The House gave a thumbs-up this week to a final version of a $716 billion military authorization bill for the coming fiscal year, passing the bill 359 to 54 with the entire Connecticut delegation in favor.
The bill now heads to the Senate for an up-or-down vote that could come in the next few weeks. If approved, it would be the first time in two decades that Congress completed work on a National Defense Authorization Act before the October start of the fiscal year.
Congress, however, is not as close to completing work on the defense appropriations bill, which actually provides the funding for military programs.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd, spoke in favor of the NDAA during Thursday floor debate — praising the work of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces that has made it possible for two Virginia-class submarines to be constructed annually with the potential for three in outlying years.
“The important provisions in this bill showcase what Congress can accomplish when we collectively choose to work with our colleagues across the aisle and operate the committee process like a trusted, well-oiled machine,” he said.
Courtney is the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee and has championed increasing the production of Virginia-class submarines — a benefit to Electric Boat in Groton.
“Over the last year, my committee has heard the relentless drumbeat of anxiety and concern about the looming shortfall in our attack submarine fleet. Without timely action by Congress, the Trump administration, and the Navy, the fleet will fall to just 42 submarines within the next decade,” Courtney said. “At that reduced capacity, our military commanders will be left without the undersea capabilities they have made clear that they desperately need. While the president’s budget request this year only planned on building ten submarines in the next contract, Navy officials have made it clear that the capacity exists to build more than that over the next five years.”
U.S. Rep. John Larson, whose district includes the East Hartford headquarters of Pratt & Whitney, praised the final NDAA bill saying it would “continue the growth of Connecticut’s thriving defense manufacturing ecosystem while bolstering our military and national security.” He noted that the nation’s defense programs support hundreds of suppliers and over $1.7 billion in economic activity for Connecticut.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, also applauded the House vote and pledged to back the bill in the Senate.
“I am especially pleased that this year’s NDAA authorizes more than $26.5 billion in defense contracts that will benefit Connecticut,” Blumenthal said. “I will continue to ensure that Connecticut receives strong support and significant funding to enhance national security and invest in jobs for Connecticut residents, and I look forward to voting on final passage of this essential legislation and sending it to the President’s desk.”
Connecticut’s defense manufacturers – including Pratt & Whitney in East Hartford and Sikorsky Helicopter in Stratford would continue to see major work from the Pentagon under the bill.
Here’s what Courtney has highlighted:
• Virginia-class Submarines — authorizes $7.6 billion for the procurement of two Virginia-class submarines and advance procurement for future submarines. The measure also includes a requirement that the Block V contract currently under negotiation between the Navy and Electric Boat include priced options for additional, third submarines in years 2022 and 2023, beyond the ten planned currently.
• Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines — authorizes $3.2 billion for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine and fully funds continued research and development at $527 million.
• Pier Construction at New London Submarine Base — authorizes planning and design funding for future Navy military construction projects.
• Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research — authorizes $20 million to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea vehicle technology, such as the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island.
• Joint Strike Fighter powered by Pratt & Whitney engines – authorizes more than $10 billion for 77 F-35 procurement, and includes flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found. It also includes $92 million in additional funding for spare parts to improve the readiness of our new F-35 squadrons.
• Long Range Strike Bomber — fully supports the requested $2.3 billion for continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
• Blackhawks – Authorizes $1.1 billion for the procurement of 54 Blackhawk helicopters, $85 million and five aircraft above the requested level, to provide additional resources the Army National Guard.
• CH-53K — authorizes $1.1 billion for the new Marine heavy-lift helicopter, the procurement of 8 aircraft, and $327 million for continued research and development.
• Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter — supports the budget request of $1.1 billion for procurement of 10 aircraft and continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.
• KC-46A Tanker — authorizes $2 billion for 12 KC-46A tanker aircraft. Establishes a floor of 479 air refueling tanker aircraft in the Air Force inventory, subject to the results of a new Mobility Capability and Requirements Study.
• VH-92A Presidential Helicopter — supports the Trump administration’s request for $649 million for procurement of 6 aircraft and continued development of the next-generation presidential helicopter, $24 million for necessary modifications to the existing fleet, and $245 million in associated research and development.
• C-130H Modernization — authorizes $129 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the president’s request.