Boomers or Bust

USS Ohio. (AP photo)

USS Ohio.
(AP photo)

Our Ohio-class nuclear missile submarines are nearing the end of their service lives, and we still don’t have a replacement — or the money:


Ballistic missile submarines — nicknamed “boomers” — are the centerpiece of the nation’s nuclear deterrent. Moving stealthily undersea, they are considered the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad. By 2018, when the U.S. military adjusts to the terms of the New START treaty, submarines will carry about 70 percent of America’s deployed nuclear arsenal, according to Navy officials.

But the Ohio-class boats that carry the missiles will begin reaching the end of their service lives in 2027, with the final one scheduled to retire in 2040. The Navy hopes to start procuring the Ohio replacement in 2021, and ultimately buy 12 of them to replace the 14 Ohio-class ships.

But building a dozen SSBN(X)s will be enormously expensive. In a March report, the Government Accountability Office estimated the total cost of the Ohio replacement to be $96 billion. In December the Congressional Budget Office came up with an even higher estimate, putting the total price tag at $102 billion to $107 billion, depending on R&D expenditures.
The Navy is expected to spend about $10 billion over the next five years on development and advance procurement even before the first ship is built, according to the Pentagon’s future years defense program.

Navy officials have rejected suggestions that the service could build fewer than 12 Ohio replacements in order to save money.


$107 billion, spread out over a ten or 15 year construction program, is ten billion less than Washington spends every year on “Education, Training, Employment and Social Services.” You should also note that while the Constitution has zero to say about the federal government’s power to spend a dime on education or training or employment or social services, the Navy is explicitly authorized by Article I, Section 8.

It isn’t that we don’t have the money for new subs. We could even build them more cheaply than expected by sticking with the tried-and-true Virginia platform, and stretching it to accommodate a missile compartment. But we can’t scrape together the funds out of a nearly $4,000,000,000,000 to maintain our Navy, because Washington blows it all on a broken procurement system, middle-class welfare programs, and make-work for otherwise unemployable progressive functionaries who don’t care if the nation is defended so long as their nests are feathered.

Winning elections doesn’t seem to change anything, either — so now what?


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