Navy spending is sound investment
Green Bay Press Gazette | U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher
Last Saturday, I had the honor of attending the christening and launch of the USS Billings — the eighth Littoral Combat Ship built here in Northeast Wisconsin. It was a remarkable event, one that should make us all proud of our shipyard in Marinette and the hard-working Wisconsinites who brought this mechanical marvel to life.
While Northeast Wisconsin has been working tirelessly to complete the newest addition to our Navy, Congress has been stuck in a long and contentious debate about defense spending and the Navy’s plan to grow the fleet to 355 ships.
As I recently sat through hours of debate over this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, I realized that we were circling the problem without touching on its core: Why is getting to 355 ships so important?
After all, budgets are tight, our debt is out of control, and 355 ships might seem like a large and arbitrary number.
Yet there is nothing arbitrary about the Navy’s requirement for more ships, nor optional about America’s role in the world and on the seas.
It’s not just that 90 percent of global trade travels by sea, or that 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 62 miles of a coast. Even in the Internet age, our global economy is still ocean-bound, with 99 percent of intercontinental telecommunications dependent on fiber optic cables at the bottom of the ocean.
Perhaps more importantly, as we’ve seen all too often in our history, what happens in one ocean far away can have a direct impact on our lives here at home. When hostile nations threaten our interests and our allies, they often do so by projecting power across the world’s seas.
Every day, sailors around the world are doing their duty, deterring conflict and enforcing the rules of the road. And truthfully, we take it for granted. We do our best to fly flags in our lawns and thank our veterans for their service, but all too often, it takes tragedy like the loss of seven sailors aboard the USS Fitzgerald to remind us of the cost of liberty.
Despite the cost, a 355 ship Navy is a sound investment in our own security and prosperity. After all, without command of the seas, we would not be able to protect our commerce abroad, deploy rapidly to deter aggression or strike swiftly at those who have attacked us. Without maritime superiority, America would be a very different nation.
And so it is up to us to defend and expand our command of the seas, and with it our way of life, and then pass the torch to the next generation.
I think about that next generation a lot.
One of the great privileges of being in Congress is getting the opportunity to nominate outstanding young men and women from across Wisconsin’s 8th District to our military service academies.
Less than six years from now, that high school senior will be entering the fleet and deploying in harm’s way — maybe on the USS Billings.
That's what modernizing our military and getting to 355 is all about: giving those warfighters the best tools they can possibly have to achieve the mission and come home safe.
I remember my mom’s face when I deployed for the first time. Her expression was at the same time proud and completely terrified. Above all, the message I read in her eyes was “COME HOME SAFE”. I think about the sailors who will board the USS Billings. I think about their families, who will probably have the same expression as my mom.
When you look at things this way, you realize that what we build in Northeast Wisconsin are not just rivets, steel seams, or propulsion systems. What we build are not just more gray hulls to add to the sterile math of 355. What we build are our service-members’ tickets home to their loved ones.
So when future generations deploy on the USS Billings, they will be relying on the skill and commitment that went into building the ship. While their families will be desperate for them to come home safe, they will have confidence in knowing their ship was built right here in Northeast Wisconsin.