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House votes will determine fate of Navy fleet

The House of Representatives this week will vote on a series of amendments that will determine whether the Navy can follow through on its plans to shrink the fleet, or whether lawmakers will hold the line.

Late Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee approved 650 amendments to the annual defense policy bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This bill doesn’t appropriate money to the Pentagon, but it will serve as a guide for lawmakers when they look at spending bills later in the year.

The biggest test for the Navy will be two votes that could come as early as this week:

First is an amendment to the bill that would remove an extra $37 billion in Pentagon spending authority that was added earlier in the process. Included in that total is $4 billion for Navy shipbuilding, which would allow for an additional frigate, an oiler, two medical ships, an extra DDG destroyer and money to restore five Littoral Combat Ships.

Inclusion of this $4 billion was seen by many as vital to maintaining the fleet, especially since the Navy’s budget plan calls for building just nine new ships and retiring 24.

Secondly, lawmakers will vote on language that would allow the Navy to retire nine LCS ships as it has proposed. Earlier in the process, lawmakers added language that would force the Navy to keep five of these ships, but top Democrats have said they would fight that addition.

A handful of other Navy-related amendments will come up on the House floor in the next several days, including language that would:

  • Require the Navy to report on the feasibility of a 2- and 3-year advance procurement plan for the next two Ford-class carriers

  • Require biannual leak inspections of Navy and Air Force underground fuel storage tanks on Guam, a demand some are making after the Red Hill leak in Hawaii

  • Adding three F-35Cs for the Navy

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