Trump signs $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes sub funds

President Donald Trump has signed a $1.1 trillion spending bill that includes billions in funding for submarine construction in southeastern Connecticut.

The much-delayed bill funds the federal government through the end of September. Trump's signature on the first major piece of legislation during his presidency averted a government shutdown.

The bill includes $15 billion in added spending for the Department of Defense, and few surprises with regard to submarine construction.

The Navy will continue to purchase two Virginia-class attack submarines a year for $5 billion. Another $1.9 billion will go toward the development and design of the new class of 12 ballistic-missile submarines, known as the Columbia-class program. Those submarines will replace the aging Ohio-class boats.

The money for the Columbia program will be deposited into the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund, which U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, helped to create within the defense budget but outside of the Navy's shipbuilding budget, so, as he says, to preserve Navy shipbuilding funds for other programs.

Courtney said he is "anxious" to hear from top Navy officials about how the fund, due to some of its cost-saving authorities such as continuous production, "can buy back some time in terms of Columbia's schedule."

The Columbia program is on a tight timeline. The Congressional Research Service, in a recent report on the program, said the Navy's schedule for designing, building and testing the first Columbia-class submarine so that it's ready for its first patrol in 2031 "includes little or no slack."

Electric Boat, which is in Courtney's district, builds the Virginia-class attack submarines under a team agreement with Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, with each alternating delivery to the Navy. EB is the prime contractor for the Columbia program and Newport News is the top subcontractor.

The spending bill also includes the first federal funding for the National Coast Guard Museum. The museum project receives $5 million under the bill. Museum fundraisers are hoping to secure $30 million from the federal government. That's in addition to about $50 million in private donations, of which they've raised $9 million so far. The state has committed up to $20 million for the construction of a pedestrian bridge to provide safe access to the museum.

Lawmakers, for the fifth year in a row, denied a request for a new base realignment and closure round. The Naval Submarine Base narrowly escaped closure in 2005 after appearing on a list of bases recommended for closure.

The House passed the bill 309-118 in a vote Wednesday. Four members abstained. The Senate passed the bill Thursday in a 79-18 vote.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said in a prepared statement said he supported the bill for reasons such as the Coast Guard Museum funding and more money for Connecticut manufacturers, even though he did not like many of the priorities outlined in the bill.

"I still don't understand why Congress refuses to fund the investments in programs that create jobs, like building roads and rail lines, and push down the cost of college. Continuing to pass budgets that crowd out spending on infrastructure and education because of growing entitlement and defense funding just isn't good long-term economic policy," Murphy said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., in a statement on the bill, alluded to Congress' need to pass budgets on time.

"The American people deserve better than a Congress that governs from crisis to crisis. We must build on this bipartisan momentum to improve our nation's healthcare, protect consumers, and support working families," he said.

j.bergman@theday.com

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