GOP senator jams up Pentagon pick over Biden's Navy plan

Wicker made a statement to POLITICO in which he blamed the White House, professional budgeteers, and Capitol Hill shipbuilding boosters for undercutting Navy plans that would significantly expand the fleet.Wicker said that Congress gave the Navy authority and direction to seek a block purchase of amphibious vessels to save taxpayers hundreds of millions and stabilize the industrial base. He did not mention the Blume hold in his statement. The Biden Administration chose to ignore the Navy and Marine Corps leaders' advice in its recent budget and shipbuilding plan. The United States does not need bureaucrats who place their opinions on warfighting above the views of our uniformed servicemen and women.If Senate Democrats wish to force Blume to confirm, Wicker's actions alone won't be enough. Chuck Schumer, Majority Leader, could file Cloture to close debate on a bill or nominee and force a vote. This would only require a majority of senators agreeing to her nomination.Frederick Stefany, acting chief acquisition officer of the Navy, suggested recently that the four-ship contract could be included in the fiscal 2023 budget submission. However that decision is dependent on the results from a new fleet assessment which will be conducted in part by the CAPE office Blume was tapped to lead.On June 9, Stefany informed the Senate Armed Services Committee's Seapower panel that the Navy had reached "handshake agreements" with Huntington Ingalls Industries to allow for four-ship procurements to occur by 2023.He said, "It's still not a done deal." The department is currently reviewing the matter for a final decision.Wicker, whose Mississippi state is home to Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, that builds Navy destroyers, amphibious and other ships, supports increasing the size and capacity of the Navy to at minimum 355 ships. He also warned that Biden’s budget proposal "doesn’t get us back on the right path to do this."One Amphibious Ship of America class and three San Antonio-class ships would be included in the block purchase.Like many defense hawks in Congress Hill, the Mississippi Republican has criticised the $715 billion defense budget request by the Biden administration as inadequately funding the military's needs. He criticized the Navy's inability to finance a second destroyer or execute the block buy of amphibious warfareships. This was attributed to the Pentagon's tough budget decisions.Wicker criticized Lloyd Austin, Defense Secretary, at a Senate Armed Services Hearing this month. He blamed "bean counters" at White House Office of Management and Budget who limit Pentagon resources.Wicker stated, "While we are grateful for the OMB budget crunchers' suggestion, it is our duty to defend this nation and this proposed budget doesn't do that."An aide to the Senate said Wicker wanted the Pentagon to comply with the agreement Congress approved before the block purchase authority expires in fall. However, he warned that the savings could be reduced if the deal was not completed on time. After the Pentagon seals the deal lawmakers will be able allocate funds to start work on the new ships in their annual defense policy and spending legislation.Senators have expressed concern about the amphibious ship bundle. Wicker and Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, wrote to Austin in May urging him not to delay. They praised the savings to the budget and the certainty that the deal would bring to the shipbuilding sector. They warned that inaction was causing uncertainty in an already fragile industrial base.Blume was one of the raft of nominees that the Senate Armed Services Committee approved on June 10. However, the Senate must still consider these nominees before they can be confirmed. Frank Kendall, the nominee for Air Force Secretary, was also included in the vote. His nomination has been put on hold by several senators.Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D.Mass.) Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Gary Peters, (D-Mich.), placed procedural holds on Kendall this week. Warren wants Kendall to make several ethical pledges. Kendall was previously employed by Raytheon and is on the Leidos board of directors. He has also worked as a consultant for several defense companies. Peters also opposes the Air Force decision to move the F-35 fighter's international training center to the Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan.A full Senate vote is required for Heidi Shyu, Jill Hruby, Jill Hruby, for undersecretary for defense for research, engineering, Frank Rose, principal deputy administrator, NNSA, Deborah Rosenblum, for assistant secretary for defense for nuclear, chemical, and biological defense, Christopher Maier, for assistant secretary for defense for special operations/low intensity conflict.These two holds are occurring as the Biden administration fills in political appointees throughout the government and as the Pentagon continues to work on a new National Defense Strategy and Nuclear Posture Review. Both of these documents are expected to be published next year.Blume's detention comes at a crucial time when the military is trying to innovate and modernize with new technologies in order to keep up with Russian and Chinese advances in areas like long-range precision weaponry, electronic warfare, and hypersonic missiles. Blume, who has been acting as CAPEs director since Jan. 20, played an important role in the request for fiscal 2022 defense budget. This was the first time that Blume had participated in this process under the Biden administrations.Blume was previously deputy chief of staff for plans and programs in the office for the deputy secretaryof defense. He also served as director of the Center for a New American Security's Defense Program from January to January.John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said that the Senate should act on all pending nominees when he was asked about the delay. ...This would certainly include Ms. Bloom who is highly qualified to lead the Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office. She looks forward to serving alongside her.The Navy requested two amphibious vessels in its fiscal 2022 budget request. One was a San Antonio-class amhibious transport dock ship and one an America-class assault ship.The CAPE office was involved in the Battle Force 2045 shipbuilding plan, which was created by Mark Esper (then Defense Secretary). It was also central to the Navy's fiscal 2022 budget submission. Capitol Hill is not a fan of this plan. It reduces the number of ships that the service plans to purchase and puts a halt to any long-range fleet reassessment until 2023.There is a growing need for amphibious ships that can quickly transport Marines and aircraft, including F-35s, to hot spots. This has also been exacerbated by frustration with CAPE.Reps. Steven Palazzo (R.Miss.), and Rob Wittman (R.Va.). Introduced legislation to withhold 50% of the CAPEs budget until Navy executes a bundle buy contract for the four amphibious vessels.They claim that packaging the ships into one large contract would help save $720 million. Wittman stated that the Navy still wants the ships and indicated they would build them. He also criticised the faceless bureaucrats who kicked the contracts down.