forbes
By Congressman Randy Forbes
April 21, 2016
Over the past five years, the United States military has been under tremendous fiscal pressure. Since 2011, when the Budget Control Act capped defense spending and created the threat of sequestration, the armed forces have seen their budgets cut significantly. While the world has grown more dangerous, each service has been driven to sacrifice elements of force structure on the altar of austerity. For the U.S. Navy, the sacrificial victims have been cruisers and amphibious ships. Thus far, Congress has been able to save these vital vessels from the chopping block, but action by Congress will be needed once again in 2016 to keep them in service and prevent the further degradation of our Navy.
As even proponents of cutting cruisers and amphibious ships will concede, both types of ships are critical components of the Navy’s fleet. Cruisers are the closest things to battleships still in U.S. service, large surface combatants packing long-range radars and an arsenal of guided missiles. While capable of carrying out a wide variety of missions, cruisers’ primary mission is to defend our carrier strike groups and allies like Israel and Japan from air and missile attacks. Amphibious ships, on the other hand, serve as transports and floating bases for U.S. Marines so that they can remain in-position and ready to intervene in times of crisis.
Despite the important roles these ships play, however, the administration plans to take almost a dozen of them out of service. Under what the Navy is euphemistically calling a “phased modernization” plan, half the Navy’s cruisers and an amphibious ship would be tied up to piers and put into an inactive status. Combat systems and electronics would be removed from the ships and kept in warehouses ashore. Hatches would be sealed, tanks would be drained, and giant dehumidifiers placed throughout the ship to control rust. The ships’ personnel would be spread throughout the rest of the fleet, with only a skeleton crew kept aboard.
The ships would be kept in this sad state for up to 12 years before eventually being repaired, modernized, and returned to the fleet in the 2020s. Although unmanned and unequipped, these mothballed ships would still be counted by the administration toward the size of the fleet, despite the fact that it would take 12 to 24 months to get them ready for deployment. According to the Navy, taking these ships out of service now would allow them to serve into the 2040s, but the primary motivation for inactivating the ships appears to avoiding the cost of manning and operating these ships.
This is not the first time the administration has proposed taking these ships out of service. In both 2012 and 2013, the administration proposed to permanently decommission 9 cruisers and amphibs with over a decade of service life left in each of them. Each time, however, Congress overrode the administration’s proposal, secured additional funding for the ships, and kept them in service. Shifting gears, the administration first proposed a “phased modernization” plan in 2014, but Congress mandated that the Navy instead follow a “2-4-6” plan, under which only two ships can be taken out of service each year, no ship can be out of service for longer than four years, and no more than six total ships may be out of service at any one time. This compromise, which remains the law of the land, allows the Navy to achieve some savings while mitigating the shortfall in ships and reducing the risk that they will never actually be brought back out of mothballs. Two years later, the administration is now proposing to revert to “phased modernization” and lay up all 11 cruisers and one amphibious ship at the same time.
This convoluted history reveals several things. The administration’s vacillation on whether to decommission or inactivate the ships shows that the various proposals have been driven by budget considerations, not strategy or operational analysis. It also shows that this administration cannot be trusted to adhere to any plan, raising the risk that once these ships are inactivated, plans will change and they will never brought back into service. Fortunately, the events of the last few years also demonstrate that Congress is both willing and able to pay for elements of Navy force structure that this administration would rather do away with.
The “phased modernization” plan remains an ill-advised one that Congress should continue to oppose. Both cruisers and amphibious ships are badly needed by our combatant commanders at present, and demand for these assets will only grow as air and missile threats proliferate and the Marines return to the sea. Rather than cutting force structure, Congress should be holding the line and keeping our existing ships in service, so that in cooperation with the next administration we can begin the important work of rebuilding our Navy and growing our fleet to the size we need.
April 21, 2016
While our military is under-resourced and straining to keep the fight against ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism off American soil, the Commander-in-Chief is opening our borders to thousands of Syrian refugees.
I’m working to build back our Navy to the 350 ships needed to make sure the fight stays far from our borders. There should never be any question about providing our warriors with what they need to accomplish their missions and return home to their loved ones. Watch coverage of my Seapower legislation on Channel 13 News Now.
