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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines since FY1998. The two Virginia-class boats requested for FY2014 are to be the 19th and 20th boats in the class, and the first two in a 10-boat Virginia class multiyear-procurement (MYP) contract for the period FY2014-FY2018. Congress granted authority for this MYP contract as part of its action on the FY2013 Department of Defense (DOD) budget. The Navy’s FY2013 budget submission had projected one Virginia-class boat in FY2014. Congress, as part of its action on the FY2013 DOD budget, added AP funding in FY2013 to support the procurement of a second Virginia-class boat in FY2014. The Navy’s inclusion of a second Virginia-class boat in FY2014 (which increases from 9 to 10 the number of boats in the FY2014-FY2018 MYP contract) follows through on this congressional action.

The Navy’s proposed FY2014 budget estimates the combined procurement cost of the two boats requested for FY2014 at $5,414.2 million. The two boats have received a total of $1,530.8 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding (although this figure may be reduced by the March 1, 2013, sequester), leaving another $3,883.4 million to complete the funding for the two boats.

The Navy’s proposed FY2014 budget requests $5,285.3 million in procurement and AP funding for the Virginia class program. This figure includes:

• $2,930.7 million in procurement funding to complete the procurement cost of the first boat requested for FY2014, and to pay part of the procurement cost of the second boat requested for FY2014;

• $1,612.0 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in future fiscal years; and

• $742.6 million in AP funding for Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) purchases (i.e., batch orders) of selected components of the 10 Virginia-class boats to be procured under the FY2014-FY2018 MYP contract. EOQ purchases are a regular feature of the first year or two or an MYP contract.

The Navy is proposing to defer to FY2015 the remaining $952.7 million of the procurement cost of the second boat requested for FY2014. This would divide the procurement funding for the boat between two fiscal years (FY2014 and FY2015)—a funding profile sometimes called split funding. In recent instances where split funding has been used to fund Navy ships, the funding has been appropriated using a funding method called incremental funding, under which Congress takes a positive action to approve each of the two annual funding increments. For the second Virginia-class boat requested for FY2014, however, the Navy is proposing to use a different funding method called advance appropriations, which is a form of full funding that resembles a legislatively locked in form of incremental funding. Under advance appropriations (which is not to be confused with advance procurement [AP] funding), the FY2015 funding increment for the boat would be legislatively locked into place (i.e., it would be “automatic”), and Congress would need to take action to stop that increment from being appropriated. Although the Navy in recent years has occasionally expressed interest in using advance appropriations for funding ships, there is little precedent in recent years for funding Navy ships with advance appropriations.

DOD and the Navy are considering whether to build Virginia-class 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 on the Virginia-class program of the March 1, 2013, sequester on FY2013 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program;

• the potential impact on the Virginia-class program of a possible sequester later this year or early next year on FY2014 funding and unobligated prior-year funding for the program;

• whether to use traditional (i.e., single-year) full funding, incremental funding, or (as the Navy proposes) advance appropriations for funding the second of the two boats requested for procurement in FY2014;

• the Virginia-class procurement rate more generally in coming years, particularly in the context of an SSN shortfall projected for FY2025-FY2034 and the larger debate over future U.S. defense strategy and defense spending; and

• Virginia-class program issues raised in a December 2012 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: June 28, 2013
Number of Pages: 30
Order Number: RL32418
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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Cluster Munitions: Background and Issues for Congress

Andrew Feickert
Specialist in Military Ground Forces

Paul K. Kerr
Analyst in Nonproliferation

Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that release a number of smaller submunitions intended to kill enemy personnel or destroy vehicles. Cluster munitions were developed in World War II and are part of many nations’ weapons stockpiles. Cluster munitions have been used frequently in combat, including the early phases of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cluster munitions have been highly criticized internationally for causing a significant number of civilian deaths, and efforts have been undertaken to ban and regulate their use. The Department of Defense (DOD) continues to view cluster munitions as a military necessity but has instituted a policy to reduce the failure rate of cluster munitions to 1% or less by 2018.

