House Armed Services Committee adds second Virginia submarine in FY25

House Armed Services Committee adds second Virginia submarine in FY25

The House Armed Services Committee will try to partially fund a second Virginia-class submarine in fiscal 2025 to mitigate harm to the industrial base it says will come from the Navy’s one-boat request.

The service has bought Virginia-class attack submarines at a rate of two per year since 2011. It has also pitched this continuous and predictable construction pace as key to getting back to on-time deliveries and increasing industrial base output to support the AUKUS agreement between Australia, the U.K. and the U.S.

However, the Navy asked for one boat in its FY25 budget request released in March.

“The committee continues to be perplexed by the Navy’s inconsistent funding of shipbuilding and specifically that of Virginia class submarines. For the second time in less than 5 years, the Navy has surprised both Congress and industry by removing a submarine from the budget request that had previously been planned for inclusion,” according to a section of the FY25 defense authorization bill by the committee’s sea power panel, released May 14.

“This sporadic funding will only further stress an already stressed industrial base while also delaying the time it will take to reach the Navy’s stated goal of 66 fast attack submarines (SSNs),” the document added.

The Navy justified its decision to request a single Virginia sub by pointing to its inclusion of $3.9 billion for the submarine-industrial base as well as $2.4 billion in advance procurement to continue buying long-lead time materials for future boats and keep associated vendors busy.

But Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the sea power subcommittee, has repeatedly stated the combination of submarine-industrial base funding and advance procurement efforts still doesn’t cover the full breadth of contractors in the supply chain, meaning the Navy’s budget request could leave some companies without enough work in FY25. That, he has argued, could put them at risk of going out of business or laying off skilled workers.

As a result, the committee is putting $1 billion toward incrementally funding the second submarine, with the intention of following up with additional funds for that boat in other fiscal years.

Courtney told Defense News following the release of the FY25 National Defense Authorization Act language that the decision follows months of scrutiny over the Navy’s proposal.

“What that effort clearly determined was that cutting a submarine would damage supply chain growth by injecting procurement instability in the Virginia program. Given the critical need for attack submarines across the globe and the impending decision to certify the sale of three submarines to Australia starting in 2032, the subcommittee mark takes decisive action — as required in Article One of the U.S. Constitution — to add back the second submarine. This effort demonstrates Congress’ ironclad commitment to fulfilling the AUKUS security partnership,” he said.

A senior Democratic committee staffer told reporters the $1 billion in shipbuilding funds is a “down payment” on the second boat, as the committee looked into what it would take to keep that submarine on its original schedule for delivery to the Navy.

“We’ve incrementally funded ships; we have a pretty long history and track record and are committed to doing that. And so it’s a matter of looking at: What are those long-lead items? What are we going to put into that second boat? And then come back next year to finish it out,” the staffer said.

The committee is limited in what it can add to the budget this year, as the Fiscal Responsibility Act outlines the toplines for defense and nondefense discretionary spending in FY24 and FY25.

Still, a senior majority committee staffer told reporters the committee didn’t craft its spending plan by making cuts specifically in support of new additions — so, for example, while the committee cut $1.17 billion from the frigate program due to delays, that money isn’t meant to be viewed as a one-for-one trade.

“Chairman [Rep. Mike] Rogers’ direction to us was, build the best budget you can,” the staffer said, noting the committee looked at the spending plan holistically and balanced the services’ spending needs. Rogers is a Republican from Alabama.

This post has been updated to include a statement by Rep. Joe Courtney.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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