Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress




Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack
Submarine Procurement: Background and
Issues for Congress

July 29, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
RL32418




Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement

Summary
The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines
(SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 34 have been procured through FY2021. Since FY2011,
Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. Virginia-class boats scheduled
for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP)
contract. Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with
the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped
with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching additional Tomahawk
missiles or other payloads. When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped
Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.45 billion per boat.
The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 35th and 36th Virginia-class boats.
The two boats have an estimated combined procurement cost of $6,915.8 million (i.e., about $6.9
billion). The two boats have received $1,888.3 million in prior-year “regular” advance
procurement (AP) funding, and $778.2 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding,
which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract. The Navy’s
proposed FY2022 budget requests the remaining $4,249.2 million needed to complete the two
boats’ estimated combined procurement cost of $6,915.8 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2022
budget also requests $2,120.4 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in one
or more future fiscal years, bringing the total amount of procurement and AP funding requested
for the Virginia-class program to $6,369.6 million (i.e., about $6.4 billion).
A key issue for Congress concerns the SSN force-level goal and procurement rate. The Navy’s
current force-level goal, which was released in December 2016, calls for achieving a maintaining
a fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs. On December 9, 2020, the Navy released a long-
range Navy shipbuilding document that called for a Navy with 382 to 446 manned ships,
including 72 to 78 SSNs, plus additional large surface and underwater unmanned vehicles (UVs).
On June 17, 2021, the Navy released a long-range Navy shipbuilding document that calls for a
Navy with 321 to 372 manned ships, including 66 to 72 SSNs, plus additional large surface and
underwater UVs.
Under the Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan, SSNs would be
procured at a steady rate of two per year. Under the December 9, 2020, document, SSNs would be
procured at a rate of three boats per year during the period FY2035-FY2041 and two and two-
thirds boats per year (in annual quantities of 2-3-3) during the period FY2042-FY2050. The June
17, 2021, document suggests that the SSN procurement would eventually be increased to
something more than two boats per year. In assessing the future SSN force-level goal and
procurement rate, factors that Congress may consider include but are not necessarily limited to
the following:
 U.S. national security strategy and national defense strategy and the contributions
that SSNs make to fulfilling those strategies;
 the funding that would be needed each year to procure SSNs and operate and
support the SSN force and the potential impact of SSN-related funding
requirements, given potential future U.S. defense levels, on funding available for
other Navy or Department of Defense (DOD) programs; and
 the capacity of the submarine construction industrial base to take on additional
work that would be generated by procuring an average of more than two SSNs
per year.
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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Background ..................................................................................................................................... 1

U.S. Navy Submarines .............................................................................................................. 1
U.S. SSN Force Levels .............................................................................................................. 2
Force-Level Goal ................................................................................................................ 2
Current Force Level ............................................................................................................ 3
Projected Force Levels ........................................................................................................ 3

U.S. SSN Classes ...................................................................................................................... 5
Los Angeles (SSN-688) Class ............................................................................................. 5
Seawolf (SSN-21) Class ..................................................................................................... 5
Virginia (SSN-774) Class.................................................................................................... 5

Virginia-Class Procurement Program ........................................................................................ 5
Unit Procurement Cost ........................................................................................................ 5
Annual Procurement Quantities .......................................................................................... 6
Multiyear Contracting ......................................................................................................... 7
FY2019-FY2023 MYP Contract ......................................................................................... 7
Joint Production Arrangement ............................................................................................ 7
Integrated Enterprise Plan (IEP) ......................................................................................... 8
Schedule and Cost Performance ......................................................................................... 9
Virginia Payload Module (VPM) ........................................................................................ 9
Acoustic and Other Improvements ................................................................................... 10
FY2022 Funding Request ................................................................................................. 10

Submarine Construction Industrial Base ................................................................................. 10
SSN Deployments Delayed Due to Maintenance Backlogs ..................................................... 11
Issues for Congress ......................................................................................................................... 11
SSN Force-Level Goal and Procurement Rate ......................................................................... 11
Industrial-Base Challenges of Building Both Virginia- and Columbia-Class Boats ............... 13
Potential Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic .............................................................................. 14
Cost and Schedule Risk in Virginia-Class Block V Design .................................................... 14
Additional Issues ..................................................................................................................... 15
Shortage of Spare Parts for Virginia-Class Boats Undergoing Maintenance .................... 15
Substandard Steel Reported in 2020 ................................................................................. 16
Classified Recommendations in December 2019 DOT&E Report ................................... 18
Problem with Hull Coating ............................................................................................... 18
Defective Parts Reported in 2016 ..................................................................................... 18

Legislative Activity for FY2022 .................................................................................................... 18
Congressional Action on FY2022 Funding Request ............................................................... 18
FY2022 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 4432) ...................................................................... 19
House ................................................................................................................................ 19

Figures
Figure 1. Virginia-Class Attack Submarine ..................................................................................... 6

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Tables
Table 1. SSN Procurement Quantities and Projected Force Levels ................................................. 4
Table 2. Actual or Projected Virginia-Class Procurement Quantities .............................................. 6
Table 3. Congressional Action on Original FY2022 Funding Request ......................................... 19

Appendixes
Appendix A. Past SSN Force-Level Goals .................................................................................... 20
Appendix B. Options for Funding SSNs ....................................................................................... 22
Appendix C. SSN Deployments Delayed Due to Maintenance Backlogs ..................................... 24

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 29

Congressional Research Service

Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement

Introduction
This report provides background information and issues for Congress on the Virginia (SSN-774)
class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN) program. The Navy has been procuring Virginia-
class SSNs since FY1998, and a total of 34 have been procured through FY2021. Since FY2011,
Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. The Navy’s proposed FY2022
budget requests the procurement of the 35th and 36th Virginia-class boats.
A key issue for Congress concerns the SSN force-level goal and procurement rate. Decisions that
Congress makes on this issue could substantially affect U.S. Navy capabilities and funding
requirements, and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base.
The Navy’s SSN(X) next-generation attack submarine program, which is to be the eventual
successor to the Virginia-class SSN program, is discussed in another CRS product: CRS In Focus
IF11826, Navy Next-Generation Attack Submarine (SSN[X]) Program: Background and Issues
for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
The Navy’s Columbia (SSBN-826) class ballistic missile submarine program is discussed in
another CRS report—CRS Report R41129, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile
Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
Background
U.S. Navy Submarines1
The U.S. Navy operates three types of submarines—nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines
(SSBNs),2 nuclear-powered cruise missile and special operations forces (SOF) submarines
(SSGNs),3 and nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). The SSNs are general-purpose
submarines that can (when appropriately equipped and armed) perform a variety of peacetime and
wartime missions, including the following:
 covert intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), much of it done for
national-level (as opposed to purely Navy) purposes;

1 In U.S. Navy submarine designations, SS stands for submarine, N stands for nuclear-powered, B stands for ballistic
missile, and G stands for guided missile (such as a cruise missile). Submarines can be powered by either nuclear
reactors or non-nuclear power sources such as diesel engines or fuel cells. All U.S. Navy submarines are nuclear-
powered. A submarine’s use of nuclear or non-nuclear power as its energy source is not an indication of whether it is
armed with nuclear weapons—a nuclear-powered submarine can lack nuclear weapons, and a non-nuclear-powered
submarine can be armed with nuclear weapons.
2 The SSBNs’ basic mission is to remain hidden at sea with their nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles
(SLBMs) and thereby deter a strategic nuclear attack on the United States. The Navy’s SSBNs are discussed in CRS
Report R41129, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke, and CRS Report RL31623, U.S. Nuclear Weapons: Changes in Policy and Force
Structure
, by Amy F. Woolf.
3 The Navy’s four SSGNs are former Trident SSBNs that have been converted (i.e., modified) to carry Tomahawk
cruise missiles and SOF rather than SLBMs. Although the SSGNs differ somewhat from SSNs in terms of mission
orientation (with the SSGNs being strongly oriented toward Tomahawk strikes and SOF support, while the SSNs are
more general-purpose in orientation), SSGNs can perform other submarine missions and are sometimes included in
counts of the projected total number of Navy attack submarines. The Navy’s SSGNs are discussed in CRS Report
RS21007, Navy Trident Submarine Conversion (SSGN) Program: Background and Issues for Congress, by Ronald
O'Rourke.
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Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement

 covert insertion and recovery of SOF (on a smaller scale than possible with the
SSGNs);
 covert strikes against land targets with the Tomahawk cruise missiles (again on a
smaller scale than possible with the SSGNs);
 covert offensive and defensive mine warfare;
 anti-submarine warfare (ASW); and
 anti-surface ship warfare.
During the Cold War, ASW against Soviet submarines was the primary stated mission of U.S.
SSNs, although covert ISR and covert SOF insertion/recovery operations were reportedly
important on a day-to-day basis as well.4 In the post-Cold War era, although ASW remained a
mission, the SSN force focused more on performing the first three other missions listed above.
With the shift in recent years from the post-Cold War era to a situation of renewed great power
competition,5 ASW against Russian and Chinese submarines has once again become a more
prominent mission for U.S. Navy SSNs.
U.S. SSN Force Levels
Force-Level Goal
Goal Current Force-Level Goal of 66 Boats within 355-Ship Plan
The Navy’s current force-level goal, released in December 2016, is to achieve and maintain a
fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs. The Navy and Department of Defense (DOD)
since 2019 have been working to develop a new force-level goal to replace the 355-ship force-
level goal.6
December 9, 2020, Document Presented One Emerging New Force-Level Goal
On December 9, 2020, the Trump Administration released a long-range Navy shipbuilding
document calling for a Navy with a more distributed fleet architecture, including 382 to 446
manned ships and 143 to 242 large surface and underwater unmanned vehicles (UVs). Within the
goal of 382 to 446 manned ships was a goal for achieving and maintaining a force of 72 to 78
SSNs.7

