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Some U.S. Lawmakers Eye Funding New Submarines Outside Normal Process

Some U.S. lawmakers are calling for funding the Navy's new fleet of ballistic-missile submarines outside its regular shipbuilding budget, Inside Defense reports.

U.S. Representative Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) and Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) contend that the tens of billions of dollars needed to build a successor fleet to the Ohio-class submarine should not come out of the usual funds because the vessels are a national strategic asset.

"I would urge the secretary of Defense to look outside and help support the program," Reed, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told the news website.

Courtney said he intends to pursue the matter in the fiscal 2015 defense authorization legislation and is already engaging with Representatives Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who chairs the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who may be the full committee's next leader.

Courtney, who is also member of the subcommittee, in an interview said he would lobby his own party about "how we start getting this thing outside of bar talk and into a real policymaking process."

The Navy plans to start constructing the first new ballistic-missile submarine in 2021, with deployment anticipated to follow a decade later. A total of 12 new such vessels are expected to be built, each outfitted with 16 nuclear-tipped Trident missiles.

The program is forecast to cost a total of $90 billion. The Navy says that if it bears responsibility for the entire program price, it would cut significantly into funding for other shipbuilding initiatives.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus in late February told a think tank audience there should be public debate over how to fund the submarine-modernization program.

"I think this is a debate that, between now and 2019, which is now inside the five-year defense budget, that we need to have because we need to build these [submarines]. ... If the money to build these comes out of Navy shipbuilding, comes out of procurement, it will take at least half, every year, of all our shipbuilding dollars."

The service in its fiscal 2015 budget proposal requested $1.2 billion for the submarine-modernization program.

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