HARTFORD, Conn. — A key Connecticut congressman said Monday that President Donald Trump’s proposal to reduce funding for building Virginia-class submarines is “dead on arrival.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, whose district includes the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, said the $19.9 billion allocated in Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget plan is nearly 17 percent lower than current funding levels and is proposing to build the fewest number of “combatant vessels” for the U.S. Navy in a decade.
"This weak, pathetic request for eight ships — of which two are tugboats — is not only fewer ships than 2020, but fewer ships than the Navy told us last year it planned for 2021," said Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and chairman of House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.
"I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the President's budget, it is dead on arrival," he said.
Courtney said experts have warned Congress year after year about the need for greater submarine capabilities, as China and Russia increase their undersea activity and the American fleet faces an impending 20 percent reduction.
"That's why we worked so hard to achieve and sustain the two-a-year build rate since 2011," Courtney said. "Deviating from that plan now makes no sense, and I am confident we will address this incoherent decision in the 2021 defense bill."
During a Thanksgiving conference call with Navy Times and the U.S. Naval Institute, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said that there “were no surprises in that report."
In budget documents, the Trump administration said the budget proposal "ensures maritime superiority" and "prioritizes funding for programs that would deliver warfighting advantages against China and Russia."
Trump’s plan allocates funds for just one Virginia-class submarine.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, of Connecticut, called that a “dangerous departure from our long-established, bipartisan commitment to undersea predominance.”
Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, also of Connecticut, said the Navy has purchased two Virginia-class submarines a year since 2011, adding how the state’s workforce and manufacturers rely on funding for the subs.
The U.S. Navy awarded the largest shipbuilding contract in its history in December, ordering nine more attack submarines for a total of $22.2 billion.