4 For an account of certain U.S. submarine surveillance and intelligence-collection operations during the Cold War, see
Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew with Annette Lawrence Drew, Blind Man’s Bluff (New York: Public Affairs,
1998).
5 For more on this shift, see CRS Report R43838, Renewed Great Power Competition: Implications for Defense—
Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
6 For more on the 355-ship force-level goal and Navy and DOD efforts since 2019 to develop a new force-level goal,
see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress, by
Ronald O'Rourke.
7 For more on the December 9, 2020, document, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding
Plans: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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June 17, 2021, Document Presents Another Emerging Force-Level Goal
On June 17, 2021, the Biden Administration released a long-range Navy shipbuilding document
calling for a Navy with a more distributed fleet architecture, including 321 to 372 manned ships
and 77 to 140 large surface and underwater UVs. Within the goal of 321 to 372 manned ships is a
goal for achieving and maintaining a force of 66 to 72 SSNs.8
For a review of SSN force-level goals since the Reagan Administration, see Appendix A.
Current Force Level
During most of the 1980s, when plans called for achieving a 600-ship Navy including 100 SSNs,
the SSN force included more than 90 boats, peaking at 98 boats at the end of FY1987. The
number of SSNs declined after that in a manner that roughly paralleled the decline in the total
size of the Navy over the same time period. The 50 SSNs in service at the end of FY2020
included the following:
 28 Los Angeles (SSN-688) class boats;
 3 Seawolf (SSN-21) class boats; and
 19 Virginia (SSN-774) class boats.
Projected Force Levels
Table 1 shows projected annual SSN procurement quantities and force levels under the Navy’s
FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) 30-year shipbuilding plan, which was submitted to Congress
in March 2019, and the December 9, 2020, document released by the Trump Administration.
As shown in Table 1, under the FY2020 30-year plan, the number of SSNs was projected to
experience a valley or trough from the mid-2020s through the early 2030s, reaching a minimum
of 42 boats (i.e., 24 boats, or about 36%, less than the current 66-boat force-level goal) in
FY2027-FY2028. This projected valley was a consequence of having procured a relatively small
number of SSNs during the 1990s, in the early years of the post-Cold War era. Some observers
were concerned that this projected valley in SSN force levels could lead to a period of heightened
operational strain for the SSN force, and perhaps a period of weakened conventional deterrence
against potential adversaries such as China.9 The projected SSN valley was first identified by
CRS in 1995 and has been discussed in CRS reports and testimony every year since then.
As also shown in Table 1, the December 9, 2020, long-range Navy shipbuilding document
released by the Trump Administration shows that the valley in SSN force levels projected for the
mid-2020s through the early 2030s has been essentially filled in, with projected SSN force levels
for those years that do not drop below 50 boats and are as much as 11 boats higher than they are
under the FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan. The filling in of the valley is not the result of the

8 For more on the June 17, 2021, document, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
9 China took note of the valley. The November 2014 edition of a Chinese military journal, for example, included an
article with a passage that translates as follows:
... in 2028, the [U.S. Navy] force of nuclear attack submarines will fall from the current number of
55 down to 41 boats. Some are concerned about whether this force level can meet the requirements
of the Asia-Pacific rebalance.”
(Lyle Goldstein, “Evolution of Chinese Power Projection Capabilities,” presentation to Center for a
New American Security (CNAS) roundtable discussion, September 29, 2016, slide 7 of 41.)
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higher annual procurement quantities in the December 9, 2020, document, since the effects of
those higher annual procurement quantities on SSN force levels are not very significant until after
the early 2030s. The filling in of the valley is instead the result of existing Los Angeles-class
SSNs remaining in service longer than they were projected to under the FY2020 30-year
shipbuilding plan. The Navy states that these longer Los Angeles-class service lives reflect a
previously announced Navy plan to refuel and extend the service lives of seven Los Angeles-class
SSNs, along with “updated service life estimates for the remaining 688s based on current hull by
hull utilization.”10
The June 17, 2021, long-range Navy document released by the Biden Administration does not
include projected annual SSN procurement quantities and force levels.
Table 1. SSN Procurement Quantities and Projected Force Levels
(Under FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan and December 9, 2020, document)
FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan
December 9, 2020, document
Difference
Fiscal
Procurement
Projected
Procurement
Projected
Procurement
Projected
year
quantities
force level

quantities
force level
quantities
force level
20
3
52
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
21
2
53
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
22
2
52
2
52
0
0
23
2
51
2
54
0
+3
24
2
47
2
53
0
+6
25
2
44
3
52
+1
+8
26
2
44
3
50
+1
+6
27
2
42
2
53
0
+11
28
2
42
2
53
0
+11
29
2
44
3
55
+1
+11
30
2
46
2
54
0
+8
31
2
48
2
56
0
+8
32
2
49
2
58
0
+9
33
2
51
3
57
+1
+6
34
2
53
2
58
0
+5
35
2
54
3
61
+1
+7
36
2
56
3
63
+1
+7
37
2
58
3
64
+1
+6
38
2
57
3
62
+1
+5
39
2
58
3
62
+1
+4
40
2
59
3
64
+1
+5
41
2
59
3
64
+1
+5
42
2
61
2
67
0
+6
43
2
61
3
68
+1
+7
44
2
62
3
70
+1
+8
45
2
63
2
72
0
+9
46
2
64
3
74
+1
+10
47
2
65
3
75
+1
+10
48
2
66
2
77
0
+11
49
2
67
3
79
+1
+12
50
n/a
n/a
3
79
n/a
n/a
51
n/a
n/a
2
80
n/a
n/a

10 Source: Navy information paper on FY2022 Fiscal Planning Framework and SSN-688 class service live extension
program questions, February 5, 2021, provided by Navy Office of Legislative Affairs to Congressional Budget Office
(CBO) and CRS on February 5, 2021.
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Source: Table prepared by CRS based on U.S. Navy data. n/a means that the FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan
or the December 9, 2020, document did not cover the year in question, and that the difference between the
FY2020 30-year shipbuilding plan and the December 9, 2020, document consequently cannot be calculated. The
June 17, 2021, long-range Navy document released by the Biden Administration does not include projected
annual SSN procurement quantities and force levels.
U.S. SSN Classes
Los Angeles (SSN-688) Class
A total of 62 Los Angeles-class submarines, commonly called 688s, were procured between
FY1970 and FY1990 and entered service between 1976 and 1996. They are equipped with four
21-inch diameter torpedo tubes and can carry a total of 26 torpedoes or Tomahawk cruise missiles
in their torpedo tubes and internal magazines. The final 31 boats in the class (SSN-719 and
higher) were built with an additional 12 vertical launch system (VLS) tubes in their bows for
carrying and launching another 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The final 23 boats in the class
(SSN-751 and higher) incorporate further improvements and are referred to as Improved Los
Angeles class boats or 688Is. As of the end of FY2020, 34 of the 62 boats in the class had been
retired.
Seawolf (SSN-21) Class
The Seawolf class was originally intended to include about 30 boats, but Seawolf-class
procurement was stopped after three boats as a result of the end of the Cold War and associated
changes in military requirements and defense spending levels. The three Seawolf-class
submarines are the Seawolf (SSN-21), the Connecticut (SSN-22), and the Jimmy Carter (SSN-
23). SSN-21 and SSN-22 were procured in FY1989 and FY1991 and entered service in 1997 and
1998, respectively. SSN-23 was originally procured in FY1992. Its procurement was suspended
in 1992 and then reinstated in FY1996. It entered service in 2005. Seawolf-class submarines are
larger than Los Angeles-class boats or previous U.S. Navy SSNs.11 They are equipped with eight
30-inch-diameter torpedo tubes and can carry a total of 50 torpedoes or cruise missiles. SSN-23
was built to a lengthened configuration compared to the other two ships in the class.12
Virginia (SSN-774) Class
The Navy has been procuring Virginia-class SSNs (see Figure 1) since FY1998; the first entered
service in October 2004. The Virginia-class design was developed to be less expensive and better
optimized for post-Cold War submarine missions than the Seawolf-class design. The baseline
Virginia-class design is slightly larger than the Los Angeles-class design but incorporates newer
technologies, including technologies used in the Seawolf-class design.
Virginia-Class Procurement Program
Unit Procurement Cost
Most Virginia-class boats to be procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built to a
lengthened configuration that includes the Virginia Payload Module (see discussion below).

11 Los Angeles-class boats have a beam (i.e., diameter) of 33 feet and a submerged displacement of about 7,150 tons.
Seawolf-class boats have a beam of 40 feet. SSN-21 and SSN-22 have a submerged displacement of about 9,150 tons.
12 SSN-23 is 100 feet longer than SSN-21 and SSN-22 and has a submerged displacement of 12,158 tons.
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Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement

When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an
estimated procurement cost of about $3.45 billion per boat.
Figure 1. Virginia-Class Attack Submarine

Source: Cropped version of photograph accompanying Dan Ward, “Opinion: How Budget Pressure Prompted
the Success of Virginia-Class Submarine Program,” USNI News, November 3, 2014. The caption states that it
shows USS Minnesota (SSN-783) under construction in 2012 and credits the photograph to the U.S. Navy.
Annual Procurement Quantities
Table 2 shows annual numbers of Virginia-class boats procured from FY1998 (the lead boat)
through FY2021, and the numbers projected for procurement in FY2022-FY2025 under the
Navy’s FY2021 budget submission. (The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission does not include
programmed Virginia-class procurement quantities for FY2023 or subsequent fiscal years.) A
total of 34 Virginia-class boats have been procured through FY2021.
Table 2. Actual or Projected Virginia-Class Procurement Quantities
(Projected quantities for FY2023-FY2025 as shown in Navy’s FY2021 budget submission)
FY98
FY99
FY00
FY01 FY02
FY03
FY04
FY05
FY06
FY07
FY08
FY09 FY10 FY11
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
2
FY12
FY13
FY14
FY15 FY16
FY17
FY18
FY19
FY20
FY21
FY22
FY23
FY24
FY25
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2
Source: Table prepared by CRS based on U.S. Navy data. The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission does not
include programmed Virginia-class procurement quantities for FY2023 or subsequent fiscal years.
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Multiyear Contracting
With the exception of a single Virginia-class boat procured in FY2003, all Virginia-class boats
have been procured or are being procured under multiyear contracting, meaning either a block
buy contract or multiyear procurement (MYP) contract.13
FY2019-FY2023 MYP Contract
The Navy awarded the FY2019-FY2023 Virginia-class MYP contract—a fixed-price incentive
fee (FPIF) contract—on December 2, 2019. The contract included nine Virginia-class boats (eight
of which are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module, or VPM (see discussion below), plus
an option for a 10th boat that, if procured, would also be built with the VPM. The contract also
included a 10th shipset of supplier-made components, so that if the option for the 10th boat were
exercised, the ship could be constructed in a timely manner. The option for the 10th boat could be
awarded any time during the contract’s five-year period.14 As a result of Congress’s decision to
procure two Virginia-class boats in FY2021, rather than the one Virginia-class boat that the
Trump Administration’s FY2021 budget submission had requested, the FY2019-FY2023 MYP
contract now includes 10 boats.
Joint Production Arrangement
Virginia-class boats are built jointly by General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division (GD/EB) of
Groton, CT, and Quonset Point, RI—the program’s prime contractor—and Huntington Ingalls
Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding (HII/NNS), of Newport News, VA. The arrangement for
jointly building Virginia-class boats was proposed to Congress by GD/EB, HII/NNS, and the
Navy, and agreed to by Congress in 1997, as part of Congress’s action on the Navy’s budget for
FY1998, the year that the first Virginia-class boat was procured.15 A primary aim of the
arrangement was to minimize the cost of building Virginia-class boats at a relatively low annual
rate in two shipyards (rather than entirely in a single shipyard) while preserving key submarine-
construction skills at both shipyards.
Under the arrangement, GD/EB builds certain parts of each boat, HII/NNS builds certain other
parts of each boat, and the yards have taken turns building the reactor compartments and
performing final assembly of the boats. The arrangement has resulted in a roughly 50-50 division
of Virginia-class profits between the two yards and preserves both yards’ ability to build

