Deborah Barfield Berry, Clarion-Ledger, Mar 5
WASHINGTON – Despite federal budget constraints, the Navy must have the money to continue building and maintaining its fleet, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said Wednesday.
Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, told the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense that the Navy’s ships are a critical component of military readiness.
“I will do everything in my power to protect shipbuilding,” he said. “The specific actions I’m going to take (are), in any budget decision, shipbuilding is protected until the very last, until the last dollar dies.”
Mabus, who was sworn in as Navy secretary in 2009, said he’s spent years making the case that continuing to build ships is crucial for national security.
“It’s not reversible. You miss a year, you lose a year,” Mabus said after Wednesday’s hearing. “If you lose those skills, a lot of times you can’t get them back. And I do have some experience from that from being governor in Mississippi. But this is not about Mississippi; it’s about all of our industrial base.”
Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., chairman of the subcommittee, held Wednesday’s hearing to review the administration’s fiscal 2016 budget request for the Navy and Marine Corps. He said the $161 billion request for base funding reflects an increase of $11 billion from current funding.
“This committee recognizes the uncertainty of the current fiscal environment on the Navy and Marine Corps,” he said. “If the Department of Defense has to live with budget caps in fiscal 2016, the Navy has already indicated it would not be able to support current defense strategy.”
The administration’s budget request includes funding to build nine new ships, modernize 11 cruisers and buy two Virginia-Class attack submarines. It also includes money to improve weapons technologies and cyber defense systems.