The Navy’s FY 2021 budget request includes $4.0 billion for the first Columbia class ballistic missile submarine. That $4.0 billion, says the Navy, “will provide the first of three years of incremental full funding for this ship. Additionally, the FY 2021 funding request will continue detailed design efforts, continuous missile tube production, and advanced construction and procurement of major hull components and propulsion systems for the planned FY 2024 procurement of the second ship in the class.”
The Navy has long said that the Columbia class is its highest priority — and analysts have long warned that the Columbia program is so expensive that it could substantially reduce funding available for any other shipbuilding program.
Be that as it may, the FY 2021 request of $19.9 billion funds construction of just eight ships — about $4 billion and four ships less than the FY 2020 ship procurement
There are signs that the request will face significant Congressional push back
“The President’s shipbuilding budget is not a 355-ship Navy budget. As Chair of the Seapower Subcommittee, I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the President’s budget, it is dead on arrival,” said Congressman Joe Courtney Chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee. “This weak, pathetic request for eight ships – of which two are tugboats – is not only fewer ships than 2020, but fewer ships than the Navy told us last year it planned for 2021. At $19.9 billion, this request is nearly 17 percent lower than current funding levels and truthfully proposes just six combatant vessels – the lowest level in a decade. It’s impossible to square this plan with the Administration’s National Defense Strategy and its claim that it supports a 355-ship fleet.
“It is the worst-kept secret in Washington that last-minute maneuvering led to the shipbuilding budget being robbed to pay for other pet projects by the Office of Management and Budget. Growing the fleet – and funding the investments necessary – is either a priority for the Administration or it’s not. Unfortunately, the Defense Department leadership was unable to withstand the pressure to use the shipbuilding account as a piggy bank, even as Navy leaders have been outspoken in their concern about getting the support they need to fund our shipbuilding priorities. That sends a troubling message to those of us who have worked on a bipartisan basis in Congress to grow our fleet.
“Included in the late-breaking reduction in shipbuilding is the elimination of one Virginia class submarine, which is particularly at odds with our national security priorities. Year after year, Congress has heard from Navy leaders, combatant commanders and experts about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity. They have urgently warned us that we need more submarine construction, not less, in order to mitigate the nearly 20 percent reduction in the fleet we presently face within this decade. That’s why we worked so hard to achieve and sustain the two a year build rate since 2011. Deviating from that plan now makes no sense, and I am confident we will address this incoherent decision in the 2021 defense bill.”
Congressman Rob Wittman, top Republican on the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, released this statement on the shipbuilding numbers in the President’s Budget:
“Simply put, the budget published today does not invest nearly enough in shipbuilding. It is clear to me—and it should be clear to everyone at this point—that we are in a full-scale strategic competition. And, while China is on track to reach a 420-ship Navy by 2035, we are struggling to stay on track with our 355-ship Navy shipbuilding plan. We must note that the $128 billion Columbia-program will be dominating the shipbuilding accounts in the coming years, edging out new projects. A decrease in the shipbuilding account is the opposite direction we need to be going if we are to compete. I will be working in this year’s NDAA to get this number back where it needs to be to continue to build and maintain our Fleet; I won’t allow us to lose ground.”
In the Senate, Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss., a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he was “especially concerned that the budget proposal released today does not provide adequate funding to the Navy for shipbuilding, which is necessary to reach our statutory national policy of 355 ships and ensure that our fleet remains unrivaled at sea.”
“Specifically, this budget proposes to procure 44 new warships in fiscal years 2021 through 2025, which is 10 ships fewer than planned over the same timeframe in last year’s request.”
You can access all the Navy’s FY 2021 budget request material HERE