Navy

Pentagon Mulls How to Fund Submarines and 300-Ship Fleet

Congress has created a special fund to help the Navy build its next generation nuclear submarine fleet while rebuilding back to a 300-ship fleet, but Navy and Pentagon officials are now trying to find the dollars to supply that special funding line, said  Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley.

Called the National Sea-Based Deterrence fund, the new account is designed to protect funding to build 12 new Ohio Replace Program submarines from the Navy’s overall shipbuilding budget because Navy leaders and lawmakers have said the Navy can’t afford to build the new submarines and also reach the service’s goal of achieving a 306-ship Navy.

In total, the Ohio Replacement program will consist of 12 submarines to begin deployments by 2031.

“We have to procure those on a one for one basis to replace the existing Ohio submarines. That poses a significant impact to our shipbuilding budget – a $7 billion per year increase in the 2020s,” Stackley said Wednesday at the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based think tank..

Production for the lead ship in a planned fleet of 12 Navy ORPs is expected to cost $12.4 billion — $4.8 billion in non-recurring development costs and $7.6 billion in ship construction, Navy officials have said.  Detailed design for the first ORP is slated for 2017 and some development and early construction is already underway.  Formal construction is slated for 2021. The Ohio Replacement Program is slated to serve through the 2080s.

Overall, the Navy hopes to meet its goal of producing Ohio Replacement submarines for $4.9 billion each in 2010 dollars, service officials said.

“It is a national mission and the nation determined we need to get this submarine built and out to sea. We’ve got to put the tools in place to deal with that challenge by putting in the Sea Based Strategic Deterrence fund,” Stackley said.

While having the account is a great start, Stackley emphasized that the sources of the money are still in question.

Working with ORP-builder Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, the Navy has finished the ship specifications for the boat and made progress with a few cost-cutting initiatives.

The Navy is only building 12 Ohio Replacement submarines to replace 14 existing ones because the new submarines are being built with a strong nuclear core reactor which will better sustain the submarines, Navy officials have said.

As a result, the Ohio Replacement submarines will be able to perform a greater number of deployments than the ships they are replacing and not need a mid-life refueling in order to complete 42 years of service.

The rationale for the fund includes the effort to find a way to build the Ohio Replacement submarine while preserving the shipbuilding budget. The Navy’s 2015 30-year shipbuilding plan, released this past summer, acknowledges that there does not appear to be enough money to reach the plan’s goals and achieve a fleet larger than 300-ships, citing the pace of planned retirements for ships built between 1980 and 1990.

“Congress and DoD are working together and recognize the challenge. We’re going to fund the Ohio Replacement. The question is how we maintain the balance of our shipbuilding program as we build the Ohio Replacement,” Stackley said.

Nevertheless, Stackley emphasized that the Navy will be able to reach its 306-ship fleet goal.

“The Secretary of the Navy has been almost singularly focused on getting us back to a 300-ship Navy. Today we are at 289. We have 44-ships under construction and a dozen under contract. Another eight are planned for 2015. We are on a path to 300-ships. We’re going to get there,” he said.