Report to Congress on Columbia-class Ballistic Missile Sub

May 1, 2024 9:44 AM

The following is the April 29, 2024, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy’s Columbia (SSBN-826) class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) program is a program to design and build a class of 12 new SSBNs to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 aging Ohio-class SSBNs. Since 2013, the Navy has consistently identified the Columbia-class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy procured the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021; the boat was funded with three-year incremental funding in FY2021-FY2023. The Navy procured the second Columbia-class boat in FY2024; the boat is being funded with two-year incremental funding (also called split funding) in FY2024-FY2025. The Navy wants to procure the remaining 10 boats in the program—boats 3 through 12—at a rate of one per year in FY2026-FY2035.

The Navy’s FY2025 budget submission estimates the total procurement cost of the first boat at $15,179.1 million (i.e., about $15.2 billion) and the procurement cost of the second Columbia-class boat at $9,283.1 million (i.e., about $9.3 billion). The first boat’s procurement cost is much higher than that of subsequent boats in the class because the first boat includes most of the detail design/nonrecurring engineering (DD/NRE) costs for the class. (It is a long-standing Navy budgetary practice to incorporate the DD/NRE costs for a new class of ship into the total procurement cost of the first ship in the class.) The first boat’s estimated procurement cost includes $6,557.6 million for plans, meaning (essentially) the DD/NRE costs for the class. Excluding costs for plans, the estimated hands-on construction cost of the first ship is $8,621.5 million (i.e., about $8.6 billion).

The Navy’s proposed FY2025 budget requests $3,341.2 million (i.e., about $3.3 billion) in procurement funding to complete the procurement cost of the second Columbia-class boat and $6,215.9 million (i.e., about $6.2 billion) in advance procurement (AP) funding for Columbia-class boats to be procured in FY2026 and subsequent years.

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

  • The impact of an estimated 12- to 16-month delay in the delivery of the first Columbia-class boat on the Navy’s plans for replacing Ohio-class SSBNs on a timely basis;
  • industrial-base challenges of building both Columbia-class boats and Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) at the same time;
  • the risk of cost growth in the Columbia-class program; and
  • the potential impact of the Columbia-class program on funding that will be available for other Navy programs, including other shipbuilding programs.

Download the document here.

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