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HASC Would Add 5 Ships, $3 Billion in Aircraft Procurement to Navy’s 2018 Plans

The aft mast lands on the future amphibious transport dock Portland (LPD-27) in August 2015. Huntington Ingalls Industries photo.

The House Armed Services Committee released its Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act language this evening, in a bill that spends billions more than the Navy had asked for on five additional ships and more than two dozen additional aircraft.

The bill spends $623.8 billion on base budget items, including $10 billion of base budget items paid for in the Overseas Contingency Operations fund – short of the $640 billion HASC chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) had hoped to spend but still nearly $50 billion above the Trump Administration’s request. It spends $695.9 billion total, including OCO funds for operations abroad.

That higher spending level is apparent throughout the Navy’s funding section. A special shipbuilding and conversion section within the “Procurement for Overseas Contingency Operations for Base Requirements” section – used to get around the congressionally imposed spending caps stemming from the 2011 Budget Control Act – adds five new ships beyond what the Navy had asked for: two Littoral Combat Ships, to bring the Navy to three; one Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, to bring the Navy to three; funding for an LPD-30 amphibious transport dock, which would bring the program to 14 ships in the class ahead of its transition to the LX(R) dock landing ship replacement; and an Expeditionary Sea Base ship for which the Marines and the geographic combatant commanders have expressed great interest.

That OCO-for-base-requirements pot of shipbuilding money would also provide $200 million for advance procurement of aircraft carrier CVN-81, $45 million in advance procurement for the DDG program, $100 million for LX(R) advance procurement, and $312 million for five additional Ship to Shore Connectors beyond the Navy’s request for three.

“In keeping with the President’s pledge to grow the fleet, the Chairman’s mark adds an additional five ships including an additional Arleigh Burke class destroyer, two Littoral Combat Ships, a Puller-class Expeditionary Support Base, and a San Antonio class Amphibious Landing Platform,” according to a HASC summary of the bill.
“The Chairman also supports advance procurement for aircraft carriers and attack submarines. This is in addition to the eight ships that were requested by the Administration and takes advantage of hot production lines to deliver the right capabilities at the lowest cost to the taxpayers.

The bill would also authorize the Navy to buy 22 F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, compared to the Navy’s request for 14; 10 V-22 Ospreys, compared to the request for six; 13 P-8A Poseidon aircraft, compared to the request for seven; 27 AH-1Z attack helicopters, compared to the 22 requested; and six KC-130J tanker and transport planes, compared to the two requested. For the Defense Department as a whole, the bill authorizes 87 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, compared to the request for 70 across the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee also released its 2018 bill this week and had many plus-ups for the Navy too, including two additional LCSs and the ESB. It provided funding for 24 Super Hornets, seven P-8A Poseidon aircraft, and six Ship to Shore Connectors, among other programs the committee chose to boost above Navy-requested spending levels. The HAC-D is marking up its defense bill this evening in a closed session.

The Senate Armed Services Committee is also working on its subcommittee and full committee bills this week, largely in closed sessions.

The HASC will mark up this bill on Wednesday in an open session that typically lasts well past midnight.