Wicker Says He'll Seek Armed Services Post Over Commerce
Senate Commerce Committee ranking Republican Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said Wednesday he'll seek the top GOP spot on the Senate Armed Services Committee next year after current ranking member Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) retires.
"I think Jim Inhofe is going to be a great leader for our side and a great teammate for chairman Reed for the rest of the Congress," Wicker said in an interview with POLITICO. "I think most people would assume correctly that someone in my situation, given that choice, would take the leadership position on Armed Services. I look forward to working with Jim Inhofe until the very end."
HASC Chair: DOD Budget Going to Go Up
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who in the past has been critical of Congress' willingness to increase the U.S. defense budget, said today the Russian invasion of Ukraine has provided a new moment of "clarity" for the Washington national security establishment that will likely lead to increased defense spending.
“The Russian invasion of Ukraine fundamentally altered what our national security posture and what our defense posture needs to be,” he continued. “It made it more complicated, and it made it more expensive.”
Smith said bipartisanship on the House Armed Services Committee, which has a tradition of bipartisan success, has surged even more since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, previous reports indicated the White House would seek about $800 billion in total national defense spending for fiscal year 2023, about 95% of which would be solely for the Pentagon.
Smith, however, said the invasion would certainly change the defense topline. “The decision to invade Ukraine by Russia changes it and it’s going to go up, no doubt about it,” he said.
Lawmakers Examine Navy’s Surface Ship Maintenance and Readiness Issues
Congressional leaders worry the Navy hasn't made enough progress with surface ship maintenance, while service officials pointed to hurdles with the continuing resolution during a joint hearing today with House Armed Services seapower and projection forces and readiness subcommittees.
There is a disconnect between initiatives the Navy has introduced and problems sailors are reporting, according to readiness subcommittee Ranking Member Michael Waltz (R-FL).
Waltz discussed a Government Accountability Office report released last month that found the Navy has struggled to adequately perform intermediate ship maintenance periods and record and analyze data associated with those periods.
Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher said he was not surprised to hear about these issues because the Navy has been taking a “hard look at the systemically weak performance” on shipyards and maintenance. You can view the hearing HERE.
House Committee Advances Coast Guard Authorization Bill
This week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee marked up the Coast Guard Reauthorization bill. In addition to authorizing appropriations for key shipbuilding programs, the committee considered several amendments that would impact the shipyard industry.
The committee adopted an amendment supported by SCA and the Offshore Marine Services Association (OMSA) that was offered by Congressman Garret Graves (R-LA) and Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) was adopted by a vote of 59-2 by the committee. While this is an overwhelming show of huge bipartisan support for the amendment, it would have never received a voice-vote if it were not for Congressman Jake Auchincloss (D-MA) opposing the provision and demanding the committee vote. The only other committee member to vote against the amendment was Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY). There was strong industry support for the legislation – an industry coalition letter can be found HERE.
Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on Ocean Shipping Reforms
Senators from both parties have now lined up behind a bill, S. 3580 , that would give Federal Maritime Commission more power to regulate large container ships and prevent ocean carriers from rejecting U.S. exports in favor of hauling empty containers. Senate Commerce Chair Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also appears to be pushing to fast-track floor consideration of the measure, after President Joe Biden called out ocean carriers during Tuesday’s State of the Union speech . Cantwell on Thursday suggested an aggressive timeframe, saying she'd like to see it brought up "next week if we can get there." Technically the next step is a markup, but the Senate can dispense with that and bring the bill directly to the floor if leadership really wants to.