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Report to Congress on Columbia-class Nuclear Ballistic Missile Submarine Program

The following is the March 13, 2018 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the Report

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, is a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs. The Navy has identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021. The Navy’s proposed FY2019 budget requests $3,005.3 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $704.9 million in research and development funding for the program.

The Navy as of January 2017 estimates the procurement cost of the lead ship in the class at
$8.2 billion in constant 2017 dollars, not including several billion dollars in additional cost for
plans for the class, and the average unit procurement cost of ships 2 through 12 in the program at
$6.5 billion each in constant FY2017 dollars. A March 2017 GAO report assessing selected major
Department of Defense (DOD) weapon acquisition programs stated that the estimated total
acquisition cost of the Columbia-class program is $100,221.9 million (about $100.2 billion) in
constant FY2017 dollars, including $12,648.1 million (about $12.6 billion) in research and
development costs and $87,426.5 million (about $87.4 billion) in procurement costs. Observers
are concerned about the impact the Columbia-class program will have on the Navy’s ability to
fund the procurement of other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s.

Issues for Congress for the Columbia-class program for FY2019 include the following:

  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2019 funding requests for
    the program;
  • the impact of using CRs to fund Department of Defense (DOD) operations for
    the first several months of FY2018 on the execution of FY2018 funding for the
    Columbia-class program;
  • cost, schedule, and technical risk in the Columbia-class program; and
  • the prospective affordability of the Columbia-class program and its potential
    impact on funding available for other Navy programs.

via fas.org

  • Chesapeakeguy

    Well, I do hope the process for these subs goes smoother than what has transpired with the Zumwalts and the LCS classes. And I’m POSITIVE there will be no cost overruns, or delays, etc.


    • Duane

      No cost overruns on the LCS. after the initial two developmental hulls per variant, the Navy went to two 10-ship block contracts with each builder, later expanded to 11 ships each with fixed average sales prices for the block buy, including allowances for the inflation in materials costs. LM released their average hull price to the public a few years ago – $350M each hull. Austal declined to release their average contract price publicly (everybody knows their ship costs more).

      The mission modules are GFE, with costs varying from a low of about $17M for SuW to a high of about $100M for MCM.

      The ZUMs are a developmental class of just 3 so there will be no cost savings from a block buy.

      FFG(X) is supposed to be acquired on a single 20-ship block buy, again on a fixed average ship price, but possibly with the first one or two ships excluded from the average block price.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        Read your brochure to someone else Duane. Your lectures don’t hold any credibility in this life. Virtually NOTHING has come in on time or budget concerning the LCS. The Navy hasn’t even been forthcoming on the true costs of them. It’s a boondoggle. You can spin the fact that a grossly under-armed vessel that now costs more than TWICE what they were budgeted for is somehow a bargain, but normal people won’t accept that. All we continue to get are these rosy predictions about if and when ‘modules’ are to be delivered (much less IF they work), and we continue to be disappointed. No one can argue that the LCS program appears to be the latest manifestation of “too big to fail”.

        • Stephen

          One recurring problem; those that learned lessons & found solutions are retired. We reported to the Ohio; she was in 5 hull sections. Building that ship was a giant learning curve for the EB Shipyard & Ship’s Force provided solid oversight in every aspect of the construction & testing process.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            I’m wondering if any element of ‘re-inventing the wheel’ will go onto the new boomers? The desire is to wed new technology to this new design. I hope lessons are learned from the cluster “F” that has been the LCS and Zumwalt programs…

          • Stephen

            Very true. The ‘Rickover Effect’, engrained in most who followed; was a theme that firmly gripped the past in one hand, whilst reaching into the future with the other. One-off designs were studied, extrapolated, incorporated or discarded.

        • Duane

          No brochures dude … facts. Look’em up. No cost overruns on the LCS block buys period. That’s why they’re called “fixed price contracts”

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Yes Duane…Facts, look them up. A program that was supposed to top out at $220 million per ship continues to FAR exceed that. The fact that the Navy has abandoned the modular approach for later builds of them, not to mention that they no longer look at a LCS variant as being the favored approach to their new frigate request. The ‘block buy’ is what has gotten everyone in trouble, in building so many shops with so many unresolved problems. And their costs, according to the NAVY, for new construction in FY 2018, are 588.6 million EACH. LOOK IT UP! And also don’t selectively forget that no less than TEN of these ships are relegated to testing equipment and concepts and/or training crew members, NOT deploying. On the current ‘schedule, even if they have all of them out of yard periods, they can only deploy about 20 out of 32 ships.

