US lawmakers call for funding support for additional Virginia-class submarines

Members of the US House of Representatives have urged defense appropriators not to cut a proposed increase in funding for additional Virginia-class submarines.

A letter, signed by 36 members of the House of Representatives and sent to the Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations, was released by co-chairs of the Congressional Submarine Caucus, Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01), Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02, and Rep. Jim Langevin (RI-02).

The letter asks for increased construction funding to match the funding levels in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that passed with bipartisan support.

The FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which is now law, authorized $5.9 billion for Virginia class submarine construction – $698 million more than the president’s budget request. Additionally, the NDAA provided authorization for the Navy to procure up to 13 submarines in the next “block” contract, three more than currently planned.

“Fast-attack submarines remain one of the most effective and sought after tools in our nation’s arsenal,” wrote the members. “The Navy’s December 2016 Force Structure Assessment (FSA) supported the testimony of our military commanders in stating that the United States should maintain a force of at least 66 fast attack submarines. This represents an increase from the previous requirement of 48 submarines, and is the largest increase in ship requirements in the new FSA.

“However, with the retirement of Los Angeles-class submarines at a faster rate than Virginia-class construction, the SSN force will drop to a low of just 41 submarines, more than one-third below the requirement to defend America’s national security interests around the globe. Under plans reflected in the 2018 budget request to continue the two-per-year build rate, the attack submarine force will not meet minimum requirements until 2048.

“As you complete the final appropriations bill, we strongly encourage you to fund the Virginia-class program in line with NDAA authorized-levels to the maximum extent possible,” the members wrote.