By Emelie Rutherford

The Navy’s new plan to stop buying DDG-1000 destroyers in favor of older DDG-51 combattants results partly from a threat assessment showing a need for combating foes who have improved blue-water capabilities and ballistic missiles, service officials told lawmakers yesterday.

The shipbuilding leaders gave a partially skeptical crowd of House members–including some concerned about Raytheon [RTN] jobs in their districts that are tied to the DDG-1000 effort–more details on the Navy’s new shipbuilding request to stop the DDG-1000 buy at the two ships under contract and buy eight more DDG-51s starting in fiscal year 2010.

Vice Adm. Barry McCullough, deputy chief of naval operations for integration of capabilities and resources, pointed to proliferation of advanced ballistic missiles and potential adversaries’ burgeoning deepwater quiet-diesel-submarine capabilities, and said "DDG-51 presents more capability in these areas than does the DDG-1000."

"The demand from combatant commanders is for ballistic-missile defense, the integrated air-and-missile defense, and anti-submarine warfare best provided by DDG-51s, and not the surface-fire support optimized by the DDG-1000," McCullough told members of the House Armed Services Seapower subcommittee and additional House members at a hearing on Capitol Hill.

The DDG-1000 does not now provide area-air defense or ballistic-missile defense, he said. He added in written testimony that in the current program of record the DDG-1000 "cannot successfully employ the Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3 or SM-6."

McCullough said the Marine Corps supports the Navy’s new destroyer plan, and that naval surface-fire requirements can be met with "existing precision-strike capability." The Navy and Marine Corps are conducting "an in-depth review to look at how surface-fire capability fits into the Littoral Combat Ship," he said. The stealthy DDG-1000 was designed to be optimized in the littoral environment.

Another reason for building more DG-51s, beyond the threat and capability requirements, is the Navy needs to have "the right capacity to meet combatant commander warfighting requirements to remain a global deterrent," McCullough told lawmakers.

The new destroyer plan–spelled out in the Navy’s new FY ’10 program objective memorandum (POM ’10) multi-year budget request, and not yet approved by the Office of the Secretary of Defense–would build eight DDG-51s instead of five more DDG-1000s.

The Navy’s proposed DDG-51 breakdown is: one ship in FY ’10, two in FY ’11, one in FY ’12, two in FY ’13, one in FY ’14, and one in FY ’15, McCullough said.

This plan would boost the service’s fleet to the desired level of at least 313 ships in 2017 instead of 2019, he said.

McCullough said the Navy started working on the destroyer change "four and a half to five months ago." Seapower subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor (D-Miss.), one of the driving forces behind the shipbuilding shift, acknowledged during the hearing that it was Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead who first presented the idea to him last fall. Taylor maintains it would be cheaper to buy DDG-51s than DDG-1000s.

The Navy wants from lawmakers "authorization of full funding to restart DDG-51 in FY ’09 to support our proposed FY ’10 Program Objective Memorandum," McCullough said.

Lawmakers are split on how to handle the Navy’s new shipbuilding plan, with some calling for giving the Navy no money in FY ’09 for DDG-51s, and some supporting providing advanced-procurement funds in FY ’09 to begin restarting the production line. Some lawmakers still want to give the Navy the $2.55 billion it previously sought, but no longer wants, to buy one DDG-1000 in FY ’09 (Defense Daily, July 31). The House-passed FY ’09 defense authorization bill includes $400 million the service can use in advance-procurement monies for either restarting the DDG-51 line or further developing the DDG-1000.

The Navy has not yet requesting any funds to actually buy a DDG-51 in FY ’09. Lawmakers said the service wants money in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 to at least start the process of reopening the line.

The DDG-1000s and DDG-51 programs are shared by General Dynamics‘ [GD] Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Maine and Northrop Grumman‘s [NOC] Ingalls shipyard in Mississippi.

Allison Stiller, deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for ship programs, said she has met with both shipyards about restarting the DDG-51 line, and was told a major sub-vendor issue would be the required long-lead time for the reduction gear, which she said would take approximately 50 weeks longer to deliver than the typical time required for an active line. However, she said those time estimates were based on the DDG-1000 line continuing.

When asked, Stiller said the Navy could feasibly execute a third DDG-1000 in FY ’09, but said from a requirements perspective the service does not want that ship.

Stiller said the Navy is currently crafting a new acquisition strategy for the DDG-51s, and said that plan will include "industrial base considerations." A Navy spokesman outside the hearing declined to elaborate on the schedule for the strategy’s completion.

Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine), whose district includes BIW and who is not a HASC member, said at the hearing that the Navy’s shipbuilding change is the right decision, though he expressed concerns about jobs at the Maine shipyard.

Other lawmakers concerned about jobs at DDG-1000 weapons-systems builder Raytheon were more harsh in questioning the Navy officials.

Full HASC member Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.) read McCullough and Stiller testimony they provided to Congress just earlier this year in support of the DDG-1000 program. She cited comments of theirs about areas including the DDG-1000’s superior capabilities in the littorals, its dual-band radar, and its smaller required crew size.

Some lawmakers questioned the process the Navy used to come up with its new plan, and complained they do not have complete and objective data detailing it.

Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), who is not a HASC member, repeatedly called on Navy officials yesterday to provide lawmakers with more information on the full costs of the two shipbuilding options.

Seapower subcommittee member Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), a former Navy three-star admiral, questioned the service’s "sea change" in thinking on the destroyers, and said he was "unimpressed" with the level of analysis regarding capability needs.

Taylor and Seapower subcommittee Ranking Member Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) remained supportive of the Navy’s plan.

Taylor cited the growing cost estimates for the DDG-1000 and finite shipbuilding funds.

"Every ship that’s proposed is a great ship, the question is where is the money for the ships going to come from," Taylor said.