WASHINGTON (WAVY) — For Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va. 2nd District), it has become an annual ritual.
“This is the fourth time heading into one of these defense budgets and I’ve seen the same pattern,” said Luria, a retired Navy commander. “I don’t think that there’s a clear, guiding and defining strategy,” in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2022.
Luria says the number of ships is heading in the wrong direction.
“I don’t think there’s an aggressive enough building plan to build up the fleet. By law, it’s required to be 355 ships and 11 aircraft carriers,” Luria said.
Instead, Luria says the budget plan calls for decommissioning 24 ships while building only eight new ones, “a net loss of 16 ships to the Navy, while we watch as China continues to grow their number of ships and their capacities.”
The budget calls for decommissioning of Littoral Combat Ships — some of which have been in service for less than five years, ones that Luria says have not fulfilled their designed purpose.
Luria says she’d like to see a new class of ships that is still in development, known as the LAW or Light Amphibious Warship move toward the front of the timeline, to create a more agile force of sailors and marines in the Pacific to counter the Chinese Navy.
“This is something that we could build, we could field, it would be inexpensive and we could do it right away. But this budget pushes it out two additional years,” Luria said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told us this afternoon that right now, the different stakeholders in that amphibious ship program aren’t necessarily in alignment.
“I think the Marine Corps has a greater desire for them than what I’m seeing at the Pentagon and at the Navy. We need to hear not just what the numbers are, but hear what their different perspectives are to come up with the right answer,” Kaine said Thursday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.
Kaine says over the next couple months, Congress needs to take an especially closer look at the NDAA this time around because it was drawn up before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and priorities and realities since then have shifted.