GAO says “atrophied” supplier base threatens Columbia class program

Written by Nick Blenkey
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The General Accounting Office has just released a report entitled “Columbia Class Submarine: Delivery Hinges on Timely and Quality Materials from an Atrophied Supplier Base.”

The Navy plans to invest about $128 billion in 12 Columbia class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The shipbuilders will construct the Columbia class at the same time as the Virginia class attack submarines.

“They plan to rely on materials produced by a supplier base that is roughly 70 percent smaller than in previous shipbuilding booms,” says GAO.

The report is a public version of a sensitive report that GAO issued in November 2020. Information that the Department of Defense (DOD) deemed sensitive has been omitted. It assesses the Navy’s efforts to complete the design for the lead Columbia class submarine and actions the shipbuilders and the Navy have taken to prepare for construction and ensure the lead submarine is delivered according to schedule and quality expectations.

GAO assessed Navy and shipbuilder design progress against cost and schedule estimates, reviewed documents, and interviewed officials about supplier readiness and quality assurance.

GAO recommends that the Navy (1) provide Congress with updated cost information, (2) include information on supplier readiness in its annual report to Congress, and (3) reassess when to seek additional inspections at supplier facilities.

Download the report HERE

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