Connor O’Brien, Politico
6 April 2016
The Navy will make funding an extra Virginia-class attack submarine in the early 2020s a "top priority" as it plans its fiscal 2018 budget, the service's acquisitions chief said today.
The Navy's ultimate submarine priority, however, will be the Ohio replacement ballistic missile sub, Sean Stackley told the Senate Armed Services Seapower Subcommittee. A 2031 delivery date for that first sub, he added, was "chiseled in stone."
Lawmakers, particularly those who represent submarine shipyards in Connecticut and Virginia, have succeeded in spurring production of two Virginia-class subs a year, but that pace is scheduled to slow to just one in 2021, and again in 2024, as the Navy ramps up production of the costly Ohio replacement.
Military combatant commanders have also argued current attack submarine production isn't meeting their demand.
"This is a top priority in our 2018 budget build, to be able to come back and fill in that 2021 submarine," Stackley said.
"We are first focused on the year 2021 ... and we will spend this budget cycle coming to grips with what it will take to keep Virginia up to two per year," he added.
Beyond 2021, Stackley said ensuring industrial base capacity and "getting some relief" in financing the costly Ohio replacement over the 15-year production timeline would be crucial to ensuring more Virginia-class subs can be built.
"If we do not get relief," he cautioned, "then we are going to be a very different Navy in the late 2020s and 2030s."