NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT FOR FISCAL YEAR 1998 (House of Representatives - June 20, 1997)

[TIME: 1145]

Mr. LUTHER. Mr. Chairman, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Chairman, Members of the House, I am pleased today to join with my fellow Minnesotan [Mr. Ramstad] in offering this bipartisan amendment to the fiscal year 1998 defense authorization bill to terminate further production of the Trident D-5 submarine launched ballistic missile.

The Trident D-5 is a ballistic missile with a range of more than 4,000 nautical miles. Each is capable of carrying up to 8 independently targetable nuclear warheads at speeds in excess of 13,000 miles per hour. The U.S. Navy currently operates a force of 17 Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarines with an eighteenth boat scheduled to join the force later this summer. Eight of these submarines, homeported at Bangor, WA, carry the older C-4 missile system. The other 9 Ohio-class subs and the new sub being deployed this year are homeported at Kings Bay, GA, and carry the new Trident D-5 missile system. Each submarine carries 24 missiles .

In order to comply with the START II Treaty, the Navy is planning to retire four of the older subs carrying the C-4 missiles , but the Navy is currently planning to back-fit the other four with the new D-5 missiles . Although the Navy has already an inventory of 350 D-5 missiles , it nevertheless plans to procure an additional 84 Trident D-5's through the year 2005, unless Congress intercedes.

We believe the responsible course is for our Navy to cancel the proposed back-fit of the older C-4 subs and, over time, reduce its fleet of Ohio-class submarines to 10 vessels. With a fleet of 10 Ohio-class submarines carrying the new D-5 missiles , the Navy will no longer need the additional 84 missiles they have requested through fiscal year 2005. The current inventory of 350 missiles will be sufficient, 240 for the 10 Trident D-5 subs and 110 for testing purposes.

There are very important reasons why this amendment should be approved by the House of Representatives. The Trident D-5 missile is a cold war weapon specifically designed to destroy hardened missile silos and other military targets found in the former Soviet Union. But today the nuclear threat from the former Soviet Union is dramatically reduced.

While there is still an important role for strategic nuclear weapons in our arsenal, that role is dramatically reduced from what it was in the past, and weapon procurement should reflect that.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this amendment would save taxpayers with this act this year and with future subsequent acts more than $5.7 billion over 10 years, including $342 million in fiscal year 1998. This savings would then be available for personnel readiness and military training purposes or to reduce the deficit.

Members of the House, the United States has an unchallenged world lead in the area of submarine-launched ballistic missiles . Only Russia, China, France, and Great Britain have this capability. China has just one submarine with 12 ballistic missiles , and the Russian fleet is outmoded and largely rusting away in port. A fully modernized fleet of 10 Ohio-class subs carrying Trident D-5 missiles will continue our leadership in this critical area of strategic defense.

Balancing the budget requires continuing scrutiny of every dollar the Government spends. We need to maintain a strong military and an absolutely credible nuclear deterrent force, but we must maintain that defense while keeping in mind the realistic threats facing our country. A 10 Trident submarine fleet, carrying the new D-5 missile , is enough to secure our interests. And saving over $5.7 billion by canceling the production of more D-5 missiles will make it much easier to balance the budget in the year 2002.

I ask that we think about the way we think about military spending. Times have changed, and I hope this amendment that the gentleman from Minnesota [Mr. Ramstad] and I are proposing will help move us into the future.

I urge my colleagues to join taxpayers for common sense in support of this bipartisan amendment.

Mr. Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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