Senate bills include funding for additional Navy, Coast Guard vessels

The following is the text of a news release from the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA):

(WASHINGTON) — The Senate Appropriations Committee last week acknowledged calls for increasing the Navy's ship count, funding the construction of 10 new ships, as well as providing the U.S. Coast Guard funding for the acquisition of six total new ships. The Defense and Homeland Security appropriations markups come on the heels of the recent Sea-Air-Space Exhibition, where leaders of the maritime industry called for the restoration of a 350-ship Navy and a cohesive national maritime strategy that supports the vibrant U.S. shipyard industrial base. 

"There has never been a more critical time to support the men and women of our armed forces as they face daily threats from international aggressors," said Matthew Paxton, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America. "Not only is the Senate Appropriations Committee investing in our naval fleet, they are also investing in the U.S. shipyard industrial base that builds, maintains and supplies these vessels." 

The Senate FY 2017 Defense appropriations bill provides $20.5 billion for Navy shipbuilding programs, an increase of $2.1 billion and three ships above the president's budget request. In total, the bill funds the construction of 10 new ships including two Virginia-class submarines, three DDG 51 destroyers, three littoral combat ships, one LHA amphibious assault ship and one Coast Guard polar icebreaker. The bill also fully funds advance procurement activities for the Ohio replacement submarine and aircraft carrier replacement programs. 

Committee Chairman Thad Cochran, R-Miss., stated that the committee was "making investments in other (Navy) shipbuilding programs … which are critical to our military's modernization. These are initiatives that have broad bipartisan support." 

The Senate FY 2017 Homeland Security appropriations bill, which includes annual funding for the U.S. Coast Guard, provides a total of $10.4 billion for the agency, an increase of $292 million above the requested level. The level supports a robust USCG operating expense budget, including the purchase of additional response boats and program management and personnel costs associated ith the Polar Icebreaker Recapitalization Project. The bill would also provide necessary increases for acquisitions, including funding for acquiring a 10th national security cutter, two additional fast response cutters (for a total of six) and ongoing activities related to the offshore patrol cutter. 

On the critical need to support Coast Guard shipbuilding, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said, "As mentioned, the Coast Guard has been in significant need of recapitalizing their fleet — it is an essential part of our homeland security. The maintenance (and) upkeep required is considerable and not without a price tag. … We are doing right by our Coast Guard in providing them with assets that they need." 

Last month, SCA applauded the Senate appropriators for providing $75 million to complete a new survey vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and $159 million for the design and construction of three National Science Foundation Regional-class research vessels in the FY 2017 Commerce, Justice, Science, appropriations bill. 

The U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry supports more than 500,000 jobs nationwide and contributes more than $39 billion annually to the U.S. economy. According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, there are either direct or induced U.S. shipyard jobs in all 435 congressional districts.

By Professional Mariner Staff