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Maintain vital leg of the nuke triad

Published October 06. 2012 4:00AM   Updated October 08. 2012 9:25AM

The United States needs the protection and deterrent capability only a successor to the Ohio-class ballistic submarines can provide. Though we recognize that controlling defense spending must play a role in getting the nation's growing deficit under control, elected leaders across the political spectrum must know that national security is on the line. National defense planning most include replacement of the ballistic submarine fleet.

The first of these 560-foot long Trident submarines took to the seas in the mid-1970s. Their durability has met and exceeded expectations. Currently 14 remain outfitted with nuclear ballistic missiles. But the Navy will start retiring one per year beginning in 2027. To have a new generation, with improved capabilities, ready in time to replace the Ohio-class will take a commitment of consistent funding for design and ultimately construction. The Navy estimates building the 12 submarines will cost $78 billion.

It is an extraordinary cost, but a necessary investment in the nation's security. The ballistic submarines are the most important leg in the sea, air and land nuclear weapons' triad. Under the provisions of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, submarines will carry about 70 percent of the nuclear arsenal.

These submarines are virtually invulnerable to a first-strike attack. A new generation will be stealthier yet. This means any foe that would consider a nuclear attack on the United States will know a devastating response will come from these submarines. A new generation of ballistic submarines would discourage any rising super power from even considering such an attack in war plans.

This is a priority.

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