Pentagon Requests Congress to Transfer Nuclear Power Submarines to Australia
The Pentagon has requested Congress to greenlight the transfer of up to two nuclear power submarines to Australia. This move comes as U.S. defense officials argue that the transfer would allow the AUKUS submarine security cooperation to “keep those submarines in use by a close ally to maintain our collective defense.”
“This project, referred to as AUKUS, will require significant coordination and cooperation among the governments of Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, as well as among their defense industrial bases. This proposal will authorize some of the early necessary steps in the process and will signal to Australia and the United Kingdom that this is a long-term commitment by the United States to an enduring relationship with trilateral cooperation on some of the most sensitive technologies,”
The submission of the proposals to Congress comes as a surprise after the AUKUS announcement outlined that Australia was set to purchase between three to five Virginia-class submarines in the 2030s as part of phase two of the pact. However, according to the proposal, the legislation does not state when the United States Navy will transfer the Virginia class submarines.
Flexibility is Key
The Pentagon says this is because there needs to be a small amount of flexibility as the transfers may not occur for a significant period of time and will be conditioned on Australian readiness to safely and effectively operate such vessels. “This flexibility is also necessary so that Royal Australian Navy personnel have time to complete schoolhouse and on-the-job training, Australian private-shipyard personnel have time to acquire training on submarine production and repair from the United States Navy and United States contractors, and the Government of Australia and the Australian defense industrial base have time to develop and build adequate infrastructure,” the Pentagon states in the proposal.
Biden Wants to Give Australia Preferential Treatment
The proposals come after President Joe Biden announced that he would ask the United States Congress to add Australia as a “domestic source” within the meaning of Title III of the Defense Production Act. “Doing so would streamline technological and industrial base collaboration, accelerate and strengthen AUKUS implementation, and build new opportunities for United States investment in the production and purchase of Australian critical minerals, critical technologies, and other strategic sectors,” the president said in a joint statement with Australian Prime Minister.
Positive Response from Democrats
The Democrats have welcomed the submission, with Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) telling Defence News he was looking forward to fulfilling these goals. Courtney serves on the Armed Services Committee’s sea power panel. “The Department of Defense’s legislative proposals are the latest example of President [Joe] Biden’s commitment to fulfilling the AUKUS agreement,” said Courtney. “Importantly, the proposals spell out a clear path forward to facilitate the transfer of Virginia-class submarines to Australia while ensuring we have the necessary authorities to accept the Australian Government’s investments to enhance our submarine industrial base capacity and provide training for Australian personnel.”
The transfer of nuclear power submarines to Australia is a significant move that will strengthen the AUKUS alliance and enhance the collective defense of the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The proposals submitted to Congress signal a long-term commitment by the United States to trilateral cooperation on sensitive technologies, and the flexibility provided in the legislation ensures that the transfer will occur safely and effectively.
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