By Jen DiMascio

The chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee indicated yesterday there are problems with an effort to have the Navy "jump over" its next-generation destroyer in favor of building nuclear cruisers.

The Navy wants $2.55 billion in fiscal year 2009 to fund the third DDG-1000 destroyer made by General Dynamics [GD] Bath Iron Works and Northrop Grumman [NOC] Shipbuilding (Defense Daily, Feb. 28).

Last month, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) said he was discussing with his ranking member Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.), and Rep. Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), the chairman of the House Armed Services seapower subcommittee, the possibility of skipping the remaining five DDG-1000 destroyers and moving to nuclear cruisers instead.

Yesterday, Murtha described some difficulties with making that work.

One issue would be dealing with the shipyards. Another would be working to build the nuclear cruiser at the same time it is being designed, he said.

"The big problem we have if we do it without the design work, it costs a lot more than we anticipated in the first place," Murtha said. "As much as I’d like to see because of the fuel costs…I would guess that you won’t see that happen."

He added that nuclear cruisers will happen at some point.

Navy Secretary Donald Winter noted that the service recently definitized a contract for the program with the "highest level of design completion we’ve ever had."

He added that stability in the program is critical in terms of being able to produce ships the Navy can afford.

"We want to continue through this program. It’s a good program, a capability we need and we think it’s a good design for that capability," Winter told reporters after testifying before the HAC-D.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) opposes the idea of jumping over the destroyer purchase and said, at this point, there seems to be strong support within the Senate for the DDG- 1000.

"I think it would set back the strength of the Navy enormously if the House throws an obstacle in the path of the DDG-1000," she told Defense Daily last week. "I’m extremely concerned about what I’m hearing on the House side. The DDG-1000 is absolutely essential to the Navy and to achieving the goal of a 313-ship fleet. It’s very disturbing to hear House members talking about possibly skipping over one of the DDGs or in other ways curtailing the program. I certainly hope that the House does not pursue that ill- advised approach."