US Senate Passes AUKUS Legislation, Seeks to Counter ‘Unprecedented Threats’

‘It will create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s threat and influence in the Pacific,’ Sen. Schumer said.
US Senate Passes AUKUS Legislation, Seeks to Counter ‘Unprecedented Threats’
U.S. President Joe Biden (C) participates in a trilateral meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (R) and Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (L) during the AUKUS summit at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego Calif., on March 13, 2023. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Henry Jom

The U.S. Senate has approved legislation that will authorize the sale of at least three Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia under the AUKUS security pact.

The alliance, which includes Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, seeks to curb Beijing’s encroachment in the Indo-Pacific region.

On the evening of Dec. 13, a total of 87 senators voted in favor of the annual $886 billion Defence Authorization Bill, which will then move to the House of Representatives on Dec. 14.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the AUKUS deal is a “game changer” and would “critically approve President Biden’s trilateral U.S., UK, and Australian nuclear submarine agreement.”

“It will create a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines [for Australia] to counter the Chinese Communist Party’s threat and influence in the Pacific,” Sen. Schumer said.

“The bill will give our service members the pay raise they deserve; it will strengthen our resources in the Indo-Pacific to deter aggression by the Chinese government and give resources to the military in Taiwan.”

Once enacted, Australia will pay $3 billion (A$4.5 billion) to purchase the Virginia-class submarines, and to accelerate production in U.S. shipyards.

The legislation has been in gridlock because of concern that the AUKUS deal would leave the U.S. Navy without sufficient submarines, while taking decades to supply the Australian fleet.

In July, Republican senators held up efforts to make AUKUS operational and demanded that the Biden administration provide additional funding for the U.S. fleet.

Then, following months of debate, both the Republican and Democrat majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives agreed to remove the legal impediments that would have prevented the submarine deal.

On Dec. 7, Australian Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles said bipartisan support for the AUKUS alliance provided an enormous sense of confidence for Australia.

“As the deputy prime minister has said, across the political spectrum in the United States there is an overwhelming commitment to and strong support for the U.S.-Australia alliance and for AUKUS,” a spokeswoman for Mr. Marles told AAP.

“Australia welcomes the continued progress of legislation through the U.S. Congress and acknowledges the ongoing work of Congress and Biden administration.”

In November, U.S. Vice Admiral William Houston said the Navy envisioned the transfer of two Virginia-class submarines from the U.S. fleet, and the third to come from production, to begin in 2032.

According to the legislation, a future president must certify—270 days before the move—that the sale of the submarines is consistent with U.S. foreign policy interests and would not “degrade” its own undersea capability.

Additionally, the legislation requires the president to inform Congress leadership one month before the submarine is delivered to Australia that it has achieved the “Submarine Rotational Force West”—rotating up to four American and one British submarine out of Western Australia.

In a joint statement, four Republic and Democratic leaders on the Armed Services Committee said that after “months of hard-fought and productive negotiations,” the Defence Authorization Bill will enable the U.S. to fulfill its duty to protect its national security against “unprecedented threats” from China, Iran, Russia, and North Korea.
Henry Jom is a reporter for The Epoch Times, Australia, covering a range of topics, including medicolegal, health, political, and business-related issues. He has a background in the rehabilitation sciences and is currently completing a postgraduate degree in law. Henry can be contacted at [email protected]
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