Wicker, Collins, GOP colleagues call on Biden to increase U.S. submarine production

The U.S. submarine industrial base must be bolstered as the U.S. works to fulfill the terms of the historic Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) partnership, according to U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Susan Collins (R-ME).

The lawmakers led 23 of their Republican colleagues in calling on President Joe Biden to take immediate action by authorizing new investments and a comprehensive plan of action to meet the submarine needs of both the United States and Australia.

“We urge you to send Congress immediately an AUKUS-specific request for appropriations and authorities alongside a multi-year plan to increase U.S. submarine production to a minimum of 2.5 Virginia-class attack submarines per year,” wrote the lawmakers in a July 26 letter sent to Biden. “It is time to make generational investments in U.S. submarine production capacity, including supplier and workforce development initiatives.”

Sen. Wicker serves as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee while Sen. Collins is vice chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Among the legislators who joined them in signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Steve Daines (R-MT), and John Thune (R-SD), as well as three Republicans from the U.S. House of Representatives.

They wrote that the Biden administration’s current plan requires the transfer of three U.S. Virginia-class attack submarines to Australia from the existing U.S. submarine fleet without a clear plan for replacing them. This plan, if implemented without change, would unacceptably weaken the U.S. fleet even as China seeks to expand its military power and influence, according to their letter.

“The U.S. Navy’s military requirement is 66 nuclear attack submarines. Today, there are only 49 in the fleet,” wrote Sen. Wicker, Sen. Collins, and their colleagues. “Further, as older nuclear submarines retire faster than they are replaced, the Navy projects the inventory will decline to 46 by 2030. Under the current AUKUS plan to transfer U.S. Virginia-class submarines to a partner nation before meeting the Navy’s own requirements, the number of available nuclear submarines in the U.S. submarine fleet would be lowered further. This is a risk we should not take.”

The U.S. submarine industrial base is currently producing an average of 1.2 Virginia-class attack submarines per year, despite needing to produce two per year, they added, noting that to make up for the sale of at least three attack submarines to Australia, the U.S. would have to produce somewhere between 2.3 to 2.5 submarines per year to avoid further shrinking our fleet’s operational capacity.

“The administration and Congress need to be willing to make the necessary investments into the U.S. submarine industrial base that will advance the security of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom,” wrote the lawmakers.