April 21, 2016
For any family, there is no greater loss than the loss of a loved one -- especially when that situation could have been avoided.
This is a feeling many families right here in our own communities understand all too well after losing their own mother, sibling, or child to a drug overdose. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), prescription drug overdoses kill nearly 15,000 people annually, reaching epidemic levels over the past decade. What is even more concerning is that the CDC also reports that heroin death rates have climbed 286% between 2002-2013, and evidence shows that users of opioid painkillers are 40 times more likely to be addicted to heroin.
We need to do more to fight against drugs in our communities. That’s why I have joined my colleagues to support the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which strengthens a variety of different treatment and prevention programs to combat heroin and opioid addiction. I also joined in sending a letter calling on the House Appropriations Committee to increase resources for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, which has been a critical asset to state and local law enforcement officers as they combat drug trafficking around Richmond and Hampton Roads.
April 20, 2016
While the world is only becoming more dangerous, from ISIS to Russia, our men and women in uniform are being asked to do more with less resources. After years of reckless cuts to our military, it is time to begin reinvesting in the tools our warriors need to protect America's national security.
I was recently profiled in Breaking Defense for my efforts to make sure our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are equipped with what they need to successfully accomplish their missions and return home safely. Our men and women in uniform deserve nothing less from their elected representatives. You can read it here or below.
P.S. There's no doubt that reconciling defense spending with our rapidly increasing national debt and deficit is a big task. Admiral Mike Mullen, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has called our national debt this country’s “biggest national security threat.” There’s far too much waste at the Pentagon, which is why I have supported a full audit of the Department of Defense to ensure that every taxpayer dollar is well spent. However, we cannot use the national debt as an excuse to jeopardize our national security. Washington can – and must – get its fiscal house in order without cheapening our national security.
Forbes: DoD Budget Should Rise As Threats Do, Budget Deal Be Damned
WASHINGTON: With the House Armed Services Committee marking up its annual defense bill next week, the outspoken chairman of HASC’s seapower subcommittee told Breaking Defense he wants to undo last year’s budget deal — which he opposed and which drops Pentagon spending in 2017 — to get more dollars for defense.
That’s political heavy lifting, I told Forbes. House speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t been able to get defense hawks and budget hawks to agree on a new budget plan for 2017. The two-year budget deal for 2016 and 2017 was the product of painful brinksmanship and delicate compromise, and few legislators will have the stomach to take it back apart, especially in an election year.
“I have the stomach to look at it,” Forbes said bluntly. “The country needs to have the stomach to look at it, because the threat assessments that we’re getting get worse and worse every single briefing we have, every single hearing we have.”
Just this week, Russian fighters repeatedly buzzed the destroyer USS Cook in the Baltic Sea. They’d done the same thing to the same ship on a previous patrol in the Black Sea in 2014. (After the 2014 mock attack run, Russian sources claimed they’d shut the ship down with some kind of electronic warfare weapon, which the US Navy denied).
“They did something similar last year and the year before that. We’re beginning to see patterns,” Forbes said. “The thing that frightens me most is those patterns are beginning to escalate and get quicker” — and not just with Russia. China is probing the Philippines in what many observers fear is a build-up to building up an artificial island on the strategic Scarborough Shoal. Iran has detained US sailors and fired missiles near US ships. North Korea just conducted another missile test, although this one appears to have misfired.
“The other thing that’s becoming routine is our lack of response to any of this across the globe,” Forbes said. “You’re seeing a response to the vacuum and lack of leadership this administration has had over the last eight years.” (Even more than many other Republicans, Forbes has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration).
Yet meanwhile the defense budget keeps getting tighter. For the Navy in particular, that forces painful choices between quantity and quality, capacity and capability. The most notable example with the administration’s cut of 12 relatively small and affordable Littoral Combat Ships to pay for more aircraft and missiles for larger ships such as carriers and destroyers.
That’s “a false choice between our capabilities and our capacities,” Forbes said .”We should do both.” (He declined to comment specifically on LCS, which has both strident critics and committed backers in Congress). Forbes wants to increase both the size of the fleet and the combat power of its ships — which is expensive.
“We have to increase the dollars,” he said. “If we can’t get that number up, we’re then having to [make] false choices.”
