Esper says he has not seen new Navy shipbuilding plan yet

By Justin Katz / February 26, 2020 at 11:59 AM

Defense Secretary Mark Esper today said he has not seen the Navy's fiscal year 2021 30-year shipbuilding plan.

"I haven't seen the 30-year shipbuilding plan. I'm awaiting its presentation to me," Esper said in response to a question from Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT). "It's my report and once I've had a chance to review it and digest it and follow up on it, at the appropriate point in time I will share with you what I believe our future force structure should look like."

Those remarks came after Courtney ripped into the fiscal year 2021 budget request that proposed only one Virginia-class submarine. The congressman also referenced a Congressional Research Service report published this week that determined the new budget request included a ship that was already funded last year, meaning the overall request includes seven -- not eight -- battleforce ships. The congressman also noted two of those ships are tugboats, which are not combatants.

Courtney, the chairman of the House Armed Services subcommittee for seapower and projection forces, along with Ranking Member Rob Wittman (R-VA) sent Esper a letter earlier this month demanding the new report by Feb. 27.

The law states "when a budget comes over from the Department of Defense, it shall -- shall -- be accompanied by a 30-year shipbuilding plan," Courtney said today.

"This is not sort of a feel-good law. It's because Congress needs headlights to see where you're going because of the fact that shipbuilding is such a long game," Courtney said.

Later during the same hearing, Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) reprimanded Esper for his response to Courtney, warning the secretary he is "out of line."

"The law is quite clear. When you submit your budget, you are to submit the shipbuilding plan and for you to say you're going to give it to us on your own good time and when you're ready, you are not in line with the law," Garamendi said.

"You are heading for a major brawl with this committee," he continued.

Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to lawmakers today about the Pentagon's FY-21 budget request.