A group of House lawmakers introduced a new bill on June 15 to establish a joint training pipeline between the U.S. Navy and Royal Australian Navy, helping the start preparing for the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine deal to proceed.
In this bill, The Australia-U.S. Submarine Officer Pipeline Act
, Australia would be allowed to send at least two of its submarine officers to participate in training with the U.S. Navy each year. Each participant would train at the Navy Nuclear Propulsion School, enroll in the Submarine Officer Basic Course, and then be assigned duty on an operational U.S. submarine at sea.
The bill was introduced by House Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D- Conn. ), Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), all chairmen on the Congressional AUKUS Working Group, along with Seapower subcommittee ranking member Rob Wittman (R-Va.), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.).
These co-sponsors argued the bipartisan bill will help start U.S. based training on commanding officers for Australia’s future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines under the AUKUS deal.
Last September, the U.S., U.K., and Australia announced the AUKUS partnership as a bid to help Australia procure its first nuclear-powered submarines and replace the current fleet of six Collins-class diesel-electric attack submarines. The deal also caused Australia to cancel previous plans to use 12 new conventionally-powered submarines designed by France’s Naval Group (Defense Daily, Sept. 15, 2021).
The three countries are currently undergoing an initial 18-month exploratory review period to inform the Australian government on how it will pursue this capability.
The bill co-sponsors said it outlines how the countries should work to deliver the capabilities outlined in the AUKUS alliance, including engaging with industry partners to expand the industrial base capacity to support increasing submarine production.
“The Australia-U.S. Submarine Officer Pipeline Act is a major milestone in the successful implementation of AUKUS. Our bill will authorize an education and training program for Royal Australian Navy submariners to receive formal instruction in the highest standard of U.S. Navy technology, and will begin rotating in the first cohorts of Australian sailors who will command their future fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. This bipartisan bill has the full support of the AUKUS Working Group, and we should waste no time in moving it forward towards a final vote,” Courtney said in a statement.
Courtney called the AUKUS agreement “the most important national security partnership that America has entered into in decades.”
“Its centerpiece is creating an Australian nuclear-powered undersea fleet of submarines, which all three allies are actively designing. While that work is ongoing, it makes sense to open the U.S. Navy’s nuclear training programs to Australia’s naval officers to acquire proficiency in the operation of nuclear submarines,” he added.
Similarly, Gallagher argued establishing this joint training pipeline between the U.S. and Australian navies “is a critical step that will take our security partnership to the next level.”
He added this demonstrates Congress’ support of the deal and “begins taking the many steps that will be required to realize its full potential.”
Moore also said “it is imperative that we strengthen our undersea capabilities and increase submarine production for our national security interests, and the training exchange program outlined in the legislation will help us achieve that goal.”