Report on two types of amphibious ships

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This report discusses two types of amphibious ships being procured for the Navy: LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ships and LHA-type amphibious assault ships. Both types are built by Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS. The first LPD-17 Flight II class ship, LPD-30, was procured in FY2018; the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates its cost at $1,819.6 million (i.e., about $1.8 billion). LHA-type amphibious assault ships are procured once every few years. LHA-8 was procured in FY2017; the Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates its cost at $3,832.0 million (i.e., about $3.8 billion). 

The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission presents the second LPD-17 Flight II amphibious ship, LPD-31, as a ship requested for procurement in FY2021, and the next amphibious assault ship, LHA-9, as a ship projected for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with congressional action on the Navy’s FY2020 budget, this CRS report treats LPD-31 and LHA-9 as ships that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement—funding for) in FY2020. The Department of Defense’s (DOD’s) decision to present LPD-31 and LHA-9 as ships requested for procurement in FY2021 and FY2023, respectively, even though Congress procured both ships in FY2020, poses a potentially significant institutional issue for Congress regarding the preservation and use of Congress’s power of the purse under Article 1 of the Constitution, and for maintaining Congress as a coequal branch of government relative to the executive branch.

The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates the procurement cost of LPD-31 at $2,029.9 million (i.e., about $2.0 billion). The ship has received $874.1 million in prior-year procurement and advanced procurement (AP) funding, including $350 million that Congress provided in FY2020. The Navy’s proposed FY2021 budget requests the remaining $1,155.8 million needed to complete the ship’s estimated procurement cost.

The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission estimates the procurement cost of LHA-9, if procured in FY2023, at $3,873.5 million (i.e., about $3.9 billion). Congress provided $350 million for the ship in FY2019 and $650 million for the ship in FY2020. The Navy’s FY2021 budget submission, which the Navy submitted to Congress on February 10, acknowledges this funding but does not program any further funding for the ship until FY2023.

On February 13, the Administration submitted a reprogramming action that transfers about $3.8 billion in DOD funding to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) counter-drug activities, commonly reported to mean the construction of the southern border wall. Included in this action is the $650 million that Congress appropriated in FY2020 for LHA-9. The reprogramming action acknowledges that LHA-9 is a congressional special interest item, meaning one that Congress funded at a level above what DOD had requested. (The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission programmed LHA-9’s procurement for FY2024 and requested no funding for the ship.) The reprogramming action characterizes the $650 million as “early to current programmatic need,” even though it would be needed for a ship whose construction would begin in FY2020. In discussing its FY2021 budget submission, Navy officials characterize LHA-9 not as a ship whose procurement the Navy is proposing to delay from FY2020 to FY2023, but as a ship whose procurement the Navy is proposing to accelerate from FY2024 (the ship’s procurement date under the Navy’s FY2020 budget submission) to FY2023. The administration’s reprogramming of the $650 million poses a potentially significant institutional issue for Congress regarding the preservation and use of Congress’s power of the purse under Article 1 of the Constitution, and for maintaining Congress as a coequal branch of government relative to the executive branch.

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