Rep. Courtney Statement on House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Approval of Third Submarine Funding
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, issued the following statement today after the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense approved its Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 defense appropriations bill. Included in the bill is funding for two Virginia class submarines in 2020, as well as nearly $1.5 billion in advanced procurement funds needed to support construction of the third Virginia class submarine requested in the budget and planned for execution in 2023.
“For the last few years one of the most consistent and urgent concerns raised to Congress by our military leaders has been the looming gap in our attack submarine force structure in the coming decade,” Courtney said. “While Congress acted in 2017 to authorize the construction of additional Virginia class submarines over and above the two a year rate to answer these concerns, the administration, until this year, fiercely resisted efforts to put that authority to use. With the budget request we received this year and the bipartisan action today in the defense appropriations subcommittee, it appears that Congress and the administration are finally moving in the same direction.
“Over the course of this year, the Seapower Subcommittee has heard clear testimony from Navy officials that additional submarines are urgently needed in support of our nation’s security, that the industrial base is ready and able to support this effort, and that the work on this additional submarine will help smooth out the ramp up to the start of the Columbia ballistic submarine program. That message, and the backing of our colleagues on the defense appropriations panel, should leave no doubt about the value and need for this important investment this year,” Courtney added.
“Today is just the start of the long defense authorization and appropriations process, and there are still many steps ahead left to complete. As we started our review of the budget request this year, my staff and I have been in close contact with Chairman Visclosky and his team to ensure that our respective committees were on the same page about achieving the third submarine, and I thank him for the work he has done in this bill to support this important priority. As Chairman of the Seapower Subcommittee, I am proud that our panel has worked in a bipartisan way to get us to this point, and I look forward to addressing this important issue in our mark early next month.”
Courtney’s multi-year effort to expand new subcommittee construction over and above the current two-a-year rate. Last month, Courtney led 74 bipartisan members of the House in supporting additional submarine construction in the 2020 defense appropriations bill.
Background on Chairman Courtney’s Years-Long Push to Increase Virginia-class Submarine Construction to Expand Submarine Construction beyond the Two a Year:
- In December 2016, the Navy released a Force Structure Assessment (FSA) which increased the attack submarine requirement from 48 to 66. Upon the release of the FSA, Courtney stated that the assessment “makes sustaining the two a year build rate as we also build the Columbia-class SSBN a national imperative, while also taking advantage of every possible opportunity to add to that build rate.”
- In June 2017, the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, of which Courtney was the Ranking Member, included multiyear procurement authority for up to thirteen submarines in the next five-year Virginia-class block contract in its initial draft of the FY 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This language allowed the procurement of as many as three submarines per year between FY 2019-2023. This language was included in the final FY18 NDAA and signed into law in December 2017.
- In July 2017, Courtney offered an amendment to the FY 2018 defense appropriations bill on the House floor to mirror the FY 2018 NDAA language and specifically authorized procure of up to thirteen Virginia-class in the next five-year block contract covering FY 2019-2023. The amendment was adopted into the House bill. In January 2018, Courtney led a letter to House appropriators to ensure the authority’s inclusion in a final conference report and the language was successfully included in the FY18 Omnibus spending bill which was signed into law in March 2018.
- In April 2018, the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, of which Courtney was the Ranking Member, included in its initial draft of the FY 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorized funding levels necessary to increase Virginia-class submarine construction to three per year. Those funding levels also passed the full House in May 2018. The final FY 2019 NDAA, which was signed into law in August 2018, ultimately included language which originated in the House Seapower subcommittee requiring the next block contract to include priced options to increase production to three per year in certain years of the next five-year block contract covering FY 2019-2023.
- In June 2018, Courtney led a bipartisan group of 23 members in offering an amendment on the House floor to the FY 2019 defense appropriations bill to provide funding to increase Virginia-class submarine construction to three per year in certain years of the next five-year block contract covering FY 2019-2023. The amendment was defeated after Patrick Shanahan, then Deputy Secretary of Defense, sent a letter objecting to the amendment.
- In December 2018, Courtney joined in Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman in a letter to former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis urging him to request funding sufficient to increase submarine construction to three per year in the FY 2020 DOD budget request.
- In March 2019, the Department of Defense requested funding to procure three Virginia-class submarines as part of the FY 2020 President’s Budget Request. At that time, Courtney said that the “announcement is a welcome reversal from the Department of Defense which, just eight months ago, publicly opposed my efforts to increase fast attack submarine construction to three per year.”
- On March 26, 2019, Chairman Courtney held a Seapower Subcommittee hearing on the Navy’s budget request for 2020. During their testimony, Navy witnesses told Courtney that the request for a third Virginia class submarine is executable, can be supported by the industrial base, and helps the ramp up to the start of the Columbia class.
- During an April 10, 2019 hearing in the House Armed Services Committee, Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson told Courtney that “with respect to our greatest gap between the war fighting requirement and current inventory, there's no greater need than the attack submarine fleet ...It's a--it's a wide gap and it's getting wider. So, every single submarine counts against closing that gap.”
- In April 2019, Courtney led a letter to the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee leadership in support of funding for the third Virginia class submarine, with a bipartisan coalition of 74 Members of Congress co-signing the letter.