Lawmakers Push Two-Carrier Procurement

Over 100 members of Congress, led by the leadership of the House Armed Service Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, pushed Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Wednesday to request a dual aircraft carrier procurement for the next two aircraft carriers.

In explaining the members’ interest in dual procurement for the next two Gerald R. Ford-class carriers in the next fiscal year budget request, the letter noted the Department of the Navy and industry have studied the feasibility of joint procurement for the future USS Enterprise (CVN-80) and the unnamed CVN-81.

The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) arrives at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 14, 2017, after returning from builder's sea trials. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

The future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) arrived at Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia on April 14, 2017, after returning from builder's sea trials. (Photo by U.S. Navy)

“We understand that initial cost savings estimates of $2.5 billion could be attained from a dual ship procurement when compared to single ship procurement with no additional future funding required beyond current Navy plans,” the representatives said.

The letter welcomed the Defense Department’s willingness to explore different acquisition approaches. The members said if the department finds these savings are achievable, they urge the Navy to seek the necessary authorities in the fiscal year 2019 budget request.

Notable signatories to the letter include Rob Wittman, (R-Va.), chairman of the subcommittee; Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), ranking member of the subcommittee; Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), representing Mobile, Ala.; and Bobby Scott (D-Va.), representing Portsmouth, and Newport News as well as parts of Hampton and Norfolk.

The letter highlighted this kind of procurement would be a strong signal to the shipbuilding industrial base “about our national resolve to reach a 350+ ship fleet.”

Noting large-scale consolidation in the industry, the representatives said the roughly 3,000 remaining carrier suppliers would benefit from the dual procurement predictability and workload stability.

“We expect this approach will enable shipbuilding suppliers to create efficiencies and invest in their own businesses and therefore benefit other Navy shipbuilding programs as well.”

The signatories note that in addition to potential savings, the dual procurement “would enable the Department of the Navy to reach and maintain a fleet of twelve aircraft carriers more quickly than current plans.”

“Dual procurement of aircraft carriers will enable the Navy to better meet future combatant commander requests for aircraft carrier presence worldwide,” they added.

Wittman said in a separate statement that “a dual procurement allows the Navy to build to a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers more quickly as prescribed by the FY18 National Defense Authorization Act – which established that the Navy should maintain 355 ships, including 12 aircraft carriers.”

Courtney said achieving the 355-ship Navy “will be a challenging undertaking and we have to be smart about looking for ways to streamline acquisitions and provide predictability to the industrial base.”

“Purchasing ships and submarines in block buys has done just that, while providing significant savings to the taxpayer. If a similar arrangement would provide significant savings as we continue to modernize our carrier fleet, I would strongly encourage DoD to request the appropriate authorities in 2019,” he added.

At his nomination hearing last month, Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said he favors block buys on ships like the Ford-class in the Navy “if it’s less expensive to do it that way, and it has to be significantly less expensive to do it that way (Defense Daily, Nov. 7)."

In the same hearing, James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, and acquisition (ASN RDA), said he would look to see if the way the Navy uses a multiyear structure provides enough flexibility to add ships at a faster rate to reach the 355-ship goal.

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