NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Congresswoman Elaine Luria (D-Norfolk) discussed the future of the United States Navy and the challenges it faces on Monday during a virtual interview.
The Democratic representative for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District talked for nearly an hour with the Hudson Institute, which promotes American leadership and global engagement for a secure, free, and prosperous future, according to its website.
Luria, who is a 20-year Navy veteran and a member of the House of Representative’s Armed Services Committee, spoke in length about the challenges the Navy faces, ranging from the “Battleforce 2045” plan to the increase in fleet size to the Navy’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
“In order for the military to continue and operate in an environment where COVID isn’t a major risk, I think sailors and soldiers should choose to get the vaccine,” she said.
Luria spoke about how COVID-19 put additional stresses on sailors and caused back-to-back deployments for some. She worried that the strain could cause a dip in retention but believes that unemployment numbers could help keep people in the military.
She also spoke about Congress’ concerns with the “Battleforce 2045” plan, which was released last year by former Defense Secretary Mark Esper. The plan calls for a 500-ship fleet by 2045, which is an increase from the Navy’s 2019 plan to increase the fleet to 355 over the next 30 years.
Luria mentioned a number of concerns about the plan, including unmanned aircraft, operational plans, and deployment cycles of ships, to name a few.
“To summarize, we have a lot of questions,” she said, adding she hoped the secretary of the Navy would be able to provide input.
Luria says that one of the challenges the Navy faces when increasing the fleet is the possibility of decommissioning aircraft carriers.
“I don’t see any other way we can grow the fleet if we were decommissioning ships at a faster rate we’re building them,” she said. “It’s going to shrink the fleet. We’re going to reduce our capacity, and that’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do when there’s a credible threat [China] in the Pacific. We need to provide a credible threat. There’s a lot of pieces going into this,” she said.
Luria also says that the building of these ships hasn’t been on schedule as planned or budget-wise. She says things such as sea level rise and flooding can cause delays at shipyards, especially in Hampton Roads, as well as not having enough skilled workers to build the ships.
“There is a finite skilled workforce,” she said. “What do we need to do — especially as some of that workforce ages and retires — what we need to do to make sure we have a skilled workforce behind them to have stability of building our ships.”
Luria hopes that the shipyard funding and upgrades will be included when President Joe Biden unveils an infrastructure upgrade later this year.
To check out the full discussion with Luria, click here.