Navy shipbuilding wins big in new Pentagon budget

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The shipbuiding increases come as the Navy and the rest of the Defense Department are bracing for roughly $150 billion in budget cuts over the next decade. 

Submarines ended up being the biggest winner in the Navy's $23.3 billion shipbuilding portion of the Pentagon's $527 billion defense budget sent to Congress on Wednesday. 

Over $1.6 billion has been set aside to continue development and construction of the sea service's new fleet of attack and nuclear-armed submarines, according to the Navy budget plan. 

The largest chunk of that submarine funding will go toward two new Virginia-class attack submarines for the fleet in fiscal year 2014, and "advance procurement" dollars for two more attack subs in FY '15. 

Those boats, once introduced into the fleet, will replace the sea service's aging arsenal of Los Angeles-class and Seawolf-class fast attack submarines and form the backbone of the Navy's underwater combat capabilities. 

On the nuclear side, the Navy's replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine program received a $519 million boost in the new DOD budget, but most of that money will go toward research and development on the new sub. 

The Ohio-class replacement program is one of the Navy's critical procurement programs, since those subs -- along with land-based intercontinental missile systems and nuclear-armed heavy bombers -- make up one-third of the Defense Department's nuclear weapons triad. 

The Navy's highest-profile program, the Littoral Combat Ship, ended up receiving the smallest increase with a $53 million bump in the FY '14 budget plan. 

The slight uptick for the LCS will go toward procurement of four new warships scheduled for 2014. 

The new ships will allow the Navy to patrol shallow water and coastal areas, particularly those along the Straits of Hormuz near Iran and the Gulf of Aden off Africa's eastern coastline. 

The Navy plans to deploy those four LCS ships to Singapore, as part of the service's military cooperation efforts with the Southeast Asian nation. 

Aside from the Ohio and Virginia-class subs and the LCS, the Navy also received a nearly $900 million increase to its new Ford-class aircraft carrier program. 

That money will finance the Navy's work to complete first ship in that class -- the USS Gerald R. Ford -- and begin work on the second ship, dubbed the USS John F. Kennedy. 

Critics inside and outside the Navy have questioned whether the Ford-class carrier was a necessary investment, given the last two major American wars were ground-based campaigns. 

But top service leaders, including Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert, claim the Ford-class will ensure the Navy maintains its global reach for decades to come.