One of Forbes’ particular priorities is the Ohio Replacement Program, the new nuclear-missile-launching submarine (SSBNs) to replace the aging Ohio class. ORP is also the top priority of the Navy leadership, which warns they can’t build the 12 expensive boats inside their normal budget. So Forbes and other HASC leaders created a special National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund (NSBDF) to pay for the subs outside the shipbuilding account. After initial skepticism from budget hawks and Pentagon officials alike, Forbes noted with satisfaction, both Congress and the Navy have started putting money in the fund.
Could the fund be expanded or replicated to pay for other programs to modernize the nuclear force, like the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) to replace the Minuteman ICBM or even the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRSB), which will carry both nuclear and conventional weapons? The Congressman was noncommittal.
The law setting up the National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund includes reforms — such as authorities to cut costs and streamline acquisition — that could and should be applied to other programs, Forbes said. But, he argued, the Ohio Replacement Program is truly unique. “The only thing these boats will do is nuclear deterrence,” Forbes said, in contrast to the B-21, which also falls under his subcommittee’s jurisdiction. (Its full title is “Seapower and Projection Forces.”) In fact, he noted, “70 percent of the nuclear deterrent of the United States [will be] riding on 12 boats.” Further, the 12 subs is the absolute minimum the military calculates it will require to provide continuous at-sea patrols, which means there’s no doubt about the quantity to be procured, easing economies and efficiencies of scale.
By contrast, the numbers to be bought of other vessels seem to keep shifting. The Navy, with some cheerleading from Congress, wants to accelerate production of attack submarines, destroyers, and amphibious warships, but the funding remains in doubt. The LCS got cut from 52 to 40 ships.
How about the fleet as a whole? Portions of the Navy’s 30-year-shipbuilding plan leaked to Breaking Defense say the total fleet will reach 308 ships in 2021, meeting the official requirement for size — but an ongoing reassessment will probably raise that 308 number. Experts like the Congressional Budget Office’s Eric Labs have testified to Forbes’ committee that the Navy, given likely funding levels, will never reach 308 and end up somewhere around 237 instead. Forbes is personally pushing for 346, the fleet size suggested by the independent National Defense Panel in 2014.
“The first [step] is to have the Armed Services Committee, have Congress, and have the country realize that we simply have to have a bigger navy than we have today,” Forbes said. “We have to put real teeth into the types of ships we have and the dollars to build those ships.”
April 20, 2016
A number of states, led by Texas, filed a lawsuit challenging the Administration’s executive actions on immigration, which could allow millions of illegal immigrants to lawfully stay in the U.S. This week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for that case.
My position can be summed up in three words: No amnesty. Period. The Constitution is clear. Congress writes the laws; the President’s job is to enforce them. I joined my colleagues in the House of Representatives in authorizing the Speaker of the House to file an amicus curiae brief stating that the President’s executive amnesty for illegal immigrants is unconstitutional. You can read the full brief, here.
I urge the Supreme Court to uphold the Constitution and affirm that Congress – not the President – makes our laws.
P.S. I also cosponsored a bill to stop this Administration from exempting or deferring illegal aliens through executive orders. Once we decide some laws are worth enforcing and some are not, we have weakened the law forever. Take a look at the bill, here.
April 20, 2016
We have an Administration that crafted an over 2,500 page healthcare law, while its strategy to combat ISIS was a mere 7 pages. A Commander-in-Chief who vetoed funding for our military over funding for the IRS and EPA. A President with a program to hand out free cell phones while he’s sending our sons and daughters to fight on the frontlines with outdated equipment and insufficient training.
Now, the Administration is planning to deactivate one of our Navy's ten Carrier Air Wings. The aircraft carrier remains the most fearsome weapon in the Navy's arsenal, but without its accompanying aircraft it becomes simply a paper tiger. My Seapower legislation, released yesterday, stops this from happening. My legislation equips our troops with the ships and planes they need to win, and makes defending those who defend our freedoms our top priority.
I recently wrote an op-ed in The National Interest, laying out why preserving our carrier's air capabilities is essential for U.S. national security and why we need to push back against the Administration’s dismantling of our military. Read here or below.
