Weekly Columns

Despite the cold weather in Buffalo, New York, there was a warm welcome for the USS Little Rock, its crew and myself and fellow Arkansans who traveled to celebrate the commissioning of the Freedom-class littoral combat ship earlier this month.

It’s been more than four decades since the Navy had a ship named after the City of Little Rock, and it is an honor to have one of its more versatile warships named after our state’s capital city. 

The commissioning of the USS Little Rock marked the first time in the history of the Navy that a ship was commissioned alongside her namesake. This special occasion brought together crew members of the original USS Little Rock and those like Lieutenant Robert Dyer from Mountainburg, Arkansas who is a member of the current crew. 

During its time as a light cruiser and then as a guided missile cruisier, the original USS Little Rock and its crew were vital to defeating growing threats.

The new USS Little Rock is just as critical to our Navy’s sea power. This ship, and the strength and resolve of its Warhawg crew, is the future of the Navy, offering unique capabilities to defend against evolving threats around the globe.

In order to protect our national security, the Navy needs the resources to stay ahead of the threats our adversaries pose to us and our allies. We also need the resources to work toward the goal of a 355-ship fleet.

Achieving this larger, more capable fleet will take decades to complete, but Congress can make it easier by passing individual appropriations bills instead of relying on continuing resolutions.    

Earlier this month, Navy Secretary Spencer said the service has wasted $4 billion since 2011 because of continuing resolutions. This could have gone a long way toward growing our fleet. 

A continuing resolution means that the Navy is operating on the previous year’s budget level and last year’s priorities. It means delays in shipbuilding and ship repair. It also means reducing training opportunities, flying hours, and steaming days. That forces more requirements onto the operational fleet, which is already stretched thin after decades of constant worldwide deployment.

Funding the government is the basic responsibility of Washington. It’s an obligation that my colleagues and I on the Senate Appropriations Committee take very seriously as we craft the appropriations bills, set priorities and make difficult decisions on how to spend taxpayer dollars. 

We must return to a process in which we debate and pass annual spending bills in order to provide much needed predictability to our military leaders. We can make this happen by returning to regular order and passing individual appropriations bills. 

We owe it to our service members, their families and all Americans. We owe it to the crew of the USS Little Rock.

Admittedly, Little Rock is not the first place most people think of when you mention the Navy. Our state doesn’t border an ocean, but now the state capital will once again have a place on the high seas. This is a tremendous honor for the City of Little Rock, and I know that the ship and its crew will make Arkansas proud.