US Senator Tim Kaine has joined the Australian ambassador to the US, Dr Kevin Rudd, to announce that the US Senate has taken steps towards the authorisation of the transfer of nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarines to Australia, as well as a variety of other measures to implement the AUKUS security partnership.
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During a visit to the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) shipyard at Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS), Virginia, ambassador Dr Kevin Rudd was joined by the chair of the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on seapower, Senator Tim Kaine, Under Secretary of the Navy Erik Raven, and Admiral Daryl Caudle, commander, US Fleet Forces Command, following the bipartisan Committee Approval of Amendment Strengthening Australian-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) Partnership.
This amendment – now a component of the bipartisan State Department Authorization Act of 2023 – authorises the transfer of nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed submarines to Australia, as well as a variety of other measures to implement the AUKUS security partnership.
Pivotally, the Biden administration could not transfer these submarines without legislation from the Senate foreign relations committee.
Senator Kaine said, “The hard work of our shipbuilders strengthens our national security and boosts our economy. The AUKUS agreement will help further Virginia’s critical shipbuilding leadership, strengthen our alliances, and bolster security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific. I’m grateful to ambassador Rudd and Under Secretary of the Navy Raven for coming to see Virginia’s work on these submarines and reaffirming the importance of the AUKUS partnership.”
US Senator Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, echoed the statements made by Senator Kaine, saying, “Deepening security relations with the United Kingdom and Australia sends an important signal about the durability and strength of US alliances. This amendment in the State Authorization Act of 2023 provides Australia with a conventionally-armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability and streamlines the export of US military technology, while ensuring that technology is safeguarded from adversarial espionage. I’d like to thank Ranking Member Jim Risch for his support of this effort, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the Senate and House to pass this bill which will cement the AUKUS partnership for decades to come.”
The approved amendment to the State Department Authorization Act of 2023 includes a number of major changes central to Australia’s development of a nuclear workforce and nuclear-powered submarine capability, including:
- Authorisation for the transfer of two Virginia Class submarines from US stocks to Australia, while authorising a third submarine for sale to Australia via the foreign military sales (FMS) process;
- Authorisation for the president to accept funds from the Australian government for an AUKUS Submarine Security Account; and
- Authorisation for the export of defense services to help Australian private-sector personnel develop their own Australian submarine industrial base.
Additionally, the amendment will establish an AUKUS senior adviser at the State Department who will report directly to the Secretary of State, elevating the department’s AUKUS engagement and will grant both Australia and the UK priority status within the FMS process, including advanced clearance for the transfer of AUKUS-related technologies to Australia and the United Kingdom to speed up the FMS process.
It is anticipated these changes will ease the granting of an exemption to commercial export controls for Australia and the United Kingdom so long as the Secretary of State certifies their export control regimes are comparable to that of the United States.
Australian ambassador to the United States, Dr Kevin Rudd said, “The expertise of the United States Navy and American shipbuilders will be invaluable to Australia as we develop our own sovereign submarine industrial base, while boosting the resilience of our allied submarine supply chain and furthering security objectives for all three AUKUS partners.”
Newport News Shipbuilding is one of only two shipyards capable of designing and building nuclear-powered submarines for the US Navy. Huntington Ingalls Industries reinforced that it “stands ready to leverage its longstanding expertise in nuclear shipbuilding and defence technologies, maintenance and sustainment, workforce and supply chain development, and presence in Canberra, Australia, in support of the AUKUS lines of effort.”