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Proposed US Congress legislation to enable Virginia-class submarine purchase

Three influential members of the US Congress, Joe Courtney, Gregory Meeks and Ami Bera, have introduced the AUKUS Undersea Defense Act, H.R. 3939, to enable the RAN to acquire the Virginia-class submarine.

This bill supports the AUKUS Trilateral Security Framework by providing legislative authority to allow for the transfer of Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, the training of Australian private sector defence personnel and the integration of Australian financial contributions to the US defence industrial base.

“It has been three months since the heads of government of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom announced the Optimal Pathway to execute the AUKUS security agreement, whose centerpiece is to enhance Australia’s Navy nuclear powered, conventionally armed submarines to maintain a peaceful, open Indo-Pacific region,”said Rep. Joe Courtney, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.

“Introduction of this enabling legislation is a critical first step towards swift congressional action to support this enterprise. I am excited to join my colleagues Greg Meeks and Ami Bera, who are leaders on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to introduce these measures. Passage of this common sense bill, which was crafted in collaboration with the Department of Defense, will demonstrate the commitment of the U.S. Congress to the AUKUS mission. I look forward to working to move this effort forward.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gregory W. Meeksadded, This bill will enhance our collective undersea defense capabilities and interoperability and pave the way for critical training and collaboration between the US and Australia as we face common security challenges. AUKUS not only strengthens our alliances globally, but it is also a significant step forward for regional peace and security.”

“The AUKUS partnership promotes regional stability in the Indo-Pacific, and the transfer of Virginia-class submarines to Australia marks a significant step towards deepening our defense cooperation,” said Rep. Ami Bera, M.D, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Indo-Pacific. “This bill underscores our commitment to enhancing maritime security to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific region. By modernizing our alliances with the United Kingdom and Australia, we pave the way for a safer and more prosperous future across the Indo-Pacific region and the world.”

This introduction comes after Rep. Courtney strongly urged Congress to act on President Biden’s legislative proposal that enables Pillar I at a recent House Foreign Affairs Committee hearining.

At the hearing, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategies, Plans, and Capabilities Mara Karlin said that enabling Pillar I is “a signal to our commitment to AUKUS, which is critical for generating deterrence…. Acting now sends a message to our defense industrial base as well that there will be a persistent flow of business to come… and really ensuring that the submarine industrial base is able to start taking the steps that it needs with Australia’s contributions…. Absent this legislative proposal we actually don’t have a way to take that money in.”

The AUKUS Trilateral Security Framework between the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom enhances trilateral security cooperation and interoperability in the Indo-Pacific and facilitates closer information sharing and technology cooperation bolstering deterrence and security in the Indo-Pacific. Pillar 1 of AUKUS will strengthen the U.S. industrial base, Australia’s undersea warfare capabilities, and our collective undersea presence in the Indo-Pacific.

Rep. Courtney has been a leading voice in Congress on AUKUS. He sponsored the first-ever AUKUS-related legislation in the 2022 NDAA, which established a submarine officer training pipeline between the US and Australia, helping ensure that Australia’s Navy is trained and ready to pilot their nuclear-powered submarine fleet upon delivery.

To read the bill text, click here.

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