NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The expensive program to modernize the nuclear deterrence triad, which includes the new Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines, is a vital requirement to continue 70-plus years of successfully avoiding nuclear war, two senior Navy officers said April. 4.
“If you think deterrence is expensive, try the cost of war,” Vice Adm. Chas Richardson, deputy commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said, quoting his boss, Air Force Gen. John Hyten. “What a wise investment our predecessors made,” Richardson said during a 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition panel discussion.
Because it will provide longer service life, better readiness and survivability than the Ohio-class submarines it will replace, “Columbia is 21st-century deterrence at an acceptable price,” said Vice Adm. David Johnson, principle military deputy to the deputy defense secretary for acquisition, development and logistics.
The two admirals conceded that modernizing the three legs of the deterrence triad, which includes the Air Forces Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, in addition to the Ohio-class boomers and their D5 ballistic missiles, would be expensive.
Richardson would not accept the often-quoted estimate of $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years. He said the Defense Department spends about 3.5 percent of its total budget today on the strategic deterrence, which will increase to 6.5 percent for 10 years during the modernization of the triad. But, he noted, “we only do this every other generation. … It’s time to make that investment again.”
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