Visclosky Remarks Before the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Council
Washington, DC - Below are the remarks of Congressman Pete Visclosky before the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Council, as prepared for delivery.
I would like to thank the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Council for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.
For those of you who may not know me, I represent the First Congressional District of Indiana, which encompasses Northwest Indiana and is the largest steel producing Congressional District in our country. I also am the Ranking Member of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, which is responsible for allocating approximately $570 billion to programs that keep our country safe and ensure that our men and women in uniform are able to complete their missions to the best of their abilities.
I have been fighting for the steel industry my entire career. Through my work on the Defense Subcommittee, I am privileged to be able to fight for steel and manufacturing communities across our entire country.
You and the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Council know better than anyone that the preservation of the American industrial base is essential not just to our national economy, but to our national security.
We are a country at war. The threats to our nation do not just involve our approximately 4,000 troops in the Middle East, or our 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, or our 28,000 troops in South Korea. Over seventy percent of our planet is covered by water, and we have inherent economic interests in our waterways to protect. Ninety-five percent of the world’s Internet information travels across the ocean floors on cables, and over ninety percent of our trade is shipped over the seas. We have an obligation to ensure that the U.S. Navy and all of our service members are able keep our nation safe and protect our national security interests in the global waterways.
The Defense Appropriations Subcommittee held our Fiscal Year 2017 hearing with Navy leaders last month, and we discussed the evolving and aggressive threats in waters around the world. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Richardson noted how both China and Russia are “becoming increasingly adept in coercion and competition below the thresholds of outright conflict.”
We also discussed at length the number of aircraft carriers in our fleet and their ability to meet our national security needs. The rotation of the 11 aircraft carriers between being on station, in training, or in maintenance is a challenge we must address. The quality of our aircraft carriers is second to none, and I thank all of you in this room for supplying the latest nuclear capabilities and technology to the new Ford-class aircraft carriers and for paying your workers a living-wage. While it is sometimes said that quality is better than quantity, when it comes to our aircraft carrier fleet, quantity is just as important as quality.
We need a strong industrial base. I believe that our country was a leader this past century in global conflicts because we out-produced our enemies. Today, we buy rocket engines from Russia. Today, we buy electronics for weapons systems from China. Today, we have a budget request that proposes to eliminate Buy America requirements for armor plate, ball bearings, mooring chains, and supercomputers. This is unacceptable to me. A strong industrial base leads to a strong defense. We need a strong industrial base that can operate our ships yards, build our nuclear engines, create unsurpassable weapons systems, and manufacture our steel.
Of the roughly 50,000 tons of steel plate required for the construction of an aircraft carrier, ArcelorMittal supplies the majority of the steel, of which half is manufactured and produced at their Northwest Indiana plate mill in Burns Harbor.
Unfortunately, American steel companies and steelworkers are currently fighting for their survival against global overcapacity and illegal imports. It is estimated that there are almost 700 million tons of global overcapacity in the steel industry. This is a threefold increase in the past ten years. China and many other countries have spent the last several years building their production capacity through illegal subsidies and state-owned enterprises that have unlimited financial resources from their government. For far too long, this steel has been finding its way to be illegally dumped in our market, to the detriment of our steel industry.
We are doing our best with our trade laws, and this year some critical trade determinations will be made. The Department of Commerce has already preliminarily imposed 226 percent tariffs on cold-rolled steel from China and 236 percent tariffs on hot-rolled steel from China, and I and other members of the Congressional Steel Caucus will be active in testifying when these cases are before the International Trade Commission beginning this May. Congress has also passed laws within the past year to improve the ability of the International Trade Commission to accurately and timely make trade determinations and improve the ability of the Customs and Border Protection Agency to investigate those who attempt to circumvent our trade laws and duties at the border. The Congressional Steel Caucus will be active this year in making sure that these new tools and authorities are fully utilized by the Administration.
We are making progress, but we have more work to do. Steel production is the foundation of the economy of Northwest Indiana. It is the foundation of our aircraft carriers. It is the foundation of our national defense. Using American steel on our military aircraft carriers, our tanks, our submarines, and our military vehicles, is not just the right thing to do with American-taxpayer dollars. It is the right thing to do to preserve the economic security and the national security of all Americans.
As we move forward in crafting a Department of Defense Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2017, you have my assurance that I will do everything possible to make the investments appropriate to ensure our manufacturing suppliers and capabilities remain here in communities across the United States and, just as importantly, that we get our work done on time.
At this point, I believe the Defense Subcommittee will be able to do its work and be allowed to make the difficult and deliberate decisions needed to prioritize the resources available to strengthen our defense posture and minimize the risk to our nation and those in uniform.
However, you in this room know the value of consistency and predictability. Unfortunately, over the last six fiscal years, Congress has not provided consistency or predictability. I deeply regret the institution’s track record. It pains me to think about how much less efficient the Department of Defense has been over the last six fiscal years, as it has been forced to carry out our national defense strategy in an increasingly unstable security environment, all while navigating the unpredictability of sequestration, a government shutdown, vacillating budget caps, continuing resolutions, and appropriations that arrive well into the fiscal year. During the past six fiscal years, the dates that the Defense Appropriations measure has been signed into law range from December 15 to April 15. Our year starts on October 1.
For Fiscal Year 2017, Member of Congress requests are due to the Defense Subcommittee tomorrow. We then have every intention of moving through Subcommittee markup, full Committee markup, and House floor consideration prior to the Memorial Day recess. This will allow time us to conference with the Senate approved measure and approve the conference report before the new fiscal year begins on October 1, 2016.
Unfortunately, events outside of our Committee’s control, such as elections or a vacancy in another branch of the government, may impact this timeline. But you have my assurance that I will do everything possible to have decisions made before the new Fiscal Year. I and all of the other Members of Congress were elected to make decisions. We were elected to do a job. I intend to see that we do our job of funding the government and the Department of Defense in a timely manner.
In conclusion, I again thank the Aircraft Carrier Industrial Base Council for the opportunity to speak tonight. I also want to thank all of you for taking the time to come to Washington, D.C., to tell your respective Members of Congress about the great value of your work and how we all must continue to work together every day to preserve our ability of our industrial base to continue to make things in our country.