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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Pentagon to spend up to $125 billion on submarine program

Frank Kendall, Pentagon Under Secretary for Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, signed off on a $125 billion purchase of twelve sophisticated, nuclear-capable submarines. Kendall said he hoped to have the project done before he left.

In late 2016, a continuing resolution authorized the use of $773 million to be spent on the program. The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines are to begin construction in 2021. The submarines use several propulsion mechanisms, that include nuclear power, turbo-electric drive and a pump-jet. They can be equipped with 16 Trident DS submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The missiles are said to be able to achieve nuclear deterrence with fewer submarines and are almost as accurate as land-based missiles. Submarines are a vital part of the top-priority US Navy weapons program.
US Representatie Joe Courtney, ranking member of the US House subcommittee on seapower and projection forces said: "Without that $773 million, we’d still be twiddling our thumbs. " $30 billion of the program is set aside for reasearch and development of the next-generation Columbia-class nuclear submarines. As the project is competed the US Navy will phase out its Ohio-class submarines.
Ashton Carter, outgoing US Defense Secretary, had criticized the US Congress for failing to pass a full-year budget which in 2013 caused a temporary government shutdown. He claimed that the continuing rersolution put commanders in a straight jacket. He said that these types of arrangements prevent the Pentagon's capacity to "keep pace with complex national security challenges". A Bloomberg report puts the cost of the project at $128 billion.
The submarine project is just part of a trillion-dollar program designed to modernize US sea-air-land nuclear capability over the next 30 years and includes maintenance and support. Obama has backed the project and on this issue president-elect Donald Trump appears supportive. Trump tweeted recently: “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." In spite of Trump's apparent friendliness towards Putin and an expressed desire for better relationship with Russia, Trump has even welcomed a renewed arms race with Russia. The future of nuclear disarmanent seems bleak and the possibility of nucear clashes appears more likely under Trump. William Perry a former US Defense Secretary William Perry has pointed out the increasing dangers of nuclear conflict coming not just from North Korea but relations between the US and Russia.
The submarine program is still far behind the cost of the $379 billion F-35 aircraft program and the $153 billion multiservice ballistic-missile defense network. The new administration appears unlikely to skimp on funding projects to feed corporations that are part of the military-industrial complex and are hungry for profits.


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