(Source: Congressional Research Service; issued Nov 22, 2017)
The Columbia (SSBN-826) class program, previously known as the Ohio replacement program (ORP) or SSBN(X) program, is 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.

The Navy’s proposed FY2018 budget requests $842.9 million in advance procurement (AP) funding and $1,041.7 million in research and development funding for the program. 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 2017 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 $100,221.9 million (about $100.2 billion) in constant FY2017 dollars, including $12,648.1 million (about $12.6 billion) in research and development costs and $87,426.5 million (about $87.4 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.

Issues for Congress for the Columbia-class program for FY2018 include the following:

--whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s FY2018 funding requests for the program;

--the impact of using a CR to fund Department of Defense (DOD) operations for the first few months of FY2018 on the execution of FY2018 funding for the Columbia-class program;

--cost, schedule, and technical risk in the Columbia-class program; and

--the prospective affordability of the Columbia-class program and its potential impact on
funding available for other Navy programs.

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 Columbia class 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 (65 PDF pages) hosted on the website of the Federation of American Scientists.


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