Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) today sent a letter to Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee leaders seeking an additional $150 million over President Donald Trump’s advance procurement budget request of $842.9 million to help boost the submarine supply base in advance of the planned ramp up in Columbia-class production, which is replacing the Ohio-class submarines.

Planned submarine production is expected to increase more than 200 percent over the next decade, yet there are just 3,000 active suppliers as compared to 17,000 at the height of submarine production in the 1980s. Advance procurement funding to help re-constitute the submarine supply base would help ensure Columbia-class work remains on time and under budget.

To set the Columbia Class program up for success in meeting its tight timeline, we must support, develop, and grow our submarine supply base, with the close coordination of the Navy and shipbuilders,” the letter states.

June 15, 2017

The Honorable Thad Cochran                                     The Honorable Richard Durbin
Chairman                                                                 Ranking Member
Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee            Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee
S-128, The Capitol                                                    S-128, The Capitol
Washington, D.C.  20515                                           Washington, D.C.  20515

Dear Chairman Cochran and Ranking Member Durbin: 

We urge robust funding for the Columbia Class program in fiscal year (FY) 2018, to include an additional $150 million in advanced procurement above the President’s budget request, as you deliberate the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2018. This funding would directly support the development and re-constitution of the submarine supply base needed to support the projected increase in submarine production associated with the Columbia Class program.

American Naval superiority remains more important than ever in the face of evolving threats and competitors, as reemphasized by the Navy’s 2016 Force Structure Assessment. To ensure our projection of power, not only must the Navy build these replacement boats, but also ensure the health and stability of the industrial base ahead of lead boat construction for the Columbia Class in FY 2021. Such support must begin now to address the long lead time required to add capacity and capability to sufficiently prepare the submarine industrial base for a substantial increase in work.

The program is currently progressing on schedule, with the Navy’s Milestone B approval in January – moving the program into the engineering and manufacturing phase. With an already tight schedule resulting from previously accepted risk, additional funding will help ensure the Navy meets STRATCOM requirements for conducting the first Columbia Class strategic deterrent patrol in FY 2031 – a requirement that cannot be missed if we are to maintain an effective nuclear deterrent. We know from lessons learned that insufficient supplier and shipbuilder capacity and readiness have been contributing factors to lead ship cost growth and associated delays in major shipbuilding programs. To set the Columbia Class program up for success in meeting its tight timeline, we must support, develop, and grow our submarine supply base, with the close coordination of the Navy and shipbuilders.

The planned increase in submarine production – an over 200% increase in demand – dwarfs the levels of the last few decades. Faced with significantly less suppliers – just 3,000 active suppliers compared to the 17,000 during the height of submarine production in the 1980s – a non-recurring funding increase over the next three fiscal years, starting in FY 2018, will help ready and reconstitute the supply base. Of the $150 million additional funding for FY 18, $86 million would be used to increase the readiness of current suppliers to take on additional manufacturing volume. Increased readiness would grow existing suppliers’ capacity, increase the types of products they manufacture, address risk associated with sole source suppliers, and promote competition. The remaining $64 million would be used to develop new suppliers to reduce schedule risk, promote competition, and strengthen supply base resiliency. As nuclear powered submarines have stringent reliability and quality requirements, supplier development requires long lead times – approximately three years to create a new qualified, critical supplier. Although the Columbia Class program does not currently account for this preparation, additional investment can save as much as $795 million in the long-term because it will ensure work is done in the most cost efficient way. As such, we must ensure this funding is delivered this year.

As you craft your FY 2018 defense legislation, we ask for your support for additional funding for the Columbia Class program to continue the modernization of the fleet while also supporting the industrial base. We thank you for your consideration of this matter and look forward to working with you to ensure that the U.S. submarine force remains one of the Navy’s greatest asymmetric assets.


____________________________                                   ____________________________

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL                                                    CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY

United States Senate                                                        United States Senate