13 The first four Virginia-class boats, known as the Block I boats, were procured under an FY1998-FY2002 block buy
contract. This was the first instance of block buy contracting—the mechanism of a block buy contract was essentially
created for procuring the first four Virginia-class boats. The Virginia-class boat procured in FY2003 fell between the
FY1998-FY2002 block buy contract and the subsequent FY2004-FY2008 MYP contract, and was contracted for
separately. The next five Virginia-class boats, known as the Block II boats, were procured under an FY2004-FY2008
MYP contract. The next eight Virginia-class boats, known as the Block III boats, were procured under an FY2009-
FY2013 MYP contract. The next 10 Virginia-class boats, known as the Block IV boats, were procured under an
FY2014-FY2018 MYP contract. The next 10 Virginia-class boats, known as the Block V boats, are being procured
under an FY2019-FY2023 MYP contract. For more on MYP and block buy contracting, see CRS Report R41909,
Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
14 For press reports about the contract, see, for example, Megan Eckstein, “Navy Awards $22B Contract to Electric
Boat, Newport News Shipbuilding for 9 Block V Virginia Subs,” USNI News, December 2, 2019; David B. Larter, “US
Navy Awards Largest-Ever Shipbuilding Contract to Electric Boat for New Attack Submarines,” Defense News,
December 2, 2019; Rich Abott, “Navy Awards Largest Contract Ever, $22.2 Billion For 9 Block V Virginia Subs,”
Defense Daily, December 2, 2019.
15 See Section 121 of the FY1998 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1119/P.L. 105-85 of November 18, 1997).
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Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement

submarine reactor compartments (a key capability for a submarine-construction yard) and
perform submarine final-assembly work.16
Integrated Enterprise Plan (IEP)
Under a plan it calls the Integrated Enterprise Plan (IEP),17 the Navy plans to build Columbia-
class ballistic missile submarines jointly at GD/EB and HII/NNS, with most of the work going to
GD/EB. As part of this plan, the Navy plans to adjust the division of work on the Virginia-class
attack submarine program so that HII/NNS would receive a larger share of the final-assembly
work for that program than it has received in the past.18

16 The joint production arrangement is a departure from prior U.S. submarine construction practices, under which
complete submarines were built in individual yards. The joint production arrangement is the product of a debate over
the Virginia-class acquisition strategy within Congress, and between Congress and DOD, that occurred in 1995-1997
(i.e., during the markup of the FY1996-FY1998 defense budgets). The goal of the arrangement is to keep both GD/EB
and HII/NNS involved in building nuclear-powered submarines, and thereby maintain two U.S. shipyards capable of
building nuclear-powered submarines, while minimizing the cost penalties of using two yards rather than one to build a
submarine design that is being procured at a relatively low annual rate. The joint production agreement cannot be
changed without the agreement of both GD/EB and HII/NNS.
17 The IEP was previously called the Submarine Unified Build Strategy, or SUBS.
18 Key elements of IEP include the following:

GD/EB is to be the prime contractor for designing and building Columbia-class boats;

HII/NNS is to be a subcontractor for designing and building Columbia-class boats;

GD/EB is to build certain parts of each Columbia-class boat—parts that are more or less analogous to the
parts that GD/EB builds for each Virginia-class attack submarine;

HII/NNS is to build certain other parts of each Columbia-class boat—parts that are more or less analogous to
the parts that HII/NNS builds for each Virginia-class attack submarine;

GD/EB is to perform the final assembly on all 12 Columbia-class boats;

as a result of the three previous points, the Navy estimates that GD/EB would receive an estimated 77%-78%
of the shipyard work building Columbia-class boats, and HII/NNS would receive 22%-23%;

GD/EB is to continue as prime contractor for the Virginia-class program, but to help balance out projected
submarine-construction workloads at GD/EB and HII/NNS, the division of work between the two yards for
building Virginia-class boats is to be adjusted so that HII/NNS would perform the final assembly on a greater
number of Virginia-class boats than it would have under a continuation of the current Virginia-class division
of work (in which final assemblies are divided more or less evenly between the two shipyards); as a
consequence, HII/NNS would receive a greater share of the total work in building Virginia-class boats than it
would have under a continuation of the current division of work.
See Richard B. Burgess, “Submarine Admirals: ‘Unified Build Strategy’ Seeks Affordability for Future Sub Fleet,”
Seapower, July 8, 2016; Julia Bergman, “Congressmen Visit EB A Day After It Is Named Prime Contractor for Ohio
Reaplcement Program,” The Day (New London), March 29, 2016; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Ohio Replacement Plan Is
Good News For Electric Boat,” Breaking Defense, March 29, 2016; Robert McCabe, “Newport News Shipbuilding’s
Share of Virginia-Class Submarine Deliveries to Grow,” Virginian-Pilot (Newport News), March 29, 2016; Valerie
Insinna, “GD Electric Boat Chosen To Take Lead Role for Ohio Replacement Sub,” Defense Daily, March 30, 2016: 1-
3; Hugh Lessig, “Navy: More Submarine Work Coming to Newport News Shipyard,” Military.com, March 30, 2016.
See also Statement of the Honorable Sean J. Stackley, Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and
Acquisition), and Vice Admiral Joseph P. Mulloy, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities
and Resources, and Lieutenant General Robert S. Walsh, Deputy Commandant, Combat Development and Integration
& Commanding General, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, before the Subcommittee on Seapower and
Projection Forces of the House Armed Services Committee on Department of the Navy Seapower and Projection
Forces Capabilities, February 25, 2016, p. 12.
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Schedule and Cost Performance
Earlier Record
The Virginia-class program experienced cost growth in its early years that was due in part to
annual procurement rates that were lower than initially envisaged and challenges in restarting
submarine production at Newport News Shipbuilding.19 The lead ship in the program, however,
was delivered within four months of the target date that had been established about a decade
earlier, and subsequent boats in the program were delivered largely on cost and ahead of
schedule.20 The Virginia (SSN-774) class program received a David Packard Excellence in
Acquisition Award from DOD in 2008.
More-Recent Reported Delays Relative to Targeted Delivery Dates
Beginning in March and April 2019, it was reported that GD/EB, HII/NNS, and their supplier
firms were experiencing challenges in meeting scheduled delivery times as the Virginia-class
program was transitioning from production of two “regular” Virginia-class boats per year to two
VPM-equipped boats per year. As a result of these challenges, it was reported, the program
experienced months-long delays in efforts to build boats relative to their targeted delivery dates.21
A November 4, 2019, press report stated that “the most recent Virginia-class boat, the Delaware,
was delivered by Huntington Ingalls Newport News nearly nine months behind schedule, which
is later than the four-to-seven month delays the Navy predicted earlier in the year.”22
Virginia Payload Module (VPM)
The Navy plans to build most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years with
the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped
with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching additional Tomahawk
missiles or other payloads. The VPM’s vertical launch tubes are to be used to store and fire
additional Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads, such as large-diameter unmanned
underwater vehicles (UUVs).23 The four additional launch tubes in the VPM could carry a total of
28 additional Tomahawk cruise missiles (seven per tube),24 which would increase the total

19 See Statement of Ronald O’Rourke, Specialist in National Defense, Congressional Research Service, before the
House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Hearing on Submarine Force
Structure and Acquisition Policy, March 8, 2007, Table 10 on pp. 14-15.
20 For discussions of recent exceptions, see Christopher P. Cavas, “US Navy Submarine Program Loses Some of Its
Shine,” Defense News, March 13, 2017; David B. Larter, “Virginia-Class Attack Sub Delivers late As US Navy Aims
to Get Program Back on Course,” Defense News, June 26, 2018.
21 See, for example, Government Accountability Office, Columbia Class Submarine[:] Overly Optimistic Cost Estimate
Will Likely Lead to Budget Increases
, GAO-19-497, April 2019, pp. 20-23; David B. Larter, “Late Is the New Normal
for Virginia-Class Attack Boats,” Defense News, March 20, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “Navy: Lack of Submarine Parts
Slowing Down Maintenance, New Construction,” USNI News, March 26, 2019. See also David B. Larter, “The US
Navy, Seeking Savings, Shakes Up Its Plans for More Lethal Attack Submarines,” Defense News, April 3, 2019.
22 David B. Larter, “US Navy to Slash the Number of Virginia-Class Attack Subs in Long-Delayed Block V Contract,”
Defense News, November 4, 2019.
23 For an illustration of the VPM, see http://www.gdeb.com/news/advertising/images/VPM_ad/VPM.pdf, which was
accessed by CRS on March 1, 2012.
24 Michael J. Conner, “Investing in the Undersea Future,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, June 2011: 16-20.
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number of torpedo-sized weapons (such as Tomahawks) carried by the Virginia-class design from
about 37 to about 65—an increase of about 76%.25
Building Virginia-class boats with the VPM is intended to compensate for a sharp loss in
submarine force weapon-carrying capacity that will occur with the retirement in FY2026-FY2028
of the Navy’s four Ohio-class cruise missile/special operations forces support submarines
(SSGNs). Each SSGN is equipped with 24 large-diameter vertical launch tubes, of which 22 can
be used to carry up to seven Tomahawks each, for a maximum of 154 vertically launched
Tomahawks per boat, or 616 vertically launched Tomahawks for the four boats. Twenty-two
Virginia-class boats built with VPMs could carry 616 Tomahawks in their VPMs.
Acoustic and Other Improvements
In addition to the VPM, the Navy is introducing acoustic and other improvements to the Virginia-
class design that are intended to help maintain the design’s superiority over Russian and Chinese
submarines.26
FY2022 Funding Request
The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 35th and 36th Virginia-class boats.
The two boats have an estimated combined procurement cost of $6,915.8 million (i.e., about $6.9
billion). The two boats have received $1,888.3 million in prior-year “regular” advance
procurement (AP) funding, and $778.2 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding,
which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract.27 The Navy’s
proposed FY2022 budget requests the remaining $4,249.2 million needed to complete the two
boats’ estimated combined procurement cost of $6,915.8 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2022
budget also requests $2,120.4 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in one
or more future fiscal years, bringing the total amount of procurement and AP funding requested
for the Virginia-class program to $6,369.6 million (i.e., about $6.4 billion).
Submarine Construction Industrial Base
U.S. Navy submarines are built by GD/EB and HII/NNS. These are the only two shipyards in the
country capable of building nuclear-powered ships. GD/EB builds submarines only, while

