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Markey Seeks Cost Options for Modernizing Ballistic-Missile Submarines

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska last year as it arrived at home port in Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor after completing a strategic deterrence patrol. A U.S. senator wants the Navy to update Congress on cost estimates for alternatives for modernizing the nation's nuclear-armed sea vessels (U.S. Strategic Command photo).
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nebraska last year as it arrived at home port in Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor after completing a strategic deterrence patrol. A U.S. senator wants the Navy to update Congress on cost estimates for alternatives for modernizing the nation's nuclear-armed sea vessels (U.S. Strategic Command photo).

WASHINGTON -- A proposed amendment to the U.S. Senate's fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill would require the Navy to update Congress on cost projections for different alternatives for modernizing the nation's ballistic-missile submarine fleet.

The measure submitted by freshman Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.) would give the Navy until the end of March to report on the latest cost projections for all options for replacing the expiring generation of Ohio-class nuclear-armed submarines.

"The update shall specify how the cost updates account for differences in survivability, targeting responsiveness and flexibility," states the amendment, which is co-sponsored by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The Navy's current plans call for the design, production and deployment beginning in 2031 of 12 new SSBN vessels. Each submarine is to be equipped with 16 nuclear-armed Trident D-5 ballistic missiles.

The estimated $90 billion expense of modernizing the sea-based leg of the country's nuclear triad has worried some lawmakers and Defense officials, who say it could eat up a huge chunk of the service's available shipbuilding funds for many years to come.

Approximately 20 amendments related to nuclear weapons have been submitted by senators to their chamber's annual defense authorization bill. It is not clear how many, if any, of those proposals will be allowed to come up for a floor vote.

Debate on the $625 billion legislation had not been completed by the time the Senate adjourned on Thursday for its Thanksgiving recess. More than 500 amendments have already been submitted for consideration to the draft Senate bill.

Other nuclear arsenal and missile defense-related amendments include:

-- A requirement that each U.S. ICBM silo be maintained in a status that would allow it to continue to operate with fielded strategic missiles and command-and-control. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and has eight co-sponsors: Senators Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

-- A directive would prevent any fiscal 2014 year funds from being spent on environmental studies related to silos that currently house Minuteman 3 missiles. The amendment is sponsored by Baucus and has eight co-sponsors: Enzi, Tester, Heitkamp, Hoeven, Barrasso, Fischer, Hatch, and Johanns.

-- A requirement that the intelligence community and the Defense Department be assigned the responsibility, alongside the State Department, of assessing arms control treaty compliance. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.) and co-sponsored by Hoeven.

-- A mandate that the Pentagon carry out a study on how the Navy, Army and Air Force can work together to "improve overall strategic program efficiencies" and "technology sharing." The proposal is sponsored by Senator Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) and co-sponsored by Fischer.

-- A requirement that the Defense Department be given a six-month deadline for reporting on contingency plans for deploying a third homeland missile defense site. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and co-sponsored by Donnelly.

-- A sense of the Senate that upgrades to the B-1B, B-2 and B-52 strategic bombers "must remain a high budget priority" and that the Air Force should continue to prioritize development of the Long Range Strike Bomber. The amendment is sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-S.D.).

-- A prohibition on modifying the B-52 bomber to bring it into compliance with the New START accord until the Pentagon provides a previously required report under the fiscal 2012 defense authorization law. The measure is sponsored by Hoeven.

-- A sense of the Senate that any future bilateral arms control cuts with Russia should be enacted by treaty, be verifiable, and take into account nonstrategic nuclear weapons. The item is sponsored by Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) and co-sponsored by Fischer and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

-- A requirement that the State and Defense departments and the director of national intelligence within two months report to Congress on compliance issues related to the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty. The amendment is sponsored by Senator James Risch (R-Idaho) and has 11 co-sponsors: Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), David Vitter (R-La.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Rubio, Fischer, and Hoeven.

-- A sense of the Congress that the president should not pursue new curbs to the U.S. nuclear stockpile with any nation that is not in compliance with existing arms control obligations. The amendment is sponsored by Vitter and has three co-sponsors: Risch, Lee, and Fischer.

-- An amendment that changes certain language in a 2012 bill related to implementation of international nuclear terrorism conventions. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

-- A provision that changes certain wording in a 2013 bill related to implementation of international nuclear terrorism conventions. The amendment is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

-- An amendment that prohibits the integration of any Chinese antimissile technology with U.S. missile defenses and gives a sense of Congress that Chinese technology should not be connected to the NATO missile shield. The proposal is sponsored by Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and co-sponsored by Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Cornyn.

-- A sense of the Congress that additional postponements to the B-61-12 life extension program would have "unacceptable effects on the reliability and credibility" of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The amendment is sponsored by Corker.

-- A mandate that a separate budget proposal be filed to Congress by the Pentagon on how it intends to carry out New START-mandated arms control cuts. The proposal is sponsored by Fischer and co-sponsored by Hoeven.

-- A ban on cuts to the U.S. nuclear arsenal that go beyond New START levels unless they are ordered by a new treaty. The measure is sponsored by Enzi and co-sponsored by Hoeven and Barrasso.

-- A prohibition on U.S. assistance to foreign nations that are developing land-based nuclear missiles that can strike the mainland United States. The amendment is sponsored by Risch and co-sponsored by Rubio and Crapo.

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