A Navy proposal to speed up the purchase of three Virginia-class attack submarines is a welcome step but would make only a modest dent in the military’s shortfall of those vessels, according to the head of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).
“They would clearly increase our nation’s capability and, if assigned to PACOM, PACOM’s capability,” said Navy Adm. Harry Harris, PACOM’s commander. “But three or four are inadequate in the grand scheme based simply on my requirements, which have to be adjudicated with the requirements of all the other combatant commands, who have legitimate needs for submarines in their regions as well.”
Harris made his comments before the Senate Armed Services Committee April 27 in response to a question from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who has called the Navy proposal “hugely important” to national security and a potential economic boost to his state, which is home to submarine builder General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat. The admiral’s remarks came a day after he told the House Armed Services Committee that he can meet only half of his attack submarine requirements due to a shortage of those vessels.
The Navy proposal, or “accelerated fleet plan,” which Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley sent to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in February, would buy 88 ships from fiscal year 2017 to FY 2023, 29 more than currently planned. The increase includes the three Virginia-class submarines, as well as several other ship types, such as Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyers. The plan would also procure 998 aircraft, 342 more than planned, with the Boeing [BA] F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35B and F-35C Lightning II accounting for most of the increase.
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