25 A Virginia-class SSN can carry about 25 torpedoes in its four horizontal torpedo tubes and associated torpedo room,
and an additional 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles (which are torpedo-sized) in its bow-mounted vertical lunch tubes, for a
total of about 37 torpedo-sized weapons. Another 28 Tomahawks in four mid-body vertical tubes would increase that
total by about 76%.
26 For press reports discussing these improvements, see Kris Osborn, “The Navy Wants to Turn Its Nuclear Attack
Submarines Into ‘Spy’ Ships,” National Interest, May 28, 2018; Kris Osborn, “Navy Launches Most High-Tech &
Stealthy Attack Sub Ever,” Scout Warrior, November 18, 2017; Megan Eckstein, “Navy Considering Mid-Block
Virginia-Class Upgrades, SSGN Construction in Late 2030s,” USNI News, November 2, 2017; Zachary Cohen, “US
Launches ‘Most Advanced’ Stealth Sub Amid Undersea Rivalry,” CNN, October 26, 2017; Franz-Stefan Gady, “US
Navy Christens Most Advanced Attack Sub Ever,” The Diplomat, October 17, 2017; Douglas Ernst, “Navy Christens
Its ‘Most Advanced’ Attack Submarine Ever,” Washington Times, October 16, 2017; Dave Majumdar, “Stealth and
Armed to the Teeth: US Navy’s Big Plan for Submarine Dominance,” National Interest, July 9, 2016; Kris Osborn,
“‘Acoustic Superiority’: US Navy’s Secret Submarine Plan to Dominate the Seas,” National Interest, June 20, 2016;
Dave Majumdar, “This Is How the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Force Dominates the World’s Oceans,” National Interest,
May 17, 2016; Megan Eckstein, “Submarines To Become Stealthier Through Acoustic Superiority Upgrades,
Operational Concepts,” USNI News, March 1, 2016.
27 For more on EOQ funding within MYP contracts, see CRS Report R41909, Multiyear Procurement (MYP) and
Block Buy Contracting in Defense Acquisition: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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HII/NNS also builds nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and is capable of building other types of
surface ships.
In addition to GD/EB and HII/NNS, the submarine construction industrial base includes hundreds
of supplier firms, as well as laboratories and research facilities, in numerous states. Much of the
total material procured from supplier firms for the construction of submarines comes from sole-
source suppliers. For nuclear-propulsion component suppliers, an additional source of stabilizing
work is the Navy’s nuclear-powered aircraft carrier construction program.28 In terms of work
provided to these firms, a carrier nuclear propulsion plant is roughly equivalent to five submarine
propulsion plants. Much of the design and engineering portion of the submarine construction
industrial base is resident at GD/EB; additional portions are resident at HII/NNS and some of the
component makers.
SSN Deployments Delayed Due to Maintenance Backlogs
In recent years, a number of the Navy’s SSNs have had their deployments delayed due to
maintenance backlogs at the Navy’s four government-operated naval shipyards (NSYs), which
are the primary facilities for conducting depot-level maintenance work on Navy SSNs. Delays in
deploying SSNs can put added operational pressure on other SSNs that are available for
deployment. For additional background information on this issue, see Appendix C.
Issues for Congress
SSN Force-Level Goal and Procurement Rate
A key issue for Congress concerns the SSN force-level goal and procurement rate. As mentioned
earlier
 the Navy’s current force-level goal, released in December 2016, is to achieve and
maintain a fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs;
 the Navy and DOD since 2019 have been working to develop a new force-level
goal to replace the current 355-ship force-level goal;
 on December 9, 2020, the Trump Administration released a long-range Navy
shipbuilding document calling for a Navy with 72 to 78 SSNs; and
 on June 17, 2021, the Biden Administration released a long-range Navy
shipbuilding document calling for a Navy with 66 to 72 SSNs.
Under the Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan, SSNs would be
procured at a steady rate of two per year, and a force of 66 SSNs would be achieved in FY2048.
Under the December 9, 2020, document, SSNs would be procured at a rate of three boats per year
during the period FY2035-FY2041 and two and two-thirds boats per year (in annual quantities of
2-3-3) during the period FY2042-FY2050, and a force of 72 to 78 SSNs would be achieved by the
latter 2040s.
The June 17, 2021, document does not include projected annual SSN procurement quantities and
force levels. The document states:

28 For more on this program, see CRS Report RS20643, Navy Ford (CVN-78) Class Aircraft Carrier Program:
Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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The plan beyond the Future Year Defense Program (FYDP) reflects an increase in SSN
production that is fully realized with the conclusion of the Columbia class procurement and
delivery. We continue to evaluate the industrial base capacity increase required for more
consistent delivery of two SSNs per year during Columbia serial production and
subsequent potential increases to SSN procurement.29
Regarding the statement above about “the conclusion of the Columbia class procurement and
delivery,” the Navy currently plans to procure a minimum of 12 Columbia-class SSBNs. The 12th
boat in the class is scheduled to be procured in FY2035 and delivered to the Navy in FY2041.30
In assessing the future SSN force-level goal and procurement rate, factors that Congress may
consider include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
 U.S. national security strategy and national defense strategy and the contributions
that SSNs make to fulfilling those strategies;
 the funding that would be needed each year to procure SSNs and operate and
support the SSN force, and the potential impact of SSN-related funding
requirements, given potential future U.S. defense levels, on funding available for
other Navy or DOD programs; and
 the capacity of the submarine construction industrial base to take on additional
work that would be generated by procuring an average of more than two SSNs
per year.
Regarding the first factor above, DOD officials and other observers view SSNs as useful for
implementing certain elements of the national defense strategy, particularly those that require
countering China’s improving anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) forces.
Regarding the second factor above, as noted earlier, when procured at a rate of two boats per year,
VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.45 billion
per boat. When procured at a rate of more than two boats per year, that estimated unit
procurement cost might decrease somewhat due to increased production economies of scale. If so,
the additional shipbuilding funding for procuring three rather than two Virginia-class SSNs in a
given year, for example, might be something less than $3.45 billion. Increasing the size of the
SSN force would increase the SSN force’s annual operation and support costs.
Regarding the third factor above, and as discussed further in the next section of this report,
observers are concerned about the ability of the submarine construction industrial base to build
VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs and Columbia-class SSNs at the same time during the 2020s
and 2030s. Increasing the Virginia-class procurement rate to something more than two VPM-
equipped boats per year during this period could add to those concerns. The capacity of the
submarine construction industrial base can be expanded over time through actions for increasing
shipyard and supplier firm production facilities and workforces. Congress in recent years has
provided funding for expanding the capacity of the submarine construction industrial base toward
a level sufficient to execute an annual procurement rate of two VPM-equipped Virginia-class
boats and one Columbia-class boat per year.

29 U.S. Navy, Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year
2022
, June 2021, p. 4.
30 For additional discussion, see CRS Report R41129, Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine
Program: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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Industrial-Base Challenges of Building Both Virginia- and
Columbia-Class Boats
A related issue for Congress concerns the ability of the submarine construction industrial base to
execute the work associated with procuring two VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs plus one
Columbia-class SSBN per year from the mid-2020s to the mid-2030s. As mentioned above,
observers have expressed concern about the industrial base’s capacity for executing such a
workload without encountering bottlenecks or other production problems in one or both of these
programs.
Concerns about the ability of the submarine construction industrial base to execute such a
workload have been heightened by the earlier-noted reports about challenges faced by the two
submarine-construction shipyards and associated supplier firms in meeting scheduled delivery
times for Virginia-class boats as the Virginia-class program transitions from production of two
“regular” Virginia-class boats per year to two VPM-equipped boats per year.31
As noted earlier, Congress in recent years has provided funding for expanding the capacity of the
submarine construction industrial base toward a level sufficient to execute an annual procurement
rate of two VPM-equipped Virginia-class boats and one Columbia-class boat per year. The Navy
testified in June 2021 that increasing the capacity of the submarine construction industrial base to
support a procurement rate of three VPM-equipped Virginia-class boats and one Columbia-class
boat per year would require “$1.5 [billion] to $2 billion of further investment by ourselves plus
industry, and an increase in the workforce.”32
Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following:
 Do the Navy, the submarine shipyards, and submarine supplier firms agree on the
question of the capacity of the industrial base to support various potential
Virginia- and Columbia-class workloads?
 What steps are the Navy, the submarine builders, and submarine supplier firms
taking to bring the capacity of the industrial base more into alignment with
desired submarine procurement rates? What are the costs of these steps, and what
portion of these costs will be borne by the government?

