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CONGRESSIONAL SHIPBUILDING CAUCUS BREAKFAST

REMARKS AS PREPARED FOR

MARK H. BUZBY

MARITIME ADMINISTRATOR

CONGRESSIONAL SHIPBUILDING CAUCUS BREAKFAST

2060 RAYBURN HOUSE OFFICE BUILDING

WEDNESDAY, MAY 22, 2019

8:00 AM – 9:00 AM

Good morning. Thank you to Chairman Courtney and Ranking Member Wittman for inviting me to join you today—Maritime Day!—to discuss the future of this indispensable industry.

I want to thank all the members and staff of the shipbuilding caucus for your kind welcome, and the navy league and the Shipbuilders Council of America for their sponsorship of this event.

Most of all, thank you to the shipbuilding caucus for advocating for our maritime industry, for our shipbuilders and repair facilities, and the shoreside workforce that literally keeps us afloat.

I also bring you greetings from our secretary of transportation elaine l. Chao, who is as you know is a tremendous supporter of our industry. We are so fortunate to have her leadership at this critical time for the U.S. maritime industry. She is in Germany this week for a conference, and is very disappointed to be missing Maritime Day here in the States today.

Especially since we are celebrating the big news of the awarding of the NSMV vessel construction manager contract yesterday to tote services.

This is a huge step toward making our new training and response ships a reality, and tote’s work begins immediately to start the competitive selection process for a U.S. shipbuilder to complete the detailed design and construction of our two fully funded ships, hopefully to be followed by three more as we work with congress to invest in this critical maritime infrastructure. I expect that we will have a shipyard selection to celebrate in late summer.

It’s worthy to note that NSMV will be fully Jones Act-compliant, and incorporate the latest systems and technology to prepare our next generation of deck officers and engineers.

But 200 years ago – back in May of 1819, there weren’t a lot of marine engineers who knew how to tame a fire-breathing boiler spewing steam and put it to work safely propelling a vessel – let alone an ocean-going vessel. SS Savannah changed all that.

The successful crossing of the Atlantic from Savannah, GA to Liverpool, England by a steam-propelled vessel ushered out the age of sail and gave way to the beginnings of the first industrial age, an era that would transform the speed of commerce and the nature of naval warfare.

Two centuries later, we’re into the fourth industrial age, but still have many of the logistical challenges from earlier eras.

When I spoke with you last fall, i related the story of the voyage of the Great White Fleet back in 1907. A grand show of force that almost didn’t make it.

I spoke of the logistical challenges they faced just to keep the ships fueled and provisioned in a benign, uncontested environment. They had to charter 34 foreign flag colliers – the tankers of their day – just to get from Norfolk to San Francisco! A real wake up call for a fledgling navy on the importance of logistics.

I mentioned that I saw too many alarming parallels with the state of logistic affairs back in 1907 with where our RRF and sealift forces are today.

Then, two weeks ago comes a very excellent study conducted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment entitled: “sustaining the fight – resilient maritime logistics for a new era.” Some of you, I know, have seen it.

I strongly commend this very readable report to you – 112 pages long. The authors – Tim Walton, Ryan bone, and Harrison Schramm - really nailed it.

  • They addressed issues surrounding sustaining the fleet (both fuel and dry cargo) with the combat logistics force.
  • They addressed the sealift requirement to move joint forces around the globe and sustain them – again, fuel and equipment.

And they did it by challenging the old assumptions which drove operational and budgetary decisions that got us to where we are today: which is an efficient force for supporting uncontested movements around the world, but not a very resilient force.

I think those assumptions are very instructional:

  • “from secure, proximate resupply facilities, - to distant or contested basing
  • From assumed rear theater sanctuary - to global conflict (cyber threat)
  • From gradual force buildup - to forward deterrence and rapid response
  • From short duration, - to potentially protracted conflicts
  • From low attrition - to contested, high attrition planning

Their sobering assessment is contained in the opening sentence of their report: quote:

“the current and programmed defense maritime logistics force of the united states is inadequate to support the current U.S. national defense strategy and major military operations against china or Russia.”

As I testified before the house T&I Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee yesterday, and before your HASC subcommittee and over on the Senate side too, I have real concerns about the ability of the remaining 81 U.S.-flag ships in international trade, and the 100 large JONES ACT ships to provide our nation with enough commercial sealift capacity – along with our aging RRF force – to meet the country’s needs in a protracted sealift effort.

And that’s not even addressing the need for tankers to bucket-brigade the fuel needed to keep everything running. 86 tankers need to come from somewhere. Our domestic tanker fleet will provide some – but the rest?

And of course, there is the need to have sufficient mariners available to crew the ships, and we know we are short there.

So the findings of the CSBA assessment? I’m sorry to say they give a fairly accurate assessment. But there are fixes – it’s not too late – but we need to get on with it, and there is going to be a bill involved.

In my mind, we as a nation have to make the decision that this part of our nation’s armed forces – the movement and sustainment part – needs some work.

The consequences if we fail to act could very well be a modern-day retelling of the story of the logistic failures of the great white fleet.

All that said, I remain confident that we’re going to get there our maritime industry where it needs to be! Knowing Congressmen Courtney and Wittman, and the members of the caucus, we are going to work hard to incentivize growth in the U.S.-flag commercial fleet, and a recapitalization of our RRF. 

Together, we will continue to educate our nation on the importance of our industry, and to bring in new blood. It’s critical to our economic and national security in the face of an increasingly contentious world. Together, we can ensure that a U.S. ensign is always proudly snapping in the breeze from the mast of a U.S. vessel. Thank you.

Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2019