How huge military contractors will get even richer from the Australian submarine deal


Under the cloud of smoke surrounding the agreement on Australian submarines lurks the unspoken enrichment of American military contractors. There is no public mention of the American contractors who will build the expensive parts of the expensive Australian submarines. More importantly, there is no public mention of how there was, but will not be, a debate over the hundreds of billions of dollars for a large fleet of costly US submarines- United themselves.

However, there is much to be discovered on these unspoken subjects. I was commissioner of the Commission on war contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I saw military contractors in action. I learned that we have to understand things before they tell us.

First, which American contractors will build the parts for the submarine? I suppose the submarines for Australia will be assembled in the formidable Australian shipyards. Among other reasons, it will buy out Australia’s own military industry and associated Australian ministers and lawmakers. However, the bulk of the money is in the parts rather than the assembly. Never is this more true than with today’s nuclear submarine, whose “parts” include a nuclear reactor and all of its associated devices.

As for American contractors for these expensive parts, the most likely candidates are those building the most advanced American nuclear submarine. This submarine is the Columbia-class submarine, designed to replace the American Ohio-class submarine. The remaining Ohio-class submarines are decommissioned once per year starting in 2027. Then the Columbia-class will take over. So, you see, to make these submarines, including the one from Australia, we’re talking about engaging in a very long-term, large-scale program involving funds, funds, and more funds.

The cold money numbers for the Columbia class program are hard to believe. The total life cycle cost of the entire Columbia-class is estimated at $ 347 billion. The cost of building the Columbia, the lead ship of the class, will be estimated at $ 6.2 billion (including planning for the whole class). The Navy aims to reduce the average cost of the remaining 11 to just $ 4.9 billion (FY10 dollars).

The Columbia class is designed by Electric Boat, a subdivision of General Dynamics

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, with assistance from Newport News Shipbuilding, a subdivision of Huntington Ingalls

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. General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls have the only two shipyards in the United States capable of building nuclear submarines. Huntington’s own shipyards are located in Newport News, Virginia, and Pascagoula, Mississippi. Congressional delegations from the two regions will always be strong supporters, on a bipartite basis, of costly projects.

They are used to working together. On the Ohio-class submarines, General Dynamics has been the prime contractor and the primary design shipyard. General Dynamics would do most of the work, including final assembly. Huntington Ingalls served as the prime contractor, helping with design and construction, and doing 22 to 23 percent of the work required. Even by cutting a piece for the Australian yard, the money for the two American giants will be enormous.

However, to understand the full implications for the pandemic-weary US taxpayer, go back just a few years ago. Previously, there was a calm but serious debate about whether or how much to buy in that $ 347 billion. The nuclear submarine had been seen, since the 1960s, as part of a “strategic triad”, to transport nuclear warheads to deter the other side of the Cold War (or to destroy them if there was one). Thus). The other two parts of the triad were the strategic bomber and the intercontinental ballistic missile. These had aged and there had to be new components for the triad. But, did we really need the complete numbers of the three? There were arguments for having all three, but given the cost, it was still up for debate.

The debate has calmed down a bit. China’s aggressive military build-up has brought American thinking back to the old Cold War lines. However, there might still be time to adjust. The number of nuclear submarines can be rationalized, but could be considered in the future. Who knows what China and the United States could do to save money as climate change gets really fierce in the years to come.

Going back to the source of this article, Australia’s commitment to the US submarine could be, but will not be, seen as a way to reduce the number of US Columbia-class submarines. After all, we’ll see a big multinational chorus of how, when it comes to the submarines facing China, we stand side by side with the submarines. So why not take Australia’s projected numbers and use them for a careful look at America’s numbers? If this is not done, it may be partly because of the appetites of the huge military contractors.


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