Congress Could Grant $2.2 Billion Exception For The Navy To Build New Submarines Amid Fears Of Delayed Funding Bill

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Congress’ continuing resolution (CR) released Sunday night carves out a rare exception for the Navy to assume up to $2.2 billion in additional funding for the Columbia-class submarine program.

House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled the full-government funding extension days ahead of a Friday deadline to avert a government shutdown as disagreements continue to delay passage of a fiscal year 2024 funding bill, according to CNN. The Pentagon has warned that repeated short-term funding bills would delay programs needed to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent, including by building the second ballistic-missile submarine now covered under the CR.

“Columbia submarines are needed to be at-sea this decade to ensure our continued second-strike capacity,” Brent Sadler, the senior research fellow for Naval warfare at the Heritage Foundation, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The margins for error and delay are long gone, and these submarines are key to deterring foes like China and Russia.” (RELATED: ‘More Lethal’: 2024 GOP Presidential Hopefuls Lay Out Plans To Bolster The Navy)

If it passes, the extra money devoted in the CR could resolve issues with long lead time parts — components that take longer and often require an earlier commitment of funds — workforce investment and industrial base suppliers, Sadler explained to the DCNF.

“Routine and predictable budgets are the smartest way to build submarines, but a CR that ensures procurement of long-led parts and keeps on-track supply chain recovery efforts is second best and key to the health of this strategically important program,” he said.

Congress has already extended fiscal year 2023 funding into 2024 more than once. In November, the chambers passed a short-term package permitting the Navy an additional $621,270,000 for the submarine program amid fears it could fall behind schedule and create a gap in nuclear deterrence, according to Defense News.

That bill funds the Department of Defense through Feb. 2, Defense News reported, and would cover one of the planned 12 Columbia-class submarines. A previous CR authorized in September also contained an unusual exemption allowing the Navy to continue work on the program.

“While the first FY24 CR provided an anomaly for a production rate increase on the second Columbia-Class Submarine, the rate of operations increase for advance procurement funding in FY24 will cause delays in long lead time materials awards for up to ten future Columbia-Class Submarines and a delay of Submarine Industrial Base investment funding. This puts at risk the modernization of the sea-base leg of our nation’s nuclear triad,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos del Toro said in a letter to Congress on Dec. 8.

It would also contribute to billions wasted through delays and uncertainty incurred by lack of guaranteed funding from Congress, he said.

“Should the Congress fail to provide a FY2024 appropriation and instead enact a year-long CR at FY2023 levels … our Navy-Marine Corps team will incur an immediate $15.2 billion set-back with impacts in nearly every area,” del Toro wrote.

“Bottom line, having access to that additional money to keep the Columbia program as close to schedule is important. That said, the real metric of effectiveness will be results – will this money actually keep the program on time?” Sadler told the DCNF.

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