House Committee Looks To Create Separate Fund For Ohio Replacement
By Lee Hudson
Inside the Navy
May 5, 2014
The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee is looking to create a national sea-based deterrence fund to pay for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement program outside of the Navy's shipbuilding budget.
Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), a member of the subcommittee, is spearheading the effort and argues the Navy's multibillion-dollar program is a strategic national platform. Courtney's district includes submarine builder General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Courtney told Inside the Navy in an April 30 interview there is precedent for this type of account. In the 1990s the national defense sealift fund was created to pay for maritime prepositioning ships. In the 1950s and 1960s, the "41 for Freedom" ballistic missile submarines were funded outside the shipbuilding account, he said.
In terms of missile defense, the Army's budget was shielded when a separate fund was created by the Missile Defense Agency, Courtney added.
In the subcommittee's mark of the fiscal year 2015 national defense authorization bill there is language to establish a national sea-based deterrence fund for "obligation and expenditure only" for advanced procurement or construction of ballistic missile submarines.
"There shall be deposited in the Fund all funds appropriated to the Department of Defense for fiscal years after fiscal year 2017 for the advanced procurement or construction of nuclear-powered strategic ballistic missile submarines," the subcommittee's mark reads.
Courtney said paying for the Ohio-class replacement program has been the "elephant in the room in terms of shipbuilding" because it will bust the Navy's shipbuilding budget.
"I think this is a very exciting development that we are now taking this outside of bar talk and now moving it into actually statutory framework where we can talk about a solution," Courtney said.
Courtney said there might be lawmakers who will challenge creating a national sea-based deterrence fund. However, he cites how the program is identified in the Nuclear Posture Review and the Quadrennial Defense Review as a program that is needed for the defense of the United States.
The next steps are for committee members to approach the appropriators on this issue. Courtney said the House Armed Services Committee has "a really solid case to make."
ITN reported in March that Courtney reached out to Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee, and to Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA), who is rumored to be the next chairman of the full committee, to discuss creating a separate fund for ballistic missile submarines.
Courtney said funding the Ohio-class replacement sub was an issue that "seemed far, far away but it's creeping up on us." According to the Navy's most recent 30-year shipbuilding plan, the first Ohio-class replacement boat would be built starting in 2021.
In written testimony submitted to the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee on Oct. 23, 2013, Ronald O'Rourke, naval affairs specialist for the Congressional Research Service, wrote the Navy estimates fully implementing the 30-year shipbuilding plan would require an average of $16.8 billion (FY-13 dollars) in annual funding for new-construction ships. Historically, the service's shipbuilding budget is funded at $12 billion to $14 billion.
"The required increase in average annual funding of $2.8 billion to $4.8 billion per year equates to less than 1 percent of DOD's annual budget under the revised caps of the Budget Control Act," he said.
Citing O'Rourke's analysis, Courtney said the Navy is not asking for an "astronomical amount" of funding. "If people are serious about matching up the strategic importance of SSBN with the fiscal priorities of the country, than this is a problem we can fix and we can solve," he said.
In the Navy's FY-15 budget request sent to Congress in March, the service asked for $1.2 billion for the Ohio-class replacement program.
"FY 2015 research and development efforts will focus on the propulsion plan, missile compartment development, and platform development technologies like the propulsor, electric actuation, maneuvering/ship control, and signatures," Navy budget documents read.