The Pentagon has asked Congress to spare selected projects from a federal budget freeze, and one important job for Newport News Shipbuilding has made the cut.
A new fleet of ballistic missile submarines is the Navy’s top priority, and the shipyard’s share of that work will mean expansion and additional jobs. But the program will run into problems if Congress decides to maintain federal spending at 2016 levels into the spring, according to the Pentagon.
So lawmakers are being asked to approve a small list of proposed exceptions, or “anomalies,” as they consider a continuing resolution at least through March 2017. The submarines are on the list.The new boats would replace the Navy’s aging Ohio-class subs, providing a significant upgrade to the undersea leg of U.S. nuclear deterrence.
Without this anomaly, design work could not begin in January 2017 as scheduled, and the production line, delivery schedules, and potentially the cost of the program would be affected,” states the memo, a copy of which was obtained by the Daily Press.
General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., is the lead contractor on the program. The Newport News shipyard, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, is expected to perform about 22 percent of the work. Newport News also will pick up a greater share of the Virginia-class submarine program, which it currently splits 50-50 with EB.Congress is putting federal spending on autopilot through March to give the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump a voice in the budget process.Shipyard exec: Reorganization means more transparencyBut not every defense project could make the short list of proposed exceptions, and Virginia’s two senators say aircraft carrier funding deserves special attention, too.The Newport News yard is the exclusive designer and builder of nuclear-powered aircraft carriers for the Navy. A budget freeze through March would delay advance work and threaten the schedule for the future USS Enterprise, the third Ford-class carrier, Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine said in a letter released Tuesday.Construction on the Enterprise is expected to begin in 2018 with delivery to the Navy in 2027. The new Enterprise will eventually replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower.Warner and Kaine had also requested protection for the new submarines.Back in March, shipyard President Matt Mulherin said the new submarine program would ultimately mean 1,000 new jobs, boosting the fortunes of Virginia’s largest industrial employer.The company has embarked on an ambitious expansion in its North Yard, adding large buildings and costly equipment in anticipation of the work. The investment tops $700 million, and has financial support from Newport News City Council and the General Assembly.