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Chairman Courtney Statement on the 2021 Shipbuilding Budget

February 10, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, issued the following statement on the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 shipbuilding budget request.

“The President’s shipbuilding budget is not a 355-ship Navy budget. As Chair of the Seapower Subcommittee, I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the President’s budget, it is dead on arrival. This weak, pathetic request for eight ships – of which two are tugboats – is not only fewer ships than 2020, but fewer ships than the Navy told us last year it planned for 2021. At $19.9 billion, this request is nearly 17 percent lower than current funding levels and truthfully proposes just six combatant vessels – the lowest level in a decade. It’s impossible to square this plan with the Administration’s National Defense Strategy and its claim that it supports a 355-ship fleet.

“It is the worst-kept secret in Washington that last-minute maneuvering led to the shipbuilding budget being robbed to pay for other pet projects by the Office of Management and Budget. Growing the fleet – and funding the investments necessary – is either a priority for the Administration or it’s not.  Unfortunately, the Defense Department leadership was unable to withstand the pressure to use the shipbuilding account as a piggy bank, even as Navy leaders have been outspoken in their concern about getting the support they need to fund our shipbuilding priorities. That sends a troubling message to those of us who have worked on a bipartisan basis in Congress to grow our fleet.

“Included in the late-breaking reduction in shipbuilding is the elimination of one Virginia class submarine, which is particularly at odds with our national security priorities. Year after year, Congress has heard from Navy leaders, combatant commanders and experts about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity. They have urgently warned us that we need more submarine construction, not less, in order to mitigate the nearly 20 percent reduction in the fleet we presently face within this decade. That’s why we worked so hard to achieve and sustain the two a year build rate since 2011. Deviating from that plan now makes no sense, and I am confident we will address this incoherent decision in the 2021 defense bill.”

Last week, Chairman Courtney and Ranking Member Rob Wittman wrote to Defense Secretary Mark Esper to re-iterate the strong and bipartisan Congressional expectation that two Virginia class submarines would be included in the 2021 budget request. Click here to read that letter.

“Thankfully we are at the start of the budget process, and this proposal will receive close and bipartisan scrutiny in the months ahead,” Courtney added. “I am proud of the record that the Seapower Subcommittee has earned for its history of bipartisan cooperation in shipbuilding – and expect that trend to continue as we make sense of the budget we received today.”

Shipbuilding Background:

  • Under the President’s FY20 budget, the Navy planned $23.5 billion to procure 10 ships in FY21: a Columbia SSBN, 2 DDG-51 destroyers, 2 Virginia class submarines, 2 frigates, an oiler and a tug. This would be 8 combatants and 2 support vessels. 
  • The FY21 budget submitted today requests $19.9 billion for just 8 ships – $3.6 billion, or 15%, less than was planned in the FY20 budget and $4.1 billion, or 17%, less than the $24 billion approved by Congress for 2020.  
  • Of the 8 ships requested in 2021, six are considered combatant vessels and two are support/auxiliaries. According to an analysis by Chairman Courtney's office, this request, if enacted, would represent the lowest procurement of combatant vessels since FY2010.  
  • Recent media reports indicate that the department shifted money from shipbuilding to support last-minute and unplanned increases for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  

Submarine Background:

  • Congress has made its direction to the department to budget for two Virginia-class submarines in FY21 absolutely clear. The House-Senate conference report for the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (PL116-92) states that:

The Navy has recently proposed a revised acquisition strategy with 9 Virginia-class submarines procured in fiscal years 2019 through 2023, with options to procure additional ships over that period. The conferees priority is to ensure the Navy fully preserves a plan to procure 10 Virginia-class attack submarines, nine of which include the VPM, and expects the Navy to budget accordingly in their fiscal year 2021 budget submission. Therefore, the conferees are providing the necessary additional Virginia-class advance procurement (AP) and procurement funds, including the AP funds needed to procure two submarines in fiscal year 2021, as submitted in the fiscal year 2020 budget as well as the 30-year shipbuilding plan.

  • The conference specifically authorized $200 million in advanced procurement to support procurement of two submarines in fiscal year 2021. This is in addition to prior-year funds already authorized and appropriated for the two planned 2021 submarines.
  • The final conference report for the FY20 NDAA passed through Congress with strong bipartisan support, passing the House 377-48 and the Senate 86-8.
  • The FY2020 Consolidated Appropriations Act (PL 116-93) adopted this position as well, providing $200 million in advanced procurement to support two submarines in 2021. That measure passed with broad support in Congress, 280-138 in the House and 83-11 in the Senate.