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Byrne supports Navy’s shipbuilding efforts

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Wednesday, December 7, 2016, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) said that the Navy was right to fight back against proposed efforts by outgoing Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to downsize the fleet in the 2018 budget.

Congressman Byrne said in his statement, “I applaud our Navy leadership for standing up against these ill-conceived cuts from a lame-duck administration. Secretary Carter’s efforts to cut our fleet size and capabilities have always been misguided. I think the Navy is right to plan for President-elect Trump, who has made clear his desire for a 350 ship Navy. Anything less than that would be short-sighted.”

Rep. Byrne referenced a Naval Times article in which it was revealed that outgoing Secretary of Defense Ash Carter ordered the Navy to cut another $17 billion over the next five years. The Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and the admirals have reportedly refused the request. Secretary Mabus has steadfastly refused to make cuts to the Navy’s shipbuilding efforts. Mabus has set a goal of rebuilding the fleet to 308 ships (the US Navy fleet is at a historic low of just 272 ships).

According to the report, making those levels of cuts while still maintaining Mabus’s ship building plan; would have meant cutting the money from maintenance and operations. The Navy has determined that to be “intolerable.”

The Navy has been hard hit by the 2011 Budget Control Act, which has mandated deep cuts to defense spending; while not cutting runaway costs in so-called “mandatory spending” in Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. According to U.S. Debt those programs are costing taxpayers$2,044 billion; while the payrolls taxes that are supposed to pay for those programs are only bringing in $1,121 billion. Defense on the other hand is just $581 billion. This is down from $713 billion a year in 2008. Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare spending then was just $1,281 billion then with their payroll taxes generating $906 billion. Over the Obama Presidency the gap between what payroll taxes bring in and what those mandatory programs payout has grown from $375 billion a year to $923 billion. Obamacare included a massive Medicaid expansion that was never actually paid for. Similarly the Bush Administration’s Medicare prescription drug program has led to spiraling Medicare costs…..again without any funding mechanism.

The Navy is refusing to cut their budget further.

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The Naval Times reported that Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, “At Secretary Carter’s direction, the Department of Defense is hard at work developing a FY18 budget proposal that will help guide the next administration and ensure a seamless transition. All of the services were asked to develop specific budget plans that focus on improving readiness and developing capabilities that will allow the United States to defeat high-end adversaries while adhering to current budget limits. The Department is reviewing those plans to ensure they are balanced and maintain America’s military edge.”

Secretary Mabus however points out that President-elect Donald Trump has been adamant that he wants a 350 ship Navy; thus Mabus views it as foolish to send over a budget that cuts ships when Trump has said he wants to grow the Navy.

A senior Pentagon official supportive of the Navy position told the Naval Times, “Whatever budget the Navy submits will have the half-life of a mayfly at noon on January 20th. So to some degree Secretary Mabus has tried to make that point over the past several weeks.”

The defense official said that Trump is “on the record” saying he wants 350 ships, so he is “unlikely to support a document that cuts ships. … This is a nonsensical discussion that amounts to people on the third deck [OSD], substituting their judgement for the Navy’s on what the Navy needs.”

Secretary Carter had demanded that Sec. Mabus cut the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) building program from 52 ships in two classes (one built in Mobile by Austal and the other built by Lockheed) to just 40 ships from one supplier. Sec. Mabus has steadfastly refused.

Rep. Byrne has championed Mabus’s view on the LCS program in the Congress, where he is a member of the House Armed Forces Committee.

On November fourth, Sec. Mabus awarded Byrne the United States Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor that can be given to a civilian not employed by the Department of the Navy.

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The award citation reads: “For exceptional service to the Department of the Navy as a member of Congress and the House Armed Services Committee. Representative Byrne’s dedicated service to our Sailors and Marines ensured they were provided the resources necessary to support and defend the Nation’s interests around the globe. His strong leadership as a member of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower ensured the Navy-Marine Corps team was the most capable force in history. Through his tireless efforts, he guaranteed the highest levels of sustainability for our combat forces and directly impacted the quality of life for the men and women of the Department of the Navy. With grateful appreciation for his public service to the Nation and for his outstanding contributions to the Navy and Marine Corps, the Honorable Bradley Byrne is awarded the Department of the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award.”

Ultimately Congress and the Trump Administration will get to decide how many ships the Navy will get. President-elect Donald J. Trump has nominated retired Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to be Secretary of Defense.

Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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