The Navy’s chief acquisition official told Congress last Thursday it plans to have an analysis of how much a block buy of the Ford-class carriers CVN-80 and 81 will cost within one to one and a half months.

James ‘Hondo’ Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition (ASN-RDA) confirmed to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower that the service has released a formal request for quotes to Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] on how much a block buy of the carriers would cost, including the overall savings.

The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time during its builder's sea trials in April 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy).
The USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) underway on its own power for the first time during its builder’s sea trials in April 2017. (Photo: U.S. Navy).

“We’re asking the shipyard to sharpen the pencil. We’ve asked them formally for the cost. Looking at all the technology available, all the new ways of building, and then what cost savings could we get by putting those two ships together in a block buy. They’re working on that as we speak,” Geurts told the panel.

He said part of the affordability decision is “how quickly can we move those centers together” and how the Navy balances that among all the other requirements.

Geurts said the Navy expects to get a response from HII in early summer.

He noted this possible block buy does not exactly match the last time a two-carrier buy was conducted, with the Nimitz-class “because we’ve already started construction of CVN-80 so the savings are a little bit dependent on exactly when should we go into an agreement.”

However, Geurts said he believes substantial savings are available.

Earlier last week, Jennifer Boykin, president of HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division, told reporters during the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Expo they see the two-carrier purchase as saving up to $1.6 billion over buying them separately, but only counted the company’s commercially furnished equipment (CFE). She also said HII and the Navy are discussing pushing Ford-class ship centers closer together, between three-and-a-half to four years apart (Defense Daily, April 10).

Speaking to reporters following the hearing, Geurts said the government furnished equipment portion of a Ford-class carrier covers about one-third of the ship’s cost and they are working to reduce that cost as well.

“Absolutely. And that [$1.6 billion CFE] was an initial cost, we’re working closely with the shipyard on their element as well as looking at the government furnished equipment, which takes up about a third of the cost of the carrier.”