Pentagon approves $128 billion nuclear submarine project as Obama leaves office
On Wednesday, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Frank Kendall signed an 'acquisition decision memo' that officially passed the program through “Milestone B,” the last stage before the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Phase.
At an estimated cost of roughly $8 billion per vessel, the total project, along with $13 billion in research and development, and the cost of the nuclear reactors, makes the project the third most expensive defensive program in the US, after the $379 billion F-35 aircraft and the $153 billion multiservice ballistic-missile defense network.
“I'm hoping to have it done before I leave,” Kendall said in an interview with Bloomberg.
The Columbia-class submarine is only one part of the proposed trillion-dollar program to modernize the United States nuclear-triad over the next 30 years. This program includes new nuclear submarines, new nuclear-capable bombers and new nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Over the next 10 years, the Pentagon has budgeted $193 billion for the nuclear triad project, with $43.7 billion going to the submarine program.
President Barack Obama has backed the program, and President-elect Donald Trump seems to be interested in the idea as well. On December 22, Trump tweeted:
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
Trump has called for a Navy with 350 ships, which the Congressional Budget Office has said will cost around 60 percent more than past shipbuilding budgets.
For now, Democratic Congressman from Connecticut Joe Courtney, who represents the district where the contractor will build the submarines, has confirmed that the process is already underway. On Wednesday, he told reporters at the United States Naval Institute (USNI) News, “the Treasury deposited the anomaly funds that were in the CR, the $773 million, into the NSBDF, the National Sea Based Deterrence Fund – so that [fund] has now been activated officially with real deposits and withdrawals.”
The Navy is currently in contract talks with General Dynamics Corp., and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc.