A Virginia-class attack submarine General Dynamics Electric Boat
A Virginia-class submarine. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ronald Gutridge.

Washington – President Donald Trump’s 2021 budget request cuts from two to one the number of Virginia-class submarines that would be funded in next year’s budget.

General Dynamic’s Electric Boat, in partnership with Huntington-Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding, has for more than a decade built two submarines a year, but the president’s budget, released Monday, only includes $4.6 billion for one Virginia-class boat.

That decision was immediately slammed by proponents of the Virginia-class program.

“As Chair of the (Armed Services) Seapower Subcommittee, I can say with complete certainty that, like so much of the rest of the president’s budget, it is dead on arrival,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the elimination of a sub in next year’s defense budget “is a draconian cut that makes no sense when our adversaries are aggressively expanding.”

“It’s an insult to the hardworking and skilled men and women who make our nation’s submarines,” Blumenthal said.

The reduction in the number of submarines is a result of the Navy’s plan to reduce its shipbuilding budget by $4 billion from what it requested in 2020.

That reduction in the budget is part of the Navy’s plan to dial back the number of ships it wants to build both next year and in the coming five years. According to a budget overview, the Navy is calling for the acquisition of 44 ships through 2025 instead of the 55 the Navy projected last year.

Rep. Joe Courtney said President Trump’s budget is “dead on arrival.”
Rep. Joe Courtney said President Trump’s budget is “dead on arrival.”

Courtney said “this weak, pathetic request for eight ships – of which two are tugboats” does not square with the Navy’s long-term defense plan, which calls for a 355-ship fleet.

“It is the worst-kept secret in Washington that last-minute maneuvering led to the shipbuilding budget being robbed to pay for other pet projects by the Office of Management and Budget,” Courtney said. “Growing the fleet – and funding the investments necessary – is either a priority for the Administration or it’s not.  Unfortunately, the Defense Department leadership was unable to withstand the pressure to use the shipbuilding account as a piggy bank…”

In budget documents, the Navy said it has enough ships in the pipeline and doesn’t need any more added next year.

Because of that pipeline, the reduction next year in Virginia-class subs would not be felt at Electric Boat shipyards for several years. But proponents of submarine construction, like Connecticut’s Democratic lawmakers, have been pressing for a construction rate of more, not fewer, submarines each year.

The Navy said some of the money in the shipbuilding budget was needed to boost spending on nuclear weapons.

“We had to make some tough choices and realign some priorities,” said Acting Under Secretary of Defense Comptroller Elaine McCusker.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said “I’ve fought hard to increase spending and boost our submarine workforce. I stand ready to fight any attempt of this administration to reduce our submarine force to pay for more nuclear weapons.”

Courtney said that “year after year” Congress has heard from Navy officials and others about the growing demand for submarine capabilities as countries like China and Russia step up their undersea activity.

“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,” Courtney said. “That’s why we worked so hard to achieve and sustain the two-a-year build rate since 2011. Deviating from that plan now makes no sense, and I am confident we will address this incoherent decision in the 2021 defense bill.”

Congress has to approve the 2021 federal budget and usually makes changes to a president’s request.

But proponents of sub construction in Congress will have to compete with fellow lawmakers whose interests are in other types of shipbuilding, including frigates and Arleigh Burke DDG-51 destroyers built in Maine by General Dynamics.

The Pentagon’s shift toward more spending on nuclear weapons benefits other weapons systems built in Connecticut.

The budget proposes spending $4.4 billion next year on the massive Columbia-class nuclear ballistic submarine, and $11.4 billion on the production of 79 nuclear capable F-35 jets, whose engines are built by Pratt & Whitney.

The budget also proposes to spend $2.8 billion on the new B-21 long range bomber, whose engines are also produced by Pratt & Whitney.

The Pentagon also requested Congress appropriate money for helicopters built by Sikorsky, including $739 million for 5 presidential helicopters, $1.5 billion for 7 CH53 King Stallion helicopters and 26 Black Hawks, at a cost of about $174 million.

Big cuts to social programs

While Trump kept the nation’s military budget at last year’s level, he proposed a sharp reduction in domestic spending and the shrinking or reduction of a number of health, education and social programs.

The budget would cut Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, several  federal education programs and federal child care grants.

It proposes reducing the budgets of the National Institutes of Health by $3.3 billion and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by $678 million and contains no new money to battle coronavirus.

The president’s budget also proposes eliminating a number of programs, including the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps many Connecticut residents pay for heating.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said “President Trump has once again shown his disdain for those who are struggling to make ends meet.”

“As with his previous budgets, this one is going nowhere,” DeLauro said. “As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, we are going to continue investing in working people, the middle class, and the most vulnerable—not millionaires, billionaires, corporations, and special interests.”

Blumenthal said “many of these proposals were made last year and they were rejected.”

