Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nuclear Submarine Slush Fund for New Trident Submarines

The Navy and it's Congressional financiers have come up with a creative funding scheme for the OHIO Class (NEW TRIDENT) ballistic missile submarine replacement program to avoid raising a ruckus about bankrupting the Navy's shipbuilding program. The estimated $100 billion dollar price tag is definitely a whopper!!!

Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.) has been pursuing an alternative funding approach that would bypass the accepted method of funding such programs. And, it was just announced that the Senate Armed Services Committee is calling for for the establishment of a "National Sea-based Deterrence Fund" (see article below), which Joe Cirincione of the Ploughshares Fund referred to as the "Nuclear Submarine Slush Fund."

What no one is discussing, besides why we should be building an archaic Cold War weapons system, is that the money - no matter where it comes from - will ultimately come out of taxpayers pockets, and will continue to suck the life out of education, health care, infrastructure needs, and a host of other human needs.

Yes, all those "unobligated funds" the Senate wants to use for New Trident are previously appropriated funds that haven't yet been spent and are just sitting there waiting for someone to use. But why should we spend them (or any funds for that matter) on what is, in reality, no more than a doomsday machine???



Senate Bill Would Create Separate Fund for New Trident Submarine

May 27, 2014
By Rachel Oswald
Global Security Newswire

A Senate defense panel wants to create a separate fund to underwrite the nation's new nuclear-armed submarine fleet, a step the House also supports.
The Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarine
USS Wyoming approaches Naval
Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.,
in January 2009. A key Senate
defense panel on Thursday approved
 legislation that would establish a
separate fund for financing the
 construction of a successor fleet.
(U.S. Defense Department photo)

The Senate Armed Services Committee's mark-up of its annual defense authorization legislation calls for the establishment of a "National Sea-based Deterrence Fund" to finance the construction of new submarines to replace today's Ohio-class ballistic missile vessels, according to a detailed panel summary of the bill released on Friday.

The Democratic-controlled committee approved the legislation on Thursday by a near-unanimous vote. On the same day, the Republican-controlled House passed its own version of the fiscal 2015 policy-setting bill that also included language ordering the creation of a special fund to pay for the new "SSBN(X)" fleet.

The House legislation authorizes the Defense Department to transfer up to $3.5 billion to the Ohio-class replacement account from "unobligated funds" authorized for fiscal years 2014 to 2016. Meanwhile, the Senate bill would authorize an initial $100 million to get the fund going.

Congressional support for creating a separate fund for the Ohio-class successor stems from concerns that the submarine-building effort could eat up too much of the Navy's overall shipbuilding budget. The project currently is in the design and development stage, with construction of the planned 12 new strategic submarines expected to start in fiscal 2021. The vessels are to be armed initially with the Navy's nuclear-tipped Trident D-5 ballistic missile.

The latest moves in the two chambers come on the heels of skepticism by a key supporter of the separate-funding idea for new submarines, Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who said recently that the approach would be unlikely to gain full congressional approval this year.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee also approved boosting funds for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system to the tune of $30 million above the Obama administration's request. The additional money is to be used "for improvements in reliability and maintenance" of the antimissile program, according to the summary report.

The GMD program -- comprising 30 Ground Based Interceptors deployed in California and Alaska, plus a network of sensors -- is the country's principal line of defense against a limited long-range ballistic missile attack. However, it has had a number of recent testing problems that have been so troubling that the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency in March announced it would redesign the interceptor's front-end kill vehicle.

This comes as the military is planning to procure another 14 interceptors for fielding in Alaska, in response to a possible missile threat posed by North Korea.

The draft Senate legislation would order the Pentagon to "develop a robust acquisition plan" for the redesign of the kill vehicle, which uses kinetic energy to destroy incoming ballistic missiles, in order "to provide confidence that it will work in an operationally effective manner," the summary states.

The bill also would mandate that the Department adhere to the "fly-before-you-buy" approach for affirming through testing the soundness of ballistic missile defense technologies before they are purchased or deployed. The Missile Defense Agency has come under repeated criticism from independent experts and by Congress' internal watchdog for not sufficiently following this acquisition strategy in its development and expansion of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense program.

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

Electric Boat to chow down on some major pork with SSBN(X)

As you can see by the title of the article below, General Dynamics Electric Boat is definitely looking like a winner right now when it comes to funding the next generation ballistic missile submarine (and yes, that makes taxpayers the loosers in this one). Of course, it really helps that people in Congress like Representative Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, whose district just happens to be home to Electric Boat, are doing some serious cheer leading for this project.

In Courtney's case, he is just doing what legislators do - take money from special interests and then do their bidding. According to Courtney's largest contributor to his campaign committee (2013-2014) was... That's right - General Dynamics!!!  

General Dynamics contributed a total of $20,500 ($12,000 as individuals and $8,500 as PACs). Should we be surprised that Courtney is so gung ho for New Trident???

Read the article below to learn all about the funding shenanigans going on to be sure that New Trident gets fully funded without devastating the Navy's shipbuilding budget.

SSBN(X) as envisioned by Navy planners

Electric Boat wins big with approval of funding of new nuclear sub

By: ANA RADELAT | May 8, 2014, The CT Mirror

Washington – Benefiting from the Pentagon's plans to "rebalance" the U.S. military, Electric Boat is a big winner in a $600 billion defense authorization bill that is expected to soon win House approval.

The Defense Authorization Bill, reported out of the House Armed Services Committee late Wednesday, approves about $6 billion to build two new Virginia class submarines jointly built by Electric Boat in Groton and Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.

But the bill also contains nearly $1.3 billion for a new class of submarines that will be the largest and most expensive in the U.S. military and that Electric Boat will help build.

In another boost for Electric Boat, the committee approved a new way to pay for this new fleet of submarines, with a tactic that hasn't been used since the 1980s.

The so-called Ohio replacement submarines will replace the Navy’s fleet of aging Ohio class subs -- also built by Electric Boat. They each hold 22 Trident nuclear missiles and were designed specifically for extended war-deterrence patrols. Each Ohio class sub is provided with two complete crews, called the Blue crew and the Gold crew, and special hatches to speed repairs and minimize time at port. They are nearly constantly on patrol.

“The Ohio class sub is the most important warship in the entire fleet because it is meant to deter a nuclear war,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute.

The Ohio subs' replacements will be smaller and carry fewer missiles. Because they will carry Trident missiles, the replacement subs are also nicknamed “boomers,” like the Ohio class submarine.

And the replacement submarines will still be the largest in the U.S. military – and cost at least $5 billion per sub, compared to the $2.7 billion price tag of the Virginia class submarine.

The money in the Defense Authorization Bill would allow Electric Boat to move forward on the research and development of the new nuclear sub. Actual construction of the first submarine is scheduled for 2021.

Electric Boat spokesman Bob Hamilton said the defense contractor has been working on plans for the replacement sub for five years.

“It’s a fairly lengthy process,” he said.

The Navy won’t send out a contract to build the first warship in the new fleet for years. But Electric Boat is considered the front-runner.

A special fund to pay for the program

Another boost in the bill for the Ohio replacement sub program is the establishment of a “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund” outside the Navy’s shipbuilding budget.

“Congress and the administration have debated for years how to provide money for the replacement subs. This would address that problem,” Thompson said.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, a member of the House Armed Forces Committee, and whose district is home to Electric Boat, said this is a major breakthrough for EB and the Ohio replacement submarine program. He also lauded the bill's authorization of spending on Virginia class subs.

"While other areas of the defense budget will see cuts, I am pleased that these reliably successful — and strategically critical — programs are securing full funding, and I hope to see this bill adopted by the House soon,” Courtney said in a statement.

The problem that looms as the Navy moves to replace the Ohio class subs is that their replacements are so expensive that appropriating money for them would distort the Navy’s shipbuilding budget and could result in cutbacks in the procurement of other ships.

“The Navy is trying to pull a fast one here,” said Gordon Adams, an American University professor who teaches national security policy.

With the help of friendly lawmakers, including Courtney, the Navy promoted the replacement sub as a national security asset that deserves its own category of funding to keep it from becoming a victim of the nation’s shrinking defense budget, Adams said.

The last time this tactic was employed, he said, was when President Reagan wanted a anti-ballistic missile “Star Wars” program that would have strained the budgets of all branches of the armed forces.

That method of funding ballistic missiles survives.

But Adams thinks the concept of the “National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund” will falter in the Senate and not become part of a final defense authorization bill. He added that he thinks the Navy will find a way to pay for the new fleet of “boomers” anyway.

“Whatever it does, it’s a win-win for Electric Boat,” he said.

Military's reconfiguration

A big reason that Electric Boat is thriving as the Pentagon winds down the Afghanistan war -- and across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration eat away at the defense budget -- is that submarines and the Navy as a whole play a big role in the reconfiguration of the U.S. military.

The Quadrennial Defense Review of 2014, the Pentagon's latest blueprint for operations, calls for a"rebalancing" of the armed services so that the Army is reduced in strength and the Navy becomes more important -- and more focused on the Pacific to counter any threats that may come from North Korea and China.

"Building security globally and projecting power will continue to require sea power – on, above, and below the world’s oceans. The Navy will continue to build a future fleet that is able to deliver the required presence and capabilities and address the most important war-fighting scenarios," the Quadrennial Review says.

A top priority, according the the Pentagon's review: "maintaining a credible, modern, and safe-based strategic deterrent, including required investments to start (Ohio Class replacement) submarine construction in FY2021."


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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Trident: Under the Sea... or "Up In The Air"

The hand wringing about funding for Navy's new ballistic missile submarines continues with a Virginia Congressman playing the "national security" card. Rep. Randy Forbes called the OHIO Class Replacement Program "a national security concern" as he stated his firm support for getting the project funded one way or another. One way is via annual funding by Congressional vote. The other is by an end run around the established funding process - Forbes is confident that "bankrolling the vessels outside of the Navy's strained shipbuilding budget" will happen, and pretty soon.

