The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s mark of the annual defense policy bill authorizes a second destroyer in the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and paves the way for the service to retire several aging guided-missile cruisers.
The subcommittee’s mark of the Fiscal Year 2022 defense policy bill, released Tuesday, authorizes eight battle force ships, including two Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, two Virginia-class submarines, one Constellation-class frigate, one Navajo-class towing, salvage and rescue ship, one John Lewis-class fleet oiler and one T-AGOS(X) ocean surveillance ship.
While the Navy only sought one destroyer in its FY 2022 budget submission, the move angered lawmakers, who were widely expected to add the second destroyer to legislation. The two-per-year destroyer cadence is part of a multi-year procurement contract and the service would incur a $33 million penalty if it did not buy the second destroyer, USNI News previously reported. The Navy’s request also sought two towing, salvage and rescue ships, but the HASC seapower panel only authorized one.
The panel’s mark notably does not prevent the Navy from retiring its guided-missile cruisers, an issue that HASC seapower chairman Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) has closely assessed, according to a committee aide.
“He recognizes the capability that would be lost if we lose the cruisers. But in his mind, the cruisers … we really have not gotten the life extension that we had hoped to get when we did the service life extensions on cruisers,” the aide told reporters, referring to Courtney.
Navy officials have cited cost growth in the cruiser modernization program as a reason the service hopes to decommission the seven ships. Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9), told lawmakers in June that keeping the seven cruisers slated for decommissioning would cost the Navy $5 billion across the Future Years Defense Program (FYDP).
The seven cruisers the Navy wants to retire in FY-22 are USS San Jacinto (CG-56), USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), USS Monterey (CG-61), USS Port Royal (CG-73), USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), USS Hué City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68).
While the seapower mark does not have language restricting the cruiser retirements, another committee aide said the matter remains “an open question” for Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), the ranking member of the seapower panel. Wittman has expressed concerns over the proposed decommissionings.
Report language accompanying the full committee’s mark is expected to voice support for another multi-year procurement contract to buy more Arleigh Burke-class destroyers beginning in FY 2023, according to the first committee aide.
“The DDG(X) is at least a minimum of five years away,” the aide said, referring to the Navy’s next-generation destroyer program. “So there’s really no good reason why we shouldn’t continue to build the Flight IIIs in another multi-year. ”
The seapower mark also mandates the Navy begin building a land-based testing site for the DDG(X) before the service begins building the new ships.
The subcommittee’s mark authorizes $60 million for the tanker security fleet program.
The panel will mark up its draft of the bill on Wednesday.