The House Armed Services Committee proposal for modernizing the Navy’s Ticonderoga-class fleet will likely be a point of contention when the full committee meets next week to amend the National Defense Authorization Act, the ranking Democrat on the seapower and projection forces subcommittee said.

An amendment to the current language will be presented in full committee for wider debate on April 29, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) told reporters  April 23 after the subcommittee’s markup of the NDAA  (H.R. 1735). 

The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy
The USS Lake Erie (CG-70) cruiser. Photo: U.S. Navy

Instead of moving forward with the Navy’s 2-4-6 plan to lay up two cruisers at a time for four years to extend their service lives, the subcommittee proposed a 2-2-6 plan that would limit availabilities to two years, plus an additional six months if deemed necessary by the Navy Secretary.  

While Courtney supports the majority of the subcommittee’s proposal, released yesterday, he has concerns about the 2-2-6 plan. The Navy’s existing 2-4-6 plan extends the lives of the vessels while also limiting costs, he said.

“Reducing the modernization period from four years to two, however, inserts additional uncertainty into the program just as the Navy is working with industry to move forward on the plan and eliminates any savings to the Navy at a time when, even without sequestration, the service faces significant fiscal pressures,” he stated in his opening remarks.

HASC decided to halve the modernization period after learning that industry could execute those upgrades in two years, a staffer said yesterday in a background briefing.

However, the 2-2-6 timeline has its flaws, staffers noted. Shipyards would have to pack maintenance and modernization into a smaller window instead of doing it between breaks in other work, reducing efficiency.  Further, the Navy would not be able to disband the cruiser crews, which drives down the savings it would have reaped for decreased manpower costs. The service would also spend the $2 billion in the ship modernization operations and sustainment fund more rapidly—leading to the fund expiring in fiscal year 2018 instead of 2019, House aides said.

The Navy originally wanted to take 11 of its 22 cruisers out of the fleet for long-term modernization, but last year Congress instated the 2-4-6 limits that would allow the service to upgrade the ships, but only a maximum of six hulls at a given time.