Dave Ress, Daily Press
The Navy needs to do more to help sailors when their carriers are in Newport News Shipbuilding for refueling, after several sailors died by suicide on USS George Washington, the House Armed Services Committee said as it approved a $37 billion boost to the Pentagon’s proposed budget.
The committee approved the $37 billion increase, proposed by Rep. Elaine Luria, D- Norfolk, its vice chairman, even though chairman Adam Smith, D- Washington, said it wasn’t necessary and the Biden Administrations $773 billion proposal was sufficient.
The committee also approved amendments Luria proposed in response to concerns about what has happened on the Washington, including a study of housing and parking facilities for crews of carriers and submarines undergoing refueling and overhaul work. They call on the Navy to look into a new policy to avoid having new sailors do their initial tours on carriers undergoing refueling.
There were three deaths by suicide of first-term Washington sailors in the space of a week in April, bringing the total for the past two years while the carrier was in the yard to six.
“In early May, I met and spoke with junior enlisted sailors and Navy leadership aboard USS George Washington, and it was clear that the status quo aboard ships undergoing RCOH is not acceptable,” Luria said.
The committee also agreed to Luria’s request to authorize $5.5 million in construction funds for a new Air Force Reserve Intelligence Facility at Joint Base Langley-Eustis. It will provide workspace for briefings, instruction, training, administration and storage the Air Force Reserve Intelligence Group and three squadrons.
In addition, the committee agreed to Luria’s request that it direct the Air Force to report on its plans for moving and basing F-22 fighters, and in particular for transferring the F-22 Formal Training Unit to Langley Air Force Base from Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.
As approved last year, the move to Langley would bring 31 F-22 fighters here, as well as 16 T-38s, which are used to represent hostile aircraft. The relocation would bring 760 Air Force personnel and contractors to Langley, which would become home to the 43rd Fighter Squadron, the 43rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, the 2nd Fighter Training Squadron, and the 325th Training Support Squadron.
The $37 billion increase Luria and Rep. Jared Golden, D- Maine, proposed includes an additional $7.4 billion to compensate for the effects of inflation, more than $4 billion for ship construction and maintenance, more than $1.6 billion in research and development funding, and $550 million for security assistance to Ukraine.
The amendment passed 42 to 17.