Richard R. Burgess, SEAPOWER
24 September 2016
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy admiral in command of U.S. strategic deterrence forces said the 2017 defense budget proposal will meet his requirements but leave no margin for new risk.
“The president’s budget for [fiscal] ’17 strikes a responsible balance between national priorities, fiscal realities and begins to reduce some of the risk we have accumulated because of deferred maintenance and sustainment,” said Adm. Cecil Haney, commander, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), testifying Feb. 24 before the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. “This budget supports my mission requirements but there is no margin to absorb new risk. Any cuts to that budget will hamper to sustain and modernize our military forces.
“It is crucial that we modernize our nuclear strategic deterrence capabilities, which underpin our nation’s security,” Haney said. “Now we’re at a point where we have to modernize various facets of our triad as well as our nuclear command – and-control capabilities.”
Haney expressed his support for the Air Force’s Long-Range Strategic Bomber to replace the B-52 – along with the new bomber’s Long-Range Standoff cruise missile – and the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent to replace the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile, in addition to the Navy’s Ohio Replacement ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN), the latter being his top modernization priority.
“Recapitalizing our sea-based strategic deterrent force remains my top modernization priority,” Haney said in his written statement submitted to the subcommittee. “The Navy’s SSBNs and Trident II D5 ballistic missiles constitute the Triad’s most survivable leg. The Ohio-class SSBN fleet is undergoing significant sustainment efforts to maintain our nation’s required high operational availability and extend the life of the D5 ballistic missile. USSTRATCOM continues to strongly support and work with the Navy as it modernizes the SSBN fleet. The Ohio Replacement SSBN, currently in development and expected to be fielded in 2031, will continue to serve as the Nation’s survivable strategic deterrent into the 2080s.
“Despite a hull life extension from 30 to 42 years, the current Ohio-class will quickly approach the end of its effective service life,” he wrote. “No further extension is possible. Any further delay will put the reliability of our sea-based nuclear deterrent at unacceptable risk. In addition, we must continue our commitment to the United Kingdom to 12 develop and field the Common Missile Compartment to ensure both nations’ SSBNs achieve operational capability to replace the existing platforms.”