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Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor


With LRSO Accelerated, Air Force Pushes up RFP to Fourth Quarter of FY 2015

Brian Bradley
NS&D Monitor

The Defense Department is looking to accelerate work on the new long-range standoff weapon, according to the Pentagon’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request, released earlier this week. While the Air Force was expected to issue a Request for Proposals in the first quarter of FY 2017, an RFP for the program is now expected by the fourth quarter of FY 2015. The Obama Administration is requesting $36.6 million in FY 2016 for research and development of the system, a $33.2 million increase over the FY 2015-enacted level. Over the Future Years’ Defense Program, the program is expected to cost $1.8 billion. Funding is projected at $133.7 million in FY 2017, rising to $420.2 million in FY 2018, and peaking at $650.4 million in FY 2019, before dropping to $543 million in FY 2020. The LRSO is planned to replace the air-launched cruise missile that has been in service since 1986. National Nuclear Security Administration work on a refurbished cruise missile warhead, dubbed the W80-4, has also been accelerated by two years and a First Production Unit is now planned for 2025.

Officials Hope to Lower Prices for LRSO

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James last month announced that the LRSO would be analyzed under a new “Cost Capability Analysis” (CCA) program that will analyze the relationship between costs and capability requirements. Officials hope to lower prices by offering more wiggle room for capability specifications. “We believe that by gathering data from a range of sources, it should be possible … to identify instances where perhaps small changes in capability could have a very large impact on cost,” James said during a speech last month at Atlantic Council in Washington. “And this, in turn, if we would choose to exercise such an option, could mean that the Air Force could develop much more affordable weapon systems.”

Trident 2 Would See Extensive Modifications

Another big-ticket item in the FY 2016 budget request is a request for $1.2 billion to fund the ongoing life extension program for Trident 2s, which includes research and development and procurement funding. The request largely matches current funding levels, and composes about 37 percent of the Navy’s FY 2016 programmed procurement budget. According to budget documents, the LEP entails procurement of missile electronic and guidance supportability mods and Strategic Programs Alteration kits.

FY 2016 funding for work on the Trident D5 specifically includes the development of advanced components to improve the reliability, safety and security of arming, fuzing and firing systems and studies to support the National Nuclear Security Administration’s W88 Alt 370 warhead program. The $1.2 billion would fund procurements of flight test instrumentation, 12 solid rocket motors, the post-boost control system, 35 LEP kits, support equipment and spares. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for Trident 2 modifications.

Request Includes Plus-Ups for ICBM Programs

The President’s FY 2016 budget proposal also requests increases for several Air Force nuclear programs,
including $142.6 million for research and development on intercontinental ballistic missile fuze modernization, up
from the FY 2015-enacted $59.8 million; and $178.9 million for Minuteman squadrons, up from the current
appropriated amount of $139.1 million. On Oct. 1, the Air Force is expected to award a contract for the Minuteman
3 propulsion system under the new, Air Force-managed Future ICBM Sustainment and Acquisition Construct.
ICBM management is switching from a contractor-based model to a service-based one.

The FY 2016 proposal also asks for $32.5 million for modification of B-2s, $8.6 million more than the $23.9 million
enacted in FY 2015; and $38.8 million for B-2 post-production support, a decrease from FY 2015 enacted levels of
$44.8 million. For B-52 modification, the Air Force is requesting $149 million compared with the FY 2015-enacted
amount of $176.5 million, and for B-52 post-production support, the service is requesting $5.9 million,
approximately the same as the FY 2015-enacted amount of $5.2 million. The Air Force also requested $94 million
for ballistic missiles, $13.8 million more than the FY 2015-enacted amount. Mike McCord, Under Secretary of
Defense (Comptroller) also said during a Feb. 2 Pentagon budget briefing that DoD plans to continue its posture of
450 ICBMs, 96 operational bombers and 154 total bombers in FY 2016.

Nuclear Programs ‘Insulated’

While Maj. Gen. James Martin, Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget, during a Feb. 2 Pentagon budget
press briefing identified the B-2 Defensive Modernization System and nuclear command and control as areas
potentially facing sequestration if 2011 Budget Control Act caps return, a Congressional staffer noted that in recent years, nuclear enterprise funding has been “fairly well insulated,” adding that recent history has indicated that nuclear forces could be spared from the deepest cuts of sequestration. “I think there’s a decent precedent for saying the nuclear deterrent is something that gets a shield from the worst effects of sequestration, not that there aren’t some effects that are may be there,” the staffer said. “If we get in that environment, and the Air Force is just told to make cuts, then that’s a problem. And I think a lot of people have problems with that. I don’t know that we’re in that environment yet, because even if we had to get down to the BCA level number, one would guess that Congress will have some input on how we would get to that number.”

If BCA caps return, lawmakers will likely have more time to consider defense tradeoffs than they did during the
first sequester, which sliced across all accounts, the staffer said, adding: “I think Congress will have some ability to
weigh in on that.”

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