The Defense Department is asking Congress’ permission to move $62.7 million to the new USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) aircraft carrier, an amount that partially fills a change in the statutory cost cap for the program.

A reprogramming request sent to Congress last month is seeking to move $62.7 million “to correct deficiencies identified during testing as well as those changes required to ensure the safety of the ship and personnel,” according to a copy obtained by Defense Daily.

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).

It specifically cites $12.7 million needed for re-baselining the Advanced Weapons Elevator program “to address continuing technical deficiencies,” $30 million for engineering, tooling, and repair of the Main Thrust Bearings, $11 million for “emergent technical issues and correction of deficiencies identified during operational testing and extension of the Post-Shakedown Availability duration” concerning repair of the propulsion train components, and $9 million covering increased cost of deferred work, labor and material.

The Navy says it can pay for this with a programming decrease of $67.2 million from the Arleigh Burke-class DDG-51 destroyer program.  The document says “funds are available as they are excess to requirements” for the FY 2011 destroyers USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) and Rafael Peralta (DDG-115).

The request did not explain why these ships do not need the funding beyond noting the ships are delivered and commissioned and “will have sufficient remaining funds to complete any deferred work or finance contract closeout costs.”

The Ford currently has a congressionally-set cost cap at $12.9 billion as the lead ship in a new class of aircraft carriers. That number was set in the FY 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) whereas the FY ’18 NDAA last capped follow-on ships as $12.6 billion for CVN-80 and subsequent ships. CVN-79, the future USS John F. Kennedy has maintained a lower cost cap at $11.4 billion.

Last month a Government Accountability Office report used CVN-78 as an example of delays in shipbuilding, particularly in a lead ship. Ultimately, its schedule slipped by 25 months (Defense Daily, June 12).

According to media reports in May, the Navy told Congress it would adjust the CVN-78 cost cap by $120 million after a failure at sea brought it back to port, related to a problem with the propulsion bearing system from January. The ship has four bearings that transfer thrust from the vessels’ four propeller shafts.

The cost cap legislation gives the service authorities to adjust the cost cap upward to account for cost changes due to certain types of factors. The ship’s total cost cap is expected to rise to $13.027 billion once the adjustment work is finished, the Navy said. 

Part of that $120 million cost is reflected in this reprogramming request. This reprogramming request is above the previous cost cap but does not breach the new Navy-adjusted cap and the service does not need to ask Congress for legislative relief.

The May failure was reportedly the second within a year related to the main thrust bearing, a part of the propulsion system. The earlier failure occurred in April 2017 during sea trials a month before the ship was delivered to the Navy.

The service reportedly told Congress in May the funding is also needed to address other problems with the ship beyond the advanced propulsion train, including extending post-shakedown availability from a planned eight to 12 months, and upgrading the Advanced Arresting Gear.

Last week the Navy started CVN-78’s year-long post-shakedown availability/selected restricted availability at Newport News, Va. The Navy said the availability will be used to install remaining combat systems, finish deferred work, and correct remaining discrepancies identified during trials and the ship shakedown (Defense Daily, July 16).

This article has been updated with additional information.