Courtney Statement On Committee Passage Of 2018 Defense Authorization Bill
WASHINGTON, DC --- Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02) made the following statement after voting for the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act in the House Armed Services Committee early this morning:
“Since I first came to Congress, I have worked hard on a bipartisan basis to grow our submarine fleet and respond to the undersea needs of our Navy and our nation. Whether it was doubling submarine production in 2007, or passing the authority needed to enact the largest shipbuilding contract in American history, I have been proud to lead the way in pushing for the funding and support needed to grow our submarine force and invest in our industrial base. As ranking member of the seapower subcommittee, I have helped keep these issues front and center in the debate over our defense budget priorities.
“This bill continues that effort, and responds to three years of strategic analysis by the Navy and Congress as well as a chorus of testimony from our top military commanders stationed overseas that we need more attack submarines, as fast as possible, to meet growing demands around the world. Building on the current two a year production rate of Virginia class submarines, this measure helps the Navy to go even higher in the next block contract by authorizing up to 13 attack submarines between 2019 and 2023. We have laid out an aggressive but realistic plan to build as many as three submarines a year for the first time in decades, and I look forward to continuing to work with my committee colleagues, the shipyards and the Navy to make this a reality.”
Courtney is the ranking member of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee which oversees Naval shipbuilding and submarine construction. He first highlighted the expanded submarine production authority he helped to craft during subcommittee consideration of the defense bill last week.
Key Highlights of the bill:
Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes $6.2 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. The measure also includes multiyear procurement authority for 13 Virginia-class attack submarines for the next five years at a minimum rate of two submarines per year and a possible three submarine build rate in 2020, 2022, and 2023. To support this increased production rate, the mark authorizes $2.9 billion in advanced procurement funds, $943 million more than the budget request, to prepare for the increased work.
Columbia Class Submarine – fully supports the $1.9 billion requested for the development and design of Columbia class submarine, which will replace our fleet of Ohio-class SSBNs. Of the total, about $1 billion is authorized in research and development, $843 million in shipbuilding funds to support continued detailed design of the submarine, and other development efforts through the Office of Naval Reactors in the Department of Energy.
National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund – The measure continues Courtney’s ongoing efforts to support and expand the NSBDF to provide the Navy with a greater range of tools to manage the construction of the new submarine. Specifically, the bill expands “continuous production” authority providing in last years NDAA to include a greater range of components. The bill also authorizes nearly $90 million to utilize two authorities Courtney worked to include in NSBDF: continuous production of missile tubes and advanced construction activities on the first Columbia class boomer, SSBN-826.
Submarine Maintenance – the bill includes report language reflecting Courtney’s serious concerns with the Navy’s management of its ship and submarine maintenance workload. Congressman Courtney has raised these concerns in committee and in discussions with the Navy as it has seemingly moved away from the “one shipyard” policy in recent years. In particular, the language notes the impact on the USS Boise, a submarine that can no longer operate undersea due to an extended delay in its repair availability in the public shipyards, and the need to fully utilize private sector shipyard capacity to address submarine maintenance shortfalls. The language requires the Navy to develop a comprehensive plan to eliminate the maintenance backlog, including more fully utilizing capacity at private sector shipyards like Electric Boat.
Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement
Joint Strike Fighter –authorizes 87 F-35 aircraft, 17 more than the budget request.
Long Range Strike Bomber – 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, five more than the budget request.
CH-53K – supports continued development of the new Marine heavy lift helicopter, as well as the procurement of four aircraft.
KC-46A Tanker – authorizes 17 KC-46A tanker aircraft, two 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 $147 million for additional upgrades for engines, propellers and other systems on the aircraft.
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.
Pay Raise – provides a 2.4% pay raise for the military
Security Clearances – the notes the committee’s strong concerns with the ongoing backlog in processing of security clearances for members of the defense industrial base. Courtney recently raised this issue with Navy officials, noting the growing delays in processing security clearances at Electric Boat and other areas of the defense industrial base. The language requires the Department to provide the Committee with an update on efforts to shorten the security clearance approval process.
DOD Impact Aid – authorizes $50 million for the DOD supplemental impact aid program, which provides support to communities like Groton with high proportions of military children in their schools. Courtney led a bipartisan letter in support of this program [link to letter]. The DOD Impact Aid 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.