The Navy’s director of strategic systems programs said “we’re very comfortable” with the roadmap laid out to keep the aging Ohio-class ballistic submarine fleet meeting mission requirements until its replacements are built and commissioned.
Testifying Wednesday before the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Vice Adm. Terry Benedict said, “Maintenance is a challenging experience” to keep these submarines “taken to a life never seen before.”
But he assured the committee that the Navy is being pro-active and programming into its budget the necessary funds to cover these costs.
As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus testified earlier Wednesday before a Senate panel, Benedict stressed the need for the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to help cover the costs ballistic-missile submarine replacement program. “We need these types of relief . . . to hold” to spending targets for the 12 vessels. Estimates place the cost for the new class at $100 billion.
At the House hearing, all the witnesses stressed the need to retain the nuclear triad and acknowledged the costs of modernizing the long-range bomber force, ground-based ballistic missiles and the ballistic- missile submarine fleet.
Robert Scher, assistant secretary of Defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, said the Pentagon is asking that 3.3 percent of the request be spent on strategic programs and that funding for all legs of the triad was projected into the department’s five-year spending plan “to deal with threats we see in the security environment.”
There is “a lot of acquisition coming down the pike” in strategic programs in the near future. Scher said the choice comes down to modernize or face slow degradation of the nation’s strategic force
Scher added the administration, in submitting this request, was taking into account necessary spending in other parts of the government as well as the Department of Defense. “We are only as strong as the people we can recruit.”
Benedict and Gen. Robin Rand, commander of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, are working together to find commonality between sea-based and land-based ballistic missiles to hold down costs now and in the future.
“We continue to explore those options” beyond the nine joint teams the services have already established to look at holding down costs and reducing risks, Benedict said.
When asked about partnerships and the sharing of data with local and state law enforcement agencies, Benedict said the Navy believes in transparency and is striving “to ensure classified information is transmitted to those who should have it” and to no others.
Scher said, in answer to a question, that any adversary should understand that an attack on satellites used for command and control of strategic forces “is something that will not be allowed.”