LONDON (AP) — Britain's defense ministry says it could delay a decision on when to begin a planned 20 billion pound ($30 billion) program to replace its fleet of four nuclear-armed submarines.

The defense ministry is cutting its 36 billion pound ($54 billion) annual budget over the next five years to meet a government drive to slash Britain's huge national debts.

Defense Secretary Liam Fox confirmed in July the timetable for new nuclear submarines would be considered alongside a wider review of defense priorities.

His ministry said Thursday that decisions will be considered once the review is published later this year.

Delaying the program until after 2014 would deliver savings. But some experts warn expertise on submarine building would be lost in the meantime.