Biden budget not enough to ‘pace the adversary,’ says top Navy official

A senior Navy official acknowledged in a Senate hearing this week that the Biden administration’s first budget plan doesn’t give the Navy the ships it needs to project power and deter adversaries at a level commensurate with the threats it faces.

Vice Admiral James Kilby, deputy chief of naval operations for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities, told a Senate Armed Services subcommittee hearing that the Navy did the best it could to plan for new ships based on the roughly flat budget it received from the White House. But Kilby agreed that the Navy needs more.

President Biden’s budget plan provided funding for eight ships, including four warships, not the 12 total ships recommend by the prior administration and supported by many in Congress. The scaled-back plan included just one DDG-51 Aegis destroyer instead of two, something Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) pointed out to Kilby during the hearing.

“This budget… is not only disappointing, it’s dangerously inadequate, and in my judgment it’s going to have to be reversed,” Wicker said. “If this Congress, if this legislative branch, the House and Senate, exercising its power of the purse could reverse this and give you those ships back, which we had planned to do for years now, would you be in a better position in the Pacific to meet the challenge?”

“The simple answer is yes, sir,” Kilby replied.

Kilby again indicated his support for a larger budget in a conversation with Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who asked if we have a right-sized Navy. Kilby said the Navy has done “many studies” in the last few years that show America needs more ships.

“If we’re going to pace the adversary, we need to have a bigger Navy,” Kilby said. “Our job is to create the best Navy we can with for budget we allowed and we tried to do that.”

Another Republican, Sen. Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, warned that a flat Navy fleet will only put the U.S. at a further disadvantage with China.

“A budget like this sends China and our other potential adversaries exactly the wrong message, that we’re not willing to do what it takes to defend ourselves, our allies and our partners,” Cramer said.

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