With defense spending getting so tight, submarine programs in the U.S. and other countries are likely to come under greater scrutiny, the Rand Corp. warns in a recent report that provides some recommendations on how to buy and build the vessels.

“As the operational lives of submarines have lengthened and as defense budgets in most nations have become constrained, new submarine programs are occurring less frequently,” Rand says in its recently released report, “Learning from Experience, Lessons from the Submarine Programs of the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia.”

“In the future, there may be substantial gaps between new program starts, resulting in fewer opportunities for personnel to gain experience managing complex processes and making informed decisions than in the past,” Rand says.” Future managers of new programs may not have the benefit of learning from the challenges faced and issues solved in past programs.”

With that in mind, Rand offers some tactical and strategic suggestions on developing submarine programs.

Key lessons for establishing an effective acquisition and contracting environment, Rand says, include the following:

• Consider a single design/build contract for the first-of-class.

• Use a contract structure with provisions for handling program

risks and incentivizing the contractor to achieve cost, schedule,

and performance goals.

• Develop realistic cost and schedule estimates.

• Decide on government-furnished equipment.

• Develop a timely decision-making process to manage change.

• Establish an agreed-upon tracking mechanism and payment


• Include an adequate contingency pool.

“Operating and supporting new submarines after they enter service account for the vast majority of their total ownership costs,” Rand says. “Therefore, it is imperative to establish an integrated logistics support (ILS) plan for the new submarines.”

• Establish a strategic plan for ILS during the design phase, Rand says.

• Consider ILS from a navy-wide perspective rather than a program-specific vantage point.

• Establish a planning yard function and a maintenance and reliability database. Plan for crew training and transition to the fleet.

• Maintain adequate funding to develop and execute the ILS plan.

Rand also notes, “The top-level strategic lessons apply across all programs and are appropriate for the principal submarine organizations in the government.”

Some of those lessons include the following:

• Ensure the stability of the program.

• Be an intelligent and informed partner in the submarine enterprise.

• Establish the roles and responsibilities of the government and private-sector organizations.

• Develop knowledgeable and experienced managers.

• Take a long-term, strategic view of the submarine force and the

industrial base.

• Involve all appropriate organizations in any new program.

• Adequately support a new program and make it open and transparent to all.