WASHINGTON — The House Armed Services Committee has been a bastion of the more-more-more club, rejecting administration reductions to defense programs, opposing mandated sequestration cuts and urging higher levels of arms spending.
The election-year markups issued Tuesday by the body's subcommittees continue to reflect those practices, and the mark proposed by the seapower and projection forces panel is no exception, boosting ship construction spending by more than $2 billion — a 12 percent jump over the administration's request.
"This mark increases shipbuilding to $20.6 billion, $2.3 billion more than the President's budget, and the highest level of shipbuilding funding since the Reagan-Lehman era, adjusting for inflation," subcommittee chairman Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., said in a statement.
"With this legislation, we are rejecting further budget cuts, bending the curve lines, and making a down payment on the 350-ship Navy we need for national defense," Forbes added.
The seapower markup adds two new ships — a littoral combat ship (LCS) and an amphibious ship — and completes full funding of a partially funded destroyer from last year, an addition the subcommittee is counting as a full ship. The mark seeks to prevent reductions in the cruiser, amphibious ship and mine warfare forces, and rules out the Navy's proposal to eliminate a carrier wing.
The mark, a congressional source said, would prevent up to one-twelfth of the Navy's active fleet from being retired.
Adding another LCS to the 2017 budget is a direct repudiation of Defense Secretary Ash Carter's 2015 direction to cut LCS procurement to only one per year — a direction the Navy was able to partially overcome by requesting two LCSs in its budget proposal, a number based on industrial base considerations.
The markup opposes future proposals to reduce or eliminate carrier refueling overhauls — in essence affirming the legally mandated 11-ship carrier fleet — and moves to accelerate carrier procurement from one every five years to one every four years.
The subcommittee also supports full research and development funding for the Air Force's B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber; provides for 15 KC-46A air-refueling tanker aircraft; adds three C-130J Hercules and four C-40 airlift aircraft from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps Unfunded Requirements lists; and funds development of the Carrier-Based Aerial Refueling (CBARS) unmanned jet aircraft.
The amphibious ship, the congressional source said, could be either a 13th LPD 17 class amphibious transport dock — LPD 29 — or the LX(R) amphibious ship replacement design, scheduled for procurement in fiscal 2020.
The ambiguity, the congressional source said, "reflects a hesitancy inside the Navy about what path they might take."
The provision, the source said, "is to make the point that we think we need more amphibious ships and let them sort through how they might want to do it."
The policy bill would move current research and development funding for the SSBN(X) Ohio Replacement Program (ORP) into the National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund, created as a possible holding account dedicated only to the ballistic missile submarine program. The account currently holds no funds, but the first ship is scheduled to begin acquisition funding in 2021.
Forbes also directs the Navy to study options for continuing the multi-hull Virginia-class attack submarine going through the SSBN(X) production period, projected to continue into the 2030s.
"We want to understand if the industrial base can support three SSNs per year, even during the ORP production years," explained the congressional source.
The subcommittee markups are the first congressional steps to produce the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the policy portion of the annual defense bills. House and Senate appropriators separately produce spending bills for the defense budget.
Formal subcommittee markups will be held tomorrow.
Here is the full text of Forbes' press release on the subcommittee markup:
Seapower Mark Rejects False Choice Between Capacity and Capability
Authorizes Highest Level of Shipbuilding Since Reagan Era
Washington, D.C. — Congressman J. Randy Forbes (VA-04), Chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, released today the legislative language of his Subcommittee's mark of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Chairman Forbes led the Subcommittee in producing a mark which funds and sets priorities for large parts of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.
"The last eight years have shown that bowing down to bullies or ignoring them does not make them go away. We need to make sure that when we have men and women from this country who are willing to stand up to them, that they have the resources they need to win that fight. Among those resources are the ships and planes necessary to win and come home safely," Chairman Forbes said.
"Our military has been asked too often to choose between capacity and capability. My Subcommittee's mark fundamentally rejects this false choice," Chairman Forbes said. "This mark increases shipbuilding to $20.6 billion, $2.3 billion more than the President's budget, and the highest level of shipbuilding funding since the Reagan-Lehman era, adjusting for inflation. It also rejects the administration's plan to layup 11 cruisers once more, and prevents the disestablishment of one of 10 carrier air wings. With this legislation, we are rejecting further budget cuts, bending the curve lines, and making a down payment on the 350-ship Navy we need for national defense."
Highlights of the Seapower Subcommittee mark includes:
• Revitalizes Navy Shipbuilding and Accelerates Key Programs. The mark authorizes procurement of 3 additional ships ($433M for a destroyer, $856M for an amphibious ship, and $385M for a Littoral Combat Ship) above the administration's plan. Between the SCN account and the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, it authorizes $20.6 billion for shipbuilding—$2.3 billion more than the President's budget and the highest level of shipbuilding funding, accounting for inflation, since Fiscal Year 1988.
