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WASHINGTON -- Cost estimates for the U.S. Navy's new 12-ship fleet of nuclear-armed submarines are "overly optimistic," according to congressional auditors.

The service's current procurement cost estimate and design goal are suspect and require updates, the Government Accountability Office said in a report issued Monday. Those updates mean that the U.S. Navy may have to ask Congress to increase funding in fiscal 2021 to buy the first ship in the new fleet.

The submarine also continues to have problems first identified in 2017 with the vessel's power system.

The Columbia-class program is estimated at $128 billion, including research and development, with $115 billion for procurement. That makes it the Pentagon's third-costliest system. But the cost estimate "is not accurate because it relies on overly optimistic" reductions in labor costs, the audit found.

The new report is the latest to raise red flags about the affordability of the Navy's accelerated push to reach a 355-ship inventory by 2034, up from 289 today.

"Despite some of the positive steps that the program has taken to avoid the mistakes of past programs, the Columbia class program's cost estimate -- when combined with an aggressive schedule, no cost margin and unyielding requirements -- is more likely than not to be insufficient for a program of this size," Shelby Oakley, the Government Accountability Office's ship programs director, said in an email.

Business on 04/09/2019

Print Headline: Auditors question budget for new subs

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