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Courtney Appointed to Panel Tasked with Negotiating the Final FY2021 Defense Authorization

November 18, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, was today appointed to the conference committee for the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets the federal budget for the Department of Defense for the upcoming fiscal year 2021. The bill authorizes billions of dollars of investments for the U.S. Navy, and for key defense manufacturing priorities in eastern Connecticut and throughout the state.

“In a year of absolute uncertainty, the Trump Administration’s original proposal to have America construct the fewest number of combatant vessels in over a decade, and to eliminate construction of an entire Virginia-class submarine in the process, remains one of the most puzzling aspects,” said Chairman Courtney. “The Seapower Subcommittee has direct oversight of U.S. Navy shipbuilding—our panel is tasked with providing our Navy with an unrivaled fleet that will meet our country’s national security needs, and the last-minute maneuvers that led to that submarine being removed from the plan defied everything we had heard in recent years about the need to increase our undersea capabilities and maintain a steady construction cadence.  

“We got the job done in the House, and we did it on a bipartisan basis. Our bill authorized the full dollar amount needed to construct both Virginia-class submarines in 2021—an authorization that’s not only important to meeting the needs of our U.S. Navy, but also to the health of our defense manufacturing sector in eastern Connecticut. We’ve got favorable winds at our backs as we move into conference to reconcile the differences between our bill and the Senate’s version, and I’ll keep working to find bipartisan support for this and other priorities to ensure that our region is well-positioned in the final product.”

The House-passed version of the NDAA, H.R. 6395, is the only defense authorization bill that includes full funding to restore construction of the second Virginia-class submarine in 2021—a vessel that was missing from the Trump Administration’s February budget proposal, and which the U.S. Navy quickly identified as its most important unfunded priority in 2021. Since then, Chairman Courtney has led the charge to build bipartisan support to restore it.  

On July 2nd, the House Armed Services Committee voted 56-0 to approve H.R. 6395, which included Chairman Courtney and the Seapower Subcommittee’s provision to authorize the full $6.8 billion for construction of two Virginia-class submarines—$2.6 billion more than the President’s budget request called for, and $2.1 billion more than was authorized in the Senate’s FY21 NDAA. On July 21st, the FY21 NDAA passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis. 

Key provisions that Courtney championed in the House’s 2021 NDAA  

Seapower and Projection Forces Priorities:

As Chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, Courtney has advocated for Navy, Air Force and maritime priorities important to Connecticut and the nation.

Virginia Class Submarine – The bill authorizes $6.8 billion for the Virginia class submarine program, an increase of $2.6 billion over the budget request that Courtney secured to restore a second submarine in 2021.  The Trump Administration requested just one submarine in 2021, breaking the steady two a year build rate that has been in place since 2011 and undermining efforts to address looming shortfalls in the submarine fleet. Navy leadership has listed the restoration of a fully funded second FY21 Virginia-class submarine as its top unfunded budget priority this fiscal year.  During hearings this year, Navy officials confirmed to Courtney that there is industrial base capacity to support the second submarine, that doing so reduces risk in the ramp up on Columbia construction, and that not restoring the submarine in 2021 will make it challenging to replace that submarine in a future year. Since 2018, Congress has allocated $1.1 billion for the second submarine.

Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – The bill authorizes $4 billion to initiate construction of the new Columbia-class submarine. This month, the Navy announced the award of $10.3 billion in contracting options for the first two submarines in the program to Electric Boat. The bill also includes Courtney’s provision to authorize incremental funding for these submarines within the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund, which will ensure the cost-effective and efficient construction of this important program.

Submarine Workforce and Development Training – Authorizes $20 million to support training programs to help support expansion of the skilled submarine workforce as the industrial base ramps up construction of new submarines. Courtney has strongly supported workforce development efforts in the region to support hiring at Electric Boat and the supply chain through programs like the Eastern Connecticut Manufacturing Pipeline.

Acceleration of Submarine Capabilities – Authorizes over $283 million for continued design improvements for future submarines, which includes an additional $23 million Courtney sought to expand development of future undersea capabilities. This funding would help sustain the design and engineering workforce at Electric Boat as the work on the Columbia and Virginia Payload Modules shifts from design to construction.

Long Range Strike Bomber – The bill fully supports the requested $2.8 billion for continued development of the B-21 Raider. Pratt & Whitney is a partner in the next-generation long range strike bomber program.

KC-46A Tanker – The bill authorizes $2.2 billion for 12 KC-46A tanker aircraft, which are powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

C-130H Modernization – The measure continues Congressman Courtney’s efforts to accelerate the modernization of the C-130H cargo aircraft fleet, like those flown by the Connecticut Air National Guard. In addition to fully supporting the efforts to upgrade and modernize the avionics of the fleet, the bill authorizes $136 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the President’s request.  The bill also includes Courtney’s language prohibiting proposed retirements of the tactical airlift fleet.

