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Spending bill boosts funding 22% for Virginia-class submarines

Virginia-class attack submarine USS Hawaii transits into Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on July 23, 2009. The USS Hawaii is the 3rd Virginia-class submarine constructed and the 1st submarine to bear the name of the Aloha State.

The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a spending bill that provides 22 percent more funding for the Virginia-class submarine program and cuts or modestly increases many other defense programs.

"Despite the fact that overall spending for defense is going down and we're not able to fully restore the cuts under sequestration, the Virginia class is listed as one of the items that got a plus-up," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said. "Almost no other place in the entire budget — domestic or military or within the Pentagon — got that kind of a profound vote of confidence."

In the $1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill for the 2014 fiscal year, $6.5 billion was allocated to build two submarines a year in 2014 and 2015 and to restore funding that was cut with the automatic sequestration reductions, which is $1.2 billion more for the program than the president's budget requested.

This agreement fully funds the second submarine for 2014 this year, where in the original plan the bill would have been paid in 2014 and in 2015.

The appropriations bill also provides $1.1 billion to continue the research and development on a new class of ballistic-missile submarine to replace the Ohio class, and $59 million so Electric Boat may continue developing a module that will boost firepower on Virginia-class boats.

The Senate did not initially fund the Virginia Payload Module.

If the government had continued to operate under a continuing resolution, which freezes spending at last year's levels, the Navy would have received about half as much for the work on the Ohio-class replacement. EB is designing that submarine.

Construction on the lead ship is scheduled to begin in 2021, but that likely would have been delayed if the research and development were slowed this year, Courtney said.

EB President Jeffrey S. Geiger said Tuesday, after the plan was first announced, that it was "the very best news we could've hoped for."

The Senate is expected to pass its appropriations bill later this week. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said the bill includes "critically important funding for national security priorities and provides significant certainty for the manufacturers, big and small, in Connecticut's defense industry supply chain."

Courtney said he is thrilled that the submarine programs will stay on track and the work that is being done in southeastern Connecticut will be supported.

"It's sensational," he said. "It speaks so powerfully to the commitment the country is making to its undersea fleet."

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