Defense Secretary Richard B. Cheney ordered a cutback yesterday in production of Seawolf attack submarines and Arleigh Burke destroyers in an attempt to save $7 billion over the next four fiscal years.
The budget-driven cuts can be made because of the lessened Soviet threat, but the crisis in the Persian Gulf reveals the need for an up-to-date Navy, the secretary said in a statement.
"There is little doubt that the recent events in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have altered the social and political makeup of the world, and our ongoing planning assessments are based on the increased prospects for reduced world tensions," Cheney said.
"However, current events remind us of how fragile world peace can be. Therefore, we continue to require a superior naval force to maintain free and open use of the seas."
Cheney has ordered a review of most of the Pentagon's major weapons programs, given the nation's budget woes. Following a similar review of aircraft in April, the secretary slashed his request for B-2 "stealth" bombers from 132 to 75.
In his four-month warship review, Cheney said cutting one submarine and eliminating the purchase of some advance material for others will save $1.8 billion in the Pentagon's fiscal 1991 budget.
Plans had called for buying 10 of the submarines every three years. Instead, the Pentagon will reduce the buy to three ships every two years, according to a Pentagon statement.
The statement said the Pentagon's original plan for the Seawolf called for maintaining a force of 100 attack submarines, but that "the size of the Navy's overall submarine force is still being considered."
The submarines -- designed by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. of Virginia and Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Connecticut -- are slated to succeed the service's Los Angeles-class attack boats.
Cheney ordered that four Burke destroyers be purchased every year instead of five or six. That means the Pentagon will get 16 ships through fiscal 1994, instead of the 25 originally planned, for a savings of $5 billion.
The changes will mean one less destroyer in fiscal 1991, resulting in a net savings of $407 million, the statement said.
Overall, the changes in the two programs are designed to save $2.2 billion in the budget that is now before Congress and $7 billion in the Pentagon's spending plan for the fiscal years 1991 through 1994.