Pentagon Resists Push for $1 Billion Submarine Down Payment

(Bloomberg) -- The Pentagon and the top Republican House lawmaker overseeing defense spending are united in opposing an effort to shift $1 billion from other defense projects into a down payment on two additional Virginia-class submarines that wouldn’t be put under contract until 2022 and 2023.

The extra money was requested by Representatives Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat, and Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican, who have constituents working in shipyards where the submarines are built. Their amendment is expected to be debated late Wednesday or on Thursday during consideration of the $674.6 billion fiscal 2019 defense spending bill (H.R. 6157).

The submarines are built at General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat unit in Connecticut and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.’s Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

The move was backed in the House’s version of the companion defense policy bill but the money would still need to be appropriated. The amendment would shift funds requested by the Pentagon for programs including the Navy’s DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyer and the Air Force’s Global Hawk drone.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan outlined the department’s objections yesterday to Kay Granger, chairwoman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee. He said the $1 billion advanced payment could over time require $6 billion in additional funding that’s needed for other purposes.

Granger, a Texas Republican, said she strongly opposed the amendment, saying that the “$1 billion in proposed offsets are very damaging to our national security.”

Courtney said that without boosting the Virginia class, the Navy would have an attack submarine fleet in decline over the next several years, dropping from 53 to 41.

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