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Navy Budgeting $10 Billion for Ohio Replacement Program Over Next Five Years

An undated artist's rendering of the Ohio Replacement. Naval Sea Systems Command Image

An undated artist’s rendering of the Ohio Replacement. Naval Sea Systems Command Image

PENTAGON – Continued work on the Ohio replacement nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) will cost the U.S. Navy about $10 billion over the next five years as part of budgeting in the Navy’s Future Years Defense Plan (FYDP), a senior service budget official told reporters on Monday.

“This FYDP plan funds both the advanced procurement [for ORP] at about $5 billion and [research and development] of about $5 billion,” said Rear Adm. William Lescher, the Department of the Navy’s (DoN) deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for budget in a late afternoon briefing to reporters.

The total includes $1.4 billion in the Fiscal Year 2016 request in the Department of the Navy’s R&D budget line, according to the Navy’s budget documents.

Those funds – over five years – are split between a $3.18 billion budget line for the research and development for the development of the submarine, $1.8 billion for nuclear technology development and $5.66 billion for long lead items from the Navy’s shipbuilding account, according to Navy budget documents.

The single largest line item is an anticipated $2.77 billion shipbuilding expenditure in Fiscal Year 2019.

ORP – an estimated $100 billion program to replace the service’s 14 nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN) – is the Navy’s number one priority and the service has raised concerns without additional relief, the new class of 12 boomers could take funds away from other shipbuilding programs in the service’s shipbuilding account (SCN).

“They will get built,” Lescher said.
“[But there’s] very much a concern the impact of the broader shipbuilding approach absent the relief that we think is required to do this.”

The Navy thinks it will need the relief to preserve the rest of the shipbuilding budget when the first ORP boomer starts construction in FY 2021.

“The new construction SCN averages about $15 billion per year and these boats per year – past the lead boat – will be about $10 billion per year. So it requires two-thirds of the SCN absent relief, Lescher said.
“The department’s strong view is when the construction cost with the first boat in ’21 – particularly when it gets to a boat every year from 2026 to 2035 – that additional topline relief is required. “

In 2013, the former Navy director of undersea warfare Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge said the relief needed could be more than half the cost of the program.

“$60 billion over 15 years is what we need,” Breckenridge said before the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

To that end, Congress has established a fund for a seabased nuclear deterrent but has yet to deposit any money in the account.

Programs in the Navy’s long-range outlook have already been affected by the anticipated costs of ORP.

An anticipated Flight IV of the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (DDG-51) – that would have replaced the Ticonderoga-class cruiser’s (CG-47) air defense commander role – was deemed unaffordable during the Ohio replacement period.

The class of 12 ORP boats will displace more than 20,000-tons and be the largest submarines the U.S. has ever constructed. The boomers will each field 16 Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles to replace the 14 existing Ohio-class boats.

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  • fxreyman

    So here we have the ultimate problem with acquiring any new ships for the Navy. Costs. So this new submarine will pretty much wipe out the regular shipbuilding budget each year unless the Congress can appropriate additional money for the new SSBN’s. As has been discussed in many other message boards, there was a belief that the Navy would be designing the new SSBN based on an extended Virginia class SSN. However, I believe that has been ruled out in favor of a much larger SSBN.

    My overall concern as I think it would be within the Navy is how are they going to be able to afford any other ship while the new SSBN is budgeted for each year each new SSBN is being procured? There is a mention in the article of a “fund for a seabased nuclear deterrent but has yet to deposit any money in the account”.

    So what is the Navy to do? I have read in other publications that the budget process for the new sub would involve the Department of Energy and that they would be providing funding, although I am sure the Navy would want to control the purse strings on the SSBN. But with the poor decisions the Navy has been making in recent years with their budgets and the type of ships they have wanted to build, I think a more radical departure is needed.

    First of all cancel the remaining 20 ships of the Littoral Combat Ships. That alone would save $9.5 billion dollars over the length of their contract. Cancel the F-35C variant and continue to build improved versions of the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. These planes are not as advanced as the F35 but are flying now and still offer quite a punch to Navy carrier wings. At $80 million per aircraft, they are much more affordable than the F35 at a staggering $337 million each. For that cost, the Navy could acquire 4 F-18’s.

    I would also recommend that the Navy try and work out a new budget proposal with Congress that would address the money needed to build the new SSBN’s. possibly even handing the purse strings over to the Department of Energy. Or possibly cancelling any future upgrades to the US Air Force’s Minuteman missile units.

    There are possibly many other areas of the Navy that can be looked at in order to save money, but overall the mismanagement of some shipbuilding programs and the under valuations of programs by the Navy to the Congress thus producing annual shortfalls in budget dollars has not helped over the years. The retirement of certain ships often way too early has also hindered deployments and caused additional strains on ships and manpower.

    Ultimately I believe that the US should only have two forms of nuclear response. SSBN’s and bombers. The land based silo’s are much too vulnerable to risk in a nuclear exchange with whomever decides to attack us.

  • Secundius

    How come nobody’s considered using a Boomer as an Arsenal Submarine (Ship)…

    • J_kies

      What would you call the SSGN? To quote Homer Simpson ‘D’oah’

      • Secundius

        @ J_kies.

        I don’t no of any SSGN’s that carry ESSM’s or even SM-6ERAM’s. DO YOU…

  • old guy

    The OHIO class does not need replacement. Upgrading, YES. Refueling, YES. The Navy has had a bug where it sits, for years, because the Russkies had a bigger boomer ( TYPHOON, BOREI) and a better attack sub (ALPHA, AKULA) than us. Sooooo, spend, spend, spend. Let’s hear it for EB’s lobbyists.

    • J_kies

      Hull life in terms of dive cycles with safety margins is a real issue. We value our sailors more than the Soviets did. Faster / noisier submarines do not make better attack subs. While I won’t excuse much of the usual military lobby; these are real and moderate issues and done prudently.

      • old guy

        Very astute. I could not agree with you more, EXCEPT (erasure word) dive cycles alone is deceptive. Hull safety margin is not just a matter of number of dive cycles. When I was in we developed an algorithm which included 14 factors, such as depth, procedure (crash, settle, duration, activity, etc). I don’t believe any of the boomers, with the exception of the OHIO could approach a limit.

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