ADKINS: America’s Submarine Crisis

(Photo by David Nagle/U.S. Navy/Getty Images)

Alex Adkins Contributor
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The U.S. Naval force faces a national security crisis: insufficient attack submarines to defend our shores. A concerning report from the Congressional Research Service found that around 40 % of fast attack submarines need to be repaired or awaiting maintenance due to supply chain issues and not enough workers available. Attack submarines are an excellent deterrent against our adversaries, but the U.S. is failing to meet production standards.

2015 was the last year that the Navy missed its target of 20% for out-of-commission submarines. With its current high of out-of-commission submarines, the number of attack submarines has shrunk in a decade from 53 to 49, which is unsustainable. For comparison, the U.S. in the 80s produced three attack submarines and one ballistic missile submarine every year of the decade. The Navy’s standard requirement is 66 for its current military obligations which is the minimum for defending our shores.

Since 2021, the U.S. has entered into a trilateral security pact with the U.K. and Australia known as AUKUS, which guarantees the protection of submarine security between the three countries to create global stability and deter threats from the Indo-Pacific region. A three-step approach is agreed upon, including the U.S. and the U.K. positioning their subs in Australian territory starting in 2027. The U.S. selling Australia Virginia-class attack subs beginning in the 2030s. Also, AUKUS base submarines will be built with U.S. technology and ready to launch by 2042.

The AUKUS agreement enjoys bi-partisan support in Congress, and U.S. taxpayers are getting the bang for their buck. The deal ensures The U.S. maintains an edge against China’s naval power undersea and strengthens our alliances Britain and Australia. However, for the AUKUS deal to work, the U.S. must produce around 2.5 submarines annually. Only 1.2 submarines are built yearly due to insufficient investment and failure to upgrade the submersible fleet. The Pentagon continues investing in maintenance and production, but Republicans in Washington are urging the Biden Administration to take further measures.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss), a ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, along with 25 other Republican lawmakers, penned a letter requesting President Biden increase federal funding to support the Navy’s submarine arsenal as the supply of American submarines to Australia to fulfill the obligation to AUKUS will further deplete our underwater submersibles. 

“We urge you to send Congress immediately an AUKUS-specific request for appropriations and authorities alongside a multi-year plan to increase U.S. submarine production to a minimum of 2.5 Virginia-class attack submarines per year. It is time to make generational investments in U.S. submarine production capacity, including supplier and workforce development initiatives,” wrote Senator Wicker, and that there should be an “Aukus-specific” expenditure to ramp up production to increase the production of Virginia class attack submarines to 2.5 a year.

Until these demands meet, Wicker and his Republican colleagues plan to stop the congressional approval for the sale of subs to Australia and put AUKUS on temporary pause. It may seem like an obstruction to others, but he believes that AUKUS is still a “vital” operation. Still, the U.S. must develop a long-term plan to rebuild attack submarines to meet national security needs.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came to the defense of Wicker and the other senate Republicans by putting President Biden in check on the Senate floor by saying, “If the Administration is serious about making AUKUS a success, it should work with Congress this fall to make urgent supplemental investments in meeting military requirements in the Indo-Pacific.” 

The Biden Administration continues to fall flat regarding foreign policy and national security concerns, starting with a botched evacuation in Afghanistan and Sudan to not providing enough ammunition to Ukraine and spy bases popping up all over Cuba. President Biden will release another budget in the winter; if there are no funds for building more submarines then it will prove that Biden’s conservative critics are correct that he is weak on the international stage.

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that China plans to take over Taiwan by 2027, and reports of China and Russia deploying naval fleets on the coast of Alaska. It is time for the U.S. to expand its submarine fleet as a deterrent for its allies and to secure the homeland. The U.S. can no longer hide behind two oceans; it must become a naval power under the sea.

Alex Adkins is a graduate of Benedictine University in political science. He has written for the Washington Examiner, American Thinker, American Spectator, and The Federalist. You can follow him on Twitter @Zylinger.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller.