House panel to hold hearing on sub industrial base and AUKUS

By Nick Wilson / October 20, 2023 at 11:55 AM

Defense Department and Navy officials will appear before House lawmakers next week to testify on the United States submarine industrial base and its ability to deliver on the AUKUS security partnership, according to a Friday announcement from the House Armed Services Committee.

Scheduled for October 25, the hearing will include testimony from Mara Karlin -- serving as the acting deputy under secretary of defense for policy and the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities -- as well as Navy Under Secretary Erik Raven.

Witnesses will also include Vice Adm. William Houston, commander of Naval Submarine Forces, and Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker, the program executive officer for attack submarines.

“The witnesses will provide testimony on the capabilities of the submarine industrial base to meet the strategic objectives of the AUKUS partnership,” the notice states.

The White House today announced it is requesting $3.4 billion in emergency supplemental spending for the submarine industrial base.

While the United States has committed to transferring at least three Virginia-class submarines to Australia starting in the early 2030s, there is concern among lawmakers that industry is not up to the task, as submarine producers continue to come up short of the Navy’s desired rate of Virginia construction.

During a September confirmation hearing, acting Navy Chief of Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti told lawmakers the industrial base is only producing about 1.2 Virginia submarines each year, and needs to reach a rate of 2.2 vessels per year to deliver on AUKUS.

At a prior AUKUS-focused hearing held by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, lawmakers pressed Karlin for concrete plans to boost domestic submarine production and requested cost estimates on the investment required to do so.

Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of six senators lead by Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) sent a letter to the White House requesting that an industrial base study on AUKUS implementation, performed by DOD’s cost assessment and program evaluation office, be provided to Congress by the end of the month.

Wicker, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, is blocking key AUKUS authorizations, including provisions to enable the sale of Virginia boats and allow the U.S. to accept $3 billion from Australia for investment in the U.S. industrial base, until the White House submits a supplemental spending package containing industrial base support.