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US Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven on the AUKUS agreement

PoliticsUS Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven on the AUKUS agreement

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. nuclear-powered submarines are the crown jewel of American military might and key to deterring adversaries like China. The Biden administration signed a historic three-way partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom, known as AUKUS in 2021. 

The agreement promotes deeper information and technology sharing between the three countries and the U.S. agreed to share nuclear submarine technology with Australia for the first time ever. Also a first; the U.S. will sell several nuclear-powered attack submarines to Australia.

But there is one problem. The U.S. does not have enough submarines for itself. Old subs are being retired faster than they can be replaced and the U.S. ship building industry is years behind schedule.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, supports AUKUS, but is concerned how the U.S. is going to live up to its commitments to Australia.

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“The intelligence couldn’t be clearer… China is preparing for a war and specifically for a war with the United States,” Wicker said on the Senate floor. “The AUKUS deal will help prevent that war from happening.”

Wicker has been ringing the alarm for years on how the U.S. needs to build up its industrial base. Wicker inserted $3.4 billion into the national security supplemental to jumpstart the ship building base.

The Navy requires 66 attack submarines but right now only has 49. In total, the Pentagon is 17 nuclear attack submarines short of Navy requirements and needs to build 2.33 Virginia-class submarines per year to meet its AUKUS commitments on time.

Jennifer Griffin and Navy Under Secretary Eric Raven

Chief National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin’s sat down for an exclusive interview with Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven on the AUKUS agreement and submarine industrial base at the Pentagon on Friday April 12, 2024. (Fox News)

“The basic fact is this: Our defense industrial base is not where it needs to be,” Wicker said.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, U.S. Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven explained how the Navy is addressing the shortage. Asked why the submarine industry is so behind and backed up, Raven said demand for submarines has gone up five times in the last 15 years.

“While industry has been increasing its production, it’s been challenging. And what we’re seeing is they’re not quite catching up to the demand signal, but we’re doing something about it,” Raven said.

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Raven explained the U.S. Navy is partnering with private industry, state and local governments, community colleges and non-profits to recruit 100,000 Americans to work in the submarine industry.

“We’re going through a generational change in the workforce at our shipyards and our suppliers. So we need to build new talent, bring in more Americans to work in the sector and also in supply chain. Covid was a significant interruption in our ability to do business,” Raven said.

It is a modern day “Uncle Sam Wants You!” campaign.

Jennifer Griffin and Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven

Chief National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin’s sat down for an exclusive interview with Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven on the AUKUS agreement and submarine industrial base at the Pentagon on Friday April 12, 2024. (Fox News)

Non-profit BlueForge Alliance has been tasked with helping the Navy hire 100,000 Americans.

Kiley Wren, the co-founder and chief executive put this as an appeal to patriotism.

“There are literally tens of thousands of opportunities over the coming decade and more for long term, family-sustaining generational jobs that have a really important purpose,” Wren told Fox News.

“We have, high-paying, good wage, family-sustaining jobs. But the number one thing that comes up is purpose and the ability to serve your country in a job that you go to every day is an enormous sense of pride,” Wren said.

The U.S. nuclear-powered submarine USS Michigan is anchored at a port in Busan, South Korea, on June 16, 2023. (Reuters/Yonhap)

Earlier this month, Admiral John Aquilino, U.S. Pacific Commander, assessed China would be capable of invading Taiwan in 2027. One way the U.S. stays ahead of China as the dominant Navy power is its submarines.

“Submarines have a unique role in securing the peace all around the world. Their ability to move unchallenged, through, through the seas, all around the world is an incredible asymmetric advantage. And the United States builds and operates the world’s most advanced submarines,” Raven said.

Asked about reports China is building a “Great Underwater Wall,” to monitor submarine activity in the waters around China, Raven said he is not concerned.

“We have an incredibly capable submarine force that’s capable of tackling any challenge that her adversaries may pose… our submarines are incredibly capable,” Raven said.

Raven emphasized in order to stay ahead of China, the U.S. must have a strong submarine industrial base.

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“These are good, dependable jobs with a long future. No matter whether you are an engineer, a welder, an electrician or an accountant, there’s some role for any American who has an interest in helping us build submarines,” Raven said.

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