Cato Institute!s Chris Preble outlines the power of our nuclear submarine fleet and what it’s future should hold.
The Navy already is requesting $60 billion for the SSBN(x) as supplemental funding. At a recent hearing of the House Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, Rear Adm. Richard Breckenridge, the Navy’s director of undersea warfare, asked Congress for those funds and to exempt the SSBN(x) from the effects of sequestration. The plan to build twelve of the next-generation subs has quickly begun to eat away at the Navy’s overall shipbuilding budget, with recent projections placing its total cost between $93 and $100 billion.
“The reliance on three nuclear delivery systems is a relic of Cold War bureaucratic politics, not the product of strategic calculation.”
Instead of skirting the rules to find funds for the program, the Pentagon should look elsewhere within the nuclear arsenal for the money it needs. Eliminating the other two legs of the nuclear triad — intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, and nuclear bombers — would save American taxpayers around $20 billion a year. Part of the savings could be put toward replacing the Ohio-class subs.
The sea leg of the nuclear triad by itself is a more powerful deterrent than that possessed by nearly any other nation in the world. Russia retains a relatively large arsenal, but no other country is capable of deploying more than a few hundred nuclear warheads. A single Ohio-class submarine can carry up to 192.