April 21, 2005
Pentagon soft pedals on DD(X) rebid
"Any change to the DD(X) Acquisition Strategy (AS) is premature at this time," said Michael Wynne, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics in a memo signed yesterday.
Northrop Grumman Ship Systems in Pascagoula, Mississippi, is scheduled to build the first three DD(X) destroyers, with Maine's General Dynamics Bath Iron Works shipyard building two additional ships. However, cuts in the shipbuilding budget have prompted calls from the Navy to rebid the ship on a winner-take-all basis.
That has provoked a Congressional backlash. Yesterday, Congressman Gene Taylor (D-MS), co-chairman of the Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus, said, "We've known all along that a single-source shipyard for DD(X) is a bad idea."
"You're looking at a situation where one shipyard would likely be forced out of business. Then you're left with one place in the entire United States to build surface combatants," Taylor continued. "I just can't see how permanently limiting our ability to produce ships can be good for national security."
In March, Taylor and forty-two other members of the bi-partisan Congressional Shipbuilding Caucus sent a letter to President Bush to warn him of the long-term negative consequences that a winner-take-all contract bidding process would have on shipyards and Navy force structure. The Caucus also urged the President to execute the DD(X) program as outlined in his FY2006 budget request, with Northrop Grumman and Bath Iron Works splitting work in design and ship construction.
Taylor welcomed news of the Wynne memo, but warned, "I'm optimistic, but cautiously optimistic. We've taken a step in the right direction on the DD(X) issue, but we're still faced with a shrinking Navy fleet. There's a lot of work to do to ensure that the United States maintains its naval superiority well into the future."
Meantime, the Wynne memo may only have put the "winner takes all" strategy on hold for a limited time. The memo also authorized the Navy to release a draft request for proposals on the proposal. Wynne also agreed on a Navy plan to separate the DD(X) system development and software development contracts from the shipbuilder detail design effort. "This change is projected to result in savings to the Department, and helps to ensure that all shipbuilder acquisition strategy options are preserved."