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

The following is the April 12, 2019 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 aging 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. Research and development work on the program has been underway for several years, and advance procurement (AP) funding for the program began in FY2017. The Navy’s proposed FY2020 budget requests $1,698.9 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $533.1 million in research and development funding for the program.

The Navy’s FY2020 budget submission estimates the total procurement cost of the 12-ship class at $109.0 billion in then-year dollars. An April 2018 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report assessing selected major DOD weapon acquisition programs stated that the estimated total acquisition cost of the Columbia-class program is $102,075.3 million (about $102.1 billion) in constant FY2018 dollars, including $12,901.0 million (about $12.9 billion) in research and development costs and $89,174.3 million (about $89.2 billion) in procurement costs.

  • Issues for Congress for the Columbia-class program include the following:
  • whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2020 funding requests for the program;
  • the risk of cost growth in the program;
  • the risk of technical challenges or funding-related issues that could lead to delays in designing and building the lead boat in the program and having it ready for its scheduled initial deterrent patrol in 2031;
  • the potential impact of the Columbia-class program on funding that will be available for other Navy programs, including other shipbuilding programs; and
  • potential industrial-base challenges of building both Columbia-class boats and Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) at the same time.

Download the report here.