Lawmakers are protesting a move to purchase one less Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2021, as outlined in President Donald Trump's budget request released in February.
Traditionally, General Dynamics' Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding have built two Virginia-class boats each year since 2011. However, the president's new fiscal blueprint only procures one. Budget justification documents call for $4.9 billion for the vessel.
The Navy has a contract with Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding for nine submarines between 2019 and 2023, with an option for a 10th ship.
The Trump administration's decision is part of a bigger move to cut the Navy's shipbuilding budget by $4 billion, according to the budget request. The plan includes acquiring 44 vessels through 2025. Last year, the service planned to procure 55.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said in a February House Armed Services Committee hearing that the Virginia-class decision was made "at the budget end game very quickly," and that service officials were only informed after the decision was made.
Procurement for the second ship was included in the Navy's unfunded priorities list.
Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., a member of HASC's seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said the process was concerning. "The decision was made after the fact and not, it seems, with your input," he told Gilday. "That does not inspire confidence here."
Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., chairman of the subcommittee, said the move was at odds with the Navy's priorities.
"Year after year, Congress has heard from Navy leaders, combatant commanders and experts about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity," he said in a statement. "They have urgently warned us that we need more submarine construction, not less, in order to mitigate the nearly 20 percent reduction in the fleet we presently face within this decade."
Senators also expressed concern about the move. In a bipartisan letter to Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, 17 senators outlined their worries, noting that the decision contradicts the National Defense Strategy, which prioritizes great power competition with China and Russia. The document was signed by 14 Democrats and three Republicans.
"This budget request exacerbates this shortfall by decreasing investment in the Virginia-class program," the lawmakers said. "Such a...