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NAVY SHIPBUILDING The Elephant In The Room The Columbia submarine program is the elephant in the room. Originally known as the SSBN (X) program and the Ohio Replacement Program (ORP), the Columbia class vessels will replace the Ohio-class Trident submarines as they reach the end

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of their service lives (set to begin retiring in 2027). Unless the Columbia sub is funded, the United States will lose the most credible element of its nuclear deterrent. The program has already required substantial research, development funding and

advanced procurement; The CRS repor ts that the Navy has requested $3.8 billion for the Columbia Class submarine in its FY2019 budget. Within this total, $514.8 million is allocated to submarine development, $256.1 million to advanced nuclear power systems, and $3 billion to advanced procurement. The Navy initially estimated that each submarine in this program could cost $6 billion to $7 billion in FY2010 dollars. Now, though, the CRS says it expec ts the first submarine to cost $14.5 billion, with $8.8 billion in construction costs and $5.7 billion in non-recurring engineering work. Subsequent submarines are expected to cost $9.8 billion dollars. “T here has b e e n wid e s p read agreement...that the costs associated with the Columbia class submarine could undermine the rest of the Navy’s shipbuilding budget,” says a CRS report. Congress has set up a mechanism to protec t the main shipbuilding budget by establishing a National Sea-based Deterrence Fund. Money placed in the fund will be available for the design, construction, purchase, alteration, and conversion of “national sea-based deterrence vessels.” The legislation also states that the Secretary of Defense has the authority to transfer up to $3.5 billion into the fund from unobligated funds in the DOD budget. The CRS report notes that “most experts agree that, without increased appropriations, this fund may protect the Navy’s shipbuilding budget from the costs of the Columbia class submarine, but that it would not really solve the DOD’s problem, because the money for the fund would have to come from other portions of the Pentagon budget.” Never theles s, notes the CRS, the Navy continues to support the Columbia class submarine as it s highest priority, with Admiral John Ric hard s o n, t he Chief of Naval Operations, noting that the ballistic missile submarine force is “foundational to our survival.”

Marine Log June 2018  
Marine Log June 2018