May 12, 2005

House panel adds Navy ships

The projection forces subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee has completed its work on its portion of H.R.1815, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006.

It ups the number of Navy ships to be procured from just four, under the Pentagon's request, to seven, by adding two DDG destroyers and a T-AKE supply ship. It also includes $418 million of funding to start construction of the LHA-R amphibious asault ship.

The subcommittee has also voted to establish a $100 million Shipbuilding Industrial Base Improvement Program under which the U.S. government will buy advanced shipbuilding technology for shipyards.

Under the projection forces panel plan. however. spending on the next-generation DD(X) destroyer would be cut by an amount that is as yet unclear--and would cap the cost of each DD (X) at $1.7 billion a copy.

The panel's shipbuilding plan is the initiative of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. and has won bipartisan report from the subcommittee's other members.

"In this bill, we continue to buy much needed vessels in a cost-effective way, including two additional DDG destroyers╩and a T-AKE supply ship, increasing the President's original budget request from four to seven ships," noted Rep. Gene Taylor (D. Miss.)

Significantly, the plan appears to have the endorsement of Rep. Duncan Hunter (R. Calif), indicating that it is on track to be part of the overall defense spending plan that reaches the House floor.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, meantime, continues its work on the FY2006 budget and its proposals could emerge very shortly.

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