• Prohibits Inactivation of Navy Cruisers. The Seapower mark prevents the administration from inactivating 11 of 22 cruisers under a "phased modernization plan" and holds the administration accountable for cruiser modernization by withholding funding from the Office of the Secretary of Defense until modernization contracts have been signed.
• Denies Navy's Request for Authority to Disestablish a Carrier Air Wing. The mark, along with efforts made by the Readiness and Military Personnel Subcommittees in their marks, denies the Navy's request for authority to disestablish one of ten extant carrier air wings (CVW) and funds the continued operation of that critical element of force structure.
• Transfers Funding into the National Sea-Based Deterrent Fund and expands its authorities. The mark shifts the first procurement funding for the Ohio Replacement submarines into the NSBDF and grants the fund additional authority for "continuous production," allowing the Navy to procure components like missile tubes in one large production run at substantially lower cost.
• Calls for Navy to Build Aircraft Carriers 20% Faster. Forbes' legislation calls upon the Navy to build aircraft carriers every four years instead of five, a change in tempo that will increase the size of the carrier fleet. The mark also authorizes the "block buy" of components for multiple carriers, reducing costs for the taxpayer. Carriers will continue to be the backbone of the U.S. Navy's ability to prevent and win America's wars.
• Funds Unmanned Carrier-Based Aircraft Development, While Continuing to Advocate for High-End Capabilities. The mark funds development of the unmanned carrier-based aircraft refueling system (CBARS, a.k.a. RAQ-25, MQ-25, MQ-XX, Stingray) while expressing the Committee's enduring belief that the Navy should develop carrier-based unmanned aircraft with strike capabilities and the ability to operate in contested environments.
• Directs Navy to Study Increasing Attack Submarine Production. Forbes' legislation directs the Navy to report to Congress on options for building additional Virginia-class submarines. These vessels will be vital for sustaining America's undersea advantage in the years ahead.
• Fully Funds the Air Force's Next-Generation Bomber. The mark fully funds the B-21 Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) as RDT&E funding for this critical power projection asset doubles in FY2017.
• Fully Funds the Air Force's KC-46A Tanker Program. The mark fully supports the KC-46A air-refueling tanker program by procuring 15 new aircraft in FY2017.
• Enhances Navy Lethality Through Cutting-Edge Investments. The mark invests in next-generation munitions like the Standard Missile-6 and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), solid state upgrades for Aegis transmitters, and over-the-horizon missiles for testing aboard Littoral Combat Ships. It also authorizes $20 million in funding for the Office of Naval Research's "SwampWorks" and the Navy's new rapid prototyping and experimentation efforts in order to encourage and accelerate innovation.
• Doubles Tomahawk Missile Procurement. The mark doubles procurement of the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM) to keep the line running at 198 missiles per year until the missile's upgrade and recertification process begins.
• Provides Funding for Additional Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer. The mark authorizes an additional $443 million to fully fund construction of the destroyer that was partly funded last year. As the Surface Fleet faces increasing demands on a shrinking number of hulls, this investment is crucial to the long-term health of the Navy's surface force.
• Authorizes Funds for Acceleration of Amphibious Ship Construction. The Seapower mark provides funding and grants authority to the Secretary of the Navy to accelerate procurement of either the next-generation LX(R) amphibious ship or a 13th San Antonio-class amphibious ship (LPD-29), enabling the Navy and Marine Corps to more rapidly mitigate the shortfall in amphibious lift.
• Invests in Amphibious Connectors. The mark restores funding for the service life extension of 4 air-cushioned landing craft (LCACs), continuing a service life extension program (SLEP) prematurely truncated in the President's budget. It also authorizes procurement of 3 additional ship-to-shore connectors (SSCs) on the Navy's unfunded requirements list.
• Restores Funding for a Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). The mark authorizes $385 million for the third LCS that had previously been struck from the President's Budget. The LCS will continue to fulfill a variety of Small Surface Combatant missions for the Fleet in the decades ahead.
• Prohibits Further Retirement of Mine Countermeasure (MCM) Ships. The mark prohibits the Navy from retiring Avenger-class MCM ships until a replacement is ready, ensuring that the Fleet maintains a robust anti-mine capability in the interim.
• Supports Airlift Recapitalization for Active and Reserve Components. The mark adds 3 C-130J and 4 C-40 airlifters from the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps Unfunded Requirements List, and authorizes upgrades for older C-130s that are disproportionately flow by the Guard and Reserves.
In addition to these provisions in Chairman Forbes' Seapower legislation, Forbes has worked to include a number of provisions related to Asia-Pacific strategy and critical DoD oversight issues that will be contained in other marks. Additional information on these provisions will follow later in the week.