On Friday, June 23, 2006, Senators Susan Collins
(R-ME); Jack Reed
(D-RI); Trent Lott (R-MS); Jim Talent (R-MO); Olympia Snowe (R-ME); Christopher Dodd (D-CT); Lincoln Chafee (R-RI); Mike Dewine (R-OH); Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Daniel Akaka (D-HI), David Vitter (R-LA); Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ); Bill Nelson (D-FL); Joe Leiberman (D-CT); Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and; Mary Landrieu (D-LA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumseld, asking him to increase the Navy’s top line budget for the purpose of increasing the ship procurement budget in fiscal year 2008. The request comes on the heels of a letter sent by members of the House of Representatives Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus urging support for the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Adm. Michael C. Mullen, stated budget need of $14.1 Billion for shipbuilding in FY ’08.
The letter asked the Secretary of Defense to increase the Navy’s budget from $8.9 billion to $14.1 billion to meet national security requirements that must be met by the Navy. Citing an overall Department of Defense (DOD) budget increase of over 50% since 2001, the Senators explicitly note that the ship procurement account has shrunk approximately 17% over the same time frame, resulting in a contraction of the Navy from 341 ships in 2001 to 280 today.
The Senators emphasize the necessity for a large blue water Navy capable of power projection to protect United States security interests across the globe. This emphasis on power projection follows the release of DOD reports quantifying the rapid expansion of China’s Navy and estimates that China’s Navy will be larger than the U.S. Navy by 2015. The Senate acknowledges
that U.S. naval ships are the most capable ships on the ocean but note that no ship can be in two places at one time. The joint letter --- sponsored by Senators Collins and Reed --- underscores the Senators convictions that the time to reverse the decline is now.