Specialist in Naval Affairs
The Navy’s ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) form one leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent force, or “triad,” which also includes land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and land-based long-range bombers. The Navy currently operates 14 Ohio (SSBN-726) class SSBNs, also known as Trident SSBNs, the first of which is projected to reach the end of its service life in 2027.
The Navy is conducting development and design work on a planned class of 12 next-generation ballistic missile submarines, or SSBN(X)s, which the service wants to procure as replacements for the 14 Ohio-class boats. The SSBN(X) program is also known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP). The Navy’s proposed FY2012 budget requests $1,067 million in research and development funding for the program. Navy plans call for procuring the first SSBN(X) in FY2019, with advance procurement funding for the boat beginning in FY2015.
The Navy estimates the average procurement cost of boats 2 through 12 in the program at $5.6 billion each in FY2010 dollars, and is now working to reduce that figure to a target of $4.9 billion each in FY2010 dollars. Even with this cost-reduction effort, some observers are concerned that procuring 12 SSBN(X)s during the 15-year period FY2019-FY2033, as called for in Navy plans, could lead to reductions in procurement rates for other types of Navy ships during those years.
Potential oversight issues for Congress for the SSBN(X) program include the following:
- the plan to design the SSBN(X) with 16 SLBM tubes rather than 20;
- the plan to procure 12 SSBN(X)s rather than 13 or 14;
- the likelihood that the Navy will be able to reduce the average procurement cost of boats 2-12 in the program to the target figure of $4.9 billion each in FY2010 dollars;
- the accuracy of the Navy’s estimate of the procurement cost of each SSBN(X);
- the prospective affordability of the SSBN(X) program and its potential impact on other Navy shipbuilding programs;
- where in the budget to fund the program’s detailed design/nonrecurring engineering (DD/NRE costs); and
- the question of which shipyard or shipyards will build SSBN(X)s.
This report focuses on the SSBN(X) as a Navy shipbuilding program. CRS Report RL33640, U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, by Amy F. Woolf, discusses the SSBN(X) as an element of future U.S. strategic nuclear forces in the context of strategic nuclear arms control agreements.
Date of Report: July 1, 2011
Number of Pages: 44
Order Number: R41129
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