Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

Senate Bill Would Create Separate Fund for New Trident Submarine

By Rachel Oswald

Global Security Newswire

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. 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)

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 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.

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • 3D Missile Model Collection

    July 30, 2014

    The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies has created a series of 3D models of ballistic and cruise missiles for the Nuclear Threat Initiative.

  • Russia Submarine Capabilities

    June 10, 2014

    The submarine proliferation resource collection is designed to highlight global trends in the sale and acquisition of diesel- and nuclear-powered submarines. It is structured on a country-by-country basis, with each country profile consisting of information on capabilities, imports and exports.

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →