By Michael Welles Shapiro
The Navy asked Congress for money to build an extra Virginia-class submarine in the fiscal year starting in October, according to the White House's budget request released Wednesday.
The request would maintain a two-boat yearly production schedule for the subs, which are made jointly at Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat in Connecticut.
The Navy wants to increase total funds flowing to the fast-attack sub program to $5.42 billion, a 27.2 percent increase from 4.25 billion this year.
Shipbuilding is just a small part of the $526.6 billion Department of Defense budget plan. That funding is predicated on Congress abandoning sequestration in favor of a more modest cuts.
In a press briefing at the Pentagon, Rear Adm. Joe Malloy, a Navy budget guru, said when it comes to shipbuilding, the budget plan achieves a goal of "stability," with 41 projects covered, though he added he's still untangling a few sequestration-fueled budget knots.
Among them, the money for construction of a nuclear reactor core to power an aircraft carrier after its midlife refueling took a hit.
The project "got sequestered by 7 percent," Malloy said, adding that it is now $23 million short.
"It takes about eight years to build them," he said, and "the issue on cores is because of the assembly time and accuracy required we need to get them back on contract."
Malloy said the Navy will ask Congress for the remainder of the money for the reactor core through separate legislation outside the budget.
The price tag is also up for the Gerald R. Ford, a symptom of cost overruns on the first-in-class aircraft carrier being built at the shipyard.
Spending on the Ford and its successor carrier, the John F. Kennedy, would increase from $781 million to 1.68 billion in the 2014 fiscal year under the new Navy plan, with $945 million tagged for design and construction of the Kennedy.
But Malloy said the Navy will have to go to Congress to raise a price ceiling associated with the Ford because of $506 million worth of new cost overruns on the ship. Overruns on the Ford – in part due to a shortage of new valves – have rankled some lawmakers, as the construction cost of the flat top has already risen from $10.5 billion in 2008 to $12.3 billion in 2012.
Malloy said the Navy will have to go back to the well: "There is going to be a legislative proposal delivered to Congress along with the budget in short order … to change the cost cap."
He also commented on a six-week delay of the midlife overhaul of the USS Abraham Lincoln and its trickle down impact on other shipyard carrier work, including the defueling of the USS Enterprise.
The Lincoln is now in Dry Dock 11 at the yard but the delay could have a domino effect, he said.
"That dry dock is the linchpin of I don't know how many years of my future now," Malloy said. "Lincoln goes in, Lincoln comes out; Enterprise goes in, Enterprise comes out; and (the USS George) Washington goes in. They are all tied to that dry dock."
Malloy expects the postponement of the Lincoln to delay the Enterprise defueling "by a week or two," he said.
Malloy also addressed plans for the USS Harry S. Truman, a carrier which had its scheduled deployment delayed indefinitely in February as the Navy faced down a spending crunch for the 2013 fiscal year
Though funds are in place for the rest of the current fiscal year, he said that doesn't mean the Norfolk-based ship would be going out to sea.
"If something happens in the world I can deploy a carrier but there's no reason to put her out just to put her out," he said. "If someone does come in and ask for an aircraft carrier, Truman is the one."
Malloy also said money for the majority of 10 canceled surface ship maintenance projects being done at Norfolk repair yards had been restored.
He said there's still two projects in Norfolk scheduled for September "that might not be done."
But because they are months away, he said he has time to restore money for those tune-ups as well.http://www.stripes.com/news/us/navy-asks-for-more-money-for-subs-carriers-in-2014-1.216165