Ballistic-missile submarines, or “boomers,” may best be known for their ability to remain undetected, but there is no hiding the massive bill that follows in their wake, namely, the Ohio-class replacement (SSBN(X)). Also impossible to hide is the fact that modern international nuclear politics have changed from those of past decades and that the circumstances under which boomers were created have changed. Ballistic-missile submarines came into existence because the theory of mutually assured destruction (MAD) required a guaranteed second-strike capability. Land-based missiles and strategic bombers were considered too vulnerable to a first strike, and without a guaranteed second strike, MAD lost its deterrent capability.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and rise of regional nuclear powers have altered the nature of strategic deterrence and require new solutions that better address modern security and fiscal challenges. The United States can best meet the dual challenges of modern international nuclear politics and declining budgets by canceling SSBN(X) and focusing on ballistic-missile defense (BMD).