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

November 26, 2019 10:02 AM - Updated: November 26, 2019 2:19 PM

The following is the Nov. 22, 2019 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 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. A May 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report assessing selected major DOD weapon acquisition programs stated that the estimated total acquisition (development plus procurement) cost of the Columbia-class program as of June 2018 was $103,035.2 million (about $103.0 billion) in constant FY2019 dollars, including $13,103.0 million (about $13.1 billion) in research and development costs and $89,932.2 million (about $89.9 billion) in procurement costs.

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

  • whether the Navy has accurately priced the work it is proposing to do in the Columbia-class program in FY2020;
  • 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.

This report focuses on the Columbia-class program as a Navy shipbuilding program. CRS Report RL33640, U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, by Amy F. Woolf, discusses the Columbia class as an element of future U.S. strategic nuclear forces in the context of strategic nuclear arms control agreements.

Download the document here.

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