The White House is getting behind a proposal to increase the pace of attack submarine construction.
The $4.7 trillion budget released Monday by the Trump administration calls for buying three attack submarines, as opposed to two, in fiscal year 2020, which starts Oct. 1.
The proposal is a reversal from last year when Trump opposed a proposal that would’ve allowed the Navy to build more attack submarines.
The money was requested by U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, the Democrat who represents Connecticut’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Electric Boat, and his Republican colleague Rob Wittman of Virginia, both staunch supporters of the submarine industry.
The request for the additional submarines is “welcome, albeit overdue, recognition that our submarine force is too small and heading in the wrong direction,” Courtney said in a statement Monday.
The Navy has said it needs 66 attack submarines compared to the 52 it has now. That number of attack submarines is supposed to dip to 42 boats in 2028 because the Navy is retiring older attack submarines, known as the Los Angeles class, at a faster rate than the newer, Virginia-class attack submarines are being built.
If the two-a-year build rate continues, the Navy wouldn’t reach a total of 66 attack submarines until about 2048.
Courtney, in his role as chair of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, is well positioned to fight to keep the proposal intact. The subcommittee has oversight over a broad range of Navy and Marine Corps programs, including submarine construction.
He and his colleagues on the House Armed Services Committee have heard repeatedly from high-ranking military officials that “they do not have enough submarines at a time when demand for presence in the undersea realm continues to grow,” he said.
Submarines have experienced a resurgence as the U.S. military strategy has increasingly turned toward the world’s oceans as China and Russia seek dominance in their regions with their pursuit of defense buildups aimed squarely at the U.S. The U.S. is slated to build 30 more attack submarines in the next 20 years.
“Near-peers like Russia and China are modernizing their submarine fleets while China is simultaneously growing its submarine force to an estimated 70 boats by 2020,” Courtney said.
The Navy’s newest attack submarine, the USS South Dakota, is the first submarine in the Virginia class to be fitted with improvements that enhance its ability to collect intelligence and detect threats.
While Courtney is supportive of the additional submarines, he finds most of the Trump administration’s budget proposal, such as a request for $8.6 billion for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, to be unpalatable.
Specifics such as dollar figures for individual programs will be released in the coming days and weeks, but the addition of a submarine would necessitate a boost in funding.
In recent years, Congress has allotted about $7 billion in funding for attack submarines. These submarines cost about $2.7 billion to build.
But soon a new version of the attack submarines will be built, which will include an 85-foot addition designed to provide more payload capacity, increasing their lethality, size and cost. Current estimates say the submarines will cost an additional $500 million to build.
The three-submarine proposal also drew support from Connecticut’s two Democratic senators in Washington, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, as one of the few areas in the budget where they agreed with the Trump administration.
“I’ve consistently urged the Department of Defense to increase submarine production to meet the Navy’s own undersea fleet requirements. It’s one of the smartest ways we can counter adversaries like Russia and China, and it supports thousands of great jobs in Connecticut,” Murphy said in a statement.
“It is vital that we continue to bolster our submarine inventory to reach the 66 submarine threshold required by the Navy to effectively deter threats from near-peer adversaries around the globe,” Blumenthal said.
© 2019 The Day (New London, Conn.)
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