$700B defense bill deal includes more subs

A deal has been reached on a whopping $700 billion defense policy bill for fiscal year 2018 that would allow for increased attack submarine production. The bill still requires final approval from the House and Senate.

A conference committee, made up of lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., negotiated for weeks and announced that they'd reached a deal on Wednesday. Both Courtney and Blumenthal put out statements hailing the deal and the bipartisan work that led up to it.

The compromise bill is about $80 billion more than what was authorized last year for the Defense Department, and is about $85 billion above what the law allows for fiscal year 2018.

It authorizes 20,000 more service members, nearly $8 billion in funding for submarine programs, and denies a round of base closings and consolidations in 2021, which the Trump administration requested, to name a few proposals.

The bill also authorizes an increase in attack submarine production. It would allow a block of up to 13 Virginia-class attack submarines to be built over a five-year period, instead of 10 subs, the number built in recent blocks. The contract for the next block of Virginia subs is being negotiated.

Courtney said the increase in attack submarine production was one of several priorities negotiated on the House side that prevailed in the conference version, which authorizes the building of 17 new Navy ships, nearly double what the Trump administration requested. Courtney accused the Trump administration of failing to meet its stated goal of a 355-ship Navy in its 2018 budget request.

"The request we received was a 278 ship budget for a 355 ship Navy," Courtney said in a statement.

He also pointed to efforts to expand the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, which he 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. The conference bill includes Courtney's proposal to allow for the continuous production of a greater range of submarine components.

j.bergman@theday.com

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