The Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee has approved $74 billion in funding for Navy and Marine Corps projects in the 2022 National Defense Appropriations Act with an eye toward the Pacific. The bill calls for the services to get new missiles and to overhaul shipyards and shipbuilding efforts in Hawaii.

The bill includes an amendment urging the Navy to continue investment in its four public shipyards, including Pearl Harbor, and urges the Navy to keep its Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Plan on schedule. The committee approved roughly $2 billion in additional programs requested by Navy and Marine commanders.

Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, who has been on the seapower committee since 2015 and became its chair this year, pushed for the inclusion of those amendments and has played a key role in shaping the sea services’ budget priorities.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee, has significant sway over Navy and Marine Corps projects and priorities. Nick Grube/Civil Beat/2018

Oahu is the headquarters of the Navy’s vast Pacific Fleet, the nerve center for the U.S. military’s operations in the region, which the Pentagon considers its top priority theater. The Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, a major logistics hub, is the state’s top industrial employer with more than 6,000 employees.

“This year’s NDAA represents our commitment to improving the Navy and Marine Corps’ ability to address the challenges of the new century,” Hirono said Thursday in a press release. “This funding begins significant efforts to boost the readiness and capabilities of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, ships, and weapons systems which are vital to our strategic interests in the Indo-Pacific.”

The committee also included funding for a second new Arleigh-Burke class destroyer. The Navy had requested only one for the 2022 fiscal year but another had already been ordered, raising concerns that the Navy was breaching its contract with shipbuilders who had already gone to work.

“The inclusion of the second destroyer will prevent destabilization of the shipbuilding industrial base while also shielding the Navy and taxpayers from $33 million in penalties that would have been levied as a result of breaking a multi-ship procurement contract,” Hirono said.

The Navy considers the destroyers to be a critical part of the military’s missile defense network. Last year one shot down a simulated ballistic missile south of Hawaii in a major test of American missile defense systems.

The USS Daniel Inouye, the Navy’s most recent Arleigh-Burke named for the late Hawaii senator, is en route to Pearl Harbor after a series of production delays.

The state of the Navy’s shipyards and shipbuilding programs has been an ongoing concern, and the bill includes provisions for more oversight by establishing a new command position to manage execution of shipbuilding contracts.

The bill also provides full funding for requests from the Marine Corps for its new Amphibious Combat Vehicles and additional funding for anti-ship and long-range missiles. The Marine Corps has embarked on an ambitious restructuring of its forces with an emphasis on missiles and other high tech systems, beginning with units in Hawaii.

In total, the Senate Armed Service’s committee included $740.3 billion in defense spending in the NDAA — $25 billion more than the Pentagon’s initial budget request in May.

Among the items included are $85 million for the Homeland Defense Radar – Hawaii, a project Hawaii’s congressional delegation has fought for despite Pentagon efforts to defund the project under both Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden.

The NDAA will next go to the Senate floor for wider review and will be conferenced with the House Armed Service Committee’s bill later this year.

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