Navy Secretary Nominee Vows Urgency and Accountability
By JAMES PETERSON, Special Correspondent
WASHINGTON — Richard V. Spencer, the nominee for secretary of the Navy, promised to bring urgency, transparency and accountability to the position during his confirmation hearing beforethe Senate Armed Services Committee July 11.
In his testimony, Spencer compared the current state of the world and how it affects the Navy and Marine Corps to “the perfect storm.”
“We are no longer managing risks; we are gambling,” said Spencer, a former Marine Corps aviator who left the service as a captain in 1981. “We must immediately commence the heavy lifting needed to buttress the effects of this storm in order to build fleet readiness in the near term and increase the Navy and Marine Corps capability and capacity in the near future.”
Regarding the Navy’s need to remain a superior power, Spencer talked about urgently enhancing readiness and existing capabilities, while also “increasing the size of the fleet.”
“We’re looking at October of 1957, and Sputnik has just flown over our head,” Spencer said. “The technological gap and our production gaps are shrinking compared to our one-on-one competitors, and we need to get a sense of urgency, get on the forward foot and use all resources available to us.”
Spencer repeatedly touched on the Navy’s duty to inform the American people of issues affecting the military.
“The whole focus of my work would be the pointy end of the spear,” he said. “We are going to stand up and make sure that not only are we working with you all here in this chamber, but going out into America and let Americans know what the real issue is.”
When asked about his thoughts on Budget Control Act [BCA] of 2011 and the spending caps it imposes, Spencer stated the law’s burden is not on the shoulders of the Navy or Congress, but on the Sailors, Marines and their families.
“It is devastating what it is doing to us. … We all have to get behind this,” he said. “I look forward to working with [the Armed Services Committee] in doing whatever we can to educate the American voters as to what is going on with the BCA and how it’s affecting us.”
Committee members also asked about the nominee’s plans for the 355-ship fleet goal set by the Navy in December. Spencer said he believed the goal was possible, but would require more personnel to complete.
“If we take the full gambit of what’s available to us to tackle the 355-ship goal, we should be thinking outside the box.” Spencer said. “We should be thinking possibly bringing things out of the Ready Reserve. We should be looking at ways to construct better, faster, cheaper. We’ll be looking at a frigate down the road. All of this capacity increase will require manning, so there will be some numbers that have to be adjusted for in strength.”
John Warner, former Virginia senator and secretary of the Navy, introduced Spencer to the committee. He commented on how Spencer’s meeting with 10 former secretaries of the Navy to see how he can best perform his duties showed what kind of nominee Spencer was.
“He’s quite adept and knowledgeable on all aspects of finance,” Warner said, “not only domestically here in our country but globally.”
The Navy Department currently is being led by acting Secretary Sean Stackley, a holdover from President Barack Obama’s administration.