Russell Rumbaugh, center, at the commissioning ceremony of USS Santa Barbara (LCS 32) on April 1, 2023. (U.S. Navy photo by Eric Parsons/Released)

WASHINGTON — The decision to seek only one Virginia-class submarine in the Navy’s fiscal 2025 budget request was about “recognizing a fundamental reality” — not a “ploy” to get around congressionally-mandated funding caps, the service’s comptroller said today.

“This is a real decision,” Russell Rumbaugh, the Navy’s senior civilian overseeing financial management, said during an event at the American Enterprise Institute. “You can see [it is] proven out with the [chief of naval operations’] unfunded priority list having come out and there’s no submarine on it.”

During the event, Rumbaugh was asked whether the Navy’s choice to only seek one submarine — a move that has consistently irritated lawmakers on Capitol Hill in previous years — was an inside-the-beltway budget game: Make a cut so severe and untenable that it forces Congress to find the extra money needed to fund the program.

The comptroller vehemently responded “no,” stating that while the service absolutely had to make choices due to the caps from the Fiscal Responsibility Act, the Navy is not expecting Congress to add an additional boat to the budget.

“Sixteen boats already appropriated, 14 already on contract. Tens of billions of dollars of backlog at the yards, and even greater demand coming as we move into full-rate production for Colombia [and] as we work with the Australians to make AUKUS a reality,” he said. “There is just a fundamental tension and difficulty there that we, with our industrial partners, with our partners in Congress, need to work through.”

“It is not a Washington Monument ploy. It is a necessary moment that we… need to push through to actually get strategic outcomes,” he added.

Rumbaugh’s remarks come just one day after his service secretary, Carlos Del Toro, released an overview of the 45-day shipbuilding review the Navy recently completed, which found the fourth and fifth blocks of the Virginia-class program are running 36 and 24 months late, respectively.

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The comptroller said the delays projected in the new review for not only Virginia class, but also several other high-profile programs, are not reflected in the 30-year long-range shipbuilding plan the service released in March alongside its budget request.

Rumbaugh said the reasoning for that came down to the fact that the review’s projections were worst-case scenarios and the service will actively be looking for ways to compress its execution time and claw back schedule margin.