After Successful Year-Long Effort, Courtney Welcomes Home Award of Contract to Construct Second Virginia-Class Submarine in 2021
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, issued the following statement today after the U.S. Navy officially awarded the contracting options for the tenth Virginia-class submarine in the historic Block V contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton and Huntington Ingalls Industry. The award comes following a 12-month-long saga in which Chairman Courtney worked successfully to reverse the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate construction of an entire Virginia-class submarine in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and in which Congress voted for the first time to overturn a veto from President Trump in order to pass the NDAA once and for all.
“The Navy’s announcement today of contract execution for the ‘option’ Virginia-class submarine—funded in last year’s NDAA and FY 2021 Omnibus budget—is the exclamation point on Congress’s efforts to protect our nation’s submarine fleet and industrial base,” said Chairman Courtney. “Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump White House sent Congress its 2021 budget that sought to eliminate this ‘option’ sub, which would have disrupted the two-per-year production cadence in the Virginia program that has been in place since 2011. To put it bluntly, that cut would have caused layoffs in New England and Virginia, as well as further decline in the Navy’s aging, shrinking fleet.”
“Starting in the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, Congress basically rewrote the budget tables for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan,” Chairman Courtney continued. “Our rewrite passed in the House both in the NDAA and Appropriations bills with overwhelming bipartisan votes, and was later adopted by the Senate in Conference Committee. It was even belatedly endorsed by the Trump budget director last November. Today’s award announcement will stabilize the program’s workforce, and keep recapitalization of the attack submarine fleet on track. Congratulations to the two shipyards that team up to build these platforms, and a big thank you to the professional staff on Capitol Hill that did the grunt work to help guide Congress and the Navy to today’s extraordinary and important announcement.”
The Seapower Subcommittee has jurisdiction over all U.S. Navy shipbuilding. Upon receiving the Trump Administration’s budget proposal in February 2020, Courtney immediately began working across the aisle to build bipartisan support for the full restoration of the second submarine—a vessel that the U.S. Navy identified as its most important unfunded priority for 2021. Today’s contract award was made possible by the final authorizations included in the 2021 NDAA and in the FY 2021 omnibus budget bill, and more specifically by Chairman Courtney’s work throughout the year-long defense and budget authorization processes to fully restore construction of this submarine.
Timeline of Chairman Courtney’s Work to Restore the Second Virginia-class Submarine in 2021
- February 10, 2020—The Trump White House submitted its annual budget request to Congress, including the President’s FY 2021 Shipbuilding Budget Request. The request called for the elimination of construction of an entire Virginia-class submarine in FY2021, and was submitted to Congress without the required 30-year shipbuilding plan from the Navy. Chairman Courtney labeled the request as “weak” and “pathetic,” and affirmed that it would receive close bipartisan scrutiny in the months ahead.
- February 12, 2020—Chairman Courtney and Seapower Subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Wittman (R-VA) wrote to then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to request transmittal of the 30-year shipbuilding plan as Congress worked to review the 2021 budget request for shipbuilding programs.
In their letter, Courtney and Wittman noted that President Trump’s FY21 budget requested the fewest combatant ships in over a decade—a request of only eight ships, two of which were tugboats—which would hinder the Navy’s goals of a 355-ship fleet. Click here to read more.
- February 20, 2020—The U.S. Navy submitted to Congress its list of priorities that were left unfunded in the White House’s budget proposal for FY 2021. The Navy listed restoration of the second FY 2021 Virginia-class submarine as its most important unfunded priority for this year.
- February 24, 2020—The non-partisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) released its official evaluation of the White House’s proposed shipbuilding budget request for FY 2021. The CRS analysis downgraded the Administration’s shipbuilding budget even further, and found that the White House had incorrectly listed an older vessel as a “new” vessel requested in 2021—bringing the actual number of new ships requested down to seven, from the paltry original eight.
- February 28, 2020—During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the FY21 defense budget request, Chairman Courtney questioned Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael M. Gilday about the proposed reduction in Virginia-class construction in 2021.
“Let’s face it,” Chairman Courtney said in the hearing, “the [operational plans] for our near-peer competitors, China and Russia, the attack submarines are really the tip of the spear in terms of what we need out there. And cutting that Virginia-class sub […] is at-odds with the National Defense Strategy when you drill down in terms of what real lethality is.” Click here to read more.
- March 5, 2020—In a hearing before the Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, Chairman Courtney pressed Assistant Secretary of the Navy James F. Guerts over the 2021 budget request to remove the second Virginia-class submarine. During Courtney’s questioning, the Assistant Secretary confirmed his confidence in the EB shipyard, and confirmed concerns over the impact elimination of the second Virginia-class submarine would have on other Navy priorities, like the Columbia-class submarine program.
Courtney: “We’ve confirmed that the two-a-year build rate is executable. The question is, then, if we lose that last sub in the Block V contract, which would be around 2023, which would be at the same time ramp-up is occurring, the fact is that it may add – that confluence of events may add risk to Columbia. Is that a correct way to view things?”
Geurts: “Yes sir. I think submarine construction is very sensitive to cadence. And the number one thing we can do is stability, and get on a cadence...If we cut short, and have a large gap at the end of Block V before having Block VI move in and Columbia start up, that will be a risk to execution not only in Virginia, but in Columbia.” Click here to read more.
