The draft version of House Appropriations Committee defense spending bill trims Navy shipbuilding spending by over $2 billion compared to the Defense Department’s request.

It would budget $21.7 billion to build 11 ships in FY ‘20, compared to the Navy’s request of $23.8 billion for 12 ships, specifically cutting one Virginia-class attack submarine from the budget request.

The future USS Indiana (SSN-789), a Virginia-class submarine, is launched into the James River and moved to a submarine pier for final outfitting, testing, and certification. (Photo: Huntington Ingalls Industries)

On several lines the bill funds shipbuilding as the Navy requested, specifically $5 billion for three Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers; $1.6 billion in advanced procurement funding for the first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine; $1.3 billion for the first FFG(X) future frigate; $981 million for two TAO-205 fleet replenishment oilers; and $150 million for two Towing, Salvage and Rescue ships.

However, there are several notable changes.

The bill funds $17 million in advanced procurement for carrier refueling overhaul work, the amount the Navy previously planned for FY ’20 work to prepare to refuel the USS Harry S. Truman. In the Navy’s FY ’20 budget request it planned to retire, rather than refuel the Truman to reallocate the funds for new technologies like unmanned systems and directed energy weapons (Defense Daily, March 12).

Then, on April 30, Vice President Mike Pence announced the administration reversed itself after he spoke to President Trump before visiting the ship. Pence said Trump made the decision on the spot (Defense Daily, April 30).

While the Navy requested $10 billion to buy three Virginia-class submarines–with the third slated for FY ’23–the bill only funds two boats for $4.2 billion. However, the draft adds another $4.3 billion in advanced procurement for three submarines.

The bill funds one Textron [TXT] Ship-to-Shore Connector (SSC) Landing Craft Air Cushion LCAC-100 vessel for $65 million, while the Navy requested none. The Navy’s budget request said it was reducing the vessels due to contractual and delivery delays, planning to delay further acquisitions until FY ’21 (Defense Daily, March 15).

A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) annual assessment explained the SSC has had problems with the gearbox and propulsion power control. The latter issue led to the test vessel losing propulsion and getting damaged when it drifted into a bridge (Defense Daily, May 13).

The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) transits the Atlantic Ocean in September 2018. (Photo: U.S. Navy)

The bill funds one Gerald R. Ford-class CVN-78 aircraft carrier for $2.1 billion, which is lower than the total two carrier buy request for $2.6 billion. It also funds refueling overhauls for a carrier at $668 million, an increase over the $648 million requested for the first year of incremental funding for refueling work on the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74).

The committee’s summary noted the draft funds buying nine P-8A Poseidons for $1.7 billion, three more than requested.

The bill and its summary do not mention the Navy’s new focus on unmanned vessels, which the service plans to procure through research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) appropriations. The Navy requested $447 million in RDT&E funds for two unmanned surface vehicles (USV) and plans to buy two per year to reach 10 ships by FY ‘24.

The draft does not explicitly say whether it funds these efforts, but it funds Navy RDT&E at $19.1 billion compared to the Navy request of $20.4 billion.