Legislation introduced by two Republican representatives this week seeks to hold half of the Defense Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) office’s budget until the Navy conducts a block buy contract to procure four amphibious ships as previously planned.

House Armed Services subcommittee on seapower and projection forces ranking member Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) introduced the legislation, H.R.3885, on June 14 to hold the funding until the service buys the America-class amphibious assault ship LHA-9 and three San Diego-class LPD-17 amphibious transport dock ships LPDs 31, 21 and 33 in one acquisition piece.

In the FY ‘21 defense authorization law, Congress granted the Navy the authority for such a block buy contract (Defense Daily, June 11, 2020).

“The Navy-Marine Corps team asked, and Congress delivered. The bundled procurement of amphibious ships that Congress provided last year would save the U.S. taxpayer $720 million,” Wittman said.

Last week, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition Jay Stefany told a Senate panel the service had a “handshake agreement” with shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] for what the acquisition contract would look like and sent that up the chain in DoD (Defense Daily, June 9).

However, he noted the Navy was receiving initial indications from the Pentagon that DoD wants to defer this block buy decision while it works on the FY ‘23 budget request cycle, reviewing it through the summer and fall. 

“The commitment of four ships at once – they would like to defer that commitment until they are able to make that force structure assessment. So right now indicators are that we’re not going to be able to execute that. But it’s not a done deal, it’s going through the process within the department for a final decision,” Stefany said.

“The Navy still wants these ships and has signaled they will build them—but thanks to the Administration wanting their fingerprints on everything, we are sitting on our hands and losing hundreds of millions of dollars in savings. This is unacceptable,” Wittman said.

“Six months into this Administration and they now nominate a Secretary of the Navy.  We cannot stand by and let faceless political bureaucrats mark time when we know we’re going to build these ships anyway,” he continued.

Palazzo’s district encompasses HII’s shipyard that builds amphibious vessels in Pascagoula, Miss.