US temporary funding bill includes more money for Navy’s Columbia-class subs
Daily Press February 10, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — Once again, Congress is trying to enact a temporary measure to keep the government open for a few weeks more, but this measure includes extra funding to keep the Columbia-class submarine program on track.
The subs, which the Newport News Shipbuilding-General Dynamics Electric Boat partnership are now building, are the Navy’s top money priority.
Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday warned that the usual type of “continuing resolution” temporary funding measure, which locks in spending at the prior year level, would provide $500 million less than the Columbia program needs this year.
But the continuing resolution the House passed Tuesday, and that the Senate is expected to pass shortly, includes $1.6 billion for advance purchase of material and equipment for Columbia-class submarines.
That’s good news for Hampton Roads, but the measure still leaves the Navy and the Department of Defense short of needed funds, said U.S. Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Virginia Beach, vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee.
“We are nearly halfway through Fiscal Year 2022 and have yet to pass a spending bill that funds our national defense, gives a pay raise to our service members, and secures the long-term future of Hampton Roads,” she said. “This is unacceptable.”
Gilday has said that passing continuing resolutions instead of a real spending bill for fiscal year 2022 locks in Navy funding at 2021 funding levels that hit work on Ford class aircraft carriers, which are built at Newport News Shipbuilding, as well as nuclear carrier refueling overhauls.
If Congress keeps passing continuing resolutions to temporarily fund the government or opts for one a year long instead of simply passing the 2022 appropriations bill, the Navy would lose $14 billion in purchasing power over the next year, Luria said.
Luria said adding funds for the Columbia program is a sign that Congress is moving closer to agreement on a real appropriation bill.
“If you have only six months to spend a year’s appropriation, you won’t be as efficient,” she said.
Late starts on maintenance or repair contracts “have a cascading effect” across the Navy and its operations, she said.
The latest measure would keep the government open through March 11 — without it, the government would shut down Feb. 18.
The House vote was 272-162, with 51 Republicans joining Democrats in favor.
“While I am pleased that this CR includes additional funds to keep the critically important Columbia class submarine program on track, we should not need to rely on small carve-outs to ensure funding for important defense programs that have already been authorized by Congress,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Newport News.
“Other critical programs, such as those that ensure children are fed, the elderly can afford their heating bills, and everyone can file their tax returns, are also stymied by short-term funding.”
Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Westmoreland, the ranking Republican on the Armed Service’s committee seapower panel, voted against the measure.
“Doing something repeatedly that results in the same failures and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity. For far too long, Congress has used continuing resolutions as a complete abandonment of budgeting responsibly,” Wittman said. “Congress has yet again kicked the can down the road through a short-term solution to a long-term problem. This is no way to govern.”
Newport News Shipbuilding is building these modules for the first two Columbia class boats, with the first module, a stern section, to be shipped to Electric Board for assembly in November.
The shipyard is doing this work under a $2.2 billion contract that will keep shipbuilders busy through 2028. Newport News is handling about 22% of the work on each Columbia-class boat, while the high priority project has led the Navy to steer more Virginia class attack submarine work to the yard.
©2022 Daily Press.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.