WASHINGTON: Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., is attempting to add another $25 billion to this year’s defense policy bill, the large majority of which would go directly to fast tracking the Navy’s current plans to revitalize its four public shipyards.
The senator submitted his legislation, dubbed the Shipyard Act of 2021, on Monday as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has said he will bring to the upper chamber’s floor this week.
The bill was originally introduced earlier this year by Wicker in the Senate and Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., in the House. It has since attracted almost three dozen cosponsors from Democratic and Republican lawmakers in both chambers largely hailing from shipbuilding states such as Virginia, Maine, Hawaii and Mississippi.
If passed, the bill would provide $21 billion to the Navy’s four public shipyards and effectively accelerate the service’s existing plans for rebuilding those facilities, an effort now run by the Program Executive Office for Shipyard Infrastructure and Optimization (PEO SIOP). The Navy’s current plans call for $21 billion in funding to restore the four shipyards, but the service had proposed that money should be spread out over two decades.
Another $4 billion would be distributed among private shipyards that have new construction or maintenance efforts underway for the Navy. Finally, $350 million would be used to restore Coast Guard facilities.
Despite its bipartisan support, the bill still likely faces steep odds of being passed in the final defense policy bill. Both the House and Senate during the NDAA’s drafting process already included sizable boosts to defense spending compared to the president’s budget submission. Some lawmakers had eyed the bipartisan infrastructure bill as means for passing Wicker’s shipyard legislation, but those efforts failed.
Further, the bill lacks formal support from the chairmen and ranking members from the Armed Services Committees, another sign it faces long odds.
However, lawmakers have been signaling they are losing patience with the Pentagon’s plans for restoring its maintenance infrastructure. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., sharply criticized the military’s top acquisition officials for the Pentagon’s lip service to maintenance issues during a hearing last month.
“We’ve heard these are national treasures,” he said, referring to remarks about depots from various generals, admirals and service secretaries. “And yet, the supposed commitment to the depots is not translated into action. The organic industrial base infrastructure is chronically underfunded to the point these facilities are relics of the past.”
Ahead of that hearing, the Navy delivered to the House committee a detailed outlook on PEO SIOP’s plans for the next five years. The service also elevated the office administering SIOP from a program office to a program executive office, a bureaucratic move but one that brings with it new oversight from a flag officer, Rear Adm. Troy McClellan, and a stronger vantage point to fight for budget dollars internally moving forward. McClellan is due to be in his post by Dec. 1.
Last week, the service announced it had awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts cumulatively worth $8 billion to five companies for future work at the shipyards in Hawaii and Washington.
Another $25B boost, this time for shipyards, proposed for NDAA – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Justin Katz for breakingdefense.com