SASC Defense Bill Calls for 2 Virginia Attack Subs, 3 Destroyers; Sets Restrictions on Frigate, Landing Ship Medium

June 14, 2024 2:48 PM
Virginia-class submarine with the Virginia Payload Module

The Senate Armed Services Committee joined with its House counterpart to authorize spending for a pair of Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine as part of the Fiscal Year 2025 defense policy bill, the panel announced today.
Adding the second boat is a break from the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget, which called for a single Virginia-class submarine and a boost to the submarine industrial base to meet the goal of delivering two attack submarines per year and meet the delivery schedule for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.

“I’m glad that the committee came together this year to pass a bill that makes critical investments to support our defense industrial base workforce and shipbuilding programs, including the Virginia-class submarine program to help ensure we meet our commitments through the Australia-U.K.-U.S. agreement,” reads a statement from SASC sea power chair Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

The two-boat buy is a break from the House Appropriations Committee’s bill that only called for a single boat.

The HAC defense subcommittee’s chair, Rep Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), told Bloomberg earlier this month he didn’t believe that submarine builders General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII could meet the two-per-year cadence.

“I’m in favor of building three submarines a year,” Calvert said. “It’s our strategic advantage to do so. The problem is the industrial base, the primes, the subs, are not capable of building more than one submarine a year. That is just a fact. It’s just a fact we have to deal with. I wish it wasn’t so.”

In addition to HAC-D, the White House earlier this week also pushed back against a second sub buy in a memo to the HASC.

“Further, the Administration strongly opposes … incremental funding of a second Virginia Class Submarine in FY 2025, which industry is unable to produce on schedule,” the White House wrote in a memo responding to the HASC bill.

The split on the Virginias between the authorizers, appropriators and the administration is set to be one of the largest issues to sort out in the shipbuilding budget.

In addition to the extra boat, the SASC authorized an additional $1.43 billion to build a third Arleigh Burke-class Flight III destroyer.

The legislation also expresses concern over the ship design maturity, restricting to funds pending reports from the Navy and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Specifically, the SASC singled out the Landing Ship Medium and the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate.

“[The bill] prohibits lead ship construction for the Landing Ship Medium pending certification of design completion and authorizes the procurement or chartering of a minimally-modified commercial or non-developmental landing ship that meets core Marine Corps sealift and beach landing requirements,” reads the executive summary of the bill.
“[The bill] fences Fiscal Year 2025 funds for Constellation-class frigate construction pending DoD certification relating to design completion.”

Earlier this year, the Navy announced that the lead ship in the Constellation-class was an estimated three years behind schedule and that the detail design is still incomplete.

Overall, the bill adds an additional $25 billion to the Pentagon budget request for a total of $878.4 billion. The bill left committee with a 22-3 vote that included a “nay” from SASC chair Sen. Jack Reed (D- R.I.) for breaking spending caps set in place by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

The proposed SASC National Defense Authorization Act comes in parallel with a new overall spending plan by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) that calls for a $55 billion boost in defense funding for FY 2025 and an overall increase to about five percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.

In a Friday statement, Senate majority leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the proposed increase in defense spending would either mean repealing FRA or crafting a new budget deal.

“In that case, Democrats are committed to ensuring an equitable increase in our domestic investments alongside an increase in defense spending,” reads the statement.

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
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