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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32 Comments

  1. What have the legislators traded in DC for the sub building in Connecticut? The rest of the nation has grown in many ways but this state continues to cling to Federal programs that represent the worst kind of spending possible in a variety of ways.

    1. What’s astonishing is that with 3 historic defense firms – the Boat, P&W and Sikorsky – CT’s business environment is so unfavorable that there have not been major non-defense spinoffs from these well known hi-tech firms. That “everything costs more in CT” continues to be a major impediment to developing CT mfg. which has but 160,000 jobs. The absence of a significant hi-tech computer industry in CT is utterly astonishing. And then some.

    2. I bet if you had a heat map of defense spending in the US it would be spread across many, many, many districts. Every one gets a piece of the pie, but also, I would think you would want it geographically diverse if we ever got attacked. Just a guess, never studied it.

  2. Joe. Some advise, try being nice to trump instead of towing the line. Maybe the fact you impeach him is why he takes money from your district.

    1. And who can forget the treatment of Judge Kavanaugh by one Richard Blumenthal. I am sure the President has not.

      1. You’re not suggesting that this administration would be vindictive towards those that may not display abject fealty to its’ leader? No, this administration would never allow our great country to become a banana republic…never mind, too late for that!

  3. I very strongly support the Silent Service.

    However, Rep Courtney’s reaction cracks me up. Dems always rant about Defense spending yet when it gets pared back a bit by the Pentagon, and it means perhaps less Federal money in their particular district many years down the road, they cry like toddlers who have one of their many toys taken away. The article even states that another CT Defense company–P&W–will benefit more greatly.

    A little consistency for once, please,

  4. Rep. Courtney has to represent his district but DoD spending is out of control. Trump gave DoD $89 Billion more than they asked for last year. How may Subs do we need. Yeah, it creates jobs but it’s very wasteful spending.

  5. Even Sen. Blumenthal ought to know that the US nuclear submarine fleet actively on duty is substantially larger by several orders of magnitude than the rest of the world’s operational nuclear subs – Russia, UK, France and China. For example, China has just 3 active duty nuclear subs of limited launch capabilities.
    .
    Each of our “boomer subs” can independently target every one of the world’s largest cities. The combined US nuclear force of subs, surface ships, missiles, planes, cruise missiles, etc. is awesome beyond comprehension.

    Even Sen. Blumenthal ought to know our major defense priority is building up Space Weapon capability with the capability to destroy internet links/services of adversaries. Knowledgable observers claim the next global conflict takes place in Space targeting infrastructure, communications, power networks, etc. Lets encourage Sen Blumenthal to get on board with essential US defense priorities. Boosting CT’s economy with more nuclear subs ought not be our national goal.

    1. We need to make sure that CT industries participate in the the defense industries of the future — air, land, sea, space. Every senator from every district has workers and companies/industries that they protect in this way and our country often pays for and gets more stuff than is needed. If one lets up the others just suck up that portion I would guess. Partly politics but partly that there is capacity that has to be maintained. If the capacity should be downsized permanently…then that is a grownup conversation that needs to be had. I don’t follow the defense industry at all, but it’s an interesting area.

      1. Watson, how will the ineffective wall help with undersea warfare? It doesn’t work keeping out immigrants, how would it keep out our enemies submarines?

  6. Over the years, I have gained a much better understanding of how our State of Connecticut Government leverages and manipulates Federal Dollars. The philosophy has always been to expand all Federal Funded Programs to Absolute Maximum Capacity. The goal being: 1) Increase size of state union labor workforce. 2) Increase private sector union construction labor workforce, 3) Increase number of residents dependent on Social Service Programs, 4) Artificially increase State GDP and Tax Revenues via bloat and waste, 5) Increase Organinized Labor Dues Revenue, 6) Increase Political Donations generated from Organized Labor Union Dues. The circle is complete!

  7. Our 2 Senators -“If Trump did it it’s bad” is their pre-recorded message. Our 2 Senators and Mr. Courtney would be wiser to first frame the discussion with one about the large increases in defense spending by Trump over the past 3 years versus the reductions (some say gutting) of the military under Obama. Then we can all have an intelligent discussion about defense priorities, whether it be the number of F35s, submarines, nuclear weapons upgrades, cyber security and a host of other important items. To the credit of our Senators and Rep Courtney, they have all been advocates of a strong defense program, but it is just disingenuous to identify Trump as anything but highly supportive of a strong military and the budget facts testify to that.

  8. Connecticut’s “economy” is almost completely artificial at this point. Besides Federal subsidies in the form of defense spending, which is migrating out of the state, all of Hartford is subsidized in one form or another by the state. CRDA loans and grants are the only reason there’s any private investment in the city. 80-90% subsidies are just state-funded bribes.

    Combine that with state run Rentschler, UConn Health, and the XL Center, out of control state employee workforce, compensation, benefits and pensions with decreasing private employment and the state is bankrupt. And losing net 577 people/week or 2,300/month to other states.

