By Emelie Rutherford

A defense official said late last week the Pentagon is not sold on the Navy’s attempt to stop buying DDG-1000 destroyers and build eight more DDG-51s, just as General Dynamics’ [GD] Bath Iron Works (BIW) and Raytheon [RTN] supporters on Capitol Hill attacked the plan.

Shortly after the Navy last Thursday afternoon officially confirmed it is seeking the destroyer shift–spelling it out in its fiscal year 2010 program objective memorandum (POM ’10) multi-year budget request to the Office of Secretary of Defense–Pentagon acquisition chief John Young said the Navy must do several things before the proposal is accepted within the Defense Department (DoD).

When the Navy met with DoD leadership about its proposed DDG-1000 and DDG-51 changes, a "number of technical, industrial and cost concerns were expressed about the plan," Young states in a statement released last Thursday night.

"There was agreement that the Navy should discuss the new plan with the Congress and industry," he states. "The Navy was also urged to continue analysis and discussions within DoD about industrial impact, pricing, and alternate options."

Young says it was agreed "that the Navy would submit their POM ’10 budget with this plan with an understanding that more analysis and discussion of this plan was necessary before there would be agreement on this proposal as part of the new DoD POM ’10 budget."

The Navy last Thursday said it was "discussing with congressional leadership how to best ensure that our investment strategy is consistent and aligned with our nation’s warfighting needs." (Defense Daily, July 25) The service is seeking the shipbuilding shift because of increasing cost estimates for the DDG-1000 and realization it can increase the size of its fleet faster by buying more of the older and cheaper DDG-51s, lawmakers maintain.

The Navy has clear support for halting DDG-1000 purchases from some House leaders who sought the change–including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.) and Seapower subcommittee Chairman Gene Taylor (D-Miss.). Yet it is facing stiff resistance from lawmakers from both parties and both chambers worried about lost jobs at BIW in Maine and Raytheon in Massachusetts (Defense Daily, July 24).

Congressional sources said up to 2,000 jobs at combat-systems-developer Raytheon could be impacted by the change, though they acknowledged that figure is a rough estimate.

Raytheon lobbyists swarmed Capitol Hill last Thursday, after news spread about the shipbuilding change, sources said.

It is because of Raytheon that sources believe New England lawmakers are so united behind opposing the DDG-1000 truncation.

Led by Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), 12 senators from the northeast and elsewhere sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates last Thursday night urging him to stop the Navy from proceeding expeditiously with the shipbuilding changes, warning Congress could hold up funding for surface combatants in FY ’09.

Kennedy is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Seapower subcommittee, which in April agreed with the Navy’s previous request for $2.55 billion to build a third DDG-1000 in FY ’09.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.). Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Jim Webb (D-Va.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Mel. Martinez (R-Fla.), and Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) co-signed the letter from Kennedy.

They say an analysis of the full cost of restarting the DDG-51 production line is needed. And they note the Navy’s longstanding support for the DDG-1000, including an $11 billion investment in it, before the recent shift in plans.

"This apparent shift comes only a few months after testimony by senior Navy officials on the importance of allowing the combatant-build programs to take root, grow, and stabilize," the senators write. "This also conflicts with numerous Navy, Defense Department, and industry witnesses who have pointed out that wide variability in ship acquisition planning and execution is a leading contributor to cost growth and other acquisition problems."

"A shift of this magnitude in the Navy’s shipbuilding plan requires a full review and analysis through the proper departmental channels and processes, including congressional oversight," the senators add. "To do otherwise would undermine the Navy’s shipbuilding plan in Congress and could result in the Congress providing no funding for new surface combatants in FY ’09."

House members from affected states also have made clear their objections to halting the DDG-1000 program, congressional sources said last week.

Collins, a SASC member, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the DDG-1000 change, because of concerns about the jobs impact at BIW.