- June 23, 2020—Chairman Courtney and the Seapower and Project Forces Subcommittee conducted legislative markup of their portion of the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Reversing the White House’s proposal to eliminate the second Virginia-class submarine was a key element of the Seapower Subcommittee’s portion of the NDAA.
“In particular, the mark corrects the hit to our critical shipbuilding industrial base and is aligned to the Navy’s actual requested priorities that were not included in last February’s budget submission,” Chairman Courtney said at the time. Click here to read more.
- July 2, 2020—The House Armed Services Committee voted to authorize the FY21 NDAA and pass it out of committee by a vote of 56-0. The HASC bill provided the full dollar amount needed to fully restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine in FY2021—a full authorization of $6.8 billion for the Virginia-class program.
- July 7, 2020—As the House Appropriations Committee worked to compile its comprehensive FY 2021 appropriations bill, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense released its draft FY 2021 defense appropriations bill. Included in the subcommittee’s plan was full funding to restore the second Virginia-class submarine in 2021. The Defense Appropriations Subcommittee’s legislation provided $6.8 billion to procure two SSN-774 Virginia-class submarines in 2021—exactly matching the level in the 2021 NDAA. Click here to read more.
- July 21, 2020—The House of Representatives voted on a bipartisan basis to pass its version of the FY 2021 NDAA, which included Rep. Courtney’s effort to fully restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine.
- July 23, 2020—The U.S. Senate voted to pass its version of the FY 2021 NDAA, which did not include full funding to completely restore the missing Virginia-class submarine.
The President’s budget request included $4.2 billion for only one Virginia-class submarine in 2021. The Senate NDAA included only $472 million above the White House’s original request, for a total of $4.6 billion for long lead materials for a future additional submarine. The House bill included the full $6.8 billion.
- July 31, 2020—the Courtney-led restoration of the second submarine was approved with full funding in the House’s final FY 2021 appropriations bill. Click here to read more.
- August 21, 2020—Rep. Courtney welcomed then-U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite to Groton for a tour of EB, and to witness the impressive work underway at the shipyard as preparations were underway for work on the next-generation Columbia-class submarine program.
“What Secretary Braithwaite saw today was a shipyard that is in the midst of an exciting generational change as it prepares for the ramp-up in work ahead—and he saw firsthand that they are up to the task,” Courtney said. Click here to read more.
- October 6, 2020—In a long-overdue preview of the DOD’s force structure plan, then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper and the Trump Administration acknowledged that the U.S. undersea fleet was dangerously small.
“If Secretary Esper is serious about boosting production, he could direct his department to support the House-passed authorization and funding levels for a second Virginia-class submarine in 2021 that reverses the Administration’s anemic shipbuilding budget,” Courtney stated. Click here to read more.
- November 10, 2020—Chairman Courtney issued a statement after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense released its draft FY 2021 defense appropriations bill. The Senate’s appropriation bill provided only partial funding for construction of the second Virginia-class submarine in FY 2021, not the full funding authorized by the House. Click here to read more.
- November 18, 2020—Chairman Courtney was appointed to the conference committee for negotiating the final version the FY 2021 NDAA.
- November 25, 2020—The federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is directed by the White House, officially reversed course, and announced their support for inclusion of full funding for the second Virginia-class submarine in the final FY 2021 NDAA and Budget authorizations.
“I’m pleased that the Trump Administration has finally recognized what the House of Representatives and the Department of the Navy already knew—the decision to fund a second Virginia-class submarine and to sustain the two-a-year build rate is in the best interest of our national security,” Chairman Courtney said. Click here to read more.
- December 2, 2020—Chairman Courtney issued a statement regarding President Trump’s threat to veto the bipartisan NDAA. Originally, President Trump threatened to veto the bipartisan NDAA unless lawmakers shoehorned the repeal of Section 230 of the federal communications code into the final bill. Click here to read more.
- December 4, 2020—The bipartisan, bicameral NDAA conference committee concluded their work, and issued the conference report to accompany the FY 2021 NDAA. The final conference report included Chairman Courtney and the Seapower Subcommittee’s effort to restore full funding for the construction of the second Virginia-class submarine.
- December 8, 2020—The House voted to pass the bipartisan conference report in strong bipartisan fashion, a vote of 335-78-1.
- December 21, 2020—The House voted to pass the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 133)—a bill that authorized both FY2021 appropriations to avoid a looming government shutdown, and that provided a new round of COVID-19 relief.
Included in the final bipartisan spending bill full funding to support Chairman Courtney’s effort to restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine.
- December 23, 2020—President Trump vetoed the bipartisan NDAA.
- December 28, 2020—Chairman Courtney joined the House of Representatives in voting to override President Trump’s veto of the FY 2021 NDAA.
- January 1, 2021—The U.S. Senate followed the House, and President Trump’s veto of the 2021 NDAA was officially overridden.
“We’re starting the New Year with a big win for our U.S. Navy and for eastern Connecticut—the President’s attempt to veto the bipartisan NDAA has officially been voted down, and construction of the crucial second Virginia-class submarine has once and for all been restored in 2021,” said Chairman Courtney. Click here to read more.
- March 19, 2021—The U.S. Navy officially awards the contract to construct the restored Virginia-class submarine to General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton and Huntington Ingalls Industry.