The final version of the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill funds the procurement of 13 battle force ships, saves two of seven cruisers the Navy wants to retire, and adds 12 A/A-18-E/F Super Hornet aircraft.
Legislators unveiled the final version of the bill this week after the Senate’s version stalled over disagreements on amendments (
Defense Daily, Dec. 7).
The bill would allow the Navy to procure 13 ships including two Virginia-class attack submarines, three Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, one Constellation-class guided-missile frigate, two John Lewis-class (T-AO) fleet oilers; one (T-AGOS(X)) surveillance ship; two Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ships, and one Navajo-class (T-ATS) towing, salvage, and rescue ship.
The bill would also allow the Navy to retire only five of seven requested aging Ticonderoga-class cruisers.
The original House version would allow the Defense Department to only use FY ‘22 funds to retire, prepare to retire, inactivate or place in storage four specific cruisers: USS Port Royal (CG-73), USS Vella Gulf (CG-72), USS Hué City (CG-66) and USS Anzio (CG-68). That bill would require the Navy to keep maintaining three other cruisers it sought to retire: the USS San Jacinto (CG-56), USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and USS Monterey (CG-61).
The new bill agreement said the Navy can retire up to five cruisers in FY ‘22, but did not name specific vessels.
The House bill originally contained a provision authorizing the Navy Secretary to enter into one or more multiyear procurement contracts for Arleigh Burke-class destroyers starting in FY ‘23.
The final bill took out the authorization and replaced it with a requirement that the Secretary of the Navy provide the congressional defense committees with a report on the potential benefits of such a multiyear procurement covering FY ‘23 through FY ‘27. The report is due by March 1, 2022.
The bill also authorized $977 million for the Navy to procure 12 more F/A-18E/F Super Hornets “to mitigate the Navy’s strike-fighter shortfall and bolster tactical fighter aircraft capacity,” the bill summary said.
This comes after the highest Navy officials have sought to end production of the Super Hornet aircraft in 2024.
Last month, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said ending the Super Hornet line will make the Navy “able to support the future purchases of the F-35C, which is a far more significantly capable aircraft that we’re looking at for operational use in the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere to be able to meet the significantly increasing capabilities of the Chinese” (Defense Daily, Nov. 4).
He added that if Congress forces the Navy to keep buying the aircraft, it “does have a negative impact in a world where often budgets don’t grow at a pace that you’d want them to grow. So it’s a tradeoff basically and a balance that you have to make between those two, which is why the Navy has been pushing so hard for more purchases of the F35-B and C.”
Last August, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday told industry at a conference it is not helpful when they lobby Congress to buy aircraft that are excess to need.
Rear Adm. Andrew Loiselle, Director of Air Warfare Division (N98), said at the conference Gilday was referring to how adding funds for new Super Hornets takes away funding he could otherwise use to better effect in adding more Service Life Modernization updates to existing aircraft (Defense Daily, Aug. 4).
The bill also keeps provisions from the House and Senate bills that would make permanent the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) reports on material readiness of ships. The reports are otherwise set to end as of Oct. 1, 2021 without further congressional action.
However, the final bill removes the House bill requirement “that the classified form of the report only be made available to the congressional defense committees,” the bill’s explanatory statement said.
This provision also requires the CNO to brief the armed services committees on the roles and responsibilities of the Naval Safety Command, including an assessment of the appropriateness of such Command to conduct minimal or no-notice inspections of battle force ships undergoing depot maintenance for compliance with applicable safety, firefighting, and other procedures. It cited the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) fire as the cause of the Navy overhauling its safety structure.
“We understand that based on the Navy’s investigation into the USS Bonhomme Richard fire the Chief of Naval Operations intends to restructure the Naval Safety Center into the Naval Safety Command with a more senior flag officer in command and a mandate to ensure safety best practices and lessons learned are more fully incorporated across the Navy.”
The briefing is directed to occur by March 1, 2022.