House appropriators are cutting development money for the Navy’s ship-launched nuclear cruise missile, preventing the service from decommissioning three Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships and adding funds for a second destroyer, according to the House Appropriations Committee defense subcommittee’s draft of the Fiscal Year 2022 defense spending bill issued today.
The changes to the Navy budget are part of a $706 billion defense spending package that’s in line with the Biden administration’s proposed top line when a separate $11 billion military construction proposal is added in.
Development of the nuclear cruise missile for the Navy has become a divisive topic through the current round of the FY 2022 budget hearings with the House and Senate. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker issued an internal planning memo for the FY 2023 budget process that included language to cut the missile, reported USNI News earlier this month.
Language in the bill also prevents the Navy from using any funds appropriated in the bill to decommission three LCS. The service in its recent budget submission proposed decommissioning the relatively young USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), commissioned in 2012; USS Detroit (LCS-7), commissioned in 2016; and USS Little Rock (LCS-9), commissioned in 2017. Two of the three ships have had issues with the German-built gearing system that links its engines, a problem Naval Sea Systems Command declared a class-wide issue in January, USNI News reported at the time. Fort Worth has a U.S.-built gear that doesn’t have the same flaw, USNI News understands.
The appropriations bill also funds $3.33 billion for two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers – one more than the Navy asked for in the budget.
During the rollout in late May, Navy budget director Rear Adm. John Gumbleton told USNI News that cutting the destroyer “was absolutely an affordability question, where the goal of the department was to balance the first priority, which was investment in Columbia [ballistic missile submarine] recapitalization.”
Adding the second destroyer was the Navy’s top unfunded budget priority and it was widely expected that Congress would add funding for the destroyer back into the budget.
The bill also keeps Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet line open with a buy of 12 additional fighters for $977 million. The service was set to end the line and instead invest in development the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) family of systems.
Other stipulations of the bill include $300 million in the shipbuilding account for the service to buy five used merchant ships for the National Defense Reserve Fleet and restrictions on buying foreign-manufactured components for the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate program (FFG-62).