          • Duane

            The LCS program was never authorized on the basis of a lowball estimate generated a decade earlier. Nobody in the world builds 3,400 ton surface combatant for anywhere remotely near $220M a hull.

            The first two hulls were developmental ships, and everybody knows that all first or second ships in class are far more expensive than block-bought in quantity.

            The facts are there have not been ANY cost overruns on the 22 LCS purchased on the block buy contracts, and the remaining 6 LCS have been/are being purchased under contract extensions at the same low prices with allowances for inflation (yes, wages and materials go up every year, for the military just like everybody else in the world).

            There have been no LCS cost overruns on any of the block buy ships, which is to say 28 of the 32 LCS purchased by the Navy.

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Duane, you can keep flailing as you try to defend the indefensible. You keep stating how you will take the Navy’s word on all matters (that suit you of course), bit it IS the Navy who are evidently so embarrassed by the cost OVERRUNS that they have resorted to some creative and some might say extreme measures to try to hide them.

            Below is article from Business Insider dated March 7, 2017

            “The Pentagon got caught trying to hide embarrassing cost overruns on Navy ships

            If the data you need to release to the public is potentially embarrassing, there’s always classification review to the rescue.

            The US Government Accountability Office deleted details of cost
            overruns on two of the Navy’s littoral combat ships from a report on
            shipbuilding contracts, at the request of the Defense Office of
            Prepublication and Security Review.”

            The review referred to the financial tidbit on the USS Milwaukee and the USS Jackson as “sensitive but unclassified” in a footnote, according to Anthony Capaccio of Bloomberg News, who first reported the news.

            “The department failed to consider the public interest in knowing that
            cost targets were being exceeded, and by how much,” Steven Aftergood,
            director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government
            Secrecy, told Bloomberg. “Instead, it looks like DoD is trying to keep
            unfavorable facts out of the public eye. In the long-run, that’s not a
            smart move.”

            The Navy’s push to field littoral combat ships has come under sharp criticism from defense experts and members of Congress. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, for example, last year called out the $12.4 billion for the Navy’s requested 26 littoral combat ships as “an unfortunate and classic example” of the problems of defense acquisition, according to AP.

            That’s not to mention the problems with the ships themselves, which have been plagued with mechanical issues. In 2016, four LCS’s experienced engineering difficulties, forcing the Navy to halt all further operations of the ships.

            The USS Coronado, an LCS that was built about five years ago, is currently stranded in Singapore with its crew being told their deployment is extended indefinitely as a replacement crew is still in the process of training to a new standard.”

            I guess they’re all lying about this, eh Duane? Are they engaged in that ‘fake news our President is always so right about? LOL…

          • Duane

            no flail, just facts

          • Chesapeakeguy

            Nothing BUT flailing Duane. As only YOU do…

    • NavySubNuke

      Luckily COLUMBIA is leveraging heavily from the Virginia program – by far the Navy’s most successful shipbuilding program – and from the lessons learned and problems that have occurred during Virginia.
      We’d better hope there aren’t any delays though since the Obama admin decided to delay the program two years and removed all the schedule margin. If anything we should be doing all we can to accelerate the program and get these into the fleet sooner.

      • Chesapeakeguy

        I hear you. But they will be putting in electric drive and a new kind of reactor and other things. I’m hoping they pull it all off in reasonable shape.

        • NavySubNuke

          Luckily NR is in charge of those things and I trust them. There was a slight snafu on the first test motor for e-drive but it was a manufacturing snafu not a design issue and all it did was reduce the testing margin — there was enough margin built in it didn’t even make them late.
          The missile tubes and assembly of the quad packs that will make up the missile compartment actually make me the most nervous because it has been over 20 years since we have made missile tubes like this (they are vastly different from the VPT tubes being used in Virginia). But again the Navy is doing a great job on buying down risk in this area- we are already in production on missile tubes and will be working on assembling them together years early just to make sure we can.

  • Duane

    The ORP seems to be humming along on schedule. A vast disappointment to the news media and the internet trolling community.