The U.S. remains unequivocal about its number-one funding and development priority now and for coming years: replacement ships for its SSBN Ohio-class nuclear-missile fleet.
But despite the effort and focus , Navy officials say, the program remains at risk .
“In the long term beyond 2019, the end of the (proposed fiscal 20)15 FYDP ( five-years-defense plan ), I am increasingly concerned about our ability to fund the Ohio Replacement ballistic missile submarine program – our highest priority program – within our current and projected resources ,” says Adm. Jonathan Greenert , chief of naval operations.
“The Navy cannot procure the Ohio Replacement in the 2020s within historical shipbuilding funding levels without severely impacting other Navy programs ,” Greenert told the House Armed Services Committee on March 12.
The Navy was able to save some money slated for the program from the effect of sequestration in fiscal 2014 thanks to congressional action , Greenert says.
“We are able to protect research , development , testing, and evaluation funding to keep the Ohio Replacement Program on track,” he says.
Treaty requirements make it imperative to stay on course , he says.
“Under the New Start Treaty , the Navy SSBN force will carry about 70% of the U.S. accountable deployed strategic nuclear warheads by 2020,” he says. “Our (20)15 request sustains today’s 14-ship SSBN force , the Trident -5 ballistic missile and support systems , and the Nuclear Command , Control and Communications system . The Ohio-class SSBN will retire, one per year , beginning in 2027.”
To continue to meet U.S. Strategic Command presence and surge requirements , he says, the 2015 request starts construction of the first Ohio Replacement SSBN in 2021 for delivery in 2028 and first deterrent patrol in 2031.
The Navy ’s fiscal 2015 request includes $1.2 billion for SSBN Ohio-class submarine replacement research and development funding .