Mississippi Senator presses Secretary of Defense.

U.S. Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today pressed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on the Department of Defense’s (DOD) recent budget request for Fiscal Year 2022.

During today’s hearing, Wicker referred to the testimony of the Navy’s Vice Admiral at this week’s Seapower Subcommittee hearing, where the Vice Admiral admitted that the U.S. needs a larger Navy. Wicker asked Austin if the Vice Admiral misspoke.

“For some time, we’ve had a goal of a 355 ship Navy, and I think that goal is a good goal to shoot at,” Austin answered.

“This budget doesn’t get us anywhere near back on the path to do that,” Wicker replied.

Wicker then expressed his concern about the Navy’s plans for amphibious warships. Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized a multi-ship procurement bundle for three LPDs and one LHA, which would result in a $700 million dollar cost savings. However, the Department of Defense has walked back support for this block buy pending a new assessment of the fleet’s needs. Wicker asked Austin how it made sense for the DOD to oppose saving $700 million of taxpayer money if the ships were going to be purchased anyway.

Austin answered that the DOD is always faced with tough choices.

“This is an inadequate defense budget,” Wicker concluded. “Let me just say to my colleagues, the Constitution of the United States also gives us the power of the purse. And while we appreciate the suggestion by OMB budget crunchers, it is our obligation to defend this nation and this proposed budget does not do so.”

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Release from Senator Roger Wicker.