House Armed Services panel backs Biden’s Navy shipbuilding plan
The House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee’s portion of the new defense authorization bill hews closely to the Biden administration’s blueprint for warships and logistics aircraft.
The panel unveiled on Tuesday its portion of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act and plans to mark it up on Wednesday afternoon. Then, on June 22, the full committee is scheduled to hold its marathon annual markup to wrap up all its subcommittees’ marks into one measure, add the full committee’s changes and then report it to the House.
The Senate Armed Services Committee, meanwhile, plans to mark up its version of the bill next week.
The Seapower Subcommittee’s mark would mirror President Joe Biden’s request for eight warships, aides told reporters. Accordingly, it would authorize spending to procure two Virginia-class fast attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke class destroyers, a frigate, an amphibious transport dock ship, an oiler, and a towing, salvage and rescue vessel.
The aides generally declined to provide dollar amounts but did note that the mark would authorize $250 million in so-called advance procurement money to start buying another amphibious transport dock ship that would be fully funded in fiscal 2024.
Other ships requested by the Navy are not on the official list of requested or authorized new ships, because they are being funded in increments, rather than by providing virtually all of the money up front.
These other ships — which the NDAA is likely to approve at least in part, though that has yet to be announced — include a third year’s worth of procurement funds for the first of the new Columbia class of nuclear-missile submarines, which the Navy just announced will be dubbed the USS District of Columbia.
For fiscal 2023, the Navy wants $3.1 billion to finish building that first sub and another $2.8 billion for parts of future subs.
Also not listed as a new ship procurement — but a mammoth part of the budget nonetheless — is the administration’s proposed $2.5 billion in incremental funding for the next two Ford-class aircraft carriers and its $1.1 billion request to start incrementally funding the first ship in the America class of amphibious assault ships.
The total Navy shipbuilding request for fiscal 2023 is $27.9 billion.
The subcommittee mark would permit the Navy to retire all but five of the 24 ships the service had sought to decommission (one cruiser and four amphibious ships would have to stay in the fleet), aides said.
A decision on the nine Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships the Navy asked to retire in fiscal 2023 would be deferred until the full committee markup, they said.
The panel authorizes spending on not just ships but also aircraft that enable the services to project forces overseas.
As with the ship programs, the subcommittee gave the Pentagon leeway to retire many of the planes it has sought to put out of service in order to free up funds for other programs.
The panel would, for instance, permit the Air Force to retire eight C-130 cargo planes and 13 aging tanker aircraft.
The mark would authorize the Navy to sign contracts for some ships that have yet to all receive appropriations, instead of the standard practice of ordering only those ships that have netted appropriations. Such deals are permitted only on occasion and if allowed by Congress, with the goal generally to gain efficiencies from larger, predictable purchases.
Along those lines, the mark would authorize the so-called multiyear procurement of up to 15 destroyers and what is known as a block buy of 25 ship-to-shore connectors, which are hovercraft for amphibious landings. The mark would also enable the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration to order up to 10 sealift vessels.
The panel’s mark also would require that the Navy maintain in its fleet at least 31 amphibious ships.