There are two major international initiatives to address cluster munitions: the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) and negotiations under the U.N. Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). The Obama Administration has reiterated U.S. opposition to the CCM, which entered into force August 1, 2010, but participated in negotiations regarding cluster munitions under the CCW.

Date of Report: July 9, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: RS22907
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Friday, July 26, 2013

Maritime Territorial and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Disputes Involving China: Issues for Congress

Ronald O'Rourke
Specialist in Naval Affairs

This report presents policy and oversight issues for Congress arising from (1) maritime territorial disputes involving China in the South China Sea (SCS) and East China Sea (ECS) and (2) an additional dispute over whether China has a right under international law to regulate U.S. and other foreign military activities in its 200-nautical-mile maritime Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

China is a party to multiple maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, including, in particular, disputes over the Paracel Islands, Spratly Islands, and Scarborough Shoal in the SCS, and the Senkaku Islands in the ECS. Maritime territorial disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS date back many years, and have periodically led to incidents and periods of increased tension. The disputes have again intensified in the past few years, leading to numerous confrontations and incidents, and heightened tensions between China and other countries in the region, particularly Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

In addition to maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS, China is involved in a dispute, particularly with the United States, over whether China has a right under international law to regulate the activities of foreign military forces operating within China’s EEZ. The dispute appears to be at the heart of multiple incidents between Chinese and U.S. ships and aircraft in international waters and airspace in 2001, 2002, and 2009.

The issue of whether China has a right under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to regulate foreign military activities in its EEZ is related to, but ultimately separate from, the issue of maritime territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS. The two issues are related because China can claim EEZs from inhabitable islands over which it has sovereignty, so accepting China’s claims to islands in the SCS or ECS could permit China to expand the EEZ zone within which China claims a right to regulate foreign military activities.

The EEZ issue is ultimately separate from the territorial disputes issue because even if all the territorial disputes in the SCS and ECS were resolved, and none of China’s claims in the SCS and ECS were accepted, China could continue to apply its concept of its EEZ rights to the EEZ that it unequivocally derives from its mainland coast—and it is in this unequivocal Chinese EEZ that most of the past U.S.-Chinese incidents at sea have occurred.

China depicts its maritime territorial claims in the SCS using the so-called map of the nine-dash line that appears to enclose an area covering roughly 80% of the SCS. China prefers to discuss maritime territorial disputes with other parties to the disputes on a bilateral rather than multilateral basis, and has resisted U.S. involvement in the disputes. Some observers believe China is pursuing a policy of putting off a negotiated resolution of maritime territorial disputes so as to give itself time to implement a strategy of taking incremental unilateral actions that gradually enhance China’s position in the disputes and consolidate China’s de facto control of disputed areas. China’s maritime territorial claims in the SCS and ECS appear to be motivated by a mix of factors, including potentially large undersea oil and gas reserves, fishing rights, nationalism, and security concerns.

The United States does not take a position (i.e., is neutral) regarding competing territorial claims over land features in the SCS and ECS. The U.S. position is that territorial disputes should be resolved peacefully—without coercion, intimidation, threats, or the use of force—and that claims of territorial waters and EEZs should be consistent with customary international law of the sea, as reflected in UNCLOS. U.S. officials have stated that the United States has a national interest in the preservation of freedom of navigation as recognized in customary international law of the sea and reflected in UNCLOS. The United States, like most other countries, believes that coastal states under UNCLOS do not have the right to regulate foreign military activities in their EEZs. If China’s position on the issue—that coastal states do have a right under UNCLOS to regulate the activities of foreign military forces in their EEZs—were to gain greater international acceptance under international law, it could substantially affect U.S. naval operations not only in the SCS and ECS, but around the world.

Maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS raise a number of policy and oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • the risk that the United States might be drawn into a crisis or conflict over a territorial dispute involving China, particularly since the United States has bilateral defense treaties with Japan and the Philippines; 
  • the risk of future incidents between U.S. and Chinese ships and aircraft arising from U.S. military survey and surveillance activities in China’s EEZ; 
  • the impact of maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China on the overall debate on whether the United States should become a party to UNCLOS; 
  • implications for U.S. arms sales and transfers to other countries in the region, particularly the Philippines, which currently has limited ability to monitor maritime activity in the SCS on a real-time basis, and relatively few modern ships larger than patrol craft in its navy or coast guard; 
  • implications for the stationing and operations of U.S. military forces in the region, and for U.S. military procurement programs; 
  • implications for interpreting the significance of China’s rise as an economic and military power, particularly in terms of China’s willingness to accept international norms and operate within an international rules-based order; 
  • the impact on overall U.S. relations with China and other countries in the region; and 
  • the effect on U.S. economic interests, including oil and gas exploration in the SCS and ECS by U.S. firms, and on international shipping through the SCS and ECS, which represents a large fraction of the world’s seaborne trade. 

Decisions that Congress makes on these issues could substantially affect U.S. political and economic interests in the Asia-Pacific region and U.S. military operations in both the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.

Legislation in the 113
th Congress concerning maritime territorial and EEZ disputes involving China in the SCS and ECS includes Section 1257 of H.R. 1960 (the FY2014 National Defense Authorization Act), H.R. 772, and S.Res. 167.

Date of Report: July 5, 2013
Number of Pages: 101
Order Number: R42784
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The New START Treaty: Central Limits and Key Provisions

Amy F. Woolf
Specialist in Nuclear Weapons Policy

The United States and Russia signed the New START Treaty on April 8, 2010. After more than 20 hearings, the U.S. Senate gave its advice and consent to ratification on December 22, 2010, by a vote of 71-26. Both houses of the Russian parliament—the Duma and Federation Council— approved the treaty in late January 2011, and it entered into force on February 5, 2011, after Secretary of State Clinton and Foreign Minister Lavrov exchanged the instruments of ratification.

New START provides the parties with 7 years to reduce their forces, and will remain in force for a total of 10 years. It limits each side to no more than 800 deployed and nondeployed land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers and deployed and nondeployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. Within that total, each side can retain no more than 700 deployed ICBMs, deployed SLBMs, and deployed heavy bombers equipped to carry nuclear armaments. The treaty also limits each side to no more than 1,550 deployed warheads; those are the actual number of warheads on deployed ICBMs and SLBMs, and one warhead for each deployed heavy bomber.

New START contains detailed definitions and counting rules that will help the parties calculate the number of warheads that count under the treaty limits. Moreover, the delivery vehicles and their warheads will count under the treaty limits until they are converted or eliminated according to the provisions described in the treaty’s Protocol. These provisions are far less demanding than those in the original START Treaty and will provide the United States and Russia with far more flexibility in determining how to reduce their forces to meet the treaty limits.

The monitoring and verification regime in the New START Treaty is less costly and complex than the regime in START. Like START, though, it contains detailed definitions of items limited by the treaty; provisions governing the use of national technical means (NTM) to gather data on each side’s forces and activities; an extensive database that identifies the numbers, types, and locations of items limited by the treaty; provisions requiring notifications about items limited by the treaty; and inspections allowing the parties to confirm information shared during data exchanges.

New START does not limit current or planned U.S. missile defense programs. It does ban the conversion of ICBM and SLBM launchers to launchers for missile defense interceptors, but the United States never intended to pursue such conversions when deploying missile defense interceptors. Under New START, the United States can deploy conventional warheads on its ballistic missiles, but these will count under the treaty limit on nuclear warheads. The United States may deploy a small number of these systems during the time that New START is in force.

The Obama Administration and outside analysts argue that New START will strengthen strategic stability and enhance U.S. national security. They contend that New START will contribute to U.S. nuclear nonproliferation goals by convincing other nations that the United States is serious about its obligations under the NPT. This might convince more nations to cooperate with the United States in pressuring nations who are seeking their own nuclear weapons.

Date of Report: July 12, 2013
Number of Pages: 39
Order Number: R41219
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