The Navy today awarded a construction contract for a second Virginia-class attack submarine this fiscal year, which the Trump administration had cut from its FY 2021 budget request and the House Armed Services Committee fought to have included in the final spending and defense bills.
The Navy awarded $2.42 billion to General Dynamics Electric Boat for SSN-811, a Block V Virginia-class boat, which the company builds with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding as its subcontractor.
The Navy began buying two SSNs a year in 2011, and pressure to keep or increase that construction level has only grown in recent years as the Navy faces both a decrease in inventory as Cold War-era Los Angeles-class attack boats decommission and an increase in demand from combatant commanders around the world. Though there was hope for a time that the current multi-year contract for Block V boats could have included as many as 13 subs across five years, the contract signed in December 2019 only included nine with an option for a 10th.
“The 17,000 shipbuilders of Electric Boat are pleased to receive the award for the tenth Block V ship, and are ready to meet the generational challenge of building the Virginia and Columbia classes concurrently,” Electric Boat President Kevin Graney said in a statement, referring to the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine the yard is also building.
“We are grateful for the continued support of our federal delegation, who strongly advocated for this important funding. Today’s announcement maintains the two-ship per year production cadence, provides continuity and development to our skilled workforce and promotes stability in our national supply base. Electric Boat is proud to continue to deliver the advantage that helps protect our sailors, our families and our freedom.”
The Trump administration in February 2020 unveiled a defense spending request with just one SSN, which immediately drew criticism from HASC members on both sides of the aisle. A fight over adding a second FY 2021 boat dragged on until December – the HASC and the House Appropriations Committee favored adding full funding for the 10th “option” boat to be bought fully in FY 2021, whereas the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee favored adding some incremental funding to help buy the option boat in a later year. Ultimately, the funding for the submarine was included in the final bills.
“The Navy’s announcement today of contract execution for the ‘option’ Virginia-class submarine—funded in last year’s NDAA and FY 2021 Omnibus budget—is the exclamation point on Congress’s efforts to protect our nation’s submarine fleet and industrial base,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), the chairman of the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee who led the effort to restore the second SSN to the budget, said in a statement.
“Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump White House sent Congress its 2021 budget that sought to eliminate this ‘option’ sub, which would have disrupted the two-per-year production cadence in the Virginia program that has been in place since 2011. To put it bluntly, that cut would have caused layoffs in New England and Virginia, as well as further decline in the Navy’s aging, shrinking fleet.”
“Starting in the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, Congress basically rewrote the budget tables for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan,” Courtney continued.
“Our rewrite passed in the House both in the NDAA and Appropriations bills with overwhelming bipartisan votes, and was later adopted by the Senate in Conference Committee. It was even belatedly endorsed by the Trump budget director last November. Today’s award announcement will stabilize the program’s workforce, and keep recapitalization of the attack submarine fleet on track. Congratulations to the two shipyards that team up to build these platforms, and a big thank you to the professional staff on Capitol Hill that did the grunt work to help guide Congress and the Navy to today’s extraordinary and important announcement.”