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Marine Log

March 16, 2008

Taylor: Navy shipbuilding plan "pure fantasy"

The FY2009 Navy shipbuilding budget that eventually comes out of Congress may look a lot different than the request submitted by the administration, given bipartisan skepticism in at least one key House panel.

"The Navy and the Congress have some very difficult decisions to make regarding shipbuilding," said Rep. Gene Taylor (D.Miss.) Chairman of the House Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, in his opening statement at a March 14 hearing on the FY 2009 Budget Request for Ship Construction."

"It is no secret that the current administration has not been a friend to the Navy," said Taylor. "By the time this President leaves office the Navy will have about 60 ships less than when he started. It will be up to the next President and the next Congress to put our nation back on track to building and maintaining a powerful fleet. However, there are some things we can do and we must do this year to set the course for recovery."

Calling the current shipbuilding plan for a 313 ship fleet "pure fantasy," Taylor called it "totally unaffordable with the resources the Department of Defense allocates to the Navy for ship construction."

"As I analyze the shipbuilding plan I see four programs that are building ships on time and on budget. Those are the LPD 17 class amphibious assault ships, the Arleigh Burke class destroyers, the Virginia Class submarines, and the T-AKE Dry Cargo Ammunition Ship," said Taylor. "And what is the Navy answer to programs which build ships on cost and schedule? "

  • Cancel the LPD 17 before the minimum Marine Corps requirement of 11 ships is achieved;

  • Cancel the DDG 51 Burke destroyers in favor of a brand new ship with 10 major technological innovations that may end up costing five times what an Arleigh Burke costs;

  • Continue to delay construction of two submarines a year until 2011; and

  • Cancel the last two ships of the T-AKE class.

"As a side note, I asked ADM Keating, the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, on Wednesday if he would rather have 2 DDG 1000s or 5 DDG 51s --he told me he wanted the DDG 51s. This proves to me that the Navy in Washington does not always listen to the Navy which actually operates the Fleet." noted Taylor.

Taylor said that instead of being asked to fund programs that are building ships on time and at projected cost, "we are asked to fund programs which are not."

One such program is the Littoral Combat Ship or LCS, which, said Taylor "will go into the textbooks to train future acquisition officials how not to run a program."

"At some point," said Taylor, "we must stop throwing money at this program until the Navy can prove that at least one of the ships can get to sea and do its mission."

Other programs singled out for comment by Taylor included the DDG 1000--"the most expensive surface warships ever built"--where, he said, a cost overrun of only 10% for the first two ships would be close to $700 million dollars, but where "with all the new technologies that must work for this ship to sail, a cost overrun of 20% or even 30% is not out of the question."

You can read the full text of Rep. Taylor's opening statement here.

To a very large extent, Rep. Taylor's skepticism appears to be shared by the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (D. Md.)

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