Pentagon approves potential $126 billion submarine project

The U.S. Department of Defense plans to procure 12 new nuclear-armed Columbia-class vessels to replace its aging fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missilesubmarines. Pictured: The Ohio-class USS Pennsylvania. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Amanda R. Gray

WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) — The U.S. Department of Defense intends to move forward with its $126 billion plan to procure 12 new nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy.

Under the plan, the Navy’s existing Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines will be replaced by the developing Columbia-class submarines at an estimated cost of roughly $8 billion per ship. Pentagon acquisition undersecretary Frank Kendall voiced his approval during a recent interview with Bloomberg.

“I’m hoping to have it done before I leave,” Kendall said, noting his job ends when President Barack Obama leaves office on Jan. 20.

President Obama has supported the Columbia-class program during his time in office, and President-elect Donald Trump is expected to continue the effort after his inauguration.

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

The Pentagon’s green light on the planned procurement comes in the wake of skepticism regarding high-cost military projects. Kendall addressed those concerns in a memo following his interview.

“It is clear that significant achievements have been made to control current and future costs,” he said. “Despite tight schedule margins that leave little room for future issues, there are adequate plans in place to manage this risk.”

With the Defense Department’s support, the Columbia-class program is allowed to enter full development under Milestone B. USNI News reports defense officials are in talks with General Dynamics Electric Boat to finalize contract details.

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