100-Plus Lawmakers Call for Adding Attack Submarine to the Budget


By: Connor O’Brien

March 17, 2020


Congressional boosters of the Navy's submarine fleet are out in force calling for top House appropriators to fund a second attack boat that was left out of the Pentagon's budget request.

In a bipartisan letter, 112 lawmakers requested the leaders of the House Defense Appropriations panel fund a second Virginia-class submarine in fiscal 2021 defense spending legislation.

The Trump administration's modest proposal to buy just eight new warships is a major sore spot for lawmakers in both parties, who contend cutting shipbuilding runs counter to the goal of a 355-ship Navy. The proposal to buy just one attack sub, in particular, has been a lightning rod on Capitol Hill after years of funding two subs.

"The proposal to request one attack submarine is contrary to the National Defense Strategy, the needs of our combatant commanders, and a decade of Congressional action in support of a steady two-a-year build rate," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Defense Appropriations Chairman Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) and ranking Republican Ken Calvert of California.

"To that end, we respectfully request your strong support for two Virginia-class submarines in FY 2021," they said.

The letter was spearheaded by Reps. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Jim Langevin (D-R.I.). Attack submarines are built by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Connecticut and Huntington Ingalls' Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

Courtney and Wittman are the chair and ranking Republican of the House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, where they're in position to boost Navy's shipbuilding in the National Defense Authorization Act.

The missive was signed by 72 Democrats and 40 Republicans. The signatories represent more than 14,000 submarine supply chain organizations and nearly $10.4 billion for the supply chain, according to Courtney's office.

Navy leaders have chalked up the scant shipbuilding request, which would be a nearly $4 billion cut from what lawmakers allocated for the current year, to a flat Pentagon budget. A second Virginia-class sub was included in the Navy's unfunded requirements list — a list of items that weren't included in the fiscal 2021 budget — at a cost of $2.8 billion.

The lawmakers also noted Congress already allocated money in support of building two Virginia-class subs in this fiscal year.

The more than nine dozen lawmakers also called for appropriators to support the Navy's budget request for the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.

The service requested $4 billion to begin construction of the first sub in the new fleet. Navy leaders recently warned a special exemption for the program will be needed to keep construction on track if Congress doesn't pass a full-year defense spending bill by the start of the new fiscal year.

"Strong Congressional support for the program at this milestone is critical to ensuring that the Navy, the shipbuilders, and the industrial base have the support they need to ensure success in this central part of our nation's strategic deterrence," the lawmakers wrote.