Hearing gets testy over shipbuilding woes, climate change

By Connor O’Brien | 05/17/2024 06:40 AM EDT

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro said he has tried to be “honest, transparent and deeply committed to turning things around.”

Dan Sullivan speaks during Senate hearing.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) during a hearing last year. On Thursday, he accused the Navy of focusing too much on climate change. Francis Chung/POLITICO

The Navy’s top civilian leader came under fire Thursday from Republicans who argued the service isn’t doing enough to fix shipbuilding programs plagued by delays, with one senator even suggesting he should be fired over it.

Republicans at a Senate Armed Services Committee accused Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro of prioritizing climate change over Navy shipbuilding. Del Toro flatly rejected the criticism, arguing that he’s made progress to rein in over-budget and past-schedule ship programs.

The fireworks began with Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who criticized Navy plans that keep the fleet under 300 warships through the end of the decade while China far outpaces the U.S. in shipbuilding. Sullivan argued Del Toro is more focused on climate change and asked the Navy leader if he should resign or be fired over ship delays.


“I feel compelled to ask: If a Marine platoon commander gets relieved because one of his Marines loses a rifle and a Navy captain gets relieved because his crew hits another ship while the captain is asleep, should the secretary of the Navy be relieved or resign for failing on his No. 1 mission — shipbuilding — particularly when he is spending so much time on issues that are not even part of his [legal] responsibilities?” Sullivan asked.