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Facing Pentagon, appropriator opposition, $1B House sub amendment voted down


Following a last-minute intervention by a top Pentagon official and strong opposition from an influential Republican lawmaker, an amendment to the House defense spending bill that would procure additional Virginia-class submarines has been defeated.

Inside Defense reported yesterday that an amendment to the defense spending bill to provide the Navy with an additional $1 billion to procure long lead-time materials for Virginia-class submarines was opposed at the last minute by Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan.


The amendment, offered by House Armed Services seapower subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Ranking Member Joe Courtney (D-CT), was not adopted yesterday in an initial vote on the House floor. In a recorded vote today, the amendment was voted down.


During the debate, House Appropriations defense subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) mentioned a letter from the deputy defense secretary and feedback from other entities objecting to the amendment.


"Not only does this amendment cut $1 billion from vital programs in [fiscal year 2019], it will leave future Congresses with at least a $6 billion shortfall.

That is not the appropriate way to spend our taxpayers' dollars," she said on the House floor.


Granger also noted a $346 million cut to the reactor core for the last Nimitz-class aircraft carrier refueling overhaul, a cut that would delay that procurement for another year, she said.


That cut is one of several cuts offered in the amendment to offset the $1 billion increase for Virginia-class submarine advanced procurement.


"This will directly impact the ability of the manufacturer to provide Columbia-class core reactors in a timely manner," she said. "And it introduces risk to the schedule for the Columbia-class submarine program. That is unacceptable."


Courtney's office distributed information justifying each proposed cut. His office defended trimming the reactor core line item, arguing it "funds a specific reactor unit which is not needed in the yard for more than a decade. In addition, most of the plus up to the Virginia-class advance procurement line is for a submarine power reactor, minimizing the effect on the nuclear industrial base."


Granger said some members had asked if the amendment could be tweaked during conference. "Let me be very clear on that point," she said. "The answer is no. We will not be able to fix the damage this amendment causes in conference."


She further noted that if the amendment passed, its proposed cuts would remain in the final spending bill.


In a letter to Granger, Wittman and Courtney said they had not heard opposition to the offsets they proposed. Granger, however, argued that in May the Navy warned any reductions to the Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer program "will affect the ability of the Navy to achieve any multiyear procurement savings."


During an interview with Inside Defense minutes after walking off the House floor, Wittman said he had spoken with General Dynamics, the DDG-51 prime contractor.


"There's already three [DDG-51s] that are contracted, and that's not going to change," Wittman said. "What [the amendment] does is it changes the pace at which money goes to General Dynamics to build those ships."


Further, Wittman said the authorizers and appropriators are coming at the issue from different angles.


"Not that it's an invalid angle, it's just a different angle," he said. "What we try to argue is that, from our angle, [we're] looking at the nation's needs strategically [and] looking at how we must get this submarine program to the point where we are keeping it from atrophy."

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