Defense bill benefits shipyard

Published 10:39 pm Friday, May 9, 2014

An annual defense policy bill passed by the House Armed Services Committee late Wednesday could be good news for Hampton Roads, but it still has to wind its way through the legislative process, local officials cautioned this week.

Craig Quigley, executive director of the Hampton Roads Military and Federal Facilities Alliance, said the single most significant item for Hampton Roads in the National Defense Authorization Act is the refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington at Newport News Shipbuilding.

De-fueling and decommissioning the George Washington would also translate into jobs, he said, but not as many as involved in keeping the nuclear carrier afloat.

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“If you look at the impact on the region, it’s pretty good,” Quigley said. “We keep the refueling of the George Washington … (and) that is an awful lot of jobs … and the sailors that would continue to be members of the crew.”

The bill would protect shipbuilding and keep promises to military members, says Rep. Randy Forbes (R-4th), whose district includes Suffolk and who serves as chairman of the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

The bill will next be considered by the full House of Representatives, after which its next test would be the Senate, Forbes explained in a news release.

“Typically after the Senate passes its version of the legislation, members of the House and Senate armed services committees conference to reconcile differences and agree upon a final version … which will be sent to the President for his signature,” Forbes stated.

The committee passage is the “first act in a multi-act play,” Quigley said, adding that the Senate Armed Services Committee intends to start its markup sometime in the next week.

But “as a first step, this is very promising,” he said.

According to Forbes, key provisions of the bill reject proposed cuts to Tricare, housing allowances and commissary benefits; increase troop pay 1.8 percent; direct $45.3 million toward suicide prevention; and eliminate the consideration of an accused military member’s general military character in rape prosecutions, plus seeks a review of the terms of discharge to ensure sexual assault victims are not persecuted for reporting crimes.

Forbes listed a series of provisions he initiated, many of which would spell good news for workers at Newport News Shipbuilding:

  • The refueling and overhaul of the USS George Washington
  • Continue full funding for the next-generation aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy
  • Continue the two-a-year procurement of Virginia-class attack submarines and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers
  • Stop the early retirement of 11 Navy cruisers
  • Provide an additional amphibious ship in fiscal 2015
  • Continue the Littoral Combat Ship Program by authorizing the procurement of two of the ships.
  • Authorize an additional 96 Tomahawk missiles.
  • Preclude the use of funds for the Navy’s future unmanned carrier platform, pending a review by the secretary of defense of the requirements associated with the Navy’s unmanned aviation program.
  • Fully support the development of the next-generation offensive anti-surface warfare weapon.

“Providing for the common defense is among our most important constitutional duties,” Forbes stated.

“The bill passed by the Armed Services Committee provides for the future health of our Navy and Marine Corps, invests in future technologies, and ensures that the promises made to our men and women in uniform are kept. The national security challenges of the coming decade require the type of serious, bipartisan leadership found in this legislation.”

Meanwhile, Forbes also described 10 provisions incorporated in the National Defense Authorization Act that resulted from the Armed Services Committee’s bipartisan Asia-Pacific Oversight Series, which he co-chaired.

“The Asia-Pacific region will help define U.S. national security challenges in the coming decades,” Forbes stated.

“The provisions incorporated in this year’s NDAA reflect that importance by seeking to support U.S. allies and better understanding the threats facing U.S. interests in the region.”

From the perspective of a defense contractor with a presence in Suffolk, Gordon Johndroe, its vice president of worldwide media relations, said Lockheed Martin was continuing to review the budget in detail “to understand the specific impacts to our business,” and would be working with the administration and Congress as budget discussions continue.

“We will continue to invest in innovation, reduce costs and deliver for our customers during this challenging budget environment,” he said.