Staff, Daily Press
8 March 2016
Congress has established a separate fund for the Navy's top priority: a new fleet of ballistic-missile submarines to replace its aging Ohio-class boats.
The National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund is separate from the Navy's annual shipbuilding budget. These new submarines are so expensive -- and so critical -- that it would crowd out other vital shipbuilding programs if the Navy had to fund them from its regular budget, the argument goes.
Now comes the Air Force, looking to fund its proposed B-21 bomber. Might there be a joint Navy-Air Force fund for these two nuclear platforms?
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James likes that idea. Asked about it at March 7 press conference, this was her response, according to a transcript:
"Well, certainly if there is to be a fund for nuclear modernization, it seems to me appropriate that it be for all three legs of the triad (undersea, air and land-based) and not just for one leg of the triad. So if indeed that is the approach to be selected, it seems to me that ought to be a joint fund."
Supporters of the Navy-specific fund -- Reps. Randy Forbes and Rob Wittman among them -- say the Ohio-class replacement subs have a high priority because the current fleet is so old. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.
James raises a larger point, too.
"I think the key question, though, is where will the money come from, and this is where we're simply going to have to have a national debate."