25 April 2008

VCJCS speaks about new SSBN

Global Security Newswire has a strange lede on a story about Navy plans to replace retiring Trident SSBNs. The initial thrust of the article is about whether to mix load (strategic and conventional missile on same ship) or to build two different ships (SSBN and SSGN like we now have). This has been debated before in congress with OSD's proposed Conventional Trident Modification that hasn't really gotten off the drawing board.

But midway through the article the theme shifts to discussing plans to replace the Tridents twenty years from now.

Each of the submarine replacements would cost roughly $7 billion, measured
in 2009 dollars, senior analyst Eric Labs of the Congressional Budget Office
said in House testimony last month.

The service has not offered its own cost estimate for the program, saying a price tag is nearly impossible to pin down before additional design details have been determined. However, this is a departure from past practice in which the Navy has offered early estimates for other future ships, naval affairs specialist Ronald O’Rourke of the Congressional Research Service testified alongside Labs.

Given the competition for resources in the defense budget and an already costly long-term shipbuilding budget, it could be that the Navy “just didn’t want to scare the bejesus out of us” with a huge price tag, one congressional staffer said this week.

Probably a good call there.

There is a positive sign from the hill, however:
To date, there has been little debate about whether a new submarine should be
developed and built, according to experts.

“I have seen no indications that anyone would oppose this next-generation SSBN,” one congressional staffer said this week. Instead, the source said, discussion has been focused on one question: “When are we going to get started?”

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