U.S. Navy to Receive Largest Shipbuilding Budget Since President Reagan?
If the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower & Projection Forces subcommittee gets its way, the Navy will ramp up its shipbuilding in the fiscal year 2017 budget. It will also get a new carrier sooner than planned. The subcommittee is boosting funding to the Navy because of a resurgent Russia and increasingly aggressive China.
“The last eight years have shown that bowing down to bullies or ignoring them does not make them go away,” Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) said. “We need to make sure that when we have men and women from this country who are willing to stand up to them, that they have the resources they need to win that fight. Among those resources are the ships and planes necessary to win and come home safely.”
The subcommittee—which is chaired by Forbes—authorized a total shipbuilding budget of $20.6 billion. Of that total, $19.9 billion would go into shipbuilding and conversion (SCN) funding while an additional $773 million would go to the National Sea Based Deterrent Fund, which would be used to buy the new Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarine. According to Forbes’ office, the subcommittee authorized $2.3 billion more than the President’s budget request—and even accounting for inflation—which would be the most amount of money allocated to shipbuilding since President Ronald Reagan was in office.
In its markup, the subcommittee expressed that it wants the Navy to accelerate construction of aircraft carriers from one every five years to one every four years. To that end, the subcommittee wants to start construction of the as-of-yet unmanned CVN-81 in 2022—one year earlier than planed. “This twenty percent acceleration would increase carrier force structure and prevent a return to a 10-carrier force in the 2040s,” reads a statement issued by Forbes’ office.
To that end, the subcommittee is authorizing $263 million in advance procurement of parts for CVN-81. It is also authorizing the Navy to purchase parts for multiple aircraft carriers in an “economic order quantity.” That would mean that the service would be able to “block buy” components of CVN-80—Enterprise—and CVN-81. Meanwhile, the subcommittee has voted to deny the Obama Administration’s request to deactivate Carrier Air Wing 14 and a number of its constituent squadrons.
Under the subcommittee’s plan, naval aviation would receive a significant boost. The committee is authorizing the procurement of additional Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II strike fighters, which are on the Navy and Marine Corps’ unfunded requirement lists. The subcommittee is also fully funding the purchase of eleven Boeing P-8A Poseidon sub-hunters and six Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft. It’s also funding the development of the Navy’s new unmanned carrier-based aircraft refueling system.
The Navy’s surface fleet gets a boost too. Under the subcommittee’s plans, the service would procures ten major ships, which is three more than the Pentagon’s request. The Navy would buy two attack subs, two destroyers, two Littoral Combat Ships and one LHA. But the subcommittee also added $856 million to the budget to either accelerate procurement of the next-generation LX(R) amphibious ship or procure a thirteenth San Antonio-class amphibious ship (LPD-29). It also added money for an addition destroy and another LCS.
While the House Seapower subcommittee is being generous to the Navy, it remains to be seen if the legislation survives the full committee markup.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for the National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.