Courtney Statement on House Passage of Defense Bill Boosting Submarine Production to Three a Year
(Washington, DC) - Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, made the following statement after voting for the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The FY19 NDAA is fully compliant with spending caps required by the Bipartisan Budget Act that was signed into law in February. The measure was passed with a large bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives by a vote of 351-66.
“While this bill contains many important provisions for Connecticut, the addition of $1 billion above the budget request to set us on the path to building three submarines per year in 2022 and 2023 stands out as major development for our region and our nation,” said Courtney. “This bill encapsulates my bipartisan work to respond to the repeated calls made our military commanders for additional submarines to support our national security goals. Last year, the NDAA included the authority I authored to allow the Navy to buy up to 13 submarines in the next five-year “block” contract. Unfortunately, the President’s budget request this year included plans to build only ten submarines in the next contract, falling far short of both the authority provided last year and the Navy’s own force structure requirements.
“Navy officials have recently testified that they are finally exploring the option to build more submarines using the authority provided in last year’s bill. This NDAA seizes on the unique opportunity we have this year to add more desperately-needed submarines into the plan – and I will continue to work to ensure that that the Trump Administration, Congress and the Navy take full advantage of the support provided in this bill to grow our undersea fleet.
“This bill also includes a broad array of important reforms to improve our military’s effectiveness and readiness. It improves Navy training and organization. It provides additional funds to modernize National Guard equipment. It authorizes a new program to invest in our defense communities. It improves oversight of opioid use in the military. Finally, it gives our servicemembers a well-deserved pay raise.”
Key provisions that Courtney championed in the 2019 NDAA:
Three Attack Submarines in 2022 and 2023 – The bill adds $1 billion above the Administration’s budget request for long lead-time materials, supporting a third Virginia-class submarine in each of fiscal years 2022 and 2023. In February, the Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan identified additional shipyard capacity in 2022 and 2023, the years between the construction of the first two Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. This funding builds on language which Courtney included in last year’s NDAA which authorized the Navy to procure up to 13 submarines in the next block contract currently under negotiation.
Virginia-class Fast Attack Submarines – authorizes a total of $8.1 billion for Virginia-class submarine procurement, including two Virginia-class submarines in 2019.
Columbia-Class Ballistic Missile Submarines – fully supports the $3.0 billion requested for the development and design of the Ohio Replacement submarine, with an additional $150 million added for development of the supplier base. Continued development and design work authorized to the requested $527 million.
Pier Construction at New London Submarine Base — the bill includes planning and design funding for future Navy military construction projects. The Navy testified to Courtney in a Readiness subcommittee hearing last month that it plans to use a portion of those funds this year to prepare for future pier modernization and construction at Submarine Base New London. These projects will ensure the base has sufficient pier capacity for future Block V Virginia class submarines, which will be more than 80 feet longer than the current submarine.
Navy Shipbuilding -- Overall, the committee’s bill authorizes 13 battle force ships, 3 more than the number requested by the Administration. The bill authorizes the procurement of including two Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 Arleigh Burke destroyers, three Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), two T-AO 205 oilers, one Expeditionary Sea Base (ESB), and one T-ATS towing, salvage, and rescue ship. In addition, the mark includes authorization for one additional Ford-class aircraft carrier, allowing the Navy to pursue a two-carrier buy. This approach, supported by Courtney, could save taxpayers billions of dollars in procurement costs.
Academic Partnerships for Undersea Research – authorizes $20 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.
2017 Mishaps in the Pacific – the bill builds on the oversight work of the Seapower and Readiness subcommittees, on which Courtney serves, and includes a number of provisions aimed at addressing Navy readiness challenges following the incidents involving the USS Fitzgerald, USS John S. McCain, USS Antietam, and USS Lake Champlain in 2017. These include provisions that limit the amount of time a ship can be forward deployed overseas, reform of command and control relationships, optimization of Navy inspections and crew certifications, and surface warfare training and career paths.
Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement in Connecticut
Joint Strike Fighter – fully authorizes the Administration’s request of $10.6 billion for 77 F-35 procurement and includes additional flexibility to procure additional aircraft within the authorized amount if production savings are found. It also includes $100 million in additional funding for spare parts to improve the readiness of our new F-35 squadrons.
Long Range Strike Bomber – fully supports the requested $2.3 billion for continued development of the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber, which will be powered by Pratt & Whitney engines.
Blackhawks – authorizes $1.2 billion for 54 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, including an additional 5 aircraft above the Administration’s request for the Army National Guard.
CH-53K – authorizes $1.1 billion for the new Marine heavy-lift helicopter, the procurement of 8 aircraft, and $327 million for continued research and development.
Combat Search and Rescue Helicopter – supports the budget request of $1.1 billion for procurement 10 aircraft and continued development of the HH-60W Air Force search and rescue helicopter.
KC-46A Tanker – authorizes $2.0 billion for 12 KC-46A tanker aircraft. Establishes a floor of 479 air refueling tanker aircraft in the Air Force inventory, subject to the results of a new Mobility Capability and Requirements Study.
VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – supports the Administration’s request for $649 million for procurement of 6 aircraft and continued development of the next-generation presidential helicopter as well as $24 million for upgrades in support of the existing Presidential Helicopter program.
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.
Other Notable Provisions
BRAC – Does not authorize a base closing round.
Military Pay Raise – provides a 2.6% pay raise for the military, in line with a statutory requirement to keep pace with private sector wage growth.
Base Access for Gold Star Families – The bill ensures that the spouses and dependent children of servicemembers killed in action have access to military bases for memorial events, visit gravesites, and obtain services to which they are entitled. It also extends commissary and exchange benefits to Gold Star spouses and dependent children.
Defense Community Infrastructure Program – Authorizes $100 million for a new 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.
Firearms – Improves crime reporting by requiring the Department of Defense to establish a centralized oversight system to ensure criminal data is transmitted to the FBI database preventing the purchase of a firearm.
Opioids – Requires the Department of Defense to establish a prescription drug monitoring program and share information with state prescription drug monitoring programs in order prevent opioid abuse within the military.
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. The bill does NOT include a proposal which Courtney opposed to divert impact aid to a voucher-like system.
Procurement Technical Assistant Program – The bill follows a Courtney request to increase support for Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACs), which help small businesses jump through the hoops and check all the boxes in order to do business with the Department of Defense. The bill increases authorized funding by nearly 30% and reduces the burden on PTACs to find matching local funding.
Imminent Danger Pay – The bill includes two provisions authored by Courtney to ensure that our servicemembers who serve in dangerous locations around to world receive Imminent Danger Pay. Courtney’s provision requires the Secretary of Defense to make a determination within 90 days when a combatant commander determines that his servicemembers are in danger and deserve Imminent Danger Pay. This provision responds to a situation in which soldiers in Niger waited more than seven months before the Department of Defense finally agreed to provide Imminent Danger Pay, months after four servicemembers were tragically killed.
Amateur Radio Parity Act – The committee unanimously adopted a Courtney amendment to add the text of the Amateur Radio Parity Act to the NDAA. The Amateur Radio Parity Act would require the FCC to modify existing regulation to ensure amateur radio operators are not unreasonably restricted in where they can raise antennas, similar to protections offered to satellite dish owners. Amateur radio operators play an important role in ensuring the military and first responders have access to communications in extreme circumstances. Many amateur radio operators participate in the Army and Air Force’s Military Auxiliary Radio System (MARS) program, in which they contribute their radio network as a backup to military communications networks to relay operational messages, base communications, and other important functions.