The cost of building Virginia-class attack submarines could grow by up to $600 million if Congress signs off on the Navy’s proposal to slip a Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Under heavy pressure to cut budgets, the Navy wants to reduce sub-building expenses in the short term, even at the price of increasing the program’s overall cost. But two powerful legislators, longtime sub-booster Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut (formerly a Democrat but now an independent) and House Armed Services Chairman Buck McKeon (R.-Calif.), are rallying opposition to the delay.
The U.S. Navy, submarine builders, and their allies on Capitol Hill spent years trying to drive down the cost of the world-beating Virginias. The effort included design changes, industrial initiatives, and focused politicking. The goal: to ensure the Navy could afford to buy two Virginias a year for a bit over $4 billion (in 2005 dollars), starting in Fiscal Year 2012.
The “2 for 4 in ’12″ effort succeeded. Last year the Navy requested, and Congress approved, the acquisition of two submarines in 2012 for a combined cost of $4.7 billion. Navy plans at the time anticipated building two attack boats a year through 2022, with the exception of 2018, the only year in which just one Virginia would be purchased. The plan sustained a 48-strong attack submarine force over the long term, according to Navy projections.