Navy Columbia Class (Ohio Replacement) Ballistic Missile Submarine (SSBN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress
(Source: Congressional Research Service; issued March 22, 2017)
The Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget requests $773.1 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $1,091.1 million in research and development funding for the Columbia class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, a program to design and build a new class of 12 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) to replace the Navy’s current force of 14 Ohio-class SSBNs.

The Navy has identified the Columbia class program as the Navy’s top priority program. The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021, and the $773.1 million in AP funding requested for FY2017 represents the initial procurement funding for that boat.

The Navy as of January 2017 estimates the procurement cost of the lead ship in the class at $8.2 billion in constant 2017 dollars, not including several billion dollars in additional cost for plans for the class, and the average unit procurement cost of ships 2 through 12 in the program at $6.5 billion each in constant FY2017 dollars. A March 2016 GAO report assessing selected major Department of Defense (DOD) weapon acquisition programs stated that the estimated total acquisition cost of the Columbia class program is $97,021.2 million (about $97.0 billion) in constant FY2016 dollars, including $11,954.5 million (about $12.0 billion) in research and development costs and $85,066.7 million (about $85.1 billion) in procurement costs.

Observers are concerned about the impact the Columbia class program will have on the Navy’s ability to fund the procurement of other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s.

Potential issues for Congress for the Columbia class program include the following:
 whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2017 funding request for the program;
 the potential impact on the program of DOD being funded under a continuing resolution (CR) for much of FY2017;
 whether to authorize and appropriate FY2017 advance procurement (AP) funding for the program in the Navy’s shipbuilding account or the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF);
 whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s proposed strategy for building Columbia-class boats at the country’s two submarine-construction shipyards;
 the accuracy of the Navy’s estimate of the procurement cost of each SSBN(X);
 the prospective affordability of the Columbia class program and its potential impact on funding available for other Navy shipbuilding programs; and
 schedule risk in the Columbia-class program.


This report focuses on the Columbia class program as a Navy shipbuilding program. CRS Report RL33640, U.S. Strategic Nuclear Forces: Background, Developments, and Issues, by Amy F. Woolf, discusses the SSBN(X) as an element of future U.S. strategic nuclear forces in the context of strategic nuclear arms control agreements.


Click here for the full report (59 PDF pages) hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

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Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress
(Source: Congressional Research Service; issued March 22, 2017)
The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines since FY1998. The two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2017 are to be the 25th and 26th boats in the class. The 10 Virginia-class boats programmed for procurement in FY2014-FY2018 (two per year for five years) are being procured under a multiyear-procurement (MYP) contract.

The Navy estimates the combined procurement cost of the two Virginia-class boats requested for procurement in FY2017 at $5,408.9 million, or an average of $2,704.5 million each. The boats have received a total of $1,623.3 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding and $597.6 million in prior-year Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding.

The Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget requests the remaining $3,188.0 million needed to complete the boats’ estimated combined procurement cost. The Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget also requests $1,767.2 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in future fiscal years, bringing the total FY2017 funding request for the program (excluding outfitting and post-delivery costs) to $4,955.2 million.

The Navy’s proposed FY2017 budget also requests $97.9 million in research and development funding for the Virginia Payload Module (VPM). The funding is contained in Program Element (PE) 0604580N, entitled Virginia Payload Module (VPM), which is line 128 in the Navy’s FY2017 research and development account.

The Navy plans to build some of the 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).

The Navy’s FY2017 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 the plan that the SSN force would fall below 48 boats starting in FY2025, reach a minimum of 41 boats in FY2029, and remain below 48 boats through FY2036.

Potential issues for Congress regarding the Virginia-class program include whether to procure an additional Virginia-class boat in FY2021 and, more generally, the Virginia-class procurement rate in coming years.


Click here for the full report (50 PDF pages) hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.

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