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Interview: US Rep. Randy Forbes

Interview: US Rep. Randy Forbes

Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican, returns in 2015 as chairman of this influential subcommittee, one of a handful of congressional entities that directly shape and alter the makeup and direction of the US Navy. As might be expected from a Virginia representative, Forbes is keenly interested in shipbuilding, but he’s also delved deeply into numerous seapower issues, from unmanned aircraft and amphibious lift to Chinese naval expansion and the US Navy’s shift to the Pacific. Forbes has campaigned strenuously for better funding for the sea services and is a strong opponent of sequestration spending restrictions.

On the eve of the 113th Congress, he shared his views on what he sees in the year ahead.

Q. What do see as seapower priorities in the new Congress?

A. The No. 1 priority is not just in a seapower lane, but I don’t think we can do any of the rest of the priorities unless we get sequestration pulled off. So the No. 1 focus we’re all going to have going into the new year is getting sequestration done away with as it pertains to national defense.

Q. Do you feel comfortable about accomplishing that?

A. I do. I just feel like we’re moving in the right direction, that there’s a new feel up here with so many people on the fence. So I’m optimistic that we’ll get that done.

One of the things is how we have the debate — I have made this same presentation to the leadership in the House and to many chairmen of the committees. What we have historically done for the last five, six years on Capitol Hill is really backwards when it comes to defense. We have asked the question how much money do we want to spend on defense? Then once you’ve locked in that figure, what kind of strategy can you utilize from that budget and how can you implement that strategy? We have to change the debate to where we start talking about what our goals are for national defense.

If they answer those questions and if we phrase it that way, then I believe you have a much better chance of doing the math and backing up how many ships we need and what that’s going to cost. If we are in a debate between spending money on a Tomahawk missile or a new playground or park or highway, defense is going to lose. If the debate is where it should be — which is, do you want our men and women fighting to defend this country with platforms or weapon systems equal to or inferior to their opponents, or where they may not have air dominance in a fight — then we win that debate. And that’s the way we need to shift this debate among policy-makers.

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