KMAX Unmanned Helicopter – The bill authorizes $7 million to continue development of unmanned logistics capabilities with the CQ-24A helicopter manufactured by Bloomfield-based Kaman Aerospace.

Navy Shipbuilding – Overall, the bill authorizes more than $22 billion to procure 9 new battle force ships, two more than the budget request, in. The budget requested one of the lowest levels of new ships in nearly a decade and did not include the long-range shipbuilding plan required by law to provide insight into future plans to grow the fleet. Courtney pressed Defense Secretary Mark Esper on his failure to abide by the law in a hearing earlier this year. The bill passed in committee includes language Courtney authored to restrict some funding for the Office of Secretary of Defense until the 30-year shipbuilding plan is delivered, and prohibits the retirement of any Navy vessel until the Secretary of Defense provides a Navy force structure assessment.

Recapitalization of our Domestic Sealift Capabilities – The bill includes several Courtney-led investments in the recapitalization of our domestic sealift and maritime response capabilities. These includes authorizing the purchase of additional used vessels to replace aging sealift ships but rejecting a Defense Department request to eliminate the requirement to initiate a domestic new build ship. The bill also again authorizes a new Tanker Security Program to address the alarming gap in at-sea logistics, authorizes the fourth National Security Multi-Mission Vessel and authorizes an increase in funding for the Maritime Security Program to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on our domestic shipping fleet.

Additional Courtney priorities included:

Rare Earth Minerals 
– Courtney passed an amendment that requires the Secretary of Defense to prioritize the acquisition of rare earth minerals materials from U.S. and allied sources ensuring the continued protection of our national defense supply chains. These types of minerals and materials are used in everything from cell phones to the joint strike fighter and a secured supply chain of these materials is of utmost importance to national security.

Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – The bill authorizes $10 million to support partnerships with academic institutions that conduct research on undersea unmanned warfare and energy technology, such as the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a collaborative program between the University of Connecticut and the University of Rhode Island. During debate on the bill, Courtney and Rep. James Langevin (D-RI) passed an amendment to increase funding for this effort from $5 million to $10 million.

Joint Strike Fighter – The bill provides $799 million for the procurement of 79 F-35s and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found and if prime suppliers remain on-schedule.

Blackhawks – The bill authorizes nearly $1 billion for 60 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, equal to the budget request, built by Sikorsky.

CH-53K – The bill authorizes $1 billion for procurement of 7 new CH-53K Marine heavy-lift helicopters, built by Sikorsky.

Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – The bill supports the Administration’s request for $973 million for procurement of 16 HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopters built by Sikorsky.

VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – The bill supports the Administration’s request for $610 million for procurement of 5 aircraft, which will be the next-generation presidential helicopter.

Ukraine – authorizes $250 million for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative.

DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $50 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to local school districts with high proportions of military children, including Groton public schools. This program is in addition to the primary Impact Aid program funded through the Department of Education, which does not fall within the jurisdiction of the House Armed Services Committee.

Other Notable Provisions

Renaming Confederate Military Installations
 – The bill includes a provision that Courtney cosponsored that would require the Department to begin the process of identifying and renaming military installations that currently honor political or military leadership of any armed rebellion against the U.S.

Limitations on Funds to Remove Active Duty Troops from Germany – The bill bars the Department from using any funds authorized by Congress to reduce the number of active duty troops stationed in Germany until DOD submits a report to Congress certifying that any reduction would not undermine the security of the U.S. or our allies in the region. 

BRAC – The bill does not authorize a base closing round.

Military Pay Raise – The bill provides a 3.0% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth.

Climate Change Resiliency – The bill requires DOD to consider the potential effects of climate change on military installations in current and future military construction projects to ensure responsible energy use and resilience against possible future extreme weather events and when fuel supplies are disrupted.

Defense Community Infrastructure Program – Authorizes $50 million for the program, allowing DOD to help states and local governments fund off-base infrastructure projects that support operations and the base community. Infrastructure improvements could include transportation projects, schools, first responder facilities, and utility projects.

Reduces the Environmental and Health Risks of Fluorinated Compounds around Military Installations – The bill includes several provisions which relate to PFAS, including a provision that mandates that the Department notify Congress when there has been an uncontrolled release of fluorinated firefighting foam (which contain PFAS) at military installations and would also require the department to survey and report on non-fighting agent technologies that will aid in phasing out the use of PFAS in fighting equipment.