31 See, for example, Government Accountability Office, Columbia Class Submarine[:] Overly Optimistic Cost Estimate
Will Likely Lead to Budget Increases
, GAO-19-497, April 2019, pp. 20-23; David B. Larter, “Late Is the New Normal
for Virginia-Class Attack Boats,” Defense News, March 20, 2019; Megan Eckstein, “Navy: Lack of Submarine Parts
Slowing Down Maintenance, New Construction,” USNI News, March 26, 2019; David B. Larter, “The US Navy,
Seeking Savings, Shakes Up Its Plans for More Lethal Attack Submarines,” Defense News, April 3, 2019; Anthony
Capaccio, “U.S. Navy Sub Firepower Upgrade Delayed by Welding Flaws,” Bloomberg, August 13, 2019; Paul
McLeary, “Weld Problems Spread To Second Navy Sub Program,” Breaking Defense, August 14, 2019; David B.
Larter, “Questions About US Navy Attack Sub Program Linger as Contract Negotiations Drag,” Defense News, August
16, 2019; Emma Watkins, “Will the U.S. Navy Soon Have a Missile-Tube Problem?” National Interest, August 19,
2019; David B. Larter, “As CNO Richardson Departs, US Submarine Builders Face Pressure,” Defense News, August
22, 2019; David B. Larter, “After a Leadership Shakeup at General Dynamics, a Murky Future for Submarine
Building,” Defense News, October 28, 2019; Rich Abott, “Navy Says Virginia Sub Delays Due To Faster Production
Rate,” Defense Daily, November 6, 2019.
32 Spoken testimony by Jay Stefany, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and
Acquisition (i.e., the Navy’s acting acquisition executive), as quoted in Megan Eckstein, “US Navy Needs $50M to Get
Submarine Construction Back on Track after COVID-19,” Defense News, June 9, 2021.
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Potential Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic
Another issue for Congress concerns the potential impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the
execution of U.S. military shipbuilding programs, including the Virginia-class program. A June 9,
2021, press report states:
The U.S. Navy needs $50 million in fiscal 2022 to get Virginia-class attack submarine
construction back on track, after the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately hit that
shipbuilding program, the service told lawmakers June 8.
The American submarine-industrial base in 2020 fell behind its required production rate of
two Virginia subs per year plus work on the first Columbia-class ballistic missile
submarine. Mike Petters, president and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries, said during
a quarterly earnings call in August that its Newport News Shipbuilding yard in conjunction
with the Navy decided to use limited labor resources during the early months of the
pandemic to prioritize other projects—an aircraft carrier refueling and submarine repair
work, in particular—and take the biggest hit on submarine construction.
But the Navy said during a Senate Seapower Subcommittee hearing that the FY22
investment will help it get back to building two Virginias and one Columbia submarine per
year.
After building up to that production rate during 2018 and 2019, COVID-19 hit.
“So we kind of took a step back from that in 2020. We weren’t really producing at a two-
per-year-plus-one rate,” Jay Stefany, the acting assistant secretary of the Navy for research,
development and acquisition, said at the hearing. “But in the last six months I’ve seen that
coming back; the industrial base is getting back to that cadence where they believe they
soon will be at a two-plus-one … capability.”
The $50 million will fund “some infrastructure capabilities … that we found are a
bottleneck and would be helpful to get to that two-Virginias-plus-one-Columbia rate,”
Stefany added.…
Petters said during multiple earnings calls that workforce attendance hit a low of about 50
percent during the early days of the pandemic and settled at around 70-80 percent later in
2020, with employees not just out of work because they were sick or quarantining but also
because they were tending to children or elderly parents at home, among other mitigating
circumstances associated with the pandemic.33
For additional discussion of this issue, see CRS Report RL32665, Navy Force Structure and
Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
Cost and Schedule Risk in Virginia-Class Block V Design
Another potential issue for Congress concerns cost and schedule risk in building the Block V
version of the Virginia-class submarine—the version to be procured during the FY2019-FY2023
Virginia-class MYP contract. A June 2021 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report—the
2021 edition of GAO’s annual report surveying DOD major acquisition programs—stated the
following regarding the Block V version of the Virginia-class design:
Current Status
The Navy modified an existing contract in December 2019 to build nine Block V
submarines with options for three more for a $22 billion target price. However, Block V
work is already costing more than expected, due in part to the same inefficiencies, such as

33 Eckstein, “US Navy Needs $50M.”
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inadequate staffing levels, affecting earlier blocks. Persistent problems with Block IV
construction progress and delays due to COVID-19 on both blocks add risk to Block V’s
delivery schedule. For example, from February to August 2020, delivery dates for eight of
the 10 remaining Block IV submarines were further delayed by 4 months on average,
though program officials stated that Block V has schedule margin to absorb some Block
IV delays. They stated that the overall increase in submarine workload and resulting
increase of inexperienced new hires at both the suppliers and the shipbuilders, along with
long-term challenges meeting staffing levels, are driving these unfavorable cost trends for
both blocks. The shipbuilders are mitigating these trends by shifting workers and re-
allocating work tasks from different sites, and expanding hiring to add capacity. However,
the Navy and shipbuilders will need to manage resources across VCS and the Columbia
class submarine program, which started construction in late 2020, further stressing labor
resources.
By August 2020, work on contract—including the value of materials and labor hours—for
the first Block V submarine was 32 percent complete and the second—the first to
incorporate the VPM—was 22 percent complete, but higher materials costs and the same
inefficient labor performance could result in these submarines costing more than planned
if unmitigated. Work on VPM detail design was 75 percent complete when construction
started—short of the program’s initial goal of 86 percent—which increases risk of cost and
schedule growth.
Program Office Comments
We provided a draft assessment to the program office for review and comment. The
program office provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate.
The program office stated that it has reduced construction time by 2 years from the first
submarine. It noted that although efforts to deliver two submarines per year has led to
longer construction times, it expects this growth to be offset by reductions in post-delivery
activities before the submarines enter service. The program also stated that quality is
improving and submarines are delivered within budget.34
Additional Issues
Shortage of Spare Parts for Virginia-Class Boats Undergoing Maintenance
Another issue for Congress concerns a shortage of spare parts for existing Virginia-class boats
undergoing maintenance. A June21, 2021, press report states:
The U.S. Navy has swapped more than 1,600 parts among its new Virginia-class
submarines since 2013 to ease maintenance bottlenecks as components that are supposed
to last 33 years wear out decades sooner.
Parts are being shuttled regularly among the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines so
that vessels in the $166 billion class built by General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington
Ingalls Industries Inc. can return to operations, according to data from the Naval Sea
Systems Command and the Congressional Budget Office35….
If a part isn’t available for a sub that’s finishing refurbishment, shipyard maintenance
workers may be forced to borrow, or “cannibalize,” one from a submarine entering
maintenance in order to reduce delays. Most cannibalized parts are for non-propulsion

34 Government Accountability Office, Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Updated Program Oversight Approach
Needed
, GAO-21-222, June 2021, p. 196.
35 This is a reference to a recent CBO report: Congressional Budget Office, The Capacity of the Navy’s Shipyards to
Maintain Its Submarine
s, March 2021, 21 pp.
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electronic systems, but the Navy declined to specify which ones are affected, citing
operational security.
The number of swapped parts for the submarines, which began entering service in 2004,
increased from 100 in 2013 to 171 in 2016, 201 in 2018 and 452 in 2019 before declining
to 318 last year. The Navy projects the number will drop to 82 between this year and
next….
The big disadvantage of cannibalizing parts from one submarine to another is the extra
workload involved, according to the Congressional Budget Office, as well as the risk that
a part might be damaged during the extra steps. The Navy doesn’t know how much the
swaps add to workload, saying that at this point “there is limited range and depth of
data.”…
Some parts identified to last 33 years based on engineering analysis and testing,“were
subject to degradation” such as “corrosion caused by complex galvanic interactions,” or
when two dissimilar metals or electrical parts come in contact for an extended period of
time, “that had not been predicted in some operating environments,” the Navy said….
The Navy’s submarine leaders are “not satisfied with any material cannibalization that
limits our submarine fleet’s ability to respond to national tasking and is taking all steps
necessary to avoid these scenarios,” the command said. It said it is ordering parts earlier to
“reduce material work stoppages and maintenance delays awaiting components.”
According to the Navy, 70% of the part swaps were between Block I subs that first entered
service in 2004 and Block II vessels initially delivered in 2008.
Flaws in contractor quality and parts that were out of specification “contribute to a small
percentage” of premature parts wear, the Navy said.36
Substandard Steel Reported in 2020
Another issue for Congress concerns substandard steel used for building Navy submarines going
back decades. A June 15, 2020, press report stated
For decades, the Navy’s leading supplier of high-strength steel for submarines provided
subpar metal because one of the company’s longtime employees falsified lab results—
putting sailors at greater risk in the event of collisions or other impacts, federal prosecutors
said in court filings Monday.
The supplier, Kansas City-based Bradken Inc., paid $10.9 million as part of a deferred
prosecution agreement, the Justice Department said. The company provides steel castings
that Navy contractors Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding use to make
submarine hulls.
Bradken in 2008 acquired a foundry in Tacoma, Washington, that produced steel castings
for the Navy. According to federal prosecutors, Bradken learned in 2017 that the foundry’s
director of metallurgy had been falsifying the results of strength tests, indicating that the
steel was strong enough to meet the Navy’s requirements when in fact it was not.
Prosecutors say the company initially disclosed its findings to the Navy but then wrongfully
suggested that the discrepancies were not the result of fraud. That hindered the Navy’s
investigation into the scope of the problem as well as its efforts to remediate the risks to its
sailors, prosecutors said.
“Bradken placed the Navy’s sailors and its operations at risk,” Seattle U.S. Attorney Brian
Moran said in a news release. “Government contractors must not tolerate fraud within their

36 Anthony Capaccio, “U.S. Navy’s Deadliest New Sub Is Hobbled over Spare Parts,” Bloomberg, June 21, 2021.
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organizations, and they must be fully forthcoming with the government when they discover
it.”
There is no allegation in the court documents that any submarine parts failed, but Moran
said the Navy had incurred increased costs and maintenance to ensure the subs remain
seaworthy. The government did not disclose which subs were affected.
The foundry’s director of metallurgy, Elaine Thomas, 66, of Auburn, Washington, was
charged criminally with one count of major fraud against the United States. Thomas, who
worked in various capacities at the lab for 40 years, was due to make an initial appearance
in federal court June 30. Her attorney, John Carpenter, declined to comment.
The criminal complaint said investigators were able to compare internal company records
with test results that Thomas certified. The analysis showed that she fabricated the results
of 240 productions of steel, representing nearly half of the high-yield steel Bradken
produced for Navy submarines—often toughness tests conducted at negative-100 degrees
Fahrenheit, the complaint said.
When a special agent with the Department of Defense’s Criminal Investigative Service
confronted her with falsified results dating back to 1990, she eventually conceded that the
results were altered—“Yeah, that looks bad,” the complaint quoted her as saying. She said
she may have done it because she believed it was “a stupid requirement” that the test be
conducted at such a cold temperature, the complaint said.
Investigators said the fraud came to light when a metallurgist being groomed to replace
Thomas upon her planned 2017 retirement noticed some suspicious results. The company
said it immediately fired Thomas.
“While the company acknowledges that it failed to discover and disclose the full scope of
the issue during the initial stages of the investigation, the government has recognized
Bradken’s cooperation over the last eighteen months to be exceptional,” the company said
in an emailed statement. “Bradken has a long history of proudly serving its clients, and this
incident is not representative of our organization. We deeply regret that a trusted employee
engaged in this conduct.”
Bradken agreed to take steps that include increased oversight over the lab, fraud protections
and changes to the foundry’s management team. If Bradken complies with the requirements
outlined in the deferred prosecution agreement, the government will dismiss the criminal
fraud charge against it after three years.37
A June 19, 2020, press report states
Sailors underway on submarines with steel from a company that pleaded guilty to providing
the Navy with fraudulent materials aren’t at risk, the service’s top acquisition official told
reporters on Thursday [June 18].
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts
said the Navy had evaluated the potential risks for suspect steel that was used to build Navy
submarines from a Washington state foundry owned by Bradken, Inc.
“We have done the work to understand any potential risk, and believe we have mitigated
any potential risk for our in-service submarines,” Geurts said in response to a question to
USNI News.
“It did cost us some time to go do the exploration to make sure that we were comfortable
with the safety of our sailors.”…

