The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer has approved advanced development for a fleet of 12 new nuclear-armed submarines, a potential $126 billion project that the Navy calls its top priority.
“I’m hoping to have it done before I leave,” Frank Kendall, the undersecretary for acquisition who’s departing when President Barack Obama steps down on Jan. 20, said in an interview shortly before he signed the decision memo that officially moves the program forward.
The new Columbia-class submarine is part of a trillion-dollar program to modernize the U.S.’s sea-air-land nuclear triad over the next 30 years, including maintenance and support. Obama has backed the effort, to the chagrin of some arms control advocates, and President-elect Donald Trump has seemed to signal his support. “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump wrote in a Twitter posting.
The Navy is in contract talks with General Dynamics Corp., which will lead the program to replace aging Ohio-class submarines, with Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. as the top subcontractor.
The projected $126 billion acquisition cost, an estimate that factors in expected inflation, puts the new submarines behind only the $379 billion F-35 aircraft and the $153 billion multiservice ballistic-missile defense network among the costliest U.S. defense programs.
A draft of Kendall’s memo obtained by Bloomberg News includes the Navy’s latest cost estimate for the submarine: $13 billion in research and development and $112.7 billion in procurement. (end of excerpt)
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