Forbes spoke of the "growing need for U.S. seapower in the Asia-Pacific region," and for some reason he thinks that submarines bristling with ballistic missiles armed with thermonuclear-armed warheads should be part of that presence. Does this sound like a recipe for disaster???

Indeed it is, and yet the Navy is pushing hard to get the next generation subs built in time to coincide with the retirement schedule of the existing OHIO Class submarine fleet. This is a massive Cold War weapons system project that just will not go down without a fight.

What has not yet been discussed publicly is where the Trident missiles, deployed on OHIO Class subs now and to be deployed on the new subs, fit in to the funding discussion. The Navy will have to either have new Trident II D-5s built to replace the existing missiles before they must be retired or find a new missile to replace the D-5.  Either way, this is an expensive proposition, and should be part of the discussion of the real (FULL) cost(s) of a new generation ballistic missile submarine.

And finally - and this is something that seems lost on Rep. Forbes and everyone else pushing the New Trident agenda - we still haven't had a real debate as to the justification for continuing to deploy a Cold War weapons system designed for the bad old days of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). "Strategic Nuclear Deterrence" is a tired and archaic justification that just doesn't cut it anymore.

While funding for New Trident may be "up in the air," the people in D.C. need to get their heads out of the clouds and their feet on the ground. Nuclear weapons do not provide any real security, and threatening the rest of the world by sailing the Seven Seas with stealthy missile-wielding subs ready to launch missiles at any moment is risky business.

Read abut the continuing New Trident funding saga in the article below.


Funding to Replace Nuclear Subs Up in the Air

By Elaine Grossman, April 30, 2014, Global Security Newswire

A key U.S. House panel leader says Congress won’t create a special funding stream for nuclear-armed submarines this year, but he thinks the idea of bankrolling the vessels outside of the Navy’s strained shipbuilding budget is almost certain in the long term.

Representative Randy Forbes (R-Va.) told reporters on Tuesday morning that replacing today’s Ohio-class ballistic-missile vessels “is a national strategic concern” that cannot be allowed to fall victim to an already underfunded naval ship-procurement plan in coming decades.

That plan, by his estimates, is $4 billion to $6 billion short annually.

Some Navy leaders and members of Congress have advocated that as a “national strategic asset,” the purchase of 12 new “SSBN(X)” submarines armed initially with Trident D-5 nuclear-tipped missiles should have its own dedicated funding source outside of the service’s normal budget.

The idea would be to help ensure that this leg of the U.S. nuclear triad continues to be resourced, and is not cut to help fund other Navy priorities in its plan to field 300-plus combat vessels.

Navy leaders have testified that the Ohio-class replacement program is their top ship-construction priority, and they would cut purchases of other vessels, if need be, to fund the nuclear-armed submersibles. If the Ohio-class replacement submarine goes forward as planned under a single shipbuilding budget, Navy brass have said they might be able to sustain a fleet of just 250 vessels.

However, Forbes sees a growing need for U.S. seapower in the Asia-Pacific region and around the globe. He said he can’t imagine how the Navy could realistically fund the nuclear-equipped vessels — a program estimated at more than $90 billion — and still have funds to buy enough of other classes of required warships.

“If you don’t do that [separate-funding scheme], basically we’re going to be taking our entire shipbuilding budget to do that [ballistic-missile submarine], and that would be very, very dangerous for the country,” said Forbes, who chairs the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee.

Speaking at a Defense Writers Group breakfast, he said the prospects that Congress as a whole would support a special funding scheme for the “boomer” submarines sometime in the future are “good because I think we’re not going to have a choice.”

Forbes blamed both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, as they review and alter federal budgets, for having typically “reached up and grabbed” desired funding numbers and said “make this fit.” But “on national defense you can’t do it,” he said.

The Navy estimates it will need an average of $16.8 billion annually — measured in fiscal 2013 dollars — to underwrite its 30-year shipbuilding plan, which is more than $2 billion a year over historic averages, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. The Congressional Budget Office says the Navy plan would actually require $19.3 billion on average each year, or $2.5 billion more than the service’s estimates.

“I don’t think Congress is going to want shipbuilding to stop completely,” Forbes said. “And yet, we’re not going to let the most powerful vessels we have in the world for national defense not be [built].”

However, he said U.S. legislators would likely “put it off until the last moment,” as they tend to do on many matters of public policy.

“We’re not there now,” said the lawmaker, who has represented Virginia’s 4th District since 2001. “I wish I could give you a timetable. I can’t. But I do believe that’s the right thing to do, and we’re going to continue to push” the issue.

The Navy has requested $1.2 billion in SSBN(X) research and development funds for fiscal 2015, and plans to begin building the first such vessel in 2021. It is to be ready for fielding a decade later.


Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Elaine M. Grossman in Global Security Newswire. Grossman is a special correspondent for National Journal, and executive editor and senior correspondent for Global Security Newswire. She is a veteran national security and foreign affairs reporter whose articles have won 14 national journalism awards over the past dozen years.  Source URL: