Senate Committee's Defense Spending Plan Includes More Money for Amphibs

Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) steams in close formation as one of 40 ships and submarines representing 13 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)
Amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) steams in close formation as one of 40 ships and submarines representing 13 international partner nations during Rim of the Pacific 2016. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Ace Rheaume)

The Senate Armed Services Committee's $750 billion budget plan would restore some funding for Navy warships that Marines say they need to get to the fight.

The committee's plan adds almost $1 billion on top of President Donald Trump's 2020 budget request to speed up the delivery of two amphibious ships. The committee's planned $24.1 billion to fund a dozen new Navy vessels includes $650 million above the administration's request for a new amphibious assault ship and nearly $278 million more for a new amphibious transport dock ship.

The Navy Department's 2020 budget request, which was released in March, delayed plans for two new amphibious transport dock ships, or LPD Flight IIs. It also kept the procurement date on the new amphib -- a landing helicopter assault ship -- at 2024, despite Marine leaders pushing to get that ship online faster.

Amphibious assault ships carry thousands of Marines and next-generation aircraft, including the MV-22B Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter jet. Amphibious transport dock ships, or LPDs, carry several hundred Marines along with helicopters and amphibious vehicles that can take them ashore.

Marine leaders have stressed that they won't be able to meet future missions without more amphibious ships, especially if things heat up with China.

"[The Asia-Pacific region] is a maritime theater and ... we have a Marine Corps that comes from the sea," Commandant Gen. Robert Neller said after the budget request dropped. "But we can't come from the sea if I don't have a way to get underway."

Aside from accelerating the timeline for the new ships, the Senate's plan calls for "a report on alternative LHA and LPD acquisition strategies."

Senate leaders said Thursday that improving the military's procurement processes will mean getting equipment the military needs faster and at lower costs to American taxpayers.

The Republican-led Senate Armed Services Committee passed the spending proposal in a 25-2 vote. A proposal from the Democratic-led House Armed Services Committee is expected to drop in June.

The House and Senate committees must agree on a compromised spending bill before it can be passed through Congress and onto the president's desk.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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