Navy secretary nominee pledges to be ‘exclusively focused on the China threat’
Carlos Del Toro, President Biden’s nominee to be Navy secretary, pledged Tuesday to be “exclusively” focused on China if he is confirmed.
“It’s incredibly important to defend Taiwan in every way possible,” Del Toro told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing. “It takes a holistic view of our national commitment to Taiwan. We should be focused on providing Taiwan with as much self-defensive measures as humanly possible.
“And if confirmed to the Navy, I am going to be exclusively focused on the China threat and exclusively focused in moving our maritime strategy forward in order to protect Taiwan and all of our national security interests in the Indo-Pacific theater,” he added.
Del Toro’s comments came in response to questions from Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on recent war games that suggested the United States would struggle to defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion.
Del Toro stressed he has not been privy to recent, classified war games, but vowed to “dive into that immediately so I can better understand the threat and what we need to do to match that threat.”
Pressed later in Tuesday’s hearing by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) on whether it is “vital” for the United States to maintain the ability to defeat a Chinese takeover of Taiwan and whether the Navy should prioritize the possibility of a Chinese invasion of the island as it develops operational concepts, Del Toro replied “absolutely” to both questions.
If confirmed, Del Toro would lead the Navy at a time when naval power is expected to be at the forefront of U.S. competition with China.
But the service has been stretched thin by demands around the globe, exemplified in cases such as moving the Japan-based USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier to the Middle East to help provide cover during the Afghanistan withdrawal, leaving the supposed priority theater of the Pacific temporarily without a carrier presence.
Del Toro is a Cuban-born Naval Academy graduate whose 22-year Navy career included commanding the USS Bulkeley destroyer and deploying to the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm.
Since 2004, Del Toro has run a small IT firm he founded, SBG Technology Solutions, a Virginia-based government contractor.
The Navy has been struggling to meet congressional demands for at least a 355-ship fleet, and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday has said the Biden administration’s fiscal year 2022 budget request does not get the service on track to meet that goal.
Del Toro said at his confirmation hearing that he supports the 355-ship goal. Pressed on the fiscal 2022 budget, Del Toro stressed he has not been involved since he isn’t confirmed yet, but he pledged to fight for resources in the fiscal 2023 budget.
“As our nation shifts from a land-based strategy over the past 20 years fighting the wars and in the Middle East to a more dominant maritime strategy in the Pacific, particularly in our efforts to deter China, I do believe that our Navy and Marine Corps team will need additional resources to be able to fully field the combat effectiveness we will need as a nation to do so,” he said.
But Del Toro also stressed the importance of balancing ship procurement with investing in emerging technologies, an argument Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other administration officials have made as they defended the 2022 budget request.
“We can’t be fighting the wars of yesterday,” he said. “We have to fight the new wars of tomorrow that include cybersecurity and space and many other challenges that are presented. So if confirmed, I look forward to jumping into the fiscal year ’23 budget, and being able to address all these significant challenges in a serious way.”