The House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee is looking to repeal the cost cap imposed on the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, contending they have not actually constrained costs and have not proven helpful.

“Our rationale behind that is they’ve done absolutely nothing to contain costs over the years, as you know CVN-78 had multiple cost overruns, we’ve raised the cost cap on that, I believe, three times throughout the life. All it has done is driven inefficiencies within the Navy,” senior committee staff told reporters Monday.

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).

They noted under the current plan the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79) will not be able to deploy with the F-35 fighter when it is delivered to the Navy “as a direct result of the cost cap.”

When the cost cap was first imposed, the Navy traded the capability of deploying with the F-35s only to add it later in the back end. The staffer said “that’s unacceptable to our members that our newest aircraft carriers can’t deploy with our newest aircraft, so we’re going to look to drive cost in different ways.”

The subcommittee believes there should be cost efficiencies that come as a design becomes more mature, but the cost cap is not the way to do it.

“It’s driven horrible decisions, there is a waiver but the Navy has decided not to execute that waiver and…our members don’t believe that cost caps have been effective, so we’re going to repeal that requirement to try and make sure we’re getting the proper capabilities when the ships deliver,” the staffer added.

The draft bill also has a provision requiring the Navy to ensure CVN-79 is capable of deploying with the F-35C before accepting delivery.

The senior committee staff explained these cost caps have not constrained the cost in these vessels, and have only driven out efficiencies within the Navy.

When asked if the committee expects the Navy to then request more funding, the staffer replied that “actually we expect them to stop doing stupid stuff like they’ve been doing” like deferring work to the post-shakedown availability. This ends up costing more to modify the ship later rather than building in the capabilities in line when it was planned.

“They defer capabilities and then to only bring those back either at the post-shakedown availability or during their midlife, which is stupid too because it costs more and you don’t have that capability,” the staffer said.

The subcommittee believes repealing the cap will help the Navy do what is most efficient in ship construction, which is build capability the ship is supposed to have when designed to be built in.

The panel also hopes the Navy will look to the benefits in the two carrier buy and garner efficiencies the service said it would by ordering non-technical material together like steel and large components.

“And so we intend to keep our thumb on top of them on how they are going to utilize that two carrier buy authority. And then we’re also going to drive for them to be holding themselves more accountable for the process,” the committee staff said.

The senior committee staff also noted the government is in a fixed price contract for the next carriers “so a cost cap in a fixed price regiment doesn’t make sense either. So that’s also another reason why we decided to repeal the cost cap.”