Washington: A bipartisan group of senators is appealing to the White House to release Pentagon cost estimates related to the submarine-industrial base as the Biden administration and Congress move to implement AUKUS, the trilateral submarine-sharing pact with Britain and Australia.
The cost estimates are critical to a debate that has delayed key congressional authorizations needed to advance AUKUS. The study is expected to detail the level of investments needed for the industrial base to sustain submarine production requirements for both the US and Australia.
According to a media report, this is based on a Senate letter to Biden to release the cost estimates by the end of the month to inform AUKUS legislation. The US Defence Department completed the study months ago, but the letter says the Pentagon does not intend to release its findings and cost estimates until it unveils the fiscal 2025 budget request early next year.
Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi — the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee — spearheaded the bipartisan letter. Wicker has held up Senate passage of two AUKUS authorizations, making them contingent on the Biden administration and Congress allocating additional funding for the submarine-industrial base as part of a defence supplemental request to bypass the $886 billion military spending cap in the debt ceiling agreement.
Under AUKUS, Australia will buy at least three and as many as five Virginia-class submarines from the US as an interim capability in the early 2030s. The Navy has blamed industrial base constraints for causing it to fall behind its pre-AUKUS goal of producing two Virginia-class and one Columbia-class submarine per year. The service expects the industrial base to start delivering the Virginia-class attack submarines on time by 2028.