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Monday, March 25, 2013

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget requests $3,217.6 million in procurement funding to complete the procurement cost of the 17th and 18th Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The FY2013 budget estimates the combined procurement cost of these two boats at $5,107.9 million, and the ships have received a total of $1,890.3 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) and Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget also requests $874.9 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in future years. The Navy’s proposed FY2013 budget defers the scheduled procurement of one Virginia-class boat from FY2014 to FY2018.

The two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2013 are the final two in a group of eight covered by a multiyear procurement (MYP) arrangement for the period FY2009-FY2013. The Navy this year is requesting congressional approval for a new MYP arrangement that would cover the next nine Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2014-FY2018 (in annual quantities of 1-2-2-2-2).

The Department of Defense (DOD) announced in January 2012 that it wants to build Virginiaclass boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years with an additional mid-body section, called the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), that contains four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes that the boats would use to store and fire additional Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads, such as large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Building Virginia-class boats with the VPM might increase their unit procurement costs by about 15%-20%, and would increase the total number of torpedo-sized weapons (such as Tomahawks) that they could carry by about 76%.

The Navy’s FY2013 30-year SSN procurement plan, if implemented, would not be sufficient to maintain a force of 48 SSNs consistently over the long run. The Navy projects under that plan that the SSN force would fall below 48 boats starting in FY2022, reach a minimum of 43 boats in FY2028-FY2030, and remain below 48 boats through FY2034. Potential issues for Congress regarding the Virginia-class program include the following:

  • the impact of the sequestration of FY2013 funding on the Virginia-class program; 
  • whether to approve the Navy’s request for a new MYP arrangement for the Virginia-class program for FY2014-FY2018; 
  • whether to restore procurement of a second Virginia-class boat in FY2014—an issue that could have implications for Virginia-class AP funding in FY2013; 
  • the Virginia-class procurement rate more generally in coming years, particularly in the context of the projected SSN shortfall and the larger debate over future U.S. defense strategy and defense spending; and 
  • Virginia-class program issues raised in a December 2011 report from DOD’s Director, Operational Test and Evaluation (DOT&E). 

The Navy’s Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) ballistic missile submarine program is discussed in CRS Report R41129, Navy Ohio Replacement (SSBN[X]) Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald O'Rourke.

Date of Report: March 13, 2013
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL32418
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