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Hagel: Navy nuclear reviews are done, reviewing recommendations

Jul. 9, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Senate Armed Services Committee Holds Closed Heari
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will soon issue recommendations after a review of nuclear forces. (Mark Wilson / Getty Images)
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NAVAL SUBMARINE BASE KINGS BAY, GA. — The Pentagon is finishing up a major review of its nuclear forces and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will soon issue his recommendations.

Defense Department officials are comparing the recommendations made from internal Pentagon reviews and an external review conducted by retired flag and general officers. The secretary said the recommendations will strengthen the health of the Defense Department’s nuclear enterprise.

“I’m in the process now, working with our leaders, to decide which recommendations we are going to go forward with,” Hagel said.

Hagel ordered internal and external reviews of Pentagon’s nuclear establishment following the revelation that Air Force and Navy officers cheated on their respective proficiency and qualification exams.

Hagel met last month with retired Adm. John Harvey and retired Air Force Gen. Larry Welch, who conducted the external review. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is overseeing the internal and external reviews.

DoD will likely announce its findings in a few weeks, Hagel said.

The secretary visited the Navy base here and toured the USS Tennessee, one of six ballistic missile submarines based at Kings Bay.

Defense officials say Hagel’s visit to Kings Bay is part of his continued emphasis and oversight of the nuclear force. As secretary, Hagel has visited FE Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, which oversees the service’s nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles, and Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, home to B-2 stealth bombers, which could carry nuclear bombs.

Budget cuts threaten Ohio replacement

The Navy plans to continue to pursue a replacement program for the current Ohio-class SSBN submarines, but existing federal spending caps threaten the timing of when a new ship might be fielded, Hagel said.

“We have every commitment to the projections to bring on that new class of submarines,” he said of the so-called SSBN(X) program.

“It is clear ... that we need a new generation of Ohio-class submarines and we’re going to prioritize that,” Hagel said.

The Navy has 14 Ohio-class SSBN submarines that could launch Trident long-range nuclear missiles.

Complying with New START

The Navy will begin removing the first of four Trident tubes on its ballistic missile submarines, according to Capt. William Houston, commodore of the Submarine Squadron 20.

It has not been determined just how the Navy will offset the weight of the 120,000-pound trident missiles.

As part of the New START treaty, the US will remove four of the 24 tubes on its ballistic missile submarines.

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