WASHINGTON, DC – After reviewing the President’s defense budget and hearing testimony from the Secretary of the Navy on Thursday, Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS) expressed his concern about the number of ships funded under the FY06 defense budget request.
“The Navy’s request for reductions in several important shipbuilding programs will leave the United States short of the fleet size needed to meet existing security requirements,” Taylor said.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairman of the newly formed Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, Taylor articulated his dismay over the declining number of ships in the U.S. Navy fleet. “The shrinking is not just about numbers, but about reduced capabilities that threaten our national security. It weakens our ability to fight the Global War on Terrorism and our industrial capabilities to build ships,” said Taylor.
Taylor added, “This is a national problem, if the decline is allowed to continue, we will soon find ourselves reliant on foreign sources for our warships, and that’s unacceptable.”
Citing Department of Defense (DoD) numbers, Taylor noted that spending for the DoD has increased over $104 billion since FY2001, excluding the over $200 billion in supplemental funding that Congress has provided for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In contrast, the total number of ships in our Navy has decreased since 2001 from 316 to a current level of 288, a reduction of 28 ships during this period.
Taylor expressed his worry that the reduction in shipbuilding is a hidden cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Taylor continued, “We must provide the tools necessary for our troops to win the next war, while giving our total support to the men and women currently engaged in battle. Sadly, the FY2006 defense budget does not offer that balance.”
Following Secretary of the Navy Gordon England’s testimony in front of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning, Taylor observed, “This is an extremely dangerous trend in the wake of our increased global commitments. If our Navy is allowed to shrink any further, it is likely that the United States would not have been able to respond to the tsunami disaster in the manner it has.”