Navy Sends Congress $2.5B Unfunded Priorities List
The Navy has sent Congress a $2.5 billion list of unfunded priorities, highlighting $45.3 million for development of the "Maritime Targeting Cell Afloat" as its No. 1 unmet need. The third UPL item is $186.4 million for fund the Zumwalt Enterprise Upgrade Solution (ZEUS) for DDG-1000 Class. Two big-ticket items further down the list include $300 million for dry dock repairs and restoration and $550 million for “targeted facilities sustainment, restoration and modernization.” Last year, the Navy submitted a $4 billion UPL for FY23.
The Navy’s list does not include $1.7 billion for LPD-33 funding, which is listed as the first priority for the U.S. Marine Corps on their unfunded priorities list.
Senator Tuberville Blocks All Military Nominations Over Pentagon’s Abortion Policy
Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), has been blocking military nominations from moving forward since last month because he believes the Pentagon is improperly using funding to cover travel costs for abortions of service members.
After the Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, the Pentagon said it would cover travel costs for service members seeking abortions and up to 21 days off. Currently, 184 general and flag officers, including 11 to be promoted to lieutenant general or vice admiral, are subject to Tuberville’s hold. Among them is the commander of the Navy’s 7th Fleet, the largest of the Navy’s forward deployed fleets, with responsibility in the Indo-Pacific region.
While a hold doesn’t prevent a nominee from ultimately being confirmed, it delays the process significantly, because the Senate may have to go through procedural steps to cut off debate that can take several days. More often than not, Senate leaders honor a hold request because not doing so could trigger a range of parliamentary responses, such as a filibuster, that could expend significant amounts of scarce floor time.
Tuberville, a member of the Armed Services Committee, told Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in a March 22 phone call that he would keep his hold on Pentagon nominees unless the defense chief rescinds or suspends “his newly implemented policy facilitating taxpayer-funded abortions for the military and their family members.”
Within the next eight months, the Pentagon is expected to send 650 military officer nominations, including 80 three-and four-star nominees.
SECDEF Austin to House: Subs, Unmanned Systems Key to U.S. Pacific Advantage
Advanced undersea platforms and systems are “one of our clear advantages” in countering China and Russia, which is critical to deterring Chinese aggression across the Indo-Pacific, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.
The United States is committed to keeping that lead against the pacing challenge of Beijing, Austin said. He noted the significance of the agreement between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States [AUKUS] on the nuclear-powered but conventionally-armed submarine also including the exchange of advanced technologies.
Even as Canberra is upgrading its Adelaide shipyard to maintain and build nuclear-powered submarines, it has also invested $3 billion in the American industrial base, Austin said.
Several times during the hearing on the administration’s $842 billion request for Fiscal Year 2024, members wanted more information on unmanned system, especially undersea technology.
In the immediate future, “you’re going to see a shift to robotics in a big way, Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said. The use of low and slow commercial aerial drones in Ukraine demonstrated unmanned system’s versatility in combat. He expects the United States and China to aggressively explore their use in maritime warfare.
Milley estimated that one-third of the Navy could be unmanned in the not-distant future.
MARAD Administrator “Not at All Confident” Ready Reserve Fleet Could Be Crewed in A Crisis
The head of the Maritime Administration “was not at all confident” that all the ships in the Ready Reserve Fleet could be crewed if called to duty in a crisis.
The United States was already short 1,8000 credentialed mariners for its vessels before the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, retired Rear Adm. Ann Phillips said Tuesday in a joint hearing of the House Armed Services readiness and seapower and projection forces subcommittees.
She pointed to the addition of five more vessels transferred from Military Sealift Command to MARAD control and retirements of an aging workforce as likely pushing the gap for merchant mariners even higher.
While the House Armed Services Committee last year approved a grant program for MARAD to expand its Centers of Excellence program to attract and retrain mariners, there were no funds set aside to pay for it. Phillips said programs like that are essential for the future, and MARAD is working closely with community colleges, union schools and others to demonstrate to young people there are careers open to them.
“We have to have ships for them to sail on,” she said.
The nation is “a generation late” in modernizing its roll-on, roll-off ships critical to military sealift, Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, head of Transportation command, said. She and others noted the ships’ average age is 44, and 17 of them are over 50.