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House Defense Appropriations Bill Supports 3 LCSs, Single Carrier Buy

A helicopter from the Philippine navy prepares to land on the flight deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) during an exercise for Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Sama Sama 2017 in June 2017. US Navy photo.

The House Appropriations Committee’s defense funding bill for Fiscal Year 2019 would buy a dozen new warships for the Navy, including two Littoral Combat Ships beyond the service’s request, according to the text of the bill that was released on Wednesday.

The $22.7-billion shipbuilding account includes three LCSs, three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDG-51), two Virginia-class attack submarines (SSN-774), two John Lewis-class fleet oilers, an Expeditionary Sea Base and a fleet tug.

Absent from the bill is money to accelerate the procurement of a Ford-class aircraft carrier (CVN-78), which the House Armed Service Committee’s National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2019 supported doing. The Navy has proposed buying the planned Enterprise (CVN-80) and the yet-unnamed CVN-81 in a two-carrier contract to achieve some savings, and HASC further supported this by allowing the Navy to bump CVN-81 procurement up to FY 2019 to create additional workforce efficiencies by having the ships centered closer together.

The defense spending bill also sides with the HASC and opposes SASC and the Navy when it comes to LCS. Navy leaders have been split on the need for additional LCS buys to maintain the shipbuilding industrial base ahead of the transition to the next-generation FFG(X) guided-missile frigate. The Navy plans to buy 20 frigates from one of five companies competing for the program – including both current LCS builders.

Rendering of the third ship in the Ford class of aircraft carriers, Enterprise (CVN-80).

The bill also includes $2.9 billion for advanced procurement of the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile program, $41 million for the LCU landing craft replacement program and $507.8 million for the Ship-to-Shore Connector program.

In addition to the shipbuilding budget, the bill authorizes $20.1 billion for new aircraft, including $1.9 billion for 24 F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighters, $1.1 billion for 13 MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and $1.8 billion for 10 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft, according to a news release from HAC regarding the defense spending bill.

The bill also appropriates $9.4 billion for 93 F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters, split between the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

In total, the HAC bill funds $674.6 billion on defense: $606.5 billion in the base budget and $68.1 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) spending.