The House will debate the future of the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund this week for the second time this budget cycle, with a small coalition offering an amendment to save the fund meant to help pay for the Ohio Replacement Program (ORP).
The House Armed Services Committee took steps in its annual defense authorization bill to strengthen the fund, making it a Defense Department-wide fund rather than Navy-only so that excess funding from all the services could be funneled into what is essentially a piggy bank for the ballistic missile submarine replacement program.
The House Appropriations Committee, however, made moves to cancel the fund altogether. In addition to not moving Navy line items into the fund as the HASC proposed, the committee specifically wrote, “none of the funds provided in this or any other Act may be transferred to the National Sea Based Deterrent Fund established by section 2218a of title 10, United States Code.”
When the HASC bill went to the House floor for debate and a vote, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) proposed an amendment cancelling the fund. That amendment was defeated 375-43, with the House Appropriations Committee members opposing the amendment 41-7, a House staffer told USNI News. And yet, the appropriators’ bill falls in line with Blumenauer’s defeated amendment instead of the HASC bill.
So for the second time in as many months, the House will debate the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund on the floor. A small coalition of congressman from submarine industry states – Reps. Randy Forbes (R) and Rob Wittman (R) from Virginia, Reps. Joe Courtney (D) and Rosa DeLauro (D) from Connecticut and Rep. Jim Langevin (D) from Rhode Island – plan to push amendments that add money into the fund in the Fiscal Year 2016 spending bill and that strike the language prohibiting the fund going forward.
They will propose the amendments either tonight or tomorrow, depending on how the floor debate progresses.
Given the overwhelming vote earlier this year, the staffer told USNI News the coalition feels hopeful in their chances of saving the fund.
Forbes told USNI News, “the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is the best way to ensure the future of America’s undersea nuclear deterrent, which alone represents about 70 percent of the nation’s entire nuclear arsenal. This is a national project and requires a national effort to implement. The House, by a vote of 375-43, has overwhelmingly supported this program and recognized the importance of maintaining a credible undersea nuclear deterrent for decades to come.”
The staffer said the Senate has so far shown support for the fund, though the Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released the full language of its bill. The staffer said that in many cases the armed services committees and defense appropriations subcommittees can agree on how to best support the military, but sometimes conflicts arise between the authorizers and the appropriators. In this case, the fund would help the Navy in that more money would be available and it could be spent in a more flexible timeline – which in some cases can translate to lower costs. However, that spending flexibility takes away some of the appropriators’ oversight abilities and control over the program.