At least one key lawmaker has already said he will push to fund amphibious shipbuilding regardless of the White House’s budget request.
WASHINGTON — The Marine Corps in its unfunded priorities list is asking Congress to add $1.7 billion to its budget for another San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, a purchase the Pentagon left out of the formal request — to the vocal displeasure of the Marines.
The unfunded list, obtained by Breaking Defense, has roughly $3.6 billion worth of equipment, spare parts, radars and military construction projects on it, but the $1.7 billion for LPD-33’s construction is by far the biggest ticket item. The unfunded list was first reported by Politico.
The unfunded priority lists are sent by both the services and combatant commanders to Congress every year and offer the military a chance to relay to lawmakers items they see as important, but were ultimately unable to include in their formal budget requests. For the Marine Corps, that means the lack of funding for an amphibious warship that the Navy’s top admiral says is over budget and running behind schedule.
The Marines have been vocal in voicing their frustration. Shortly after the CNO, Adm. Michael Gilday, made those remarks publicly, Commandant Gen. David Berger took to the same stage at a Washington DC conference and argued the same funding numbers told a different story.
Meanwhile, the command charged with developing warfighting technologies for the service has called the lack of funding for amphibious warships “unacceptable” and said an extended pause in procurement could result in the production line being shutdown.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has said the “strategic pause” in purchasing amphibious ships is to allow the Navy to reassess the price tag and the capabilities they offer, but a variety of Pentagon officials following the budget rollout indicated the pause was prompted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, rather than the Navy or Marines.
Regardless of who started it, lawmakers are already poised to end it, with one senior Republican subcommittee chairman saying he’s committed to funding the ships, regardless of the Navy’s request.
“My commitment to the future of these platforms is unwavering, regardless of the Navy’s intent to strategically pause purchasing,” Rep. Trent Kelly, R-Miss., the new chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said at an event March 9. “This weakens our workforce to do this strategic pause and throws away the experience on the production lines, which at the end cost both the buyer and the builder additional dollars.”