Sinking the Navy with Excessive Nuclear Requirements

In tight budget times, the U.S. Navy cannot afford to waste funds on excessive capabilities for outdated Cold War weapons. Yet that is what some in Congress are attempting to do by blocking retirement of excess nuclear-armed submarines.

As part of the Navy’s plan to replace its fleet nuclear-armed submarines, the Navy expects the number of subs in service to dip from 12 to 10 for much of the 2030s – a budget and strategy plan that the Navy believes is manageable.

Some in Congress disagree and want to block the Navy from fielding less than 12 subs. This would burden the Navy and the nation with more subs and warheads than it needs at a price the nation cannot afford.

As I wrote for Roll Call today:

We can defend our national security interests and those of our allies with fewer nuclear-armed submarines.  In fact, analyst Tom Collina [of the Arms Control Association] has shown that a fleet of eight submarines – Ohio-class or its replacement – would allow the Navy to meet its planned deterrence mission. A rigid requirement for 12 nuclear-armed submarines is simply out of touch with today’s strategic realities.  It’s also costly.

This proposal would keep older subs in the water for longer than necessary, pushing the limits of their expected service lives. Worse, if the U.S. military were to determine it needs fewer subs to meet its nuclear deterrence mission, the Navy will be forced to retain or possibly buy more subs than required.

Congress cannot afford to overinvest in wasting nuclear assets. The Navy needs to be preparing for 21st century threats, not for preserving and recapitalizing the Cold War fleet.

Such excessive nuclear spending would diminish the United States fiscal and strategic security. That is why Ploughshares Fund is bringing together the best analysts out there – at places like the Arms Control Association and the Monterey Institute – to explain what the U.S. spends on nuclear weapons and to promote smarter, safer alternatives.

Photo by the US Navy