Home » Budget Industry » Rep. Courtney: U.S. Needs Comprehensive National Maritime Strategy Soon

Rep. Courtney: U.S. Needs Comprehensive National Maritime Strategy Soon

A sailor explains the layout and functionality of Ford’s flight deck to Rep. Joe Courtney in 2016. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United States has not had a maritime strategy that would allow Congress to “look at maritime issues in a logical way” since the Roosevelt administration, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee said on Wednesday.

That lack of a comprehensive view of maritime issues makes it harder to get the funds required to build the Navy needed to meet the growing global challenges and to support a commercial fleet, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) told a Hudson Institute forum.

The previous Maritime Administration director, Chip Jaenichen, “was working valiantly for a maritime strategy for the nation as a whole.” But because of the competing interests of all the organizations involved, “he couldn’t get it together,” Courtney said.

Because there has not been a vision of a way forward, “commercial shipbuilding has disappeared,” and the Navy is struggling to get the ships it needs, he said.

Courtney, whose Connecticut district includes both the Groton submarine base and the Electric Boat submarine builder, cited opposition from the Pentagon for the recent defeat of his amendment to the fiscal year 2019 defense appropriations that would have set conditions to boost construction of Virginia class attack submarines from two a year to three.

Although the Navy has been supportive, “there’s been a lot of resistance within DoD, OSD,” he said, referring to the Department of Defense and Office of the Secretary of Defense.
But Courtney also questioned the Navy’s efforts, despite its oft-stated goal of building the combat fleet from the current 286 to 355.

“Three hundred fifty-five is a great number. But if it’s 355 in small surface combatants, that doesn’t get to the problem.” The need is for more submarines and large combatants, “but in the 30-year shipbuilding plan, those components don’t get the attention required,” he said.

As a result, the attack submarine force is expected to shrink from 52 to 48, Courtney said.

Courtney noted the proposals to prevent the decline in the sub force by keeping some of the Los Angeles attack boats in service longer, but questioned if that would work due to the age of the hulls and the outdated technology of the old subs.

Seth Cropsey, the director of Hudson’s American Seapower program, noted that the Chinese submarine force is expected to grow to 99 by 2030. A member of the audience later asked if the U.S. sub fleet could win a fight with that larger force.

Courtney conceded that the Chinese Navy “has made great strides,” but added, “I think we still have the capability to overcome that.” Despite the growth of the Chinese sub fleet, “they don’t have the decades of experience we do.” And the high quality of the Virginia-class U.S. boats, “I think tip the balance.”

Asked if there were plans to build new icebreakers to compete with Russia and others who are moving into the Arctic, Courtney said the Seapower panel does not deal with the Transportation Department programs, which include the Coast Guard and its icebreakers. But he said they have encouraged the Navy to cooperate to help the Coast Guard get the icebreakers it needs.

However, he added, they just heard that in the 2019 appropriations bill, the Transportation Department “gets no money for icebreakers. Some of us will want to work on that.”

  • NEC338x

    The Hudson Institute has the entire hour long forum up on their Youtube page. No hyperlink for obvious reasons. Regarding the CG icebreakers, I wouldn’t be holding my breath on that one unless the pork trading with Florida Rep’s comes through.

    • proudrino

      The Navy is supportive of new Coast Guard icebreakers. The rub comes when Congresscritters suggest that funding for them should come at the expense of Navy’s requirements. Courtney would be howling like a banshee if it appeared that the project would be funded by authorizing one less Virginia Class submarine in the next FYDP.

  • publius_maximus_III

    “The United States has not had a maritime strategy that would allow Congress to ‘look at maritime issues in a logical way’ since the Roosevelt administration, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee said on Wednesday.”

    In referring to the Roosevelt administration, I think Representative Courtney means the Bretton Woods agreement, in which representatives from numerous countries met near the end of WW-II and worked out a global agreement which has essentially preserved world peace since that world-wide conflict ended in 1945. The basic agreement, more or less dictated by the U.S. representative, gave the USN its future marching orders: (1) US markets would be open to all comers, including former WW-II enemies, (2) the US would protect world shipping lanes to facilitate such trade. Does the Congressman think someone else needs to take over that effort now?

  • proudrino

    Pretty hawkish talk from a Congressman who doesn’t support law enforcement (voted present when given the chance to support ICE agents). I guess one’s position is based on where one is sitting. This Democrat has every reason to push building more subs so he’s “strong” on maritime security even as he toes the partisan line and refuses to support those engaged in national security. He is a political coward.

