Senate defense appropriators set aside billions for Navy coffers in its version of the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2015 spending plan, giving service leaders the green light to move ahead on key maritime and aviation priorities.
Lawmakers cordoned off $849 million to allow the Navy to begin refueling and modernization efforts on the USS George Washington aircraft carrier (CVN-73).
Another $1.4 billion was set aside by defense appropriators for procurement of 12 EA-18 Growler, the Navy’s premiere electronic warfare aircraft, in FY 2015. Of that Growler funding, $100 million will go specifically toward keeping the current fighter production line going, according to a committee statement issued Tuesday.
Earlier this year, House defense lawmakers elected to include 12 Growlers out of the 22 the Navy requested in its mark of the bill at $975 million.
Senate authorizers also set side $68.5 million to preserve the Growler line in their draft of the defense bill, including language to allow the Navy to spend up to $75 million to preserve the Growler line, should Senate appropriations bill green light that amount.
Growlers are integral to the service’s emerging Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) which blend sensors and weapons into a new construct for fighting a carrier strike group (CSG).
On the shipbuilding side, subpanel members also cordoned off $80 million for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program, to finance “long-lead parts to purchase the final ship of the block buy next year” according to the lawmakers’ statement.
The Navy funds were part of the subcommittee’s overall $549.3 billion defense spending bill approved on Tuesday. The draft bill includes roughly $490 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget and another $59.7 in war funds for Afghanistan and other ongoing U.S. military operations.
The subpanel’s total budget figures fall in line with the White House’s initial $550.7 billion request for defense spending, sent to Congress in February.
The full Senate appropriations panel is expected to take up the subcommittee mark, which $22 billion more than the FY’14 defense spending package, on Thursday.
The Navy and Pentagon had proposed forgoing the refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) work on the George Washington, opting to mothball the venerable carrier and cut the service’s carrier strike group down to 10.
But the move met stiff resistance on both sides of Capitol Hill, with House defense lawmakers opting to fund the RCOH work in their version of DOD’s spending plan.
Backers of the George Washington modernization argued nixing the ship from the fleet would violate federal law requiring an 11 carrier strike groups.
While the final version of the FY’15 defense spending plan has yet to make it to President Obama’s desk, senior Navy leaders are already committing to the RCOH plan.
“We are today making every effort to replan near $7 billion required across the [Future Years Defense Plan] to refuel the carrier plus maintain its airwing, manpower and support,” Sean Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition (RDA), told the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces last Thursday.
However, Senate appropriators remained mum on the fate of the 11 Ticonderoga-class destroyers and three Whidbey Island-class landing dock ships Navy leaders are looking to lay up.
Virginia Republican Rep. Randy Forbes has led the charge on the House Armed Services panel to keep all 22 ships in service earlier this year. Navy leaders claim budget cuts under sequestration prompted the sea service to push for the ships’ elimination from the fleet.
However, House defense appropriators put aside $165 billion for operations and maintenance, including funds to preserve the 14 ships. House appropriators also elected to fund two of the so-called “phased modernizations” for the Ticonderogas at the time.
The full Senate appropriations committee will likely weigh in on the Navy destroyers and amphibious ships when they take up the FY 2015 defense spending plan, a subcommittee source told USNI News on Wednesday.