Courtney Statement on Release of Senate Defense Appropriations Bill Without Full Funding for Restoration of Second 2021 Virginia Class Submarine
Norwich, CT – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, released the following statement after the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense released its draft Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 defense appropriations bill. The bill released today provides $472 million in partial funding for construction of the second Virginia-class submarine in FY21, while the House-passed NDAA and defense appropriations measures would fully fund the effort.
“Over the last ten years, sworn testimony before the Congress from combatant commanders, outside defense experts and Navy leadership has been unanimous—the Navy needs more submarines,” Chairman Courtney said. “The Trump Administration's last-minute and uninformed decision to remove a second 2021 Virginia class submarine from the budget this year capsized the two-per-year program of record for Virginia submarines that has been supported by Congress since 2011. Last July, the House took decisive action to reverse that decision, and fully support the Navy’s top 2021 unfunded priority—restoring the submarine that was axed.
“The Senate plan released today does not fix the problem,” Courtney continued. “It’s proposed partial funding in 2021 is unworkable given the shipyard’s schedules in future years for the Virginia and Columbia programs. Over and over again, Navy leaders such as Assistant Secretary Geurts and CNO Michael Gilday have testified at Committee that the best way to feasibly build this submarine is to fully fund it in 2021. The House NDAA and Defense Appropriations did the hard work of paying for this priority within the 2021 budget caps, and passed these bills on the floor of the full House—something which has not occurred in the Senate, even at the Committee level.
“As we continue our NDAA conference negotiations and work towards a final spending bill, I will continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and the Capitol to underscore the urgency of this issue for our navy and our nation.”
Over the last month, several organizations have expressed their strong support for fully funding the restoration of the second 2021 Virginia class submarine:
- Navy League of the United States: “While we understand the intent of the Senate’s choice to authorize advanced procurement funding only, we are concerned by several outstanding issues. First, we cannot predict the budget outlook for the coming years with any certainty, and funding this hull may be difficult with the current economic outlook. Now is the time to provide these funds, not later.”
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers: “The restoration of funding for this second submarine would provide the Navy with the resources it needs to continue rebuilding our nation’s dwindling fleet of fast-attack submarines, bolster our domestic industrial base, and create high-quality jobs in the U.S. shipbuilding industry.”
- International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers: “The procurement authorization for an adequate number of Virginia-class submarines strengthens our defense capabilities, the American industrial base, and the nationwide supply chain capabilities that drive domestic employment. The non-procurement of the second Virginia-class submarine potentially affects the future efforts of the Columbia-class sub.”
The President’s budget request included $4.2 billion for the Virginia class submarine, which included only one Virginia class submarine in 2021. While the House-passed authorization and appropriations bills support full restoration of a second 2021 submarine in line with the Navy’s top unfunded requirement, the Senate NDAA includes only $472 million above the request, for a total of $4.6 billion, for long lead materials for a future additional submarine.
The FY21 budget requested one Virginia-class submarine, breaking the two-per-year build rate that has been in place since 2011. Since 2018, Congress has allocated $1.1 billion for the second submarine — including an additional $200 million just last year to support the sustained two-per-year build rate — and in language approved in the 2020 NDAA, which directed the Navy to submit a budget that supports a two-submarine budget in 2021.
On a bipartisan basis, Congress has panned the proposal to eliminate the second submarine.
The Navy’s unfunded priority list ranked the fully funded restoration of the second 2021 Virginia-class submarine as the service’s top priority.
In March, Courtney led 111 members in urging the House Appropriations Committee to support restoration of the second submarine. The letter notes that "The proposal to request one attack submarine is contrary to the National Defense Strategy, the needs of our combatant commanders, and a decade of Congressional action in support of a steady two-a-year build rate.” The 112 members that joined this request represent 32 states, over 14,000 suppliers, and over $10 billion in manufacturing and support activity in the submarine supply chain.
In testimony before the House and Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Department and Navy leaders stated that the submarine was subject to late-stage funding shifts, and that they were not involved in the decision to eliminate this submarine from the budget. In response to questioning from Chairman Courtney, Chief of Naval operations Admiral Michael Gilday stated that “If you asked me, if I could give you another ship today, what would it be? It would be a Virginia-class submarine.”
Navy acquisition chief James Geurts affirmed to Chairman Courtney the readiness of the industrial base to support the second 2021 submarine, telling the subcommittee that “I’m confident that they can execute the ship.” In response to questioning from Chairman Courtney, Secretary Guerts told the Seapower Subcommittee that “This is the year – I would say we need to either add that ship in this year, or then we’ll just have to work on that at the start of Block VI."
On March 5, Courtney questioned Assistant Secretary of the Navy James F. Geurts about the submarine budget. After confirming the Assistant Secretary’s confidence in the shipbuilders at EB, Chairman Courtney focused his questioning on the budget proposal’s potential impact on the Columbia-class submarine program. In response, he testified that “I think submarine construction is very sensitive to cadence. And the number one thing we can do is stability, and get on a cadence...If we cut short, and have a large gap at the end of Block V before having Block VI move in and Columbia start up, that will be a risk to execution not only in Virginia but in Columbia.”