Updated: Jun 30, 2022
Federal legislators in late June added $4 billion in new authorization for shipbuilding and maintenance to the annual defense policy bill, a strong sign that Congress will once more step in to prevent the U.S. Navy from following through on its proposal to shrink the fleet.
The House Armed Services Committee met on June 22 to consider the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2023. Among other things, the NDAA would block the Navy from decommissioning five ships, including four Littoral Combat Ships.
During debate on the bill, Reps. Jared Goldman (D-ME) and Elaine Luria (D-VA) proposed another $37 billion in authorized defense spending both to address security challenges and deal with inflation, which is significantly boosting costs for both the Pentagon and U.S. service members.
The amendment included more than $4 billion in specific authorization for Navy shipbuilding. It authorizes:
$2.4 billion to build an additional frigate, an oiler and two expeditionary medical ships
$1.2 billion for building another DDG destroyer
$318 million to restore five Littoral Combat Ships
$250 million for shipyard infrastructure
The amendment also authorizes another $1.3 billion in spending for Navy aircraft.
“We need only look to world events in Ukraine, read reports regarding China’s plans and actions in the South China Sea or simply read the latest headlines about Iranian nuclear ambitions and North Korean missile tests as well as ongoing terrorist threats in order to see why this funding is necessary to meet the security challenges of our time,” Golden said in debate over his proposal.
“It’s a time to grow our military, not shrink our military,” added Luria, who cited many of the same global threats.
The amendment had support from both Republicans and Democrats and was approved in a 42-17 committee vote. Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who opposed it, hinted that he would fight language to restore the LCS ships when the bill comes to the House floor for consideration later this year.
The $37 billion amendment doesn’t deal only with Navy spending. For example, it adds more than $8 billion in authorized spending to help the Pentagon deal with rising construction, fuel and personnel costs.
The NDAA is the annual bill that authorizes Defense Department activities, but it doesn’t actually fund those activities. Once passed, the NDAA generally serves as a guideline that Congress uses to make funding decisions when it takes up spending bills later in the year.
Approval of the $37 billion amendment is another sign Congress is in the mood to significantly increase defense spending above President Biden's request for $773 billion in the next fiscal year. Earlier in June, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved an NDAA that increased spending authorization by $45 billion.
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