    1. You said it! Yesterday’s Ritter’s rush for XL funding/construction is a perfect example. The place should be torn down but nooooooooo! Gotta do it and do it quick, and the entire state gets to pay! Connecticut is a disaster and decades of mismanagement have made it a terminal condition.

      1. Agreed – XL can’t compete with the two casinos in Connecticut AND MGM Springfield for attracting entertainment. It is primarily a venue for UConn basketball, also state-owned and as part of UConn Athletics, losing $43 million/year. Subsidy upon subsidy because none of it is financially viable.

        Tear XL Center down, tear Rentschler down, go DII for UConn football and only lose $30MM/year instead of $43MM. Sell UConn health to the highest private bidder.

      2. All good ideas but look how slowly the state moved on the Amistad. How many millions wasted? Look at the history of CRRA (now renamed, but not forgotton) and the countless millions wasted from the get-go. The DECD free-for-all under Malloy? The amount of money wasted is mind boggling, all with legislative approval.Hartford’s baseball stadium? Hartford bailout?
        Connecticut is a welfare state,gobbling as much Federal money as it can and trading “favors” in the senate to keep the pipeline open.It is not and never will be enough to catch up with the rest of the country. Smart money has left and anyone who can,leaves as well. The only question is…how long can it go on?

    2. Out of control state workforce? Not factual at all. A couple of friends of mine wok at the DEEP and their staffing has decreased by 40% over the last 10 years and they’re expected to lose another 40% of the remaining workforce by 2022 due to retirements. Or maybe we should tell those career employees that they’re not going to get the pension they were promised for the past 30 years. Just because you make something up doesn’t make it true.

      1. So because a friend works in a state department that has less staffing, that means the state has less employees? Maybe they can’t fill the positions or the budget went elsewhere

        The state employs 50,082 full time positions. It is the largest employer, by far in the state. https://yankeeinstitute.org/2018/03/16/ninety-four-percent-of-connecticut-state-workforce-is-union-controlled/

        Salary and benefits are well above that of the private sector (which pays for all of the public sector). CT’s 2019 GDP is the same as it was in 2002 but the state budget is over 2x what it was then.

        Just because a friend works for the state and says something doesn’t mean it’s true.

      2. Hi WatsonAL, for more information on our shrinking state workforce, take a look at Keith Phaneuf’s reporting from last year. “Malloy reduced the Executive Branch workforce by nearly 10% during his eight years in office.”
        https://ctmirror.org/2019/09/05/state-employee-ot-is-up-but-salary-costs-are-lower-than-a-decade-ago/
        That’s after Rell reduced the Executive Branch workforce by 3,100, or about 10%, during her last three years in office: https://www.courant.com/opinion/op-ed/hc-op-jahncke-malloy-legacy-0915-20190913-pc2t6xvga5bgfbkebzs4em53yq-story.html

      3. That would mean that the Executive Branch employs 31,000 people and that equates to 1.25%/year. Subway just laid off 10% in one year, by comparison.

        Total state payroll:

        2015: $4.76 billion
        2016: $4.71 billion
        2017: $4.57 billion
        2018: $4.57 billion
        2019: $4.62 billion

        Source: https://openpayroll.ct.gov/#!/year/2019

        So, state payroll has shrunk a total of 3% over five years and is on the way up again.

      4. Question–Much has been said about casino workers being a large part of the reduction of the state workforce. Would they be included in the workforce reductions you have cited?

      5. Great question. They would not. Casino employees are considered local government employees and are not included in any state workforce headcounts.

      6. Thank you.

        I actually worded my question incorrectly, but the answer, I believe, is what I requested. To be more clear, I SHOULD have asked–“…casino workers being a large part of the reduction of government employees when State pols brag about reducing the number of government employees.”

        I don’t agree that they should be considered govt employees but that’s a whole ‘nuther discussion.

      7. Please see page 67 of the attached report which illustrates that Connecticut state employee’s compensation (salary, benefits, pension) is 42% higher than the private sector employee.

        Maybe those “career employees” should be subject to the same economic forces that their private sector counterparts are. Particularly since those private sector employees are paying for the state employee’s compensation.

        https://www.aei.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/-biggs-overpaid-or-underpaid-a-statebystate-ranking-of-public-employee-compensation_112536583046.pdf

      8. I would have no problem telling them the pension is gone. The courant reported we send over 2 billion of our hard earned tax dollars to states like Fla. While we get told to pay tolls all in the name of sending it to people who don’t support us anymore. Our obligations are around 100 billion.

  9. If people are interested in reading about this is much more depth, I read an article yesterday that they might want to read. I won’t provide the actual link (I think that would prevent this post from appearing), but on the MilitaryNews site, there’s a long article discussing the subject at hand. It’s titled “Esper supports a bigger Navy fleet but moves to cut shipbuilding by 20%.”

    The article provides more background information so I hope the CTM moderators allow me mentioning it. They often request posters provide more information. This is my effort to do just that. Thanks, in advance.

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