CRYSTAL CITY: If Congress doesn’t pass the annual defense spending bill — already 26 days overdue — by January 1st, the Navy’s top priority program may miss its sailing date 14 years from now.
The Ohio Replacement SSBN submarine, which will carry 70 percent of American nuclear warheads, “will come to almost a screeching halt” without a proper spending bill, warned Vice Admiral Joseph Mulloy, the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations.
Previous delays already “took all of the margin out of the program,” said the Navy’s Program Executive Officer for submarines, Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley. (Both admirals spoke Wednesday to the Naval Submarine League‘s annual conference). So there’s no margin left for error, whether it’s technical or congressional. If the Navy can’t fund steady, uninterrupted work today, each day you lose now will compound to cost multiple days by 2030 — or 2031, or 2032, or whenever the first sub is delayed to.
The awkwardly named ORP is weeks away from its Milestone B review, said Jabaley. That’s when the Office of the Secretary of Defense officially declares (or doesn’t) that the program is ready to move from research and development into production. In the near term, that means a new, more detailed, more intensive stage of design and prototyping. The Pentagon’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2017, which began October 1st, includes $773 million in the SCN account (Ship Construction, Navy) for this effort — but Congress hasn’t passed it.
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