I want to welcome all of our members and the distinguished panel of Navy leaders for today's hearing.
We have testifying before us on naval dominance in undersea warfare:
Rear Admiral Charles A. Richard, USN
Director, Undersea Warfare Division (N97); and
Rear Admiral Michael E. Jabaley, USN
Program Executive Officer for Submarines
Thank you all for testifying today and we look forward to your thoughts and insights on this important topic.
I want to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Defense for providing Congress with an updated 30-year shipbuilding report. While the report came several months late, it provides significant insight into some of the challenges facing Navy shipbuilding and the fleet. Of particular relevance to today's hearing, the 30-year shipbuilding plan forecasts a reduction in undersea force structure from 52 attack submarines today 41 in the late 2020s, as well as the retirement without replacement of our 4 SSGN guided missile submarines and roughly 60 percent of our undersea payload capacity.
As members of this committee know well, submarines are already in short supply. A few months ago, Admiral Harris testified that the Navy could meet only 62% of his demand for attack submarines. More recently, I have received data from the Navy showing that overall in FY17 we will be able to fulfill only 42 percent of our combatant commanders' global demand for submarines. I fear this shortfall will only grow more acute as our SSN force structure shrinks and the undersea domain continues to grow in importance, and I look forward to hearing from our witnesses how it can be mitigated.
With regard to our SSBN ballistic missile submarines, I believe the Navy's designation of the Ohio Replacement Program as its top acquisition priority is completely appropriate. An effective strategic deterrent is the bedrock of our survival as a nation. Because ballistic missile submarines are indisputably the most survivable leg of our strategic triad, it is essential that we provide the resources and oversight required to replace our aging Ohio-class boats on time.
I think it is important to note that the 30-year shipbuilding plan is predicated on the receipt of additional shipbuilding funding during the construction of the Ohio Replacement. The Navy's report clearly states that "In order to procure these vessels without impacting remaining procurement plans, the Navy will continue to need additional resources for ship construction beyond the FYDP, not unlike those that occurred during the construction of the Ohio class in the 1980's."
While I support the prioritization of Ohio Replacement, I believe it is critical that Congress and future administrations provide sufficient resources to continue other critical shipbuilding programs and maintain a balanced fleet. Under the current plan, construction of new attack submarines will slow in Fiscal Year 2021, but I believe it is critical that we sustain the rate at which they are currently being constructed and build "2 in 21" in order to mitigate the looming shortfall.
That said, the future of undersea warfare is not only a matter of manned submarines. While I believe that we have a good understanding of our traditional platforms, I fear that in the undersea, as well in other domains, we have yet to appreciate and exploit the full potential of unmanned systems. I am concerned that in both the Pentagon and Congress, there are institutional obstacles to innovation and change, and I look forward to hearing more from our witnesses about the Navy's plans to develop unmanned systems and employ them in future undersea warfare.
The United States is fortunate to have the world's most capable and professional undersea fighting force and to enjoy the many strategic benefits it provides. I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about how we can sustain our undersea power in the challenging times ahead.