By Tony Capaccio
The U.S. Navy’s plan to build as many as 12 new submarines armed with nuclear missiles may cost $92 billion, 17 percent more than the $79 billion the service has estimated, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The estimate in the budget office’s annual review of Navy shipbuilding raises new questions about the service’s acquisition strategy to replace its aging Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines.
The findings underscore comments this month by the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer that the new submarine and other initiatives to upgrade or replace elements of the U.S.’s air-land-and-sea nuclear triad would present a “big affordability problem” to Ashton Carter, President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve as defense secretary, as the Pentagon faces the continuing budget cuts known as sequestration.
“We’ll be laying the groundwork for what we do on all those things” and making “key commitments” to continue them, Frank Kendall, the Defense Department’s under secretary for acquisition, told reporters Dec. 5.
The Congressional Budget Office said that if historical increases in construction costs continue, the first in the new class of nuclear-powered submarines would cost $13.8 billion in this year’s dollars, up from the $12.4 billion the Navy has projected. The other 11 would average $7.1 billion each, not counting research and development, compared with the Navy’s estimate of $6 billion.
“The historical record for lead ships of a new classes of submarines in the 1970s and 1980s provides little reason to believe that ballistic missile submarines are cheaper by weight to build than attack submarines,” the budget office said.
First in 2021
The first new ballistic-missile sub would be purchased in 2021, the second in 2024. General Dynamics Corp. (GD) and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. (HII) build the U.S.’s nuclear submarines.
For the new submarines, the Navy has estimated that it will request $13 million in fiscal 2016 for procurement, $778 million in fiscal 2017, $792 million in 2018 and $2.9 billion in fiscal 2019, all in dollars not adjusted for inflation.
Those increases would come even as the Pentagon plans to spend $37 billion from fiscal 2017 to 2019 on F-35 fighters and engines for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, and the Navy would spend $6.8 billion on the new Ford-class aircraft carrier, according to Bloomberg Government analyst Kevin Brancato.
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