37 Gene Johnson (Associated Press), “Feds Say Company Provided Subpar Steel for US Navy Subs,” Defense News,
June 15, 2020.
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Guerts said the Navy also evaluated submarines under construction for problems derived
from the steel.
“We have done a sweep of any material that was in the queue for new construction
submarines. That’s a little easier because it isn’t in the submarine yet, and we’re confident
in the material for any of the new construction submarines,” he said.
“We are working closely with the company and have instituted additional audits and
inspections in reviewing with them and Electric Boat to ensure that we won’t have a repeat
of this.”
The foundry continues to make steel castings for both Electric Boat and Newport News.
Both companies said they are working to maintain the quality of the materials from
Bradken.38
Classified Recommendations in December 2019 DOT&E Report
Another oversight issue for Congress concerns 15 classified recommendations for the Virginia-
class program mentioned in a December 2019 report from DOD’s Director, Operational Test and
Evaluation (DOT&E)—DOT&E’s annual report for FY2019.39 (The Virginia-class program was
not covered in detail in DOT&E’s January 2021 annual report for FY2020.)
Problem with Hull Coating
Another issue for Congress concerns a problem with the hull coating used on Virginia-class boats
that was first reported years ago, and then again 201740 and 2019.41
Defective Parts Reported in 2016
Another issue for Congress concerns three Virginia-class boats that were reported in 2016 to have
been built with defective parts, and the operational and cost implications of this situation.42
Legislative Activity for FY2022
Congressional Action on FY2022 Funding Request
Table 3
summarizes congressional action on the Navy’s original FY2022 budget funding request
for the Virginia-class program.

38 Sam LaGrone, “Navy Has ‘Mitigated’ Risk of Suspect Steel From Company in Federal Fraud Case,” USNI News,
June 19, 2020. See also Julia Bergman, “Submarine Supplier Mishaps Lead to Call for Hearing,” New London Day,
June 16 (updated June 17), 2020.
39 Department of Defense, Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, FY2019 Annual Report, December 2019, p. 162.
40 See William Cole, “Navy Subs Still Show Issue with Stealth Coating,” Military.com, March 6, 2017.
41 See James Clark, “Whistleblower Accuses Largest US Military Shipbuilder of Putting ‘American Lives at Risk’ by
Falsifying Tests on Submarine Stealth Coating,” Task & Purpose, October 3, 2019.
42 For press reports discussing this issue, see David Larter, “Secret Weld: How Shoddy Parts Disabled A $2.7 Billion
Submarine,” Navy Times, March 28, 2016; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Welding Problems Fixed For Virginia Subs;
Carter Tours Electric Boat,” Breaking Defense, May 24, 2016; and David Larter, “Attack Sub Minnesota Rejoins Fleet
After Parts Fiasco,” Navy Times, June 4, 2016.
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Table 3. Congressional Action on Original FY2022 Funding Request
Millions of dollars, rounded to nearest tenth, under Navy’s original FY2022 budget submission
Authorization
Appropriation

Request
HASC
SASC
Conf.
HAC
SAC
Conf.
Virginia class procurement
4,249.2



4,329.2


Virginia class advance procurement (AP)
2,120.4



2,104.9


(Quantity)
(2)



(2)


TOTAL
6,369.6



6,434.1


Source: Table prepared by CRS based on Navy’s original FY2022 budget submission, committee and conference
reports, and explanatory statements on FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act and FY2022 DOD
Appropriations Act.
Notes: HASC is House Armed Services Committee; SASC is Senate Armed Services Committee, SAC is
Senate Appropriations Committee, HAC is House Appropriations Committee, Conf. is conference agreement.
FY2022 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 4432)
House
The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 117-88 of July 15, 2021) on H.R.
4432, recommended the funding levels shown in the HAC column of Table 3. The recommended
increase of $80.0 million for Virginia class procurement is for “Program increase—submarine
supplier development,” while the recommended decrease of $15.490 million for Virginia class
advance procurement (AP) is for “Long-lead time CFE [contractor-furnished equipment] for two-
year AP early to need.” (Page 185)
H.Rept. 117-88 states:
SUBMARINE MAINTENANCE
The Committee notes that the Congressional Budget Office released a report on submarine
maintenance activities which suggested that the Navy’s actions are still off course. The
Committee believes that the Navy must increase congressional confidence that the Service
will be able to maintain its vessels effectively and efficiently. Therefore, the Committee
directs the Secretary of the Navy to provide a quarterly report to the congressional defense
committees, beginning not later than 30 days after the enactment of this Act, on the status
of maintenance and repair work for submarines. The report shall include the amount of
funding budgeted for submarine maintenance in fiscal year 2022 and the prior three years,
the original estimated amount of time expected for maintenance activities to be completed,
any adjustments to the schedule, the reasons why any changes were necessary, and the new
expected timeframe for completion and any additional costs involved. The report shall be
broken out by shipyard and/or private entity (by site), by name, and type of submarine. The
report shall also include any new efforts the Navy has taken to address the delays it
continues to face. (Page 79)


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Appendix A. Past SSN Force-Level Goals
This appendix summarizes attack submarine force-level goals since the Reagan Administration
(1981-1989).
The Reagan-era plan for a 600-ship Navy included an objective of achieving and maintaining a
force of 100 SSNs.
The George H. W. Bush Administration’s proposed Base Force plan of 1991-1992 originally
called for a Navy of more than 400 ships, including 80 SSNs.43 In 1992, however, the SSN goal
was reduced to about 55 boats as a result of a 1992 Joint Staff force-level requirement study
(updated in 1993) that called for a force of 51 to 67 SSNs, including 10 to 12 with Seawolf-level
acoustic quieting, by the year 2012.44
The Clinton Administration, as part of its 1993 Bottom-Up Review (BUR) of U.S. defense policy,
established a goal of maintaining a Navy of about 346 ships, including 45 to 55 SSNs.45 The
Clinton Administration’s 1997 QDR supported a requirement for a Navy of about 305 ships and
established a tentative SSN force-level goal of 50 boats, “contingent on a reevaluation of
peacetime operational requirements.”46 The Clinton Administration later amended the SSN figure
to 55 boats (and therefore a total of about 310 ships).
The reevaluation called for in the 1997 QDR was carried out as part of a Joint Chiefs of Staff
(JCS) study on future requirements for SSNs that was completed in December 1999. The study
had three main conclusions:
 “that a force structure below 55 SSNs in the 2015 [time frame] and 62 [SSNs] in
the 2025 time frame would leave the CINC’s [the regional military commanders-
in-chief] with insufficient capability to respond to urgent crucial demands
without gapping other requirements of higher national interest. Additionally, this
force structure [55 SSNs in 2015 and 62 in 2025] would be sufficient to meet the
modeled war fighting requirements”;
 “that to counter the technologically pacing threat would require 18 Virginia class
SSNs in the 2015 time frame”; and

43 For the 80-SSN figure, see Statement of Vice Admiral Roger F. Bacon, U.S. Navy, Assistant Chief of Naval
Operations (Undersea Warfare) in U.S. Congress, House Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Seapower and
Strategic and Critical Materials, Submarine Programs, March 20, 1991, pp. 10-11, or Statement of Rear Admiral
Raymond G. Jones Jr., U.S. Navy, Deputy Assistant Chief of Naval Operations (Undersea Warfare), in U.S. Congress,
Senate Armed Services Committee, Subcommittee on Projection Forces and Regional Defense, Submarine Programs,
June 7, 1991, pp. 10-11.
44 See Richard W. Mies, “Remarks to the NSL Annual Symposium,” Submarine Review, July 1997, p. 35; “Navy Sub
Community Pushes for More Subs than Bottom-Up Review Allowed,” Inside the Navy, November 7, 1994, pp. 1, 8-9;
Attack Submarines in the Post-Cold War Era: The Issues Facing Policymakers, op. cit., p. 14; Robert Holzer, “Pentagon
Urges Navy to Reduce Attack Sub Fleet to 50,” Defense News, March 15-21, 1993, p. 10; Barbara Nagy, “ Size of Sub
Force Next Policy Battle,” New London Day, July 20, 1992, pp. A1, A8.
45 Secretary of Defense Les Aspin, U.S. Department of Defense, Report on the Bottom-Up Review, October 1993, pp.
55-57.
46 Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen, U.S. Department of Defense, Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review,
May 1997, pp. 29, 30, 47.
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 “that 68 SSNs in the 2015 [time frame] and 76 [SSNs] in the 2025 time frame
would meet all of the CINCs’ and national intelligence community’s highest
operational and collection requirements.”47
The conclusions of the 1999 JCS study were mentioned in discussions of required SSN force
levels, but the figures of 68 and 76 submarines were not translated into official DOD force-level
goals.
The George W. Bush Administration’s report on the 2001 QDR revalidated the amended
requirement from the 1997 QDR for a fleet of about 310 ships, including 55 SSNs. In revalidating
this and other U.S. military force-structure goals, the report cautioned that as DOD’s
“transformation effort matures—and as it produces significantly higher output of military value
from each element of the force—DOD will explore additional opportunities to restructure and
reorganize the Armed Forces.”48
DOD and the Navy conducted studies on undersea warfare requirements in 2003-2004. One of
the Navy studies—an internal Navy study done in 2004—reportedly recommended reducing the
attack submarine force level requirement to as few as 37 boats. The study reportedly
recommended homeporting a total of nine attack submarines at Guam and using satellites and
unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to perform ISR missions now performed by attack
submarines.49
In March 2005, the Navy submitted to Congress a report projecting Navy force levels out to
FY2035. The report presented two alternatives for FY2035—a 260-ship fleet including 37 SSNs
and 4 SSGNs, and a 325-ship fleet including 41 SSNs and 4 SSGNs.50
In May 2005, it was reported that a newly completed DOD study on attack submarine
requirements called for maintaining a force of 45 to 50 boats.51
In February 2006, the Navy proposed to maintain in coming years a fleet of 313 ships, including
48 SSNs.
Although the Navy’s ship force-level goals have changed repeatedly in subsequent years, the
figure of 48 SSNs remained unchanged until December 2016, when the Navy released a force-
level objective for achieving and maintaining a force of 355 ships, including 66 SSNs.