    That being said, I disagree with the concept that we don’t have a comprehensive maritime strategy. The CNO’s Campaign Design includes everything from space to undersea. If there isn’t a comprehensive approach to maritime strategy it comes from Congress where Courtney pushes subs because of his constituency while WI Congresscritters push LCS because that is where those platforms are built, etc.

  • RobM1981

    Hmmm… a congressman from Connecticut is looking to drum up more business in submarines…

    Why? Whyyyy???

    I give up. I can’t figure it out. It’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in $100 bills.

    • Duane

      See my comment for “why?”

    • Secundius

      I suspect because the University of Connecticut is currently doing Research on Electromagnet Propulsion as an alternate means or propelling a Spacecraft to Mars…

  • Duane

    Actually, I think the Congressman is on to a good proposal. The underlying non-strategic strategy of the Navy and maritime community has been very backwards focused: we want more of what we have, and we want more capability to do what we’ve been doing.

    But a real maritime strategy starts with answering the 2 key questions of:

    1) What are the MARITIME threats, now and as best we can tell, in the future … and

    2) What is the most cost effective way of countering those MARITIME threats?

    But that is not what we do in the US.

    For instance, CNO Richardson stated his complaint, or preference, a la the “Emperor’s new clothes”, a few weeks ago that it is dumb to devote a fleet of 18 $2+B DDG 51 ships with full BMD capabilities (6 ships on station 24/7/365, and twice that number of non-deployed ships to sustain that force), each with a crew of 300+ sailors, to defend land assets from ballistic missiles … when 6 AEGIS Ashore installations costing but a few hundred million each and fully crewed around the clock with 33 operators each can perform exactly the same job.

    Like, Duh!!! Why is this point only being brought out now?

    CNO Richardson is correct that those resources in manpower and gear can be put to much better use, giving us a much more capable Navy to face actual maritime threats. Maybe some of those 18 BMD ships and crews can be used to defend naval assets (again, Duh!!). And maybe some of those budget dollars can be redirected to building more SSNs, of which we KNOW we are short-supplied.

    Another example: we have tended to use very expensive ships, and even more expensive nuke submarines, to perform land attack missions that have nothing to do with maritime objectives. We did so the last decade and a half, I believe, to try to make the Navy appear relevent in an era where we had only jihadis in pickup trucks or baby formula factories in deserts hundreds of miles from the sea to destroy, but no near peer naval threats to deal with. I get that.

    That was then, and this is now.

    Now we are in a new era with actual near peer naval threats. We should not be wasting valuable and very expensive naval platforms to do a job that land based missiles and air to ground missiles can perform for far less of our scarce defense dollars. But we are still stuck in a mode of conserving momentum (“stuck on stupid”, as an American general said about a decade ago), building very expensive land attack SSNs and land attack DDGs while going begging on cheaper ASW SSNs that we know we need badly.

    That makes no sense.

    We need a real maritime strategy that does not consist of more of the same.

  • b2

    “…would allow Congress to “look at maritime issues in a logical way” since the Roosevelt administration,”

    Hmm. That alone is scary when you really consider the cause/effects. We have defeated the AXIS and won the Cold War since then, without one. Before then we were a Sand Pebbles Navy in the 1920’s.. Why now…? Comprehensive means cuts for economy and the use consolidation, etc… While it sounds good it will probably diminish our maritime capability…just saying.

    I know this district and where he comes from..He couldn’t spell USN before being elected.. Now, to his credit he is considered an expert of cours,e however read the article, very few Maritime Strategists would consider more submarines and Artic /icebreaker needs in the same grouping as being fundamental. He does so because of Groton and the USCG are in his district and safe bets (self-interest)…Plus he has to contribute something to the committee..

  • Western

    I was hoping some great strategic thinker was looking to rebuild the US merchant marine fleet with all the US steel we will be producing. No, just another congressman looking to pork barrel his district.

  • In relation to this, where’s the widely announced US 2nd Fleet?

  • Ed L

    Me thinks the congressman is not a big fan of the LCS combatants

  • Skippy WooshkaSiegelskiSwiatek

    Better to have the submarine projects underway now as the ship building industries locations will be prime targets for the enemy…don’t wait for it to happen. Wolves kill off the weakest prey in the pack….as The wolves become more dominant;The Big Game are easier prey.( Marine Corps policy is quality not quantity). Groom the NAVY for the future and make it cost effective. Defense dollars are ammo.

  • Ed L

    Me thinks that there is a strong need to flush politics out of the Armed Services