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HASC Fences Off Nuke Sub Dough

UPDATED: With HASC Language on F-18 and SSBN(X)

When the House Armed Services seapower and expeditionary warfare subcommittee presents its markup this afternoon -- while CNO Adm. Gary Roughead is talking at the Heritage Foundation -- you are likely to hear that the HASC will fence off 50 percent of the development funding for the Ohio class replacement program until the Pentagon tells Congress how and why the new class should be built and whether alternatives have been considered.

The language was probably inserted by the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Gene Taylor of Mississippi, who wrote Defense Secretary Robert Gates in April complaining that the Navy “refuses to share” the Pentagon's analysis of alternatives for the program, known as SSBN(X). Of course, Gates fired across the SSBN's programmatic bow in his Navy League speech, saying the service could not afford a nuclear submarine that might cost upwards of $7 billion. "Right now, the Department proposes spending $6 billion in research and development over the next few years -– for a projected buy of twelve subs at $7 billion apiece. Current requirements call for a submarine with the size and payload of a boomer – and the stealth of an attack sub. In a congressional hearing earlier this year, I pointed out that in the latter part of this decade the new ballistic missile submarine alone would begin to eat up the lion’s share of the Navy’s shipbuilding resources," he said.

We hear there's also language about the F-18 multiyear authority -- subject of much angst for Rep. Todd Akin, the subcommittee's ranking member -- that would require the Pentagon take the savings from a multiyear and pump it back into the program. (Current practice is that the savings are gravy and may be used for other programs.) Gates has been playing sophisticated hardball on the F-18 multiyear. The version we hear is that current estimated savings are about 11 percent -- higher than Gates' minimum of 10 percent. Navy leaders are happy with this but Gates wants to squeeze more out of Boeing and is delaying a decision until the numbers magically grow. In the world of zero sum budgeting wanna bet that Boeing finds some of that treasured trade space?

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