An $857.6 billion military spending measure for 2023, with billions of dollars for Connecticut’s sprawling defense industry, took its first step in Congress Thursday, advancing out of a key Senate committee.
With a backdrop of war in Europe, rising tensions with China and Iranian nuclear ambitions, the Armed Services Committee approved, 23-3, the National Defense Authorization Act that added $47 billion to President Joe Biden’s proposal. The measure, which heads to the House Armed Services Committee next week, includes funding for submarines manufactured by General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton and Quonset Point, Rhode Island, helicopters made by Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford and fighter jet engines made by Pratt & Whitney.
“They are at the core of our commitment to national defense in a deeply dangerous world,” said US Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and a member of the committee.
Critics denounced the size of the measure and the spending additions by senators to Biden’s request.
Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, said the committee’s decision to “defy both the president and public opinion and flood the Pentagon with more money is outrageous.”
“Most Americans oppose efforts to rocket-launch military spending towards a trillion dollars per year,” he said. “Lawmakers should reject this and champion human-centered spending instead.”
Included in the measure, which also would benefit thousands of small manufacturers in a broad supply chain in Connecticut and around the country, are:
- $5.8 billion for design and construction of the next-generation Columbia class ballistic missile submarine, including $531 million for submarine industrial base workforce development, and $130 million for supplier development.
- $4.5 billion to fully fund two Virginia Class submarines and $2 billion for future submarines.
- $1.04 billion in acoustic, communication and support equipment for advanced combat control and undersea warfare capabilities.
- $1.9 billion for 12 CH-53K King Stallion Helicopters. It includes $250 million over Biden’s budget for two additional heavy-lift helicopters.
- $1.1 billion for 20 HH-60W combat rescue helicopters, including $350 million over Biden’s budget for an additional 10 HH-60Ws.
- $650.4 million to fund 25 UH-60M Black Hawk Helicopters
- $178.6 million to fund 28 UH-60L and UH-60V Black Hawk Helicopters
- $7.9 billion for 68 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, including $858 million above Biden’s budget for seven additional F-35As.
- $1 billion in F-35 advance procurement funding. The plane is made by Lockheed Martin and the engine is manufactured by East Hartford-based Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of Raytheon Technologies Corp.
Blumenthal said he secured a provision requiring an assessment of F-35 engine modernization efforts. The Department of Defense has faced criticism from several members of Congress and the US Government Accountability Office for failing to meet its targets for mission capable rates, a measure of the readiness of an aircraft fleet, or its reliability and maintainability metrics.
The National Defense Authorization Act also directs a cost benefit analysis of domestic titanium production to encourage public and private sector cooperation in establishing titanium production in the United States, “vital to long-term security of strategic supply chains,” Blumenthal said.
Stephen Singer can be reached at email@example.com.