The Defense Department must make “tough” cuts to major investments to accommodate the huge cost of replacing Ohio-class submarines that provide nuclear deterrence worldwide, according to Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale.
There are no easy solutions to the looming fiscal challenge presented by the Ohio-class replacement program, also known as SSBN(X), Hale told reporters Thursday at the Credit Suisse/McAleese defense program conference in Arlington, VA.
“I don’t have any magic silver bullets,” he said, noting the department will have to address the cost of the new multibillion-dollar nuclear ballistic missile subs in long-term budget discussions.
“We all know it’s out there,” Hale added. “It’s really in the 2020s, but you know it will be within our five-year planning window within a couple of years, so we’re going to have to start addressing it in the not-too-distant future.”
The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2013 budget request delays the first sub in the class from FY-19 to FY-21. Hale and Navy leaders have said the delay was mainly the result of affordability concerns but was also designed to let the program mature. Further delays are best avoided because they run the risk of driving up program costs, Hale said. But beyond controlling the program’s schedule and cost, the department must come to terms with the impact it will have on other defense budget priorities.
“We’re going to have to reprioritize to some extent,” Hale said. “We need to hold down the cost of that. I hope that we don’t need to slip the program any more than we already have. But we’re going to have to make some tough priority judgments between it and other major investments.” [emphasis mine]
Robert Hale, March 8, 2012 (h/t: Inside Defense).