2008 Defense Bill Misses Mark for
Shipbuilding, but Seen as ‘Great Start’
Shipbuilding advocates in the House of Representatives fought doggedly this year to boost the
Navy’s procurement accounts, but the final product
falls far short of their goal to add a historic number of
ships to the Pentagon’s 2008 budget.
House and Senate conferees Nov. 6 reconciled their
versions of the defense budget, and Congress on Nov. 8
approved a $471 billion spending package for 2008.
During negotiations with the Senate, House appropriators ultimately ceded a significant amount of ground in
their campaign to aid the struggling shipbuilding sector
and accelerate the Navy’s plans for a 313-ship fleet.
Instead of boosting the total number of ships bought
this fiscal year, House appropriators settled for advanced
procurement funding for five ships not included in the
spending request. But that money — which totals $938
million — does not necessarily guarantee the Navy will
ask for funding to complete or continue building the
ships next year.
“I don’t count these ships until they hatch,” one congressional staffer said after Congress approved the conference report.
Indeed, the final bill funds two ships less than the
Pentagon’s initial budget request, due to lingering problems with the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program.
Rather than buying three ships this year, the defense
bill conferees agreed to only one ship after the Navy
canceled contracts for ships produced by General
Dynamics and Lockheed Martin.
U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the House
Armed Services seapower and expeditionary forces subcommittee, considers the advanced procurement funding
for ships in the 2008 defense bill “a statement of intent.”
The conference report includes
$588 million for long-lead items on
a second Virginia-class submarine,
which the House approved in its
version of the bill earlier this year
as a way to speed up the service’s
procurement of nuclear-powered
submarines. The Senate approved
$470 million for the submarine in
its bill, the only area of the ship-
building to get increased funding.
But the conference report has
only $300 million for advanced construction for three T-AKE dry
cargo/ammunition ships and $50
million for the Navy’s 10th LPD- 17
amphibious warfare ship — ships
the original House bill appropriated
$3.1 billion to buy outright this year.
The Navy plans to purchase the
submarine and T-AKEs during the
next several years, but the funding
in the negotiated fiscal 2008 bill is
intended to accelerate those buys.
Meanwhile, the service’s long-term shipbuilding program includes
the final LPD- 17. However, that
ship, though a top unfunded priority, is not anywhere in the service’s
out-year budget plans.