Earlier this month, the American Marine Machinery Association gathered to listen to Edward Bartlett, the founder and CEO of Bartlett Maritime, voice his concerns about the nation’s submarine capability shortfall. Bartlett described it as a crisis that had become “an inescapable, urgent problem.”

The various American shipbuilding industry’s key players heard Bartlett layout that while efforts to improve submarine maintenance in the last few years had some progress, there was still much more that could – and should – be done.

“While these efforts clearly remain vital and are having a positive impact, it is equally clear that both additional industrial infrastructure and access to an expanded labor pool are needed,” Bartlett warned, according to a report from Naval Technology.

“We must be creative and proactive to help the Navy return to robustness in an accelerated manner,” Bartlett added. “We don’t have decades to rebuild.”

An Additional $3.4 Billion

The squeaky submarine apparently gets the grease, as last Friday the White House released its supplemental budget request that included $3.4 billion to support the submarine industrial base as part of a larger $50 billion package that also includes additional military aid to Ukraine and humanitarian support for Israelis and Palestinians.

The submarine portion of the supplemental targeted improvements to the industrial base that have lagged behind the U.S. Navy’s goals of delivering two Virginia-class submarines a year, as well as constructing the first Columbia-class nuclear ballistic-missile submarine – the Navy’s number one acquisition priority.

The future USS Columbia (SSBN-826) has been touted as one of the most advanced submarines to date.

The Navy’s proposed Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget requested $32.8 billion in shipbuilding funding for a total of nine vessels, including SSBN-826 and two Virginia-class boats.

The additional funding was meant to help ensure the submarines don’t fall further behind schedule.

“This funding will accelerate build and sustainment rates for attack submarines, one of our most effective capabilities for maintaining deterrence, in order to meet U.S. military requirements,” read the Friday White House statement.

All About That Base

The White House has sought to address the ongoing issues with the United States Submarine Industrial Base, which relies on the U.S. Navy’s four public shipyards.

However, submarine builders General Dynamic Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industry’s Newport News Shipbuilding are each behind schedule – totaling a combined 410 months, according to a Navy construction estimate. Currently, the shipyards are able to deliver just 1.2 attack subs a year, while they are still only on a path to reach two Virginia-class boats annually by 2028.

What About AUKUS?

The U.S. Submarine Industrial Base has been further pressed by its commitment – along with the UK – to develop a new class of nuclear attack boats for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) as part of the AUKUS program. To date, Australia has pledged $3 billion on its own to support the U.S. submarine industrial base.

“While this funding for our submarine industrial base is necessary to meet U.S. national needs, these investments will also support U.S. commitments under AUKUS – our trilateral security partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom – the first major deliverable of which was our historic decision to support Australia acquiring conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarines,” the White House briefing added.

Lawmakers have already expressed some concerns. This included members of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) colleagues, which last week sent the White House a letter requesting an immediate update on the administration’s plans to implement the landmark AUKUS agreement.

The senators requested the Submarine Industrial Base (SIB-25) report from the administration, including the cost estimates for what additional investment in the domestic submarine industrial base is required to advance the agreement in the most effective manner.

“To realize the full potential of AUKUS, the American defense industrial base will require significant resources to improve submarine construction and maintenance rates,” wrote the senators. “The volume of submarine tonnage the industrial base must produce to meet the Navy’s own requirements and fully implement the AUKUS agreement will require historic and sustained investments in the submarine workforce and supplier network. To achieve such capacity, Congress must have a comprehensive understanding of the current status of the submarine industrial base as well as the future resource investments necessary to meet our nation’s requirements.”

That follows a July letter from Republican lawmakers, which called for additional funding into the industry to improve the Virginia-class output and to support the AUKUS effort.

Connecticut Lawmakers Already Grateful

The allotted $3.4 billion allotted by the White House has already been met with support from lawmakers in Connecticut, which will benefit workers in the state.

“President Biden’s $3.4 billion request to strengthen the Navy’s submarine fleet and our submarine industrial base underscores the administration’s clear-eyed commitment to growing U.S. undersea supremacy,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat representing the state’s second district and ranking member of the House Armed Services’ Seapower Subcommittee. “This request will not only help the industrial base increase production and capacity to ensure the Navy can meet its own fleet requirements but also position the AUKUS mission for success.”

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.