The Congressional Budget Office is out with a new estimate of the Navy’s latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, issued in February. While that new plan reduces the total number of ships purchased between 2011 and 2040, and thus shipbuilding costs, CBO says the annual price tag is still much higher than the total shipbuilding funds the Navy has received in recent years.
The Navy’s new plan calls for buying 276 ships between now and 2040; the previous 30 year plan called for 296 new ships. Still, with the annual shipbuilding budget at around $15 billion (the average for the past three decades), the Navy can’t afford to buy all of those ships, CBO said.
CBO puts the annual shipbuilding price tag at around $19 billion versus the Navy’s projections of around $16 billion. If the costs to refuel aircraft carriers is included, the cost to buy and outfit new ships rises to about $21 billion a year.
Included in CBO’s projection is the cost to build a new class of ballistic missile submarines, the SSBN(X). The Navy estimates that building 12 SSBN(X)s will cost $86 billion, which is about $7.2 billion a copy. Based on the historical track record for building subs, CBO estimates it will cost $99 billion to build 12 boomers, at $8.2 billion a copy. Given what Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the Navy League, it will be very interesting to see what the Navy starts to say about the affordability and size of its new boomer fleet.