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U.S. Pushes Back Future Nuclear-Armed Sub

The U.S. ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., in 2009. The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to set back by two years the preparation of a successor to the nation’s Ohio-class fleet of nuclear-armed submarines (U.S. Navy photo). The U.S. ballistic-missile submarine USS Wyoming approaches Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., in 2009. The Obama administration on Thursday announced plans to set back by two years the preparation of a successor to the nation’s Ohio-class fleet of nuclear-armed submarines (U.S. Navy photo).

The United States will push back by two years the Navy's time line for preparing a new generation of ballistic-missile submarines, a move intended to defer related expenses and promote a stronger foundation for the project, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Thursday (see GSN, Jan. 6).

The Pentagon chief announced the decision in laying out plans to reduce armed forces spending by $487 billion across 10 years, the New York Times reported. The future submarines would eventually host the U.S. sea-based nuclear deterrent in place of the nation's existing fleet of Ohio-class vessels.

The first of the next-generation submarines had been scheduled to enter service in 2029, according to a previous report (see GSN, Jan. 24).

The Defense Department also intends to build a successor to its line of B-2 strategic bombers (see GSN, July 21, 2011; Christopher Drew, New York Times, Jan. 26).  The cuts announced on Thursday would not affect the country's existing nuclear bomber or ICBM fleets, according to the Associated Press (Robert Burns, Associated Press/Boston Globe, Jan. 27).

With the exception of the coming fiscal year, U.S. defense spending would rise annually over the next half-decade with the reductions in place, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The Pentagon's $525 billion budget request for the 2013 budget cycle is $6 billion less than lawmakers provided for the current fiscal year, but projected spending would increase in following years until peaking at $567 billion in 2017. Still, Defense Department figures indicate the budget would remain largely consistent from year to year with inflation taken into account.

Fiscal 2013 begins on Oct. 1 (David Cloud, Los Angeles Times, Jan. 26).

The fiscal 2013 spending proposal suggests the Obama administration is "backing off" a nuclear weapons complex spending plan negotiated in 2010 amid efforts to win ratification of a strategic arms control treaty with Russia, House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) said on Thursday (see GSN, Sept. 19, 2011). The plan called for $85 billion in spending over the decade.

“When the New START treaty was ratified, it was part of a very clear bargain. The administration promised that a specific and detailed nuclear weapons modernization plan would be implemented, and senators consented to a unilateral reduction in U.S. nuclear forces because the remaining U.S. nuclear forces upon treaty implementation would be modernized," Turner said in released remarks.

“[Panetta's] announcement today is yet another indication that the president is backing off his part of the deal. Ultimately, this changes the circumstances for U.S. participation in the treaty under both Condition Nine of the New START Treaty Resolution of Ratification and language I offered in the National Defense Authorization Act for [fiscal 2012]."

Turner said he would "look carefully" at the administration's spending plan for nuclear weapons activities overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration, focusing on the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement complex and Uranium Processing Facility programs "which the president pledged to accelerate" (see related GSN stories, Dec. 19, 2011 and July 8, 2011). 

"These two facilities are absolutely critical to the ability of the U.S. to maintain a credible and reliable deterrent, and they were an essential piece of the New START treaty bargain," he said.

“I am also concerned about the administration’s missile defense plans," the lawmaker added (see GSN, Jan. 18). "For three years, the administration has underfunded and diverted funding from national missile defense.  With rising threats from Iran, North Korea, China and others, we cannot afford the risk created by the administration’s irrational opposition to the missile defense of the United States. I hope the [fiscal 2013] budget undoes more than three years of neglect of national missile defense” (U.S. Representative Michael Turner release, Jan. 26).

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.

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