This post has been updated to include a statement from Rep. Joe Courtney and additional comments from Under Secretary Erik Raven.

The U.S. Navy’s fiscal 2025 budget request includes money for one Virginia-class attack submarine instead of the planned two, but still represents “a prioritization and very significant investment in undersea warfare capabilities,” the service’s undersecretary said Friday, arguing this is not contradictory.

The Navy has been buying its attack subs at a rate of two per year since FY11, but industry has not kept up in recent years, delivering closer to an average of 1.2 boats annually. The service spent $2.3 billion from FY18 to FY23 to change that, hoping to not only get industry up to an on-time delivery rate of two per year, but then to a rate between 2.3 and 2.5 to support the AUKUS submarine partnership with Australia and the United Kingdom.

The Navy, business leaders and lawmakers have all highlighted stable funding as a key to helping industry bolster its output. And yet, in a fiscal year with a top line capped by law and in which the Navy had to delay several major shipbuilding and modernization efforts, the sea service chose to save some $4 billion in the FY25 spending plan by nixing the second Virginia sub.

“We did reduce the funding to one Virginia-class submarine in FY25. But we maintain the funding for nine out of the planned 10 Virginia class” during the five-year Future Years Defense Program, or FYDP, Under Secretary Erik Raven told reporters.

The one FY25 boat will be the first of a new Block VI design. Navy budget books refer to seeking a nine-sub multiyear procurement contract for Block VI.

“In addition, we make significant investments in the submarine-industrial base. During last year’s budget rollout, I talked about $2.4 billion in submarine-industrial base investments that were planned over the FYDP. In this year’s budget, we plan an additional $8.8 billion on top of what was already programmed across the FYDP,” he added.

Raven said the FY25 budget also maintains its planned advance procurement for future submarines, which is “incredibly important in terms of supporting the supplier base to set themselves up for the needed production rate for Virginia class.”

And in the longer term, he explained, the Navy in last year’s long-range shipbuilding plan showed an intention to buy one boat a year in each of FY30 and FY31.

Now, the Navy believes it can buy two boats in each of those years, which will be reflected when the long-range shipbuilding plan comes out later this spring, he added.

“So taken as a whole, this budget presents a significant investment in the undersea capability area, and we feel like these are absolutely the needed moves to make sure that we’re set up for the long term, for success in both Virginia and the Columbia program,” he said, the latter being the ballistic missile submarine that the Navy still calls its top spending priority.

Rear Adm. Ben Reynolds, the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for the budget, said Friday the total submarine-industrial base funding would be $3.9 billion in FY25 alone. That doesn’t include the cost of buying actual submarines, but rather the funds being poured into the supply chain to help vendors hire and train workers, retool existing facilities and build new ones, invest in additive manufacturing, and more.

That one-year sum is $1.5 billion more than the Navy planned to spend across the entire five-year FYDP last year, showing how thorny a challenge this has been and how important it remains to future American and AUKUS alliance needs.

However, the Navy also asked for $3.3 billion more in the supplemental funding package that stalled in Congress. The package was meant to fund support to Ukraine and Israel, operations at the U.S.-Mexico border, and other emerging defense needs — including submarine-industrial base support, couched as pivotal to deterring China from attacking Taiwan.

Neither the FY24 defense spending bill nor the supplemental spending bill have passed Congress, so it’s unclear when or if any of that money will make it to the supply chain.

Reynolds said this massive spending for a targeted segment of the industrial base “gets us up to that place where we can get to one-plus-two [Columbia and Virginia production rates] towards the end of the FYDP.” That fund would total at least $16.8 billion by FY29 if everything, including the FY24 budget and supplemental, were to pass.

At least one member of Congress is pushing back. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat whose district includes the General Dynamics’ Electric Boat submarine construction yard, said Monday the reduced buy in FY25 “demands the highest scrutiny by the Congress” because it “contradicts the Department’s own National Defense [Industrial] Strategy issued January 11, 2024, which identified ‘procurement stability’ as critical to achieve resilient supply chains.”

Still, Raven, in a Monday afternoon briefing, maintained the Navy’s choice is best for industry.

“We removed one Virginia-class out of concern for the industrial base ability to produce yet one more, while in a capped environment making headroom for these historic investments in the submarine-industrial base,” he said.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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