47 Department of Navy point paper dated February 7, 2000. Reprinted in Inside the Navy, February 14, 2000, p. 5.
48 U.S. Department of Defense, Quadrennial Defense Review, September 2001, p. 23.
49 Bryan Bender, “Navy Eyes Cutting Submarine Force,” Boston Globe, May 12, 2004, p. 1; Lolita C. Baldor, “Study
Recommends Cutting Submarine Fleet,” NavyTimes.com, May 13, 2004.
50 U.S. Department of the Navy, An Interim Report to Congress on Annual Long-Range Plan for the Construction of
Naval Vessels for FY 2006
. The report was delivered to the House and Senate Armed Services and Appropriations
Committees on March 23, 2005.
51 Robert A. Hamilton, “Delegation Calls Report on Sub Needs Encouraging,” The Day (New London, CT), May 27,
2005; Jesse Hamilton, “Delegation to Get Details on Sub Report,” Hartford (CT) Courant, May 26, 2005.
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Appendix B. Options for Funding SSNs
This appendix presents information on some alternative profiles for funding the procurement of
SSNs. These alternatives include but are not necessarily limited to the following:
two years of advance procurement (AP) funding followed by full funding
the traditional approach, under which there are two years of AP funding for the
SSN’s long-leadtime components, followed by the remainder of the boat’s
procurement funding in the year of procurement;
one year of AP funding followed by full funding—one year of AP funding for
the SSN’s long-leadtime components, followed by the remainder of the boat’s
procurement funding in the year of procurement;
full funding with no AP funding (single-year full funding, aka point-blank
full funding)—full funding of the SSN in the year of procurement, with no AP
funding in prior years;
incremental funding—partial funding of the SSN in the year of procurement,
followed by one or more years of additional funding increments needed to
complete the procurement cost of the ship; and
advance appropriations—a form of full funding that can be viewed as a
legislatively locked in form of incremental funding.52
Navy testimony to Congress in early 2007, when Congress was considering the FY2008 budget,
suggested that two years of AP funding are required to fund the procurement of an SSN, and
consequently that additional SSNs could not be procured until FY2010 at the earliest.53 This
testimony understated Congress’s options regarding the procurement of additional SSNs in the
near term. Although SSNs are normally procured with two years of AP funding (which is used
primarily for financing long-leadtime nuclear propulsion components), Congress can procure an
SSN without prior-year AP funding, or with only one year of AP funding. Consequently, Congress
at that time had the option of procuring an additional SSN in FY2009 and/or FY2010.
Single-year full funding has been used in the past by Congress to procure nuclear-powered ships
for which no prior-year AP funding had been provided. Specifically, Congress used single-year
full funding in FY1980 to procure the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier CVN-71, and again in
FY1988 to procure the CVNs 74 and 75. In the case of the FY1988 procurement, under the
Administration’s proposed FY1988 budget, CVNs 74 and 75 were to be procured in FY1990 and
FY1993, respectively, and the FY1988 budget was to make the initial AP payment for CVN-74.
Congress, in acting on the FY1988 budget, decided to accelerate the procurement of both ships to

52 For additional discussion of these funding approaches, see CRS Report RL32776, Navy Ship Procurement:
Alternative Funding Approaches—Background and Options for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
53 For example, at a March 1, 2007, hearing before the House Armed Services Committee on the FY2008 Department
of the Navy budget request, Representative Taylor asked which additional ships the Navy might want to procure in
FY2008, should additional funding be made available for that purpose. In response, Secretary of the Navy Donald
Winter stated in part: “The Virginia-class submarines require us to start with a two-year advanced procurement, to be
able to provide for the nuclear power plant that supports them. So we would need to start two years in advance. What
that says is, if we were able to start in ‘08 with advanced procurement, we could accelerate, potentially, the two a year
to 2010.” (Source: Transcript of hearing.) Navy officials made similar statements before the same subcommittee on
March 8, 2007, and before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 29, 2007.
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FY1988, and fully funded the two ships that year at a combined cost of $6.325 billion. The ships
entered service in 1995 and 1998, respectively.54
The existence in both FY1980 and FY1988 of a spare set of Nimitz-class reactor components was
not what made it possible for Congress to fund CVNs 71, 74, and 75 with single-year full
funding; it simply permitted the ships to be built more quickly. What made it possible for
Congress to fund the carriers with single-year full funding was Congress’s constitutional
authority to appropriate funding for that purpose.
Procuring an SSN with one year of AP funding or no AP funding would not materially change the
way the SSN would be built—the process would still encompass two or three years of advance
work on long-leadtime components, and an additional five or six years or so of construction work
on the ship itself. The outlay rate for the SSN could be slower, as outlays for construction of the
ship itself would begin one or two years later than normal, and the interval between the recorded
year of full funding and the year that the ship enters service would be longer than normal.
Congress in the past has procured certain ships in the knowledge that those ships would not begin
construction for some time and consequently would take longer to enter service than a ship of that
kind would normally require. When Congress procured two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers
(CVNs 72 and 73) in FY1983, and another two (CVNs 74 and 75) in FY1988, it did so in both
cases in the knowledge that the second ship in each case would not begin construction until some
time after the first.


54 In both FY1988 and FY1980, the Navy had a spare set of Nimitz (CVN-68) class nuclear propulsion components in
inventory. The existence of a spare set of components permitted the carriers to be built more quickly than would have
otherwise been the case, but it is not what made the single-year full funding of these carriers possible. What made it
possible was Congress’s authority to appropriate funds for the purpose.
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Appendix C. SSN Deployments Delayed Due to
Maintenance Backlogs
This appendix presents additional background information on delays in SSN deployments due to
a backlog in SSN maintenance at the Navy’s four government-operated naval shipyards (NSYs),
which are the primary facilities for conducting depot-level maintenance work on Navy SSNs.
Delays in deploying SSNs can put added operational pressure on other SSNs that are available for
deployment. A September 22, 2020, press report stated
It has been five years since the attack submarine Boise returned from its last patrol, and
this whole time she has been waiting on some loving care and attention in the shipyards.
On Monday [September 21], the check cleared for roughly $351.8 million that covers the
initial planning and work as part of her overhaul at Huntington Ingalls Newport News
Shipbuilding where she has been in dry dock since earlier this year. Another contract
covering the full engineering overhaul is in negotiations, according to Naval Sea System
Command spokesperson Colleen O’Rourke,55 work that will include significant
maintenance on the nuclear propulsion system and modernization upgrades.
The running tab on Boise so far is $355 million, with advanced planning money already
awarded, according to the Defense Department contract announcement. The work under
this contract is scheduled to wrap up in May 2023, eight years after the sub left the
operational fleet.
While Boise could be wrapped up by 2023—the overhaul was initially scheduled for 25
months—it’s possible the repairs could take longer, O’Rourke said.
The bill will be paid out of 2020 Operations & Maintenance funding, according to the
contract announcement.
Boise has been something of a cause célèbre among congressional leaders, who have
pointed to the ship’s long wait to enter the shipyard as emblematic of the Navy’s struggle
with maintenance delays. The issue with attack submarines has been complicated, because
while that work would typically be done in the public shipyards, those have been backed
up with aircraft carriers and the Ohio-class ballistic missile subs.
Some of the Navy’s problems will resolve themselves after ballistic missile subs are
refueled, said Bryan Clark, a retired submarine officer and analyst with the Center for
Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, in a 2019 interview.
“The big factor here is that attack submarines are last in line when it comes to
maintenance,” Clark explained then. “And that maintenance is done in the public yards,
both the refueling and non-refueling overhauls. So that’s why you see submarines like
Boise who have been waiting a long time to get in, because carriers had a lot of maintenance
backlog”.
“And working through that backlog pushed SSBN refuelings back, and that in turn pushed
attack subs to the end of the line. Now that they are working through the carrier backlog
and the SSBN refueling is now largely completed, that’s going to mean the attack
submarines can be brought back into the public shipyards. So that’s a structural issue that’s
going to work itself out.”
But other aspects of the Navy’s quest to dig out of the submarine backlog are thornier and
will require the service to make long-term commitments to private shipyards, Clark said.
One of the main issues with assigning attack subs to private shipyards is that they are not

55 Colleen O’Rourke is no relation to Ronald O’Rourke.
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necessarily set up as maintenance shops: They’re more so built and organized as new
construction yards.
Naval Sea Systems Command acknowledged as much in a statement to the Virginian Pilot
as part of a story on the delays of Columbus and Helena, which the command attributed to
“the workforce’s inexperience in conducting submarine maintenance, which differs greatly
from new construction.”…
In an interview with USNI News, former Naval Sea Systems Command head Vice Adm.
Thomas Moore said he thought Boise would go better than previous attempts at
maintaining attack boats in private shipyard.
“I think we are well-positioned on Boise, certainly way better than we were on Helena and
Columbus, when we learned so many lessons the hard way,” Moore said. “They hadn’t
done submarine work in 10 years, and I think we underestimated how they had atrophied
in that skill set. I think they did as well.
“And the other thing is, I think we recognized that we probably put too much on their plate,
with multiple [maintenance] availabilities [i.e., ship maintenance projects] on their plate at
one time.”56
An August 2020 GAO report on maintenance delays on aircraft carriers and submarines stated
The Navy’s four shipyards completed 38 of 51 (75 percent) maintenance periods late for
aircraft carriers and submarines with planned completion dates in fiscal years 2015 through
2019, for a combined total of 7,424 days of maintenance delay. For each maintenance
period completed late, the shipyards averaged 113 days late for aircraft carriers and 225
days late for submarines.

