As a result of efforts led by Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Joe Courtney (D-CT), the House Armed Services Committee is poised to pass legislation today to prevent the Administration from cutting funds for the exceptional Virginia Class Submarines built by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Quonset, RI and Groton, CT. Consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which directs the military to continue its two-boat-per-year production level, follows action by the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Tuesday to allocate the funding necessary for the Navy to obtain them.
The military's recently released Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP) called for purchasing only one of the submarines in Fiscal Year (FY) 2014. While working on rectifying this cut in the NDAA, Langevin and Courtney also wrote to the Appropriations Committee responsible for defense funding in March, asking them to consider "alternative strategies that would sustain submarine construction at two a year in 2014 and through [the military's five year plan]."
"Last week's news that Electric Boat delivered the most recent Virginia Class Submarine 363 days ahead of schedule and $60 million under budget demonstrates the ability to achieve tremendous production efficiencies and cost savings in this program," said Langevin. "With the actions taken this week, we are all but assured that the measures necessary to prevent a cut will come to the House floor with broad support, and I look forward to continue advocating for them.
"It would be irresponsible to slow down production now, which would put at risk benefits already achieved and could increase the cost for taxpayers by $600 million because we will need these boats in the long term to meet essential needs."
In pushing for this legislation, Langevin has noted that the military's top leaders have affirmed this boat's vital role in our new national security strategy's focus on the Asia-Pacific region, where China is boosting its naval presence. In response to Langevin's concerns about the proposed cut, the leader of the Navy's Pacific fleet, Admiral Robert Willard, told the Armed Services Committee, "The Virginia class submarine is our newest, most formidable and provides increased capacities in some cases that we very much need."
The provision in the NDAA, the annual bill covering defense spending and programs, was drafted in the Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, on which Langevin and Courtney serve. It would permit production to continue with two submarines in 2014 despite current budget restrictions by including provisions that spread the costs over the multi-year process of building the boat.
First, the Navy would receive more than $700 million in advance procurement funding in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. Second, the bill allows for construction to be paid for using incremental funding, which gives the Navy the ability to pay in future years for parts not needed until after 2014. The bill adds the FY14 boat as a 10th ship in the block purchase, creating further efficiencies and creating more certainty for the submarine industrial base.
House Appropriations Committee Details
Meanwhile, the legislation approved by the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee includes advance procurement for two Virginia Class SSN-774 Attack Submarines in fiscal year 2014 as part of the $15.2 billion allocated in the bill for Navy ships.
Langevin had addressed the possibility of incremental funding with the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition, Sean Stackley, who first testified about using incremental funding in a March 29, 2012, hearing before the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
Langevin questioned Stackley about alternative funding options the Navy has considered for procuring the FY14 boat. Stackley said the "full funding" method utilized by the Navy required too much up-front cost to purchase the second boat; however, he said it cost the Navy significant long-term savings from the efficiencies gained by maintaining production at two boats per year.