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Marine Log

May 9, 2008

House panel puts brakes on DDG 1000 program

Back in March, Gene Taylor (D.Miss), Chairman of the House Seapower and Expeditionary Forces Subcommittee, called the Navy's future shipbuilding plan "pure fantasy." Now, as part of its effort to get Navy shipbuilding on track to attain its 313 ship target, the subcommittee is trying to put the brakes on one on of the Navy's most ambitious, but potentially problem-fraught, shipbuilding programs, the DDG 1000 class destroyer.

In its markup of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (H.R. 5658), the subcommittee pauses the continued procurement of follow-on ships of the DDG 1000 class and reallocates the funding programmed for the third ship of the class.

"This subcommittee has tried to work closely with the Navy leadership over the years to develop a workable strategy to restore the size of our fleet," said Chairman Gene Taylor (D. Miss.) in his opening statement at the markup session. "Unfortunately, the Department of Defense has not budgeted the required funds for Navy shipbuilding and continues to submit budget requests which reduce, not grow, the size of the fleet. The solution offered, every year, is that the solution will be delayed to future years. "

"I do not believe the plan to achieve a 313 ship fleet is achievable in its current form," continued Chairman Taylor, I am convinced that the only path to a 313 ship fleet is to build ships of a proven design and build them in sufficient numbers to realize shipyard efficiency. Today's mark is the first step toward that goal. The mark redirects Navy efforts for fiscal year 2009 and lays the framework for continued shipbuilding efforts in following years."

Chairman Taylor said reallocating the funding for the third DDG 1000 is "a prudent course of action for a number of reasons"

These included:

  • technology development for the combat systems of these ships is not completed;

  • detail design for the vessel, while greater than previous ship classes, will not be completed before the start of construction;

  • the current authorized funding for the lead ships has no margin for cost overruns; and

  • the budget request for follow-on ships is contingent on achieving lead ship costs.

"In short, there are too many unknowns in the construction schedule for these two vessels. Even if all the development required for the ship was complete, a cost overrun for the two lead ships, based strictly on historical averages could easily be in the range of $1.5-$2.0 billion dollars. I worry that with the risks associated with continued technology development concurrent with construction, the cost overruns will exceed even those figures. The impact of those cost overruns will cripple the Navy shipbuilding account and drastically impact fleet size and capability."

Chairman Taylor said that the mark recommends advance procurement funding for surface combatants at $400 million and gives the Secretary of the Navy and Chief of Naval Operations the flexibility to use those funds for the continuation of the DDG 1000 class or for re-starting the procurement of DDG 51 class destroyers. However, the subcommittee strongly urges the Navy to re-start DDG 51 procuremen

The mark also recommends funding for three ships not in the Administration's budget request.

These include the 10th vessel of the San Antonio LPD-17 class at $1.8 billion dollars. "This vessel is consistently at the top of the CNO's unfunded priority list and is the Marine Corps number one unfunded requirement," noted Chairman Taylor.

The mark also recommends sufficient funding in the National Defense Sealift Fund to exercise the contract options to build the remaining two vessels of the Lewis and Clark Dry-Cargo Ammunition Ship (T-AKE) class. These vessels are also on the CNO's unfunded priority list.

"These are important changes.," said Chairman Taylor. "This mark indicates the subcommittee's disagreement with the Navy decision to cancel the construction of the last two ships of the T-AKE class and to not fulfill the validated Marine Corps requirement for 11 LPD 17 class ships.

"I think it important to note that this subcommittee is committed to maintaining the shipbuilding industrial base. This subcommittee is committed to building ships in quantities that make sense and deliver the capability the Navy needs."

Overall, for ship procurement the mark authorizes the construction of one Virginia Class Submarine, two Littoral Combat Ships, one LPD-17 Class Amphibious Ship, two Joint High Speed Vessels, and four T-AKE Dry Cargo/Ammunition Ships. The mark also pauses the DDG-1000 program, authorizes $400 million in surface combatant advance procurement, and allows the Navy to use the advanced funds toward construction of 2 DDG 51 Aegis-Class Destroyers or a DDG 1000.

Maritime Provisions-- the mark includes authorization of funds for the operation and activities of the U.S. Maritime Administration, $178 million for the Maritime Security Fleet Program, $25 million in assistance to small shipyards, and $30 million for the Title XI Maritime Loan Guarantee Program.

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