United States Navy employs people who may find themselves in combat on the land (SEALs), in the air (aviators), and on/under the oceans, and it takes a lot of money to keep all that modernized and working. The boats of the submarine service (unlike surface vessels, they are not called ships) are sometimes called the “silent service.” They have a mystique built up around them because of movies like “The Hunt for Red October” and “U-571.” That mystique is only heightened by how secretive the Pentagon can be about them.
Now it appears that some are questioning the military’s expenditures when it comes to these vessels.
Enough Bang for the Buck?
Newsweek magazine published an exclusive story that looks at how many of the current submarines are used, especially the fast-attack variety, how much time they spend doing the job they were built for, and what the Navy is looking to spend in the decades to come. Modern submarines are extremely complex, with extensive electronics, nuclear reactors, and weapons systems unique to the mission requirements of each class.
The Virginia-class boats are the newest and most technologically advanced and are intended to replace the aging Los Angeles class as they are decommissioned. For the FY2024 budget, the Navy is looking to procure what will be the 39th and 40th of the class and an estimated combined total of just over $9.4 billion, according to a report prepared by the Congressional Research Service.
However, the Newsweek article brings up an important fact, and it is one the Navy prefers to address only in vague terms, if at all. For example, when asked to respond to what the newsmagazine uncovered in its investigation, a Navy spokesperson told them, “Our undersea force is the most lethal and capable in the world, operating across the globe and ready to conduct prompt and persistent combat operations.”
The researchers also found that of the 50 attack submarines currently on active duty, only 32 of them actually deployed in 2022. They were also able to crunch some numbers comparing the total time the boats could have theoretically spent at sea against the time they actually spent in transit and at their duty stations to arrive at the conclusion that the final rate of effective use was approximately 20%.
There is no doubt there are countries like Communist China and Russia that do not have the best interest of the United States in mind and that they continue to grow and advance their militaries. The question becomes, is the Navy being efficient by spending better than 4.6% of its massive $202 billion budget on only two platforms?