The amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), the same type as the budget controversy’s LHA 9, sails off the southern California coast. (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy M. Black/Released)

WASHINGTON: A senior congressman overseeing the Navy’s shipbuilding accounts says the service can expect direct questions about what appears to be double counting of an amphibious warfare vessel in the budget request Of the president.

“I think it’s so obvious that this ship can’t be counted again this year,” Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., told Breaking Defense in an interview today. “To the extent that you have to struggle with that, it kind of undermines the credibility” of the rest of the budget.

Courtney chairs the House Armed Services Sea Power and Projection Force Subcommittee, a key congressional panel with jurisdiction over the Navy’s shipbuilding budget request. Courtney, Expert Panel Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., and other lawmakers took notice when the service rolled out its new budget request, which counted the LHA-9 as one of nine new vessels purchased in fiscal year 2023 even though it had already been authorized for fiscal year 2020.

This is a problem because lawmakers in previous years drafted legislation that explicitly directs the Navy not to introduce a ship that has already been authorized in previous years as a new ship in subsequent budgets. For reasons that are still unclear, that is precisely what the Navy appears to have done in this case.

Breaking Defense has repeatedly sought comment from the Navy on this issue and, as of press time, has not received a response.

Courtney said he, too, has yet to receive an explanation from the service, but plans to seek answers in the annual private meetings lawmakers have with top service officials ahead of public hearings. of Congress.

“This subject is going to be addressed in a very direct way,” he said, calling the decision “disconcerting”.

During a separate interview several days after the budget was released, Wittman told Breaking Defense he could not speculate on the Navy’s intention. He chalked the service ship up to an insider baseball game between the Pentagon, White House and Congress — a game driven by the Pentagon’s need to track key White House-led budget numbers. .

“I’m not sure what the intentions are,” he said in an April 8 interview. “The job of Congress is to have the debate and do whatever we can to make sure our nation is in the right position to defend itself.”

Often when it comes to budgets, Wittman added, “the president proposes and Congress disposes. This is where things are.