Obama extends shipbuilding for defense.
In a budgetary bright spot for Southeastern New England, the Navy is seeking to build two attack submarines next year for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union spurred drastic reduction in sub-building in the early 1990s.
The expected doubling of the production rate of Virginia-class submarines, at a requested $3.4 billion, is part of President Obama"s $708-billion defense budget for fiscal year 2011. The plan would impose austerity on many Pentagon programs in order to cover war-fighting costs that continue at levels comparable to those of the Bush administration.
Special forces, robot planes, helicopters and shipbuilding are among the programs slated for healthy increases in a budget that Defense Secretary Robert Gates portrayed as being full of tough choices. But the Pentagon seeks to stop building C-17 transport planes, curb price inflation in the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter plane, and raise military pay by a modest 1.4 percent.
Overall, the president"s 2011 defense budget represents a 3.4-percent increase over current spending and includes $159 billion ? or more than 20 percent of the total ? for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Beyond those war-fighting costs for 2011, Gates said the president will soon seek a $30-billion supplemental appropriation to pay for his surge of 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. Gates said the supplemental spending bill should be passed in April. The supplemental bill will confront such liberal House Democrats as Rep. James R. Langevin and Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy with a vote on a war policy that they have reservations about.
Navy shipbuilding, with a budget request up more than 7 percent, to $15.7 billion, is among the programs that Pentagon brass deemed essential to defense needs foreseen in another major planning document issued Monday. The ?Quadrennial Defense Review,? combined with the 2011 budget, represents a sharp departure from Cold War planning routines in order to stress the flexibility that Gates said is needed in an era of terrorism, cyberwarfare and other non-traditional threats.
While there had been some speculation about saving money in the short-term by delaying the jump to building the Virginia-class at a two-sub-per-year clip, Rear Adm. Joseph Malloy said Pentagon planners ruled that the vessel warrants accelerated production because it gives ?tremendous value for the dollar? and is in ?tremendous demand by all the combatant commanders.?
Besides the ability to fire missiles from underwater at great distances, military commanders value attack sub attributes ?that we are not allowed to talk about,? Malloy said. He referred to the sub"s ability to land special forces near the shore for covert operations and to lurk undetected while collecting intelligence on potential adversaries.
Beyond the $3.4 billion for the two subs in fiscal 2011, next year"s budget includes another $1.7 billion to buy components of the two subs that are slated for the 2012 budget.
The Virginia-class submarine is jointly built by the Groton-based Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics and Northrup-Grumman"s Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
EB also stands to get a share of the $600 million per year that the Navy intends to spend through 2015 on research and development of a new ballistic missile submarine to replace the old Ohio class.
EB and a number of high-technology contractors in the Newport area could also benefit from rising ?R & D? spending on unmanned underwater and surface vehicles ? the maritime variations on the Predator and other robot planes that have changed the face of war since they came into common uses in the wars in Afghanistan. The remotely operated drones can spy on, track and attack adversaries from the air.
The budget contains money to build 10 ships, including the two subs, littoral combat ships and two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers ? some of which are built at another General Dynamics Division, Bath Iron Works in Maine. Also on next year"s construction list: two shallow-draft, Joint High Speed Vessels (one each for the Navy and the Army), an assault landing ship that can carry helicopters, and a Mobile Landing Platform ship.
The emphasis in the shipbuilding account is on vessels that are either designed to operate near-shore or are ? like the attack subs ? versatile enough to do so.
Malloy said the Navy and the Marine Corps, ?created as expeditionary forces,? are well-suited to that dual role.