U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today asked top Pentagon officials about the Department of Defense budget request, which delays procurement of LHA 9 and Flight II LPDs. These amphibious ships enable Navy and Marine Corps members to launch close range attacks. LHA 9 and LPD 31 secured significant funding from Congress in last year’s defense appropriations bill and will be built in Mississippi.
Wicker pressed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., about the need for these ships in a future contested environment. The Navy’s Force Structure Assessment (FSA), which outlines the resources the service needs to be effective, calls for 38 amphibious ships. The Navy currently has just 32 amphibious ships.
“It is critical for us to be able to project power in the context of China,” Gen. Dunford said.
Gen. Dunford affirmed the importance of amphibious ships in helping the Marine Corps to seize military bases like the ones found in the Pacific Ocean near China. He also affirmed the Navy’s requirement for 38 amphibious ships had not changed.
Wicker asked Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick M. Shanahan why the Pentagon did not request funding for amphibious ship production even though Congress had already appropriated considerable funds toward both LHA 9 and LPD 31.
“If both of these ships are going to be built at some point, wouldn’t you agree we should fund them in the most cost-effective manner?,” Wicker said.
Wicker has been a strong advocate for LHA and LPD procurement to meet the Navy and Marine Corps requirements listed in the FSA. Last Congress, the President signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which included Wicker’s proposal to make it the policy of the United States to pursue a 355 ship Navy.
Senator Roger Wicker