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Courtney Statement on 2018 Defense Authorization Conference Report

November 8, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC -- Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, hailed the completion of the conference report to the Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. As a conferee and senior member of the conference committee, Courtney prioritized programs and proposals important to our nation’s seapower and to Connecticut.

“I am proud that once again, the House Armed Services Committee has worked across the aisle to produce a thoughtful agreement that invests in our nation’s defense. Not many committees these days can point to bipartisan action and regular order - let alone a full conference agreement. The leaders of our committee, Chairman Thornberry and Ranking Member Smith, as well as my partner on the seapower subcommittee, Chairman Rob Wittman, deserve high marks for setting the right tone to get this year’s bill done.

“I am particularly pleased that this agreement addresses one of the most obvious and egregious shortfalls in the Trump Administration’s 2018 budget request - namely, the lack of any robust plan to increase our fleet size to 355 ships. As I noted when the budget was released earlier this year, the requests we received was a 278 ship budget for a 355 ship Navy. Working together, Chairman Wittman and I collaborated on a strong initial draft in the House and a strong final agreement today- one that puts our nation on the right path to a larger fleet.

“This agreement retains bold action to expand our attack submarine fleet--one of my highest priorities which started with our efforts in the subcommittee. With authority to go up to 13 submarines in the next contract being negotiated right now, and the additional funding authorization and flexibility provided, the Navy can start to address the looming shortfall in the fleet that will strain our submarine and fall short of our national security needs.

“All in all, this is a good agreement for our military, for the hard working men and women in Connecticut that support a strong national defense, and for our country.”

Key provisions that Courtney Championed in the 2018 NDAA:

Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the conference agreement authorizes 17 ships, nearly double the number that was requested by the Trump administration.

The additional battle force ships above the budget request,  including 1 destroyer, 2 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), 1 amphibious ship and 1 Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB). The agreement also authorizes an additional 4 non-battle force ships, including 1 heavy icebreaker for the US Coast Guard.  

Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes $5.9 billion for the Virginia class submarine program. Of the total, $3.3 billion supports two submarines in 2018, in line with the current block IV multi-year contract.  

  • Increasing Attack Submarine Build Rate --The measure includes multiyear procurement authority for up to 13 Virginia-class attack submarines for the next five years, three more than currently planned by the Trump Administration. This would allow the Navy to sustain the two a year rate at a minimum, and add a third boat in 2020, 2022 and 2023. To support this increased production rate, the mark authorizes $2.6 billion in advanced procurement funds, $700 million more than the budget request. The agreement provides flexibility that allows this money to be used in  support of additional submarine construction above the two a year build rate, economic order quantity authority to support construction across the block, or industrial base improvements for second and third tier suppliers.  

Ohio Replacement Submarine – fully supports the $1.9 billion requested for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine, ensuring that we continue to make steady progress on this foundational component of our nation’s security and a significant driver of economic recovery in eastern Connecticut. Of the total, about $1 billion is authorized in research and development, and $843 million in shipbuilding funds to support continued detailed design of the submarine.

  • National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund – The measure continues Courtney’s ongoing efforts to expand the NSBDF to provide the Navy with a greater range of tools to manage the construction of the new submarine. Specifically, the agreement retains Courtney’s efforts to expand “continuous production” authority provided in last year’s NDAA to include a greater range of components. According to Navy estimates, these expanded authorities will save an additional $383 million. This brings the total amount of estimated savings associated with the authorities included in the fund to almost $2 billion.
  • Construction authorities -- Within the total requested for the program, the report also authorizes the budget request of nearly $90 million to utilize two authorities provided by the NSBDF: continuous production of missile tubes and advanced construction activities on the first Columbia class boomer, SSBN-826. These authorities were provided in prior years and demonstrates the Navy’s interest and commitment to utilize the tools that the committee is providing.

Academic-industry partnerships for undersea dominance -- the agreement includes a proposal authored by Courtney to authorize $10 million in funding for the Navy to expand its partnerships with the academic sector. Earlier this week, the University of Connecticut and University of Rhode Island announced the creation of the National Institute for Undersea Vehicle Technology, a partnership to help expand innovative and groundbreaking research to help the Navy retain its edge in undersea dominance, which could be supported through this provision. Learn more here:

Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement

Joint Strike Fighter –authorizes 90 F-35 aircraft, 20 more than the budget request.  

Long Range Strike Bomber – fully supports the continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.

Blackhawks – authorizes 53 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, 5 more than the budget request.

CH-53K – supports continued development of the new Marine heavy lift helicopter, as well as the procurement of 4 aircraft.

Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter: Fully funds the budget request for continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.

KC-46A Tanker – authorizes 17 KC-46A tanker aircraft, 3 more than the budget request.

Connecticut National Guard

The “Flying Yankees” of the 103rd Airlift Wing of the Connecticut Air National Guard are in the final stages of completing transition to their new C-130H flying mission. That mission, which resulted from a plan that Congressman Courtney helped secure in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, assigns eight C-130H aircraft to Connecticut and ends years of uncertainty after the loss of its last flying mission, the A-10, in the 2005 base closing process.

C-130H Modernization – the measure continues Congressman Courtney’s efforts to accelerate the modernization of the C-130H cargo aircraft fleet. In addition to fully supporting the efforts to upgrade the avionics of the fleet to meet new airspace requirements, the bill authorizes $129 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft beyond the President’s request.  

Bradley Air National Guard Base Entry Control Point - Authorizes $7 million in military construction funds for construction of a new front gate and entry control point at the Bradley Air National Guard base. This project continues the unit’s transition to the new C-130H mission.

Other Notable Provisions:

BRAC – Does not authorize the Trump Administration’s request for a new base closing round in 2021.

Military Pay Raise – provides a 2.4% pay raise for the military, 0.3% more than the Trump administration had proposed, and in line with inflation projections.

Security Clearances – report language that Congressman Courtney sought to include in the Readiness Subcommittee notes the committee’s strong concerns with the ongoing backlog in processing of security clearances for members of the defense industry. The final bill contains language that goes even further, removing the Office of Personnel Management from all Department of Defense clearance investigations, and giving the Secretary of Defense authority to conduct background investigations for all the Department’s clearances. Given the sensitivity of working on nuclear reactors, Electric Boat was acutely impacted by delays in the current clearance process.

DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $50 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to communities with high proportions of military children in their schools. Courtney led a bipartisan letter in support of this program. Groton receives funding through this program. 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.

Treatment of Sexual Trauma for Reserve Personnel - retains an amendment Courtney offered during House consideration of the bill to expand sexual trauma counseling and treatment for members of the Reserve Components and National Guard.  Previously, counseling and treatment of military sexual trauma was only available to active duty service-members.  Congressman Courtney led an effort to include treatment for reserve members who suffer sexual trauma while serving on active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training.