Ranking Member Courtney’s Statement On The Passage Of The House Defense Bill
WASHINGTON, D.C. —Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, made the following statement after voting for final passage of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA):
“While I have a number of concerns with this bill that I would like to see addressed in conference, I ultimately chose to vote yes because it is a good bill for the defense priorities of our region, state, and nation as a whole,” said Courtney. “The bill contains a number of critical items for Connecticut, including full support for the robust submarine production that is driving the economic recovery in my district, restoring critical gaps in aircraft production levels, and further invests in our state’s National Guard C-130 Airwing known as the ‘Flying Yankees’.
“I remain concerned, however, about not only the budgetary framework underpinning this bill, but also about several additional provisions which we were not given the opportunity to fully debate and vote on during consideration on the floor. First, instead of addressing the budgetary needs of the country, both military and non-military, in a straight-forward way, the bill once again reflects a work around maneuver that avoids the compromise and action we all know is needed.
“Additionally, the bill also contains a provision that would grant defense contractors the ability to discriminate against other Americans, such as persons in the LGBT community, under the veil of religious freedom. An amendment was offered to remove this caustic language, but Republican leadership refused to even consider this change during debate. Additionally, in a bipartisan manner, the Armed Services Committee passed an amendment that would have required women to register with the Selective Service System. This was also removed without any debate and a proper vote on the House floor.
“As the ranking member of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee that played a key role in crafting the bill, I am proud that this bill makes a sizable investment in Connecticut’s industrial base while meeting the security needs of our nation. I look forward to working with my colleagues from both the House and Senate during the conferencing process where I hope the bipartisan nature of this bill will be preserved, and the highly controversial provisions will be removed.”
Submarine Development and Construction
Virginia Class Submarines – authorizes two Virginia class submarines for 2017, and advanced procurement for sustaining the two a year build rate in 2018 and 2019. Congressman Courtney worked in the bill to restore $85 million in advanced procurement funds that were removed from the budget to ensure that the industrial base can fully support the efficient preparation for the two submarines planned for 2019, the first year of the next multiyear contract and support the incorporation of the Virginia Payload module into the second 2019 submarine.
- Submarine Force Structure - Following consistent testimony Congressman Courtney heard from military leaders about the growing demand for undersea capabilities, the bill directs the Navy to conduct a full assessment of the ability of the industrial base to sustain the current two-a-year build rate not just in 2021 but also through the 2020’s. Sustaining the two a year rate would greatly mitigate the looming shortfall in attack submarines currently projected in the coming decade.
- Virginia Payload Module – authorizes continued development of the Virginia Payload Module (VPM) to ensure that our submarines are able to meet future undersea strike and payload delivery needs.
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.
- National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF) – continues the strong and bipartisan support for the NSBDF by shifting the $773 million requested for detailed design of the ORP into the fund, which Congressman Courtney helped create to ease the looming pressure on our nation’s shipbuilding priorities. The bill also adds to the range of authorities provides through the NSBDF by allowing for “continuous production” of components, like missile tubes, in the most cost-effective and optimal manner. A recent Navy report found that continuous production would save 25 percent of the cost of procuring missile tubes alone by buying them in a cost efficient and level loaded approach.
Aircraft & Helicopter Development and Procurement
F-35 Joint Strike Fighter –authorizes 74 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, 11 more than the budget request. Congressman Courtney worked to restore aircraft that were removed from the budget in order to meet the urgent needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps and ensure continued progress towards reducing the costs of these vital aircraft.
B-21 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 72 UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters, 36 more than the budget request. Congressman Courtney worked to restore these aircraft to meet the Army’s unfunded priorities, and ensure efficient production rates of this critical program as it enters into the next five year multiyear contract (2017-2021).
Combat Rescue Helicopter – fully supports the budget request for continued deployment of the new HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter, being built by Sikorsky, as well as five demonstration aircraft.
CH-53K – supports continued development of the new Marine heavy lift helicopter, as well as the procurement of the first two Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) aircraft.
VH-92A Presidential Helicopter – supports continued engineering and system integration efforts on the new presidential helicopter, as well as the acquisition of the remaining two System Demonstration Test Article (SDTA) aircraft.
KC-46A Tanker – continues the third year of Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) for new KC-46A tankers by procuring 15 aircraft in 2017. The bill also supports the ongoing developmental and operational testing of the new tanker.
Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) – the measure continues investment in the ITEP, which will develop new more efficient engines for the existing Army helicopter fleet. Sikorsky is participating in the development effort.
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 the 2016 NDAA, Congressman Courtney worked to provide the Air Force with the authority to move forward on its two-phase Avionics Modernization Plan (AMP) –increment one, to provide near term avionics upgrades needed to meet the looming domestic and international airspace restrictions to begin in 2020, and increment two focused on longer term upgrades to other systems to ensure the longevity of the aircraft well in to the future. The bill fully supports this program and invests in additional propulsion and propeller upgrades to further enhance the capabilities of the fleet.
- Small Air Terminal at Bradley – The bill authorizes the $6.3 million request in the President’s budget proposal for a military construction project to build a new Small Air Terminal at the Connecticut Air National Guard base at Bradley International Airport. The project is the last major infrastructure investment needed to finish the conversion to the new mission. Congressman Courtney and Congressman John Larson (CT-1) have urged the House Appropriations Committee to provide full funding for the project in the 2017 military construction and veterans affairs appropriations bill, which is pending action in the House.
Other Notable Provisions:
Connecticut’s Submarine Century – the bill includes the text of a resolution that Congressman Courtney and the Connecticut Congressional Delegation introduced commending “Connecticut’s Submarine Century” marking the 100 years of support the state, its citizens and the hard-working men and women at Electric Boat have provided to our submarine force.
Denies New BRAC round -- the bill denies the administration’s request to authorize a new base closing round in 2019. This marks the fifth year that the committee has rejected a new BRAC request.
Law of the Sea Treaty – the bill includes an amendment authored by Congressman Courtney to require the Secretary of Defense to report on the impact that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has on our nation’s security and strategic interests. Congressman Courtney has introduced a resolution calling on the Senate to heed the calls of military leaders and other experts to finally ratify the treaty.
Military Pay Raise – authorizes a military pay raise of 2.1%, an increase of half a percent above the budget request.