Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) are pushing two key initiatives to bolster funding for critical combat capabilities outlined by U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Navy Special Warfare Command (NAVSPECWAR), according to the panel’s version of the fiscal year 2012 defense bill.

Under the legislation, lawmakers are looking to reinvigorate SOCOM’s latest attempt to develop a mini-submarine delivery vehicle for NAVSPECWAR operators, as well as increase funding for the command’s High Speed Assault Craft program.

Specifically, committee members want Pentagon acquisition officials to designate the Dry Combat Submersible-Light (DCSL), Dry Combat Submersible-Medium (DCSM) and the Shallow Water Combat Submersible (SWCS) as Acquisition Category ID-level programs.

The ACAT ID designation is the highest priority a defense program can be given. As ACAT ID-level efforts, those three programs would be directly overseen by the office of Pentagon acquisition chief Ashton Carter.

Used specifically for “shallow water infiltration and exfiltration of special operations forces, reconnaissance, resupply and other missions,” the shallow-water submersible system is one that SOCOM and Navy officials have been trying to perfect since 2003, according to the report.

“As demonstrated by previous combat submersible acquisition programs, these systems and associated support equipment are inherently complicated and expensive to develop,” the report accompanying the SASC bill states.

The closest those organizations came to fielding a semi-submersible system was in the early 2000s. The Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) developed SOCOM cleared initial operating capability in 2003, nearly six years behind schedule, according to the SASC report. But a catastrophic malfunction with the system’s power supply burned that prototype to the ground in 2008.

SOCOM leaders opted not to rebuild the ASDS and canceled the program shortly thereafter, negating the nearly $700 million sunk into the effort at the time of the accident. A second, joint effort, dubbed the Joint Multi-Mission Submersible, launched in 2010, never even made it to initial operational capability, with SOCOM and DoD canceling the effort that same year, “due to unacceptably high total program costs,” according to the report.

The current three-system approach, consisting of the DSCL, DSCM and SWCS, began last August under the milestone authority resting with SOCOM via three separate program management offices. While praising the command’s efforts to get the much-needed capability into the hands of special operations forces, the management difficulties in past efforts prompted SASC members to hand over acquisition control to Carter’s office.

“The committee believes that the total acquisition costs, potential risks and past history…necessitates the program oversight of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics,” the Senate committee report states.

With panel members looking to close the undersea capability gap in SOCOM and NAVSPECWAR, senators also sought to address the command’s troubles with its current fleet of assault craft.

Committee members are infusing SOCOM coffers with an additional $15 million to procure six High Speed Assault Craft, and are pushing the command to develop a life-extension strategy for its current supply of Mk V Special Operations Craft and Rigid Inflatable Boats (RIBs).

Noting in their report that SOCOM and their counterparts at NAVSPECWAR are facing a “maritime combatant craft capability gap” within SOF beginning in 2013, the HSAV is the only existing vessel in the SOCOM arsenal “that meets theater [naval special warfare] requirements. That gap would leave NAVSPECWAR and SOCOM operators unable to conduct a number of missions–ranging from maritime interdiction to partner nation engagement operations.

However, while DoD requested $6.9 million in its general procurement account for maritime combat craft, it neglected to budget in any dollars for the HSAV, despite the rapidly aging Mk V and RIB fleet.

Navy and SOCOM planners had anticipated closing that gap with the next-generation Combatant Craft Medium (CCM), but lengthy delays in the boat’s development have left command officials without a viable stopgap, aside from the HSAV. With the six boats added into SOCOM’s request, Navy operators will still have the necessary equipment to do key maritime missions, while allowing time for the CCM to mature.