March 16, 2008
Navy shipbuilding hearing
To a very large extent, Rep. Taylor's skepticism appears to be shared by the panel's ranking Republican, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (D. Md.)
In his opening statement, Rep. Bartlett drew attention to the LPD-17 program, saying that "if we were to accept the budget request at face value, the LPD-17 production line would be shut down. This would mean that nearly 20 percent of the Marine Corps' requirement for amphibious lift would remain unfulfilled. As a nation, are we willing to accept that risk? Conversely, if we are forced to restart production after Fiscal Year 2009, it is patently obvious that the cost of the ship will increase. The cost will increase not only for the LPD-17 line, but for future platforms that could be constructed using the LPD-17 hull form. I, for one, do not want this committee to be complicit in intentionally increasing the cost of shipbuilding."
"The best news in the shipbuilding plan," said Bartlett, "is that the budget request moves up two per year construction of the VIRGINIA class submarine to Fiscal Year 2011—a year sooner than previously planned. Ironically, that's not even a Fiscal Year 2009 matter. I hope both panels of witnesses will discuss what options are available to Congress in Fiscal Year 2009 to enable a ramp in production even sooner than Fiscal Year 2011.
"Unfortunately," he said, "the rest of the news is rather bleak. From FY 2008 to 2009, the Navy has reduced the number of ships to be procured by approximately 25 percent--one quarter of the ships the Navy planned to build last year are gone. The long term shipbuilding plan still speaks to a 313-ship Navy, as does the Chief of Naval Operations, but it's time we started facing facts."
"The Navy will never get there without either top line relief or a significant change in the mix of platforms. The Navy's shipbuilding plan is based on the assumption that over the next thirty years the shipbuilding account will nearly triple in size. Do our witnesses really think this is realistic? How can you? If it's not--and I tell you it's not--then the only other alternative is to look at the mix of platforms."
"For example, is it wise to buy destroyers that at best will cost $3 billion a copy, and more likely $5 billion a piece if the Congressional Budget Office is right, while we shut down stable, more affordable production lines, such as the DDG-51 line? How much risk are you buying down with only seven DDG 1000s, at a cost of $21 - $35 billion, when you could likely have at least 14, upgraded DDG-51s for that same amount? And how much risk are we buying down if we procure two more Littoral Combat Ships, the year after we cancelled two, and the year in which the Navy plans to conduct an operational evaluation and possible downselect of LCS-1 and 2? Even if there is no downselect, the Navy has stated that there will be design changes made to the Flight One ships. So the two we buy now will be different than the remaining 50. Is that worth it, if those funds could keep a stable program like LPD-17 alive?"
You can read Rep. Bartlett's full statement here.
Witnesses at the hearing included Dr. Eric Labs of the Congressional Budget Office
According to Dr. Labs's prepared statement:
You can access the prepared statements of Dr. Labs and other witnesses at the these links:
Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Ship Programs
Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Resources and Requirements (N8)
Senior Naval Analyst
Congressional Budget Office
Specialist in National Defense
Congressional Research Service