Virginia Republican Rob Wittman took over in January as the new chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee, assuming the reins from Randy Forbes. The subcommittee arguably is the most influential public body driving discussion and perceptions of the U.S. Navy, and many will be looking to Wittman to set the legislative pace on Capitol Hill about the Navy and about U.S. Air Force bomber and tanker programs. Speaking with Defense News about the upcoming deliberative session, Wittman, who most recently chaired the Readiness Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said his top priority was setting a proper course for the Navy’s plan to expand to 355 ships and overseeing the Air Force’s B-21 bomber program.
How will you approach your chairmanship?
I look at it as what are we going to do to make sure we get our Navy to where it needs to be? It’s not just the shipbuilding side. I want to make sure we’re focusing on the other elements that don’t necessarily always make the headlines, but especially what we are going to do as we bring the Navy up to 350 ships to make sure that sailors and Marines are part of that formula too. The tail on this effort, to me, is a big deal.
I think I will be as in-depth and as discerning as Congressman Forbes was. Look back and I’ve served with [former Seapower chairman] Gene Taylor. I’ve been on the Seapower Subcommittee since I’ve been here. I’ve traveled around with Gene, crawled around the hulls of Littoral Combat Ships 1 and 2 with Gene as we tried to figure out that platform, as well as with [former chairman] Roscoe Bartlett as we talked about the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle and the trials and tribulations that EFV went through. I’ve been able to learn and take lessons from all of them. I think all had strengths in how they dealt with the Navy, how they looked at programs.
I think my look at how the subcommittee works, the things that we do, the things that we address, will take what I’ve learned from those three gentlemen in my time here and combine the best of what they put forward. I would like to make sure that my leadership style is something that includes members of the committee and takes the time to study the Navy and the Marine Corps. Not just the general aspects of what they do but the in-depth aspects.
I will be traveling to every shipyard in the country in the next two months, I’m going to be on the ground talking to folks. The same way with our projection forces. I’ll be out there talking to the companies that are involved in our strategic assets, whether it’s building lift capacity with KC-46As, with the new B-21 bomber platform. What we are doing to keep the other platforms, because there’s a big question the Air Force hasn’t answered about as you build these new aircraft, what’s going to happen to the older aircraft? Many of them, like the B-52s, are very old platforms. A lot of questions there.