Magazine article National Defense

Watchdog Sounds Alarm on Submarine Program

Magazine article National Defense

Watchdog Sounds Alarm on Submarine Program

Article excerpt

* Technology readiness issues could prevent the lead ship in the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program from being delivered on time and on cost, the Government Accountability Office said in a recent report.

The new submarine is the Navy's top acquisition priority. The service plans to buy 12 boats at an estimated total cost of $128 billion including research-and-development expenditures. Plans call for construction of the lead vessel to begin in fiscal year 2021.

To avoid a gap in the nation's sea-based nuclear deterrent as the Ohio-class submarines retire, the lead ship will need to make its first patrol in fiscal year 2031, the GAO noted in a report, "Columbia-Class Submarine: Immature Technologies Present Risks to Achieving Cost Schedule and Performance Goals."

"Given the criticality of the program's deterrence mission and the magnitude of the cost and schedule pressures, any challenges could have far-reaching consequences for the nation's defense," it said.

Navy officials have said there is "no slack" in the program schedule. Any unexpected delays could therefore postpone the deployment of the lead submarine past the 2031 deadline.

Additional development and testing are required to demonstrate the maturity of several technologies that are critical to performance, including the integrated power system, nuclear reactor, common missile compartment and propulsor, the GAO report said. "As a result, it is unknown at this point whether they will work as expected, be delayed, or cost more than planned. …

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