Navy: Plan to Build New Strategic Sub Requires ‘Unsustainable’ Funding

July 8, 2014, 6:59 a.m.

The U.S. Navy says that it can­not af­ford to sim­ul­tan­eously build a new stra­tegic sub­mar­ine fleet and to up­date the rest of its con­ven­tion­al ships.

In a Ju­ly 1 re­port to Con­gress on its long-term ship­build­ing plan, the Navy said by fisc­al 2032 it would be spend­ing in ex­cess of $24 bil­lion an­nu­ally — al­most double the tra­di­tion­al av­er­age of $13 bil­lion, In­side De­fense re­por­ted. The sea ser­vice de­scribed that amount of fund­ing as “un­sus­tain­able.”

“There will be re­sourcing chal­lenges out­side the [fisc­al 2015 - fisc­al 2019 fu­ture years de­fense plan] largely due to in­vest­ment re­quire­ments as­so­ci­ated wit the SSBN(X) re­quire­ment,” wrote U.S. Deputy De­fense Sec­ret­ary Robert Work in the 28-page re­port. “SSBN(X)” refers to the planned suc­cessor class to the Ohio bal­list­ic mis­sile sub­mar­ine.

The Navy’s long-term ship­build­ing plan does not factor in cur­rent de­fense spend­ing caps im­posed by the 2011 Budget Con­trol Act.

Ac­quis­i­tion costs for the next-gen­er­a­tion nuc­le­ar de­liv­ery vehicle are fore­cast in the re­port to boost yearly ship­build­ing spend­ing to an av­er­age of $19.7 bil­lion yearly dur­ing the fisc­al 2015 - fisc­al 2019 peri­od.

The need to mod­ern­ize the U.S. stra­tegic sub­mar­ine fleet “will cause sig­ni­fic­ant and note­worthy risks to the Navy’s over­all ship­build­ing plan,” the re­port says.

The pro­jec­ted cost of the lead SSBN(X) sub­mar­ine also has in­creased, rising by about $400 mil­lion from last year’s pro­jec­tion to $12.4 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Navy.

There is a move­ment in both cham­bers of Con­gress to cre­ate a sep­ar­ate fund to pay for the new stra­tegic sub­mar­ine fleet in or­der to pre­vent the ex­pense from swamp­ing the Navy’s ship­build­ing budget. The Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in May passed an­nu­al de­fense-au­thor­iz­a­tion le­gis­la­tion that would re­quire the es­tab­lish­ment of a “Na­tion­al Sea-based De­terrence Fund.” Le­gis­la­tion with a sim­il­ar goal has already been ap­proved by the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives.

Con­struc­tion of the new sub­mar­ine fleet is an­ti­cip­ated to be­gin in fisc­al 2021. A total of 12 new ves­sels — armed with nuc­le­ar-tipped Tri­dent D-5 bal­list­ic mis­siles — are planned for ac­quis­i­tion.

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