Accelerating cruiser modernization and the procurement of the Navy’s new amphibious ship are two of the priorities listed in the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower and projection forces subcommittee’s defense authorization bill proposal, which was unveiled April 22.

The subcommittee’s National Defense Authorization Act proposal calls for a change in the Navy’s 2-4-6 plan to layup its cruisers, staffers told reporters during a background briefing. Instead of moving two cruisers through a four-year modernization availability, the subcommittee would limit modernization to a duration of two years, plus an extra six months if authorized by the Secretary of the Navy.

The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy
The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy

“The question came down to how quickly can the ship repair guys actually do a modernization period,” one staffer said. Congress found they may be able to execute those upgrades in two years, and the Navy asked for additional time if necessary. “I think, on the safe side, it can be done within two years and six months.”

There are drawbacks to modernizing those ships so quickly, the staffers noted. Because maintainers have to do a lot of concurrent work in the 2-2-6 model, it expends funding more quickly, reduces the amount of savings the Navy would be able to achieve and expends service life faster.

The subcommittee wants to speed up the development and production of the Navy’s newest amphibious ship, the LX(R), which the service plans to begin constructing in 2020. The subcommittee recommends $279 billion in advanced procurement funding for the ship in fiscal year 2016 so that the Navy can buy the ship two years earlier than planned.

“Our hope was that by providing this advanced procurement in 16 and 17, we actually buy the ship in FY 18,” a staffer said.

The subcommittee’s proposal adds the funding necessary to support the minimum sustaining rate for Tomahawk missile production, which is 198 units per year. The president’s fiscal year budget requests 100 missiles, the Obama administration plans to use fiscal year 2015 overseas contingency operating funds for additional missiles, and Congress will fund the balance, a staffer said. Raytheon [RTN] produces the Tomahawk.

The proposal cuts funding for the Air Forces’ KC-46A tanker and long range strike bomber, with the exact amount to be revealed in the NDAA put forward for full committee markups. Although the committee is supportive of the KC-46A and LRSB programs, both currently are undergoing delays—the tanker because of wiring issues that have emerged during the plane’s development by Boeing [BA], and the bomber because the contract award has been pushed back to July, the staffer said. The reductions in funding were formulated in close coordination with the program offices.

“The question really just comes down to how much funding can they execute in FY 15 and 16?” the staffer said. “They just can’t execute all the money they have in the PB (president’s budget) request.”

The subcommittee recommends taking  $1.39 billion from the Navy’s research & development account and put it into National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, allowing the military to start saving for the Ohio-replacement submarine without putting pressure on the Navy’s shipbuilding accounts.

“What we did this year is we basically expanded the programming authority into the account, so it’s not just resident within the department of the Navy, it’s resident across the department of defense at large,” the staffer said. The proposal also allows the Navy to purchase common components for the Ohio replacement and Virginia-class submarines in the same contracts.

It also restores some funding for Aegis modernization of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers (DDG-51), which was taken out of the future years defense plan this year. Five ships were slated to undergo an Aegis upgrade, and the committee wants to fund at least a portion of them, the staffer said.

Other areas of the proposal correspond with the president’s budget. The subcommittee approved the Navy’s request for three Littoral Combat Ships and appropriates the funding needed to build two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and two Virginia-class submarines.  It also funds the remainder of the money needed to build LPD-28.

“This year’s Seapower and Projection Forces mark provides the resources our Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force need to meet 21st century challenges, while sustaining a robust defense industrial base and our dominance on, above, and below the sea,” Rep. Randy Forbes, (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee, said in a statement.

Ranking Member Joe Courtney, (D-Conn.), also expressed his support of the mark. 

“The jurisdiction of the subcommittee covers a wide range of programs and priorities that are absolutely critical to our nation’s defense today and well into the future,” he said in a written statement. “The proposal that we will consider tomorrow makes many positive contributions to the needs of our Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Maritime Administration.”

The subcommittee will mark up its proposal tomorrow, and HASC will conduct a full committee markup of the NDAA on April 29.