Amendments to the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the fiscal year 2021 defense authorization bill last week pushed adding an MQ-4 Triton unmanned aircraft as well as reports on developing an anti-ship missile with Japan and assessing the impact if the U.S. acceded to the law of the Sea Convention.
The committee approved all three amendments as part of the en bloc set of amendments to the chairman’s mark.
Rep. Susan Davis (D-Calif.) sponsored the amendment increasing funds over the Defense Department’s request for one MQ-4 Triton at $130 million by reducing the same amount in funds for 155mm self-propelled howitzer improvements.
The Triton aircraft are aimed at contributing to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), anti-submarine warfare and maritime strike, and search and rescue missions.
Separately, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) sponsored an amendment directing the Secretary of Defense submit a report to the defense committees on “the desirability and feasibility of co-developing a next generation ground-based anti-ship missile with the Government of Japan; and technology transfer options to enhance joint missile development.”
The amendment, with language added to the bill report, explained this was because the committee supports the U.S.-Japan co-development of the Standard Missile (SM)-3 Block IIA ballistic missile interceptor.
In a likely nod to China’s military, it added the committee also supports the need for ground-based anti-ship cruise missiles to defend the U.S. and allied forces in the Indo-pacific region against “growing threats in the region.”
DoD intends to add the SM-3 IIA to Aegis Ashore sites but last month Japan announced it was canceling plans to deploy two Aegis Ashore sites, in part because they could not guarantee the SM-3 IIA rocket boosters would land in the sea of a Japan Self-Defense Forces training area as promised (Defense Daily, June 29).
Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) sponsored an amendment directing the Secretary of Defense to also submit a report to various committees assessing the impact of the U.S. acceding to the United National Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS).
The report language notes “though the United States abides by the rules of UNCLOS, the United States currently relies on customary international law and U.S. military presence to assert the principles of UNCLOS.”
It argued U.S. efforts to counter and deter activities from states that may seek to undermine or reshape the rules-based international order may be impacted by the U.S. status as a non-party to UNCLOS.
The report is directed to at least cover how U.S. accession would impact national security interests; the ability of the military to peacefully deter conflict; U.S military posture and operations in the maritime domain; maintaining freedom of navigation in international seas and securing navigational freedoms and global access for various ships, aircraft, and undersea cables; buttressing a rules-based international order; U.S. to counter efforts by nations seeking to reshape international accepted rules; U.S. leadership in the maritime domain, credibility of U.S. support for a rules-based approach, and U.S. influence on maritime disputes; U.S. ability to work with allies and partners on maritime security issues; and any other relevant matters the Secretary determines should be included.
In 2019, the previous Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, said he approved if the Senate decided to ratify UNCLOS as a measure to help counter Chinese actions in the South China Sea (Defense Daily, Feb. 6).
“I would advocate for ratifying that treaty. We behave, pretty much, in accordance with the rules of behavior that underpin that treaty already. And it would be good to be a signatory to that treaty, just lends a little bit of authority, I guess, to what we say,” Richardson said at the time.