Unplanned work and workforce factors—such as shipyard workforce performance and
capacity (having enough people to perform the work)—were the main factors GAO
identified as causing maintenance delays for aircraft carriers and submarines. The Navy
frequently cited both factors as contributing to the same days of maintenance delay.
Unplanned work—work identified after finalizing maintenance plans—contributed to
more than 4,100 days of maintenance delays. Unplanned work also contributed to the
Navy’s 36 percent underestimation of the personnel resources necessary to perform
maintenance. The workforce factor contributed to more than 4,000 days of maintenance
delay on aircraft carriers and submarines during fiscal years 2015 through 2019.
The Navy has taken steps but has not fully addressed the unplanned work and workforce
factors causing the most maintenance delays. First, the Navy updated planning documents
to improve estimates and plans to annually update these data, but knowing whether changes
improve results may take several years. Second, the Navy has consistently relied on high
levels of overtime to carry out planned work. GAO’s analysis found that high overtime
among certain production shops, such as painting or welding, averaged from 25 to 32
percent for fiscal years 2015 through 2019, with peak overtime as high as 45 percent.
Furthermore, shipyard officials told us that production shops at all four shipyards are

56 David B. Larter, “The Hapless Attack Sub Boise Could Return to the Fleet in 2023 After 8 Years Sidelined,” Defense
News
, September 22, 2020.
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working beyond their capacity. Overtime at such rates has been noted as resulting in
diminished productivity. Third, the Navy initiated the Shipyard Performance to Plan
initiative in the fall of 2018 to address the unplanned work and workforce factors, but it
has not yet developed 13 of 25 planned metrics that could improve the Navy’s
understanding of the causes of maintenance delays. In addition, the Shipyard Performance
to Plan initiative does not include goals, milestones, and a monitoring process along with
fully developed metrics to address unplanned work and workforce weaknesses. Without
fully developing metrics and implementing goals, action plans, milestones, and a
monitoring process, the shipyards are not likely to address unplanned work and workforce
weaknesses and the Navy is likely to continue facing maintenance delays and reduced time
for training and operations with its aircraft carriers and submarines.57
A May 26, 2020, press report stated
After years of struggling to conduct attack submarine maintenance—with the four public
naval shipyards prioritizing SSN work last, behind a backlog of ballistic-missile sub and
aircraft carrier work, and private shipyards finding it tough to resume submarine repair
work after years of only doing new construction—the Navy appears back on track for its
SSN maintenance, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command told USNI News.
The move of attack submarine USS Boise (SSN-764) to the dry dock at Newport News
Shipbuilding in Virginia is the most visible sign of things moving in the right direction,
after the sub has been sitting pier side at nearby Norfolk Naval Shipyard for more than four
years waiting for maintenance to begin.
The Navy had previously hoped to get Boise into Newport News as early as 2018, but the
private yard struggled with its first two Los Angeles-class SSN maintenance periods—for
USS Helena (SSN-725) and USS Columbus (SSN-762)—and didn’t have the room for the
sub or the workforce to start working on it. As Boise lingered, it became a focal point in
the discussion about a lack of repair capacity and a backup of work at the four public naval
shipyards.
But, NAVSEA Commander Vice Adm. Tom Moore told USNI News, the Navy is moving
into a new era of on-time submarine maintenance….
Moore told USNI News in an interview last week that “I think we are well-positioned on
Boise, certainly way better than we were on Helena and Columbus, when we learned so
many lessons the hard way: that, one, they hadn’t done submarine work in 10 years, and I
think we underestimated how they had atrophied in that skill set, and I think they did as
well; and the other thing is, I think we recognized that we probably put too much on their
plate, with multiple availabilities on their plate at one time.” …
Moore said that Electric Boat likely won’t be a provider of submarine maintenance for
much longer–aside from an availability for USS Hartford (SSN-768) that starts in
November 2021, the Connecticut yard will have its hand full with construction of
Columbia-class SSBNs and Block V Virginia-class SSNs. Moore said it’s important to get
the sub repair capability reconstituted at Newport News Shipbuilding so that one private
yard can serve as part of the SSN repair community….
Moore acknowledged that the bulk of the Navy’s problems in recent years was that its four
public shipyards, tasked with maintaining nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft
carriers, did not have the capacity to keep up with demand….
If the plan can be executed, Moore said the anticipated work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard
matches the workforce capacity, meaning there should be no more backlog….

57 Government Accountability Office, Navy Shipyards[:] Actions Needed to Address the Main Factors Causing
Maintenance Delays for Aircraft Carriers and Submarines
, GAO-20-588, August 2020, summary page.
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Though Boise has remained a “problem child” for longer than anticipated, Moore noted in
the recent interview that SSN maintenance is wrapping up on time more and more as
capacity at the public yards grows….
Moore said he was confident NAVSEA was in a good position on SSN maintenance
because a whole set of improvements had been made in tandem in recent years: not only
was the [naval shipyard] workforce now up to its goal of 36,700 personnel, but an effort to
create better business practices is underway and the first projects in a 20-year Shipyard
Infrastructure Optimization Plan (SIOP) program are already hitting the waterfront.58
A March 2019 Navy report to Congress states that in response to the above committee report
language
The Navy submitted an initial [submarine maintenance] plan in December 2018, that
reflected FY 2019 budget information. The Navy has [now] updated this plan to
incorporate data from the President’s FY 2020 budget submitted on March 11, 2019….
… In the post-Cold War and post 9/11 era, there have been decades of decisionmaking
associated with the re-posturing of defense strategies, such as: the reduction in maintenance
capacity and flexibility though Base Realignment and Closures (BRAC), increased
Operational Tempo (OPTEMPO), evolution of submarine life cycle maintenance plans,
budget reductions, and budget uncertainties that have contributed to the current challenges
facing the submarine fleet.
The root cause of submarine idle time and associated loss of operational availability, as
discussed in the recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report 19-229, “Actions
Needed to Address Costly Maintenance Delays Facing the Attack Submarine Fleet” (issued
November 2018), is largely due to public shipyard capacity not keeping pace with growing
maintenance requirements that have been building for a number of years prior to the USS
BOISE (SSN 764) FY 2016 Engineered Overhaul (EOH). The workload to capacity
mismatch resulted in lower priority attack submarine (SSN) availabilities (as compared to
ballistic missile submarines and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers) being delivered late and
a bow-waving of workload from one fiscal year to the next that could not be executed. The
workload backlog exacerbated the public shipyard workload-to-capacity mismatch and
contributed to an increasing trend in late SSN [maintenance] deliveries.
The Navy has taken several actions to improve the workload-to-capacity balance at the
public shipyards. Notably, over 20,600 workers were hired from FY 2013 through FY
2018, which after accounting for attrition, increased total end strength from 29,400 to
36,700. However, the accelerated hiring resulted in 56 percent of the production workforce
having less than five years of experience. The less experienced workforce requires a greater
investment in training, as described in the Navy’s Report to Congress on the Naval
Shipyard Development Plan (issued March 2018), which offers some near term
productivity gains. The Navy has also taken additional actions to balance workload at our
public shipyards by outsourcing four submarine maintenance availabilities to the private
sector and plans to outsource another two submarine availabilities to the private shipyards
starting in FY 2020 and FY 2021. Additionally, to ensure on-time delivery from
maintenance availabilities, availability inductions have been rescheduled to occur when the
shipyards have the capacity to accomplish the availability(s) within programmed schedule
durations. This necessary action to improve the on-time delivery of current maintenance
availabilities has resulted in some additional submarine maintenance backlog and some
accumulation of idle time. Based on actions and initiatives the Navy is currently pursuing
to improve submarine operational availability and the outsourcing of two additional

58 Megan Eckstein, “NAVSEA Says Attack Sub Repairs Much Improved as USS Boise Enters Yard Following 4-Year
Wait,” USNI News, May 26, 2020.
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submarine availabilities to the private sector, the Navy assesses that the submarine idle
time will be eliminated by the end of FY 2023 and the submarine maintenance backlog will
be worked off by the end of FY 2023.59
A November 2018 GAO report on the issue stated the following:
The Navy has been unable to begin or complete the vast majority of its attack submarine
maintenance periods on time resulting in significant maintenance delays and operating and
support cost expenditures. GAO’s analysis of Navy maintenance data shows that between
fiscal year 2008 and 2018, attack submarines have incurred 10,363 days of idle time and
maintenance delays as a result of delays in getting into and out of the shipyards. For
example, the Navy originally scheduled the USS Boise to enter a shipyard for an extended
maintenance period in 2013 but, due to heavy shipyard workload, the Navy delayed the
start of the maintenance period. In June 2016, the USS Boise could no longer conduct
normal operations and the boat has remained idle, pierside for over two years since then
waiting to enter a shipyard…. GAO estimated that since fiscal year 2008 the Navy has
spent more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2018 constant dollars to support attack
submarines that provide no operational capability—those sitting idle while waiting to enter
the shipyards, and those delayed in completing their maintenance at the shipyards.
The Navy has started to address challenges related to workforce shortages and facilities
needs at the public shipyards. However, it has not effectively allocated maintenance
periods among public shipyards and private shipyards that may also be available to help
minimize attack submarine idle time. GAO’s analysis found that while the public shipyards
have operated above capacity for the past several years, attack submarine maintenance
delays are getting longer and idle time is increasing. The Navy may have options to mitigate
this idle time and maintenance delays by leveraging private shipyard capacity for repair
work. But the Navy has not completed a comprehensive business case analysis as
recommended by Department of Defense guidelines to inform maintenance workload
allocation across public and private shipyards. Navy leadership has acknowledged that they
need to be more proactive in leveraging potential private shipyard repair capacity. Without
addressing this challenge, the Navy risks continued expenditure of operating and support
funding to crew, maintain, and support attack submarines that provide no operational
capability because they are delayed in getting into and out of maintenance.60
The House Appropriations Committee, in its report (H.Rept. 115-769 of June 20, 2018) on the
FY2019 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 6157) stated the following:
SUBMARINE MAINTENANCE SHORTFALLS
The Committee recognizes that the nuclear-capable public naval shipyards are backlogged
with submarine maintenance work, while private nuclear-capable shipyards have
underutilized capacity. The Los Angeles (SSN–688) class submarines are especially
impacted by this backlog, which significantly reduces their operational availability for
missions in support of combatant commanders. The Committee directs the Secretary of the
Navy to submit a report to the congressional defense committees not later than 90 days
after the enactment of this Act that outlines a comprehensive, five-year submarine
maintenance plan that restores submarine operational availability and fully utilizes both
public and private nuclear-capable shipyards in accordance with all applicable laws. The
plan should strive to provide both private and public shipyards with predictable frequency

59 U.S. Navy, President’s FY 2020 Budget Update to Report to Congress on Submarine Depot Maintenance Prepared
by Secretary of the Navy
, generated March 12, 2019, with cover letters dated March 21, 2019, provided to CRS by
Navy Office of Legislative Affairs on March 27, 2019, pp. 3-4.
60 Government Accountability Office, Navy Readiness[:] Actions Needed to Address Costly Maintenance Delays
Facing the Attack Submarine Fleet
, GAO-19-229, November 2018, summary page.
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of maintenance availabilities and estimate any potential cost savings that distributing the
workload may deliver. (Page 71)


Author Information

Ronald O'Rourke

Specialist in Naval Affairs


Disclaimer
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Congressional Research Service
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