From Loren Thompson / Forbes.com – Submariners have traditionally been the most secretive of the Navy’s warfighting communities. Their warships are stealthy and their missions are classified, so they are nearly invisible in Washington’s policy debates — unlike some other military programs I could mention.
However, undersea warfare is going to be hard to ignore in the years ahead because submarine production is poised to outpace other categories of weapons spending. The Congressional Budget Office projected last October that between this year and 2025, submarine construction will cost an average of $7.7 billion annually — as much as the Navy plans to spend on aircraft carriers and surface combatants combined. In the ten years after that (2026-2035) it will rise further to $9.2 billion annually, representing nearly half of the entire shipbuilding budget.
This stands in marked contrast to other categories of weapons outlays, which look unlikely to rise anytime soon due to congressionally mandated budget caps. The F-35 fighter program is an exception, but that is replacing the tactical aircraft of three military services and a dozen allies. Submarines are just for the Navy. And the Navy clearly sees submarine construction as a top priority: the $11 billion it plans to spend over the next five years gearing up to buy just one category of subs — ballistic-missile carriers — is about what it will spend on building its signature aircraft carriers during the same period.