The Navy would face ship delivery delays, slow down in its advance procurement efforts and may be blocked from starting an aircraft carrier refueling if a short-term continuing resolution, set to start tomorrow, is extended past December.
The Senate and House passed a continuing resolution on Wednesday, which would fund the federal government in Fiscal Year 2016 at the 2015 levels through Dec. 11. But given several political battles brewing on the Hill and the start of presidential primary season early next year, it’s unclear whether lawmakers will be able to pass their 2016 spending bills by December or will simply extend the CR for the remainder of the year.
Though the Navy and Marine Corps will be able to continue many day-to-day operations under the CR, some programs will be affected more than others – new starts, or line items that were not funded in the previous fiscal year, are not permitted under a CR, and quantity increases are not allowed in procurement programs.
While several Navy and Marine Corps sources told USNI News they could absorb a two-and-a-half-month delay in program schedules, another CR extension in December could begin to derail some programs.
Senate appropriators noted in their 2016 spending bill passed earlier this year that the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2016 research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) budget submission in particular was full of new starts – “the fiscal year 2016 request includes no less than [$151.56 million] for 13 new start programs and [$331 million] for several programs that the Navy proposes to initiate via directive letters, rapid fielding efforts or by adding scope to previously approved efforts.” Those new starts would all be blocked under a CR.
According to a Navy Office of Legislative Affairs point paper, “FY 2016 DON Continuing Resolution (CR) Impact,” cited in a Sept. 21 Congressional Research Service report, the Navy’s FY 2016 shipbuilding plans are particularly at risk in a long-term CR.
Due to the prohibition of new starts, the first next-generation TAO(X) oiler is planned to be bought in FY 2016 but the acquisition would be prohibited under a CR. The multi-billion refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) for carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73), which has already been contentious item in previous years’ budget battles, would be prohibited, as it moves from advance procurement funding into full funding in 2016. And advance procurement for the future carrier Enterprise (CVN-80) would not be allowed.
Several other ship programs would face delays due to the rules of the CR, according to the report.
The Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDG-51) 10-ship block buy would continue, but the Navy would not be allowed to upgrade ships in 2016 to the Flight III configuration, which includes the new Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR).
The LHA-8 amphibious assault ship would face delivery delays due to insufficient advance procurement funds under the CR, as would the Moored Training Ship – an effort to convert the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS La Jolla (SSN-701) into a training platform for students at the Nuclear Power School in Charleston, S.C.Both the Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) service life extension program and the Ship-to-Shore Connector program to replace the LCACs were planned to increase by two craft each, which would not be allowed under a CR.
And ships the Navy has already paid for may not be able to join the fleet on time, as increases in the Navy’s request for “completion of prior-year programs” and “outfitting and post-delivery” funding would not be allowed. The Navy uses that money to finalize ships from last year that saw small cost increases and therefore couldn’t be completed with 2015, and to bring ships from delivery to fleet introduction.
Navy and Marine Corps aircraft programs would also face delays. The Marine Corps would not be able to begin advance procurement of its CH-53K helicopter, and the Navy could not begin production on its MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft. The Marine Corps had also planned to increase its F-35B Joint Strike Fighter procurement from six to nine aircraft — with the armed services committees pushing for additional funding for 15 aircraft — as well as buying two instead of one KC-130J cargo and tanker plane. The Navy planned to increase its buy of P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance planes from nine to 16, and those moves would all be prohibited under a CR.
On the Marine Corps ground vehicle side, Program Executive Office for Land Systems spokesman Manny Pacheco told USNI News that program managers built some flexibility into their schedules for the first quarter of the fiscal year but that a longer CR would begin to hurt acquisition programs, including the much-needed Amphibious Combat Vehicle.
“We’re all working with the notion that, again, given a short-term CR we don’t see a great impact to our schedule. We’re on a good path to be able to do the things we need to do,” he said.
“I wont get program-specific, but what I will tell you is that if we go into a six-month or year-long CR, it’s definitely going to impact several programs, several schedules, some of them perhaps even critically. So again, short-term there’s a little flexibility to be able to adjust. This program, the ACV, we’re going to be able to absorb a short-term CR. But a long-term CR will impact the ability for us to buy all 16 vehicles from two manufacturers.”
While a “clean continuing resolution” does not allow for any new starts or any quantity increases, a process exists for the Navy to request exemptions if a delay in funding would critically harm the program or Navy readiness. Exemptions were approved in 2013 to allow the RCOH for USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) and to keep construction of the future John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) on track. It is unclear how many, if any, exemptions the Navy would request if the continuing resolution were extended in December, as Navy officials have declined to discuss the effects of the CR on the service’s plans for 2016.