Hill Set to Challenge Pentagon
On Diverse Budget Issues
Just days after the White House’s $716.5 billion
request for new defense spending landed on
Capitol Hill, two influential Democratic members of
the House had begun angling to add more ships to the
Navy’s fiscal year budget proposal.
House Armed Services Seapower and Expeditionary
Forces Subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor, D-Miss.,
and House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
Chairman John Murtha, D-Pa., spoke briefly during a
vote on the House floor Feb. 8. They hope to boost the
Navy’s buys of new ships to as many as 12 next year, a
70 percent increase over the Pentagon’s current plan.
Murtha and Taylor, two strong allies, could be aided
in their efforts by House Armed Services Chairman Ike
Skelton, D-Mo., who has said shipbuilding will be one
of his priorities in the 110th Congress.
Their disagreements with the Pentagon’s 2008 budget proposal are indicative of the intent of many in
Congress to challenge the Defense Department’s spending plan across a diverse array of issues, including shipbuilding, aircraft procurement and the military services’
health care program.
The Navy’s budget includes more than $14 billion
for the construction of seven new ships, including a
Virginia-class submarine and the first of four annual
payments on the CVN- 21 aircraft carrier. Taylor and
Murtha would like to add money for at least another
submarine, and perhaps two surface destroyers.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., left, has taken up the
cause of Republican former Rep. Rob Simmons by pushing to accelerate the Navy’s submarine acquisition rate.
Courtney defeated Simmons in last fall’s election. At right
is Rep. John Larson, D-Conn.
But Taylor, in a brief interview
with reporters off the House floor,
cautioned that their hands are tied
until the Navy and the shipbuilding industry can get burgeoning
costs under control.
Indeed, Taylor, an ardent shipbuilding industry supporter whose
district includes Northrop Grumman’s Pascagoula, Miss., yard, chided senior Navy officials just minutes
before speaking to Murtha. And
during one of his panel’s hearings,
he warned that the service must
reverse the “out-of-control” cost
growth that has been common in
major shipbuilding programs.
“Congress will not continue to
throw money at programs that
exceed cost projections,” Taylor said.
Moves by Taylor and Murtha to
add more ships to the Navy’s fiscal
2008 budget could bode particularly well for Rep. Joe Courtney, the
Connecticut Democrat who narrowly beat former Republican Rep.
Rob Simmons in the November
elections. Their district includes
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat
outfit, the Virginia-class builder.
Weeks into the new Congress,
freshman Courtney is picking up
the mantle left by Simmons, who