The House this week overwhelmingly rejected an amendment proposed by Representative Joe Courtney that would have allocated an additional $1 billion within the Defense appropriations bill to the Navy to allow for the service to begin ordering three Virginia-class submarines a year starting in 2022.
The amendment was supported by the entire Connecticut delegation but failed, 144-267. The $675 billion defense spending bill was later approved 359-49 with the entire Connecticut delegation in support. The broader bill includes millions in funding for Connecticut defense contractors including Electric Boat, Sikorsky and United Technologies.
Courtney argued that the additional “build rate” is needed to meet what Admiral Harry Harris of the Pacific Command and General Curtis Scaparrotti of the European Command have said in testimony before Congress is their “number one unfilled priority.”
“The fleet has 52 subs. The two per-year build rate in this bill will result in a drop to 42 submarines in 2028,” Courtney said, “because subs are aging out faster than the two-per-year build rate can replace.”
Congress, he said, needed to add the funds now as the next 5-year block contract is being negotiated, which will determine the Nation’s submarine construction until 2023. The Virginia-class submarines are built by Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and Huntington Ingalls in Newport News, Va.
While Courtney’s amendment had the backing of House Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman of Virginia, it was opposed by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan who said the change would add $6 billion to shipbuilding costs over time.
House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Kay Granger, R-Texas, opposed the amendment citing Shanahan’s concerns that the request would shift funds away from other critical Navy and Air Force programs.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense sent a letter detailing the harmful effects this amendment has on multiple critical National Defense Strategy programs,” she said. “These are must-have programs, like the DDG 51 guided-missile destroyer, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, the Global Hawk, and the TAO fleet oiler, just to name a few.”