Preserving Our Carrier Air Wings and U.S. Naval Power
The National Interest
By Congressman Randy Forbes
April 20, 2016
Since 2011, when the Budget Control Act put a cap on defense spending and spawned the threat of sequestration, the United States Navy has been under tremendous fiscal pressure. While global instability and the need for a strong U.S. military have grown, funding for our Navy has been reduced significantly by an administration whose appreciation for the importance and value of our Navy is clearly insufficient. This is a dangerous trend that must be reversed.
Each year, cuts of billion dollars have forced the Department of the Navy to come forward with one ill-advised method of cutting costs after another. In 2013, for example, fiscal pressure drove the Navy to propose decommissioning seven cruisers and two amphibious ships with over a decade of service left in each of them. Appreciating the combat power of these ships, Congress overrode the Pentagon’s proposal, secured additional funding, and kept the ships in service.
Frustrated on the cruiser front, the administration took a different tack in 2014. Suffering from even deeper cuts due to sequestration, the Pentagon proposed forgoing the nuclear refueling of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington. Forgoing this overhaul would have led to the de facto deactivation of this badly needed, multi-billion dollar asset only halfway through its life and exacerbated gaps in carrier presence that we see today. Fortunately, as with the cruisers and amphibs, Congress rejected the administration’s proposal and secured funding for the GW’s refueling, which will begin next year at Newport News.
Thanks to these Congressional interventions, the Navy still has a fleet of 10 carriers, but in 2016 a new threat to our carrier fleet has arisen. To make possible a $7 billion cut to next year’s Navy budget, the administration is now proposing to deactivate one of the 10 carrier air wings that deploy aboard our carriers. Doing so would violate a 2011 law that Congress passed precisely to prevent such cuts by requiring the Navy to maintain 10 carrier air wings with fully staffed headquarters. The Navy, therefore, is asking Congress for a waiver to the law, so that it can deactivate Carrier Air Wing 14, which has been under strength in personnel and aircraft since 2013, and distribute its assets to the rest of the fleet.
As even the plan’s proponents will admit, carrier air wings are critical elements of Navy force structure. Flying off our carriers, the strike fighters, helicopters, and support aircraft that make up each wing make it possible for our nation to project power into any corner of the globe. When ISIL blitzed across the Middle East in 2014, it was Carrier Air Wing 8 and the USS George H.W. Bush that carried out the first strikes and help stop ISIL’s advance. Unfortunately, in part because of the wear and tear from waging this campaign against ISIL, the Navy is now suffering from a “strike fighter shortfall,” with too few aircraft and personnel to fully equip its squadrons.
If the Navy’s budget were going to be constrained indefinitely to the dangerously low levels favored by this administration, it might make sense to cannibalize an air wing and distribute its assets to the remaining air wings. Fortunately for the Navy, however, it is to Congress, not the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, that the Constitution grants the power “to provide and maintain a navy,” and this Congress has demonstrated repeatedly that it is both willing and able to pay for elements of Navy force structure that this administration would rather do away with.
In addition to preventing the cuts mentioned above, Congress has consistently provided the Navy with funding to procure additional strike fighters, flesh out its squadrons and bring that 10th carrier air wing up to strength. Over the past two years, Congress has granted the Navy $2.5 billion in extra funding to procure 24 additional carrier aircraft that were on its “unfunded requirements list.” Last year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense had the gall to tell Congress, in a fine display of written Pentagonese, that the funding it provided to meet the Navy’s “unfunded requirement is not required.” But once again, Congress overruled the budget cutters and provided funding for another squadron’s worth of fighters.
While Congress has demonstrated that it is committed to rebuilding our Navy, the White House and Pentagon want to efficiently manage its decline. With another budget-driven cut to Navy force structure being proposed in the President’s budget for next year, Congress must once again reject the administration’s plans. Already, the House Armed Services Committee is moving to increase funding for military readiness, force structure, and procurement. Working together in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion, Congress can use a fraction of that funding to keep the 10th carrier air wing in existence and halt the steady decline of carrier aviation.
Our carriers and their air wings are America’s premier means of projecting power overseas. Right now we have a 10-air wing Navy in a 15-air wing world. Deactivating a tenth of our force is not the answer.
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