The House Armed Services Committee passed its annual defense policy bill early Thursday, authorizing the Navy to buy a total of 10 ships, an increase from the requested nine in the budget proposal.
The advanced legislation allows the Navy to buy one Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine, two Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, two Virginia-class attack boats, two Constellation-class frigates, one San Antonio-class LPD-17 Flight II amphibious transport dock, one John Lewis-class fleet oiler, and one next-generation submarine tender replacement known as AS(X).
The HASC seapower and projection forces committee mark originally authorized nine ships, leaving out the submarine tender, and adding the LPD-17 Flight II ship, which the Navy did not ask to buy in the request. The seapower mark approved $248 million for the submarine tender, but the HASC bill as amended included incremental funding authority for that program, bringing the total number of ships authorized to 10.
The Fiscal Year 2024 legislation, which passed through the committee in a 58-1 vote, also included an amendment from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.) that requires the Pentagon to create a program for the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile within a month of the National Defense Authorization Act becoming law.
The Nuclear Posture Review conducted under the Trump administration introduced the creation of the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile. But the Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, released last year, canceled the program. A senior defense official at the time of the Biden NPR release said the Pentagon concluded it would provide “zero value.” But Republican officials have largely supported the program.
The panel rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) that would have allowed the Pentagon to waive the SLCM-N requirement if the Chief of Naval Operations concluded the program would have “negative effects” on the Navy’s Virginia-class attack boat’s conventional mission.
The legislation also includes a provision from Courtney mandating the Navy give lawmakers a new evaluation on the potential for buying used sealift ships off the foreign market, according to a summary from Courtney’s office.
Courtney and HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Trent Kelly (R-Ala.) also proposed an amendment that continues the pursuit of a new domestic-built sealift program. The provision, which passed the committee, “withholds funds from the Secretary of the Navy until an acquisition plan is submitted on the construction of new sealift vessels,” according to the summary. “The provision approves $6 million for the Pentagon and the U.S. Maritime Administration to begin the program,” the summary reads.
The bill will now head to the House floor. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday is marking up the defense spending bill. The Senate Armed Services Committee is marking up its version of the NDAA on Thursday. Senate appropriators are also working on the Fiscal Year 2024 spending bills.
While the last few years have seen Congress pass boosts to defense spending, lawmakers are confined to the president’s budget request under the debt ceiling deal struck between the Biden administration and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
The HASC bill approves a total of $886 billion for national defense.