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September 14, 2023

King Urges "Rethinking" of Navy Readiness, Production Strategy to Strengthen Fleet and Empower Maine’s Shipyards

Senator seeks a “hair on fire task force” to evaluate ways to improve productivity and lift America’s deterrence capabilities

WASHINGTON, D.C.— Concerned over the “waning” of America’s military deterrence capabilities, Senator Angus King today pressed the nominee for Chief of Naval Operations Lisa Franchetti to reassess the fleet’s readiness and abilities. In a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), Senator King asked Admiral Franchetti about the Navy’s ability to deter foreign adversaries from threats and attacks against American interests and allies. King also discussed the need to invest in the defense industrial base, specifically in the people working to keep the Navy afloat.

Senator King began his remarks by commenting on the Navy’s readiness and ability to deter our adversaries from threats and attacks on our interests and allies.

“Admiral, as you know, the cornerstone of our defense policy for at least 70 years has been deterrence. And deterrence only works if the deterrent is credible. I am concerned, and this is to put a fine point on some of the comments that have already been made, that the credibility of our deterrent is waning, particularly in light of the massive capacity increase in China and clearly the aggressive nature of Russia at this point. Deterrence doesn't work, and this weakness is an invitation to war. And I believe, in spite of the efforts to improve productivity and output of our maintenance bases as well as our construction facilities, we need more capacity. 30% of the naval ships, which I think you mentioned that are not available at any given moment is absolutely unacceptable. No business in the private sector would have 30% of their capital assets idle. And clearly, workforce is a challenge and one of the barriers. But I would hope that you would consider a serious rethinking of capacity in terms of maintaining the size of the Navy that we need, and the availability of the Navy that we need. I think it's time for a ‘hair on fire’ task force on this issue. We can improve productivity at those facilities, but looking at the numbers, it just doesn’t seem like that will be enough. Your thoughts?” Senator King asked.

Admiral Franchetti responded, “Well, Senator King, thank you again for your time the other day. I enjoyed talking with you. I agree that deterrence is our number one priority, and we need to be able to deter our adversaries by having a combat credible force. Our Navy is the most formidable force in the world, and if confirmed, I will continue to make sure it stays that way. As I look at our shipbuilding industry and my objective of having more players on the field, I have to step back and think that it's not only about the number of ships we have, but it’s also about the capability of those ships. It’s really a mix of that along with ensuring that they have the right skills, the people with the right skills, the right manning, the right munitions, and all of the support they need to be able to do their job. And if confirmed, I will continue to look at that and ensure that we do deliver the Navy that the nation needs going forward to deter our adversaries and fight and win our nation's wars.”

Senator King then asked Admiral Franchetti if the Navy plans to invest in its workforce, specifically at Bath Iron Works and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

“I believe that one of the challenges in increasing capacity, whether it's at existing yards, a new yard or something in between, is workforce. And the Navy has to be thinking about, as I work with people at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard or at Bath Ironworks, the quality of life at those yards, mundane things like parking. We need to attract workers, and they need to be able to have a quality of life. Whether it's something that you think of as peripheral parking, or childcare, those kinds of things are important in order to maintain and encourage the workforce that we need. These people are working hard. I’ve toured both of those yards so many times. I think if I tour BIW once more, I’m going to learn how to weld. But these people work hard, they work efficiently, but we've got to keep them coming. All of our industrial base needs workforce today, so I hope the Navy will think about that as you're thinking more broadly than simply what’s the contract going to look like,” Senator King commented.

Admiral Franchetti responded, “Yes. As vice chief, I was responsible for leading a task force to get after the quality of service, starting first in our shipyards and then scaling that out to the rest of the fleet, because we need to be a world class employee of choice. We’re in a war for talent every day and we need to be able to attract and retain sailors. I would expand that, that we really do need a national call to service for people to support our defense industry, whether it's in small business, whether it's in big shipyards or whether it's serving the navy. It’s all service to your nation, and we need that capacity as a nation to be able to deter our adversaries.”

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator King has championed funding for both Bath Iron Works (BIW) and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY). In the Senate passed FY2024 National Defense Authorization Act, Senator King secured authorization for the procurement of DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers which BIW can compete to build. Additionally, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro visits Maine shipyards regularly, at the invitation of Senator King, most recently at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


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