Finally, we took risk in our ability to meet SSBN requirements during the decade of transition when we delayed the OHIO Replacement SSBN by two years. This moderate risk was clearly articulated and well understood - but to ensure an uninterrupted undersea strategic deterrent, the program can stand no additional delay.
Notwithstanding these considerations, we are acutely mindful of the costs of the OHIO Replacement Program, and the burden these costs pose on the Navy's entire shipbuilding program, and the resultant impact on nation's shipbuilding industrial base. We are absolutely determined to work across the Navy, with industry, and with Congress to field the OHIO Replacement in the most affordable manner consistent with mission requirements. All aspects of the OHIO Replacement Program will continue to be thoroughly reviewed and aggressively challenged to responsibly drive down engineering, construction, and operations and support costs. However, Navy will need the means to resource construction of the next generation nuclear ballistic missile submarine.
Implementing the Integrated Undersea Strategy: OHIO Replacement SSBN
Currently in its third year of the technology development phase, the OHIO Replacement SSBN program is dedicated to providing the right nuclear deterrence capability at a responsible cost and delivering a lead ship ready for strategic patrols in fiscal year 2031 with sufficient survivability to address projected future threats. To succeed, many efforts must remain aligned and properly resourced, including the overall ship design and construction led by the OHIO Replacement program, the life extension of the TRIDENT II (D5) strategic weapon system, the Common Missile Compartment partnership between the U.S. and the UK, and the development of the ship's propulsion system by Naval Reactors.
Lead OHIO Replacement submarine construction must begin in 2021 to allow it to commence its first Strategic Patrol in 2031 to meet the nuclear deterrence mission requirements. Funding is vital to the procurement timeline, which meets U.S. Strategic Command requirements with moderate operational risk during the transition period between OHIO and OHIO Replacement SSBNs. The lead OHIO Replacement construction start has shifted from FY19 to FY21. Further delays would produce a gap in at-sea strategic requirements, as there is no additional margin to further extend the life of the OHIO SSBNs nor is it possible to accelerate the already aggressive lead ship construction schedule. Construction for the lead OHIO Replacement SSBN must commence in FY21 with requisite design maturity in order to meet strategic requirements.