The Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) draft FY 2020 defense authorization bill would authorize a moderate amount of funds over the Navy’s shipbuilding request for additional advanced procurement funds.

According to the bill summary, the committee would authorize $24.1 billion for 12 new ships. In comparison, the Navy requested $23.8 billion, with $22.2 billion spent on building the 12 ships (Defense Daily, March 12).

Christening ceremony in Oct. 2018 for the SSN 791 Delaware Virginia-class submarine. (Photo: HII)

SASC met the Navy’s request for three Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers; one FFG(X) future frigate; two T-ATS towing, salvage, and rescue ships; two John Lewis-class T-AO-205 fleet replenishment oilers, four LCU-1700 amphibious landing craft; and completing the Zumwalt-class destroyers.

However, while the Navy requested $10 billion for three Virginia-class submarines, SASC authorized $4.7 billion for two boats with the new Virginia Payload Module (VPM) plus $1.5 billion in advance procurement for a third submarine. For the third boat, the Navy does not intend to use the funds until FY ’23.

The Navy is also required to update its acquisition strategy for the Virginia submarines.

The committee added hundreds of millions of dollars about the administration request to accelerate two amphibious ships.

The bill authorizes $650 million in new funds to accelerate and incrementally fund procurement of LHA-9 and $278 million for the LPD Flight II amphibious ship LPD-31. The summary noted the bill also “requires a report on alternative LHA and LPD acquisition strategies.”

This came after Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) pushed for the Navy to get this kind of authority and incremental funding at a hearing in March. He favored this strategy because the Navy’s FY ’20 budget request delayed the two ships after the FY ’19 budget appropriated $350 million in advanced procurement for LHA-9 and LPD-31 (Defense Daily, March 29).

Wicker said the authority would help avoid disrupting the industrial base. James Geurts, the Navy’s top acquisitions official, told reporters after the hearing incremental funding could help the Navy start buying long-lead materials and avoid a workforce gap as the LHA production gap increases to seven years.

Other advanced procurement authorizations in the bill going beyond Navy’s request include $260 million for destroyers, $125 million for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines, and $40.4 million for the Ship-to-Shore Connectors.

SASC emphasized it “requires” the Secretary of the Navy to carry out the nuclear refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) and Harry S. Truman (CVN-75).

This is in reference to the Navy’s original plan to save over $6 billion by not refueling the Truman and letting it eventually retire in the late 2020s and shift funds to new weapons programs like artificial intelligence, unmanned systems, and directed energy weapons.

Congress thoroughly rejected this plan and last month Vice President Mike Pence announced the president decided to not retire the ship, thus supporting it undergoing its RCOH (Defense Daily, April 30).

Other provisions include adjusting Ford-class aircraft carrier cost limitation baselines to align with the two-ship block buy contracting savings as well as prohibiting funds from being used to buy any more Littoral Combat Ships above the Navy’s requirement of 32 vessels without a certification from the Navy.