Republican lawmakers have moved to block the fast-track sales of US attack submarines to Australia, calling on the White House to allocate additional military spending to expand America’s own fleet. GOP Senator Roger Wicker, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, outlined this stance in an interview with Politico. Wicker argued that it is necessary to ensure the US has enough submarines for its own security needs before endorsing the submarine sale as part of the AUKUS pact.
Wicker emphasized the need for President Joe Biden to submit a supplemental request to obtain an adequate number of submarines. While Wicker did not specify the exact amount of spending required, he stressed that the White House must also approve a plan to address the industrial base’s capacity to build the additional submarines. He intends to send a letter to President Biden in the coming days, presenting his case alongside fellow Republican Senator Susan Collins.
In an op-ed published in the Wall Street Journal, Wicker pointed out that transferring three nuclear-powered Virginia-class attack submarines to Australia, as planned under the AUKUS agreement, would occur before the US Navy’s own requirements are met. Military reports suggest that the Pentagon needs at least 66 submarines, while the current US fleet consists of only 49. To bridge this gap, Wicker called for an increase in production to 2.5 Virginia-class submarines per year.
Despite the opposition from Republican lawmakers, Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles expressed confidence that the submarine transfer would proceed as planned. He downplayed concerns about the GOP’s opposition, stating that he remains “very confident” in the success of the AUKUS agreement.
The sale of weapons is one component of the AUKUS security agreement signed between the US, Australia, and the UK in 2021. In addition to the weapon sale, the agreement aims to facilitate the transfer of nuclear technology from the US to Australia, with assistance from the UK. This technology will ultimately be used to build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia.
Nevertheless, the AUKUS pact has been scrutinized by some officials as a way to deter China. The Chinese government has criticized the agreement for potentially contributing to the proliferation of nuclear technology worldwide. China warned that the deal could ignite an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
The Republican lawmakers’ opposition to the fast-track submarine sales underscores their priority of ensuring America’s security needs are met before endorsing international agreements. They are urging the White House to allocate additional military spending to expand the US submarine fleet. As the debate continues, the fate of the